April 28, 2016

Tales from the Womb (or, I had an ablation)

Gentlemen, step aside unless you want to read about endometrial ablations. If so, pull up a chair.

The problems started a couple years ago. Nothing major, just a change. My normally predictable 28 day cycle suddenly became less predictable. Sometimes, I’d have a 25 day cycle. Sometimes, I’d have a 32 day cycle. And, let me tell you, even after deciding on permanent birth control, there is not much that can strike more fear into your heart than a late period. Even after choosing a permanent birth control that is 99.85% effective. I wondered if I was moving into perimenopause and talked things over with my doctor at my annual, but she didn’t think that was the case. I chalked things up to aging and stopped worrying about it.

Until last year.

Last year, ladies, my uterus turned on me. And it was ugly. I have no idea what I did to that bitch. I’ve always treated her pretty well, but she turned on me anyhow. We had gone from being sort of friends (like, she annoyed me once a month, but I was grateful for effort she put into child growing) to being flat out enemies. It started out innocently enough; a long heavy period. Abnormal, for me, but okay. That happens. Then, next month another long heavy period. Now I was annoyed. What was this? Then, it pretty much ruined my California vacation last year by showing up for nearly two full weeks at full on, what I charmingly call, stuck pig mode.

Two weeks alone with my husband with no kids and no schedules and hotels FULL of bright white bedding. It was a nightmare.

By this time, my periods were lasting as long as 18 days and only giving me a scant week rest in between them. I started taking iron pills because there was no way I wasn’t anemic. I went to my family doctor in the summer and she sent me for blood work and referred to me a Gynecologist. I hadn’t retained a OB/GYN since moving to Ohio, because my family doctor could handle everything for me. I, of course, kept up to date with my annual appointments. My first appointment with the Gynecologist had me scheduled for an ultra sound, which was easy. Thankfully, he didn’t see anything to be alarmed with, save for a very thick endometrial lining. He then referred me for a trans-vaginal ultrasound with contrast dye and, pardon my french, but that’s when shit got real. Needless to say, after trying twice to place the catheter in a way that would allow the dye to stay in my uterus, I was a sobbing mess on the table and they gave up out of pity. In my, and their, defense I have the pain tolerance of a gnat, but it really surpassed “pressure” and went right to extreme discomfort. I don’t want to scare you, friend, if that’s on the list of things for you, but I won’t lie to you either. It bypassed “that time Big Daddy dropped the Pyrex measuring cup on my big toe” and settled around “that time the Obstetrician was trying to get my placenta out after I gave birth”. It hurt. Badly. I had to call Big Daddy and cry when it was over.

The technicians were pretty sure they saw polyps in the few glimpses they were able to get and my Gynecologist recommended I get an ablation at that time. I was unsure. I wasn’t worried about the process, but I had read some women who had them and experienced hip pain that no one was particularly able to explain. I’ve had on and off hip pain since I delivered Littlebit, so I wasn’t in a hurry to add more to it, but then Christmas rolled around and I had a three week nightmare period from hell and anything ANYTHING was better than that. I spent three days in bed, unable to do anything at all. I was blowing through a super tampon coupled with an overnight pad every hour or so. I’d hit the wall.

Now that I’ve written a novel of a backstory, let me tell you about the ablation process itself. I checked into the surgery center first thing in the morning. This place is crazy efficient and you don’t wait long at all. They get you in and out. I was tucked into the couch on the playroom by early afternoon. The first day the cramps were pretty far off the hook and I definitely needed the pain management meds that my doctor had prescribed and a heating pad, but by day two, I took a couple of regular Motrin. I took it easy that day as well, but was back to about 100% by the next day. I had zero spotting after my procedure, which surprised me quite a bit and I have not had a period since the beginning of January.

Which is fine. Which is beyond fine!

My follow up with my Gynecologist found that I had so many polyps in my uterus that he lost count and it absolutely explained the crazy, heavy bleeding over the course of the last year. There were no signs of dysplasia, which can be a per-cursor to uterine cancer and would have caused me to no longer be a candidate for the ablation process.

I have had no hip pain. No cramps. No nothing, really. Occasionally, I get a little weepy and I wonder if I’m PMS’ing. However, even though Big Daddy and I decided years ago that another little one wasn’t in our plans, pregnancy is now officially out for me. And, that’s fine, but it is something you should strongly consider if you’re thinking about an ablation. But, I feel great. I feel relived. I don’t have any regrets. I’m glad I’m not trapped in a horrible cycle with my periods anymore. I was seriously getting to the point where I was afraid to leave the house for fear of an embarrassing leak. I’m 39. The days of being worried about leaking during my period should be long past for me.

The moral of this story, of course, is that you need to talk to your doctor about changes to your period. One of the first (and only) clues of uterine cancer is a change in your period, so it’s not only important to go to your annual appointments with your OB/GYN or family doctor, but it’s also important to report changes in your cycle to them. Sure, maybe it’s aging. Or something benign like polyps. But, maybe it isn’t. Make AND keep those annual appointments, ladies. They’re important.

As for endometrial ablation, I’d give a 10 out of 10, would recommend. If it’s on the horizon for you, no fear. It’s worth it.

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