Monday, December 13, 2004

The Pomegranate and The Walnut

I feel anxious for a resolution to many months of discomfort and worry, and yet still, I find myself dreading the operation I face in a few months. It seems that I have developed uterine fibroids, and after much research, discussion with my doctors, and tests to observe and follow the course of their growth, it has become clear that a hysterectomy is necessary.

Let me please just mention up front that I'd appreciate it, if you feel moved to comment on this post, if you didn't offer up medical advice and/or scary stories about what happened to your sister-in-law during her hysterectomy that left her with a limp and an uncontrollable urge to pee in restaurants, or whatever. I'm a tiny bit freaked out as it is, and unsolicited advice from the internet is not going to be helpful at this point. Just rest assured that I HAVE researched all my options, and discussed it at length with my doctor, and we are in agreement that this is the best course of treatment for me.

For some reason, the mere word hysterectomy strikes fear into the hearts of many who hear this news. The look of horror mixed with pity that comes over the face of some people, when I inform them of this impending operation, is something I had not anticipated. I supposed that I am a bit on the young side for a hysterectomy, but it's not the tragedy that I see played out in their expressions. Had I been yearning for children, I suppose that this would have been quite a blow. But since I have no desire for children, to the point where I successfully lobbied my gynecologist to perform a tubal ligation a couple years ago, that is truly a moot point.

It's become a matter of being practical about things: How to plan out my leave with work. What do I need to take to the hospital, and how long will I be there. How to make it so that I can do some of my work from home during my recuperation. How to plan to be self-sufficient during the time when I will not be able to drive, and to keep everything I will need during the day on one floor, so I won't be forced to take stairs before it is prudent. How to know when I am ready to go back to work. These are the things that consume my spare moments now. Along with a few paranoid thoughts, like what if something goes wrong? How bad is this really going to hurt? Will I be okay alone at home all day when I first get home? Will I turn into a television watching bowl of jello with all that time at home?

On the other hand, I am secretly looking forward to being out of work for the longest stretch of time in my entire adult life. The longest I've ever gone without working was the one month directly following my father's death, when I had just finished one job and hadn't gotten another, because I was supposed to accompany my father to a hospital in another city for an operation, and didn't know how long I'd be staying with him. Life was so up-in-the-air then, that I didn't dare look for a job and then tell them, "Oh, by the way, I'll be needing an open-ended vacation, beginning immediately..." As it turns out, I was grateful for that month of space, because my father died before we got a chance to go for the operation, and my grief was so encompassing, I would not have been capable of holding down a new job at that time.

I know that I will be feeling miserable for the very beginning of the time out of work, but the prospect of endless hours to myself, to read, sleep, perhaps watch movies or do some little craft projects, appeals to me enormously. Oh, and then, there is the obvious benefit ...

[WARNING: Gentlemen with a reluctance to know anything untidy about women's anatomy and biology will do well to skip down to another part of this post right about now. I'll let you know when to come back in.]

...of no more periods! Huzzah! I will be doing the happy dance of joy around a bonfire of tampons! No more crampy days! No more separate section in the underwear draw for the "period panties"! No more "accidents"! No more spending money on all kinds of sanitary gear! No more making sure that there is a "just in case" supply in the purse, or a place to hid the package of bulky pads in the bathroom. No more bulky pad waddle! No more, "Not tonite, honey, there's a tropical storm down south!" I am so excited. I did the math, and 300+ periods times 4 or 5 miserable days is PLENTY for one lifetime. I will not miss this curse one bit.

Especially after how absolutely horrid things have been for the past few months. I recently read this amusing blog posting, about the author's experience giving birth at home, and she mentions that the midwife said that if she had to stop talking to deal with a contraction, that meant that she was in labor. Well, that is sort of what has been happening to me the last few months. I'd be at work, going about my business, when suddenly Ms. Fibroid #1, a.k.a. The Pomegranate, would decide to let me know that it needed a little attention, and this UNBELIEVEABLY! SHARP! PAIN! would terrorize my lower girl parts, to the extent that I would gasp and have to stop talking in mid sentence, my eyes bulging out and my breath held for an eternity. Lucky, a few close co-workers have been aware of my plight, or I'm sure that they would think that I had developed some sort of seizure disorder.

The other fun experience is what I like to call The Crotch of Fire, in which The Pomegranate or her accomplice, The Walnut, must be pressing on something and annoying it terribly, because a sharp burning sensation will shoot right into the leftmost crotch area, and feel like a burning poker is trying to make its way out of my body. This goes off and on for a few minutes, and then magically disappears again. And did I mention that The Pomegranate is resting directly on top of my bladder? Oh what joy. I don 't even need to explain the fun and games involved here, do I?

My one friend cracked up when I explained my symptoms, and explained that it was just too deliciously ironic that the one woman she knew who would least be interested in giving birth, was the one plagued by all the early symptoms of pregnancy. Cute, really cute. Well, I thought it was funny, too, once she explained, because God does have that kind of sense of humor, I suppose.

The other good part is that I am able to keep my ovaries, so I will not be going prematurely into menopause, and will not have a greater risk of bone density problems later. So, that's good news. It would be a bitch to have this operation and then immediately start loosing my mind and getting hot flashes and all. Who needs that any earlier than necessary?

[Gentlemen: The yucky part is over. You can come back now.]

So, I'm looking forward to getting this over with, but I'm naturally nervous about having surgery, and the aftermath. The MRIs and the sonograms have not been particularly troublesome, and my doctor is a great guy and I trust him. I just wish that the whole thing would magically disappear.

J and I don't talk about it much, since it is really a long time away, but when it comes up, I can tell that he is worried. That is actually another thing that I am trying to plan out for the whole time before and after the surgery - a list of concrete things that J and my brother can do for me, so that they feel like they are being helpful and don't just stew in worry.

In my experience as a caretaker for many sick people over the years, men need concrete tasks to do, or the helplessness consumes them. Women mostly seem naturally able to know what needs doing, and just get down to the task. But I've noticed that most men appreciate being told, "You know what you could do for me right now that would really be helpful? Could you go get me some ice chips from that little refrigerator down the hall? The nurse will point out the room for you. That would be really great." Because then he is helping, not just standing over you worrying and not being able to be active. Of course, I will be needing help galore, and as hard as it is for me to ask for it sometimes, I will be forced to rely on people for a while. So, here's J's chance to feel like he did his part when I was one needing help, like I did for him when he went through his cancer ordeal.

Although he is anxious about my problem and how it makes me feel miserable sometimes, I think in a funny way, he's looking forward to being able to show me that he can take care of me, too. I'll be interested to see how things are when the shoe is on the other foot, because he's been through so much in the past year, but it'll be hard to give up my caretaker position for a while and hand it over to him.

Well, I'll keep you posted. And my apologies to anyone who felt that this post was TMI.

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