Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Liberating Plankton, part 1

So I'm 45. I haven't dyed or bleached my hair in years and have fully embraced being silver-haired. I have wrinkles - more so now that I've lost 75 pounds - and my boobs are definitely slacking these days. I am well-versed in crossing my legs to avoid the dreaded Sneeze Pee and I also think 9:00pm is a perfectly acceptable bedtime.

I've been doing an intricate and somewhat emotionally hot-flash-punctuated dance with perimenopause for the last six or seven years now. Both of my grandmothers and my mother had hysterectomies and I was determined to be the first to just fade out into an estrogen-less wasteland somewhere in my 50's. My periods had gotten angrier in the last year, but again, I wrote it off as age. Then about six months ago the proverbial shit hit the fan. In six months I had 10 periods. All lasting 10 days or more. All painful. All horrible. I was getting maybe one good week a month if I was lucky - one week where I didn't cry all the time, spend it in bed with a heating pad against my gut, or just plain feeling like I was going to bleed to death. One of my best friends and I would send secret coded texts to each other every time we were on the ledge contemplating a self-directed hysterectomy with a serving spoon. We nicknamed our uteruses (uteri?) Plankton. Yes, like the evil single-cell organism on SpongeBob.

At my regular six-month checkup with my PCP I mentioned all of this. She said it could be age, but it could also be a fibroid. She sent me straight to radiology where they did an ultrasound. And sure enough, a week or so later the radiologist confirmed there was a fibroid.

Because I use Indian Health Services for most of my healthcare, they said they wanted to send me for a surgical consult in Claremore. Claremore Indian Hospital is not where I wanted to have surgery, so since I have insurance, I asked if they could just send the referral to the doctor of my choice outside of the Tribal Health System. The choice was immediate: Dr. Billings. I work for his in-laws, Kady nannies for his kids, he delivered Petal. I trust him.

On June 12th I saw him in office. He looked over my ultrasound and agreed there was a fibroid and my uterus was very large and "not normal." He gave me options, all of which sounded like bandaids to fix an organ I no longer had any use for. Trust me when I say, ol' Plankton and I were no longer friends. He agreed that given my age and the quality of life (or lack thereof), a hysterectomy was a valid choice. He did some endometrial biopsies in office that day. He made sure my mammogram was up to date. He said my ovaries looked perfectly healthy and he'd like to leave them for hormone regulation. (Mind you, radiologist who read the ultrasound also concurred the ovaries were healthy. I'll come back to this.) I was in agreement. He said as long as the biopsies came back normal I could schedule the surgery with his nurse. She said she had an opening on July 3rd. If I were physically capable of doing a cartwheel, I'd have done one right there with my paper drape a flappin' in the breeze. As it was, I politely and maturely agreed.

That gave me three weeks to get my house cleaned, my family prepared, tie up loose ends at work, and probably have another period. But oh well. I was *this close* to freedom. I felt like I could safely stop googling "How to remove an angry uterus at home" at this point. be continued...

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Originally published in The Miami News-Record, July 2020 Everything is different now. I’m not just talking about masks and social distancing...