A place for endometriosis survivors & supporters, and all that goes with it.


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#TBT to the first time I published my #endostory

I recently had to clean out my desk and pack up 10 years of memories and collectibles (and, let’s be honest, papers and condiments and dusty old fortunes). Among my discoveries: the long-lost copies of H Magazine from 2009, in which I lay out my excruciating and embarrassing first emergency room visit for extreme pelvic pain and heavy bleeding, describe some of the more graphic details of life with endometriosis for all my coworkers to read, and required our senior Graphics Editor to make a graphic of what endometriosis and adhesions look like. (Sorry not sorry, Steve.)

The story took a big edit and you can’t even find it online any more, since the magazine is no longer in print, but I was still happy — and maybe a little strangely nostalgic — to find these copies and to know they haven’t been totally lost and forgotten. I’d love to take another crack at this and rewrite this article, to update the facts and improve the prose. Maybe now that my schedule has “opened up,” as they say, I’ll have both the time and resolve to do so.

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Guilt over not participating in my own life (or at least Star Wars Weekend)

Can I just vent for a minute?

I am really getting down and sick of how unpredictable and uncontrolled my endo and adeno pain is. I am trying to live any sort of social life but end up just going to work, surviving, going home to sleep, and repeat. And I’m getting upset over ridiculous things. Tomorrow, for example, I have been dying to go to Star Wars Weekend at Disney in Orlando, especially since this is the last weekend of the year and Mark Hamill and Billy Dee Williams will be there. I have been talking it up and getting excited. Today, I wake up and I am beyond thrashed. Well, I say wake up, but I really mean “have several short naps from 3 a.m. to 2 p.m. and finally pour myself out of bed and stumble around the house like a zombie.” Hell, I’m still in pajamas right now! I haven’t even taken anything for pain, even though I’d like to! I am trying to work myself up to go out to have dinner at 7, I can hardly fathom getting on the road at 7 a.m. to spend the day in the heat in Orlando and drive back that night. And what about my pain management? I am back to rationing my meds each day, and the codeine I’m sorry to say is not really effective. It’s a difficult admission. So I have people here and in Orlando that know I *might* come, but I might not, and it affects not just me because there’s getting the dog cared for, and making sure I have clothes I can actually wear through the day, and staying comfortable. I just don’t know. I’m exhausted at the very thought. Another opportunity for fun, probably down the drain. Another year of planning to go, gone.

The pose on this statue by Rodin just cries Shame to me. Image found via Google Creative Commons.

Statue by Rodin, image found via Google Creative Commons.

I already had to decline the wedding invitation of a friend I’ve known for 20 years because I’d be in Chicagoland alone, and with as weird as my pain has been, I can’t risk being stuck in a hotel room or banquet hall and not able to get around, or not be able to wear pants, or swell up to pregnancy size. Or worse, being in total incoherent pain and not able to care for myself, or get back to my hotel, or having to explain myself to someone there, spending the money and not being able to go or drive safely, and and and … I just can’t risk it.

I know I get stuck in this cycle of making decisions based in a place of fear. But I feel like I’ve done a hell of a lot pushing through my pain, especially college and beyond. Now I feel like it is catching up to me. And I feel such extreme guilt over not being able to do participate in my own life. It can’t be healthy.

These aren’t the first events I’ve had to sacrifice in the name of endometriosis. I guess they won’t be the last. And that is infuriatingly sad.

I wish very much that I could just make decisions and go and do and not have a million “ifs” and items to tick off the list. Isn’t that what normal people do? They get to go and do things and not have their pain sitting on their shoulder (or anywhere else, for that matter), guiding their life experience? I can’t be the only one who feels like this.

Maybe I’m finally getting to a point of making that Very Difficult Decision.


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UPDATED: Ovarian Age is just a number

I waited all week to call and find out my anti mullerian hormone results — it was a crazy week at work and I didn’t want to add to the madness if the news was bad.

Good call.

I heard back from the fertility institute within an hour of calling today. And it seems my AMH level is poor … 1.4. The doctor is in Tallahassee and will call Monday to discuss plans/what this means, but they told me the number over the phone. Depending on which AMH scale they used, it’s either poor/low or basically menopausal. Waiting for the nurse to call back and clear that up.

I knew at 23 that my ovaries were starting to age; they could see it during surgery, but my reserve was good then. But I also had two ovaries still.

Did I miss my “chance” after all?

Am I a 30-year-old who blogs about this now?

They had these bracelets at the check-out desk at the fertility institute; I was upset when I saw it at first. Now I wish I had taken one. What I hope for … I’m still not sure.

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I was going to go to the driving range, but now I’m feeling pretty dizzy … may be a day to stay home …

**UPDATE!** The nurse already called me back, and the scale they use is ng/mL. So my number for AMH is 1.4 ng/mL — not a 100 percent disaster, but still not good.

The nurse is of course careful to remind me that there are other factors at play as to what this might mean: my age (which is young!), previous infertility (facepalm), and the number of follicles he could see on my ultrasound without stimulation (it was about 4 when I saw this doc for the first time). But still … there’s a big difference between 1.4 at age 41 and a 1.4 at age 30.


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Update on the little man

This is a follow-up to a post I made recently, detailing some health issues with my dog, Pippin.

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On one recent Sunday, I took Pippin to work. He’s the best in the biz.

Long story short: NO SURGERY FOR THE SMALL DOG! The ultrasound shows a nodule on his pancreas, and some of his organs were a bit enlarged, but there’s no cancer, no foreign object stuck in his gut, and absolutely no need for surgery, as the first vet had pressed so firmly into my brain.

Basically, his big tummy was full of air and food that was fermenting, which was the culprit in his gastro issues. He’s a small dog that’s getting older and the high-fiber vet food just wasn’t right for him. I put him on soft food of a different brand for a bit, but when that didn’t stop the gastrointestinal distress, we put him on the tried-and-true diet for doggy diarrhea: chicken and rice. He’s been eating it since with only one short-lived gastro issue over the weekend when we relented and gave him a bite of egg white.

No more panting all night like a cow in labor. No more shitting himself. No more tear-inducing farts that wake us up out of a dead sleep in the middle of the night.

My dog did not have cancer. My dog had to take a shit and change his diet. THANKS, VET NO. 1, FOR THE PANIC. I guess doctors of all shades can be total dipshits.

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The buttonhooks are back.

English: Buttonhooks with handles made of horn...

English: Buttonhooks with handles made of horn and wood, on display at Bedford Museum. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

These, my lovers, are buttonhooks. These sharp little bastards were used to help cinch buttons into the buttonholes of button-up shoes, naturally.

And for several weeks, the little demon in my pelvis has been using one to get my attention at most inopportune times. Like at work. Or home. Or sleeping. Or just trying to pee. I usually describe my pains to physicians and friends alike as like buttonhooks pulling my insides apart. (I blame the move “Sybil” for working this imagery into my psyche when I was 16.)

And sisters, the buttonhooks are decidedly back.

This is how I felt constantly before my third laparoscopy: lots of ripping and stabbing, sudden sharp tears of pain that moved quickly from the left to right side, or punctured through the right of my pelvis down through the cervix. You ever been punched in the cervix? Probably not, but most endo sisters are going to know what I mean. Guys, try to imagine one of those long slender metal knitting needles being used to get a really bitching penile piercing, except it’s sliding up your urethra.

Yeah. That.

At the end of February I had a pain spell that knocked the hell out of me. I suddenly lost focus of vision, had ripping, dragging pain from left to right in my pelvis, and couldn’t catch my breath — if I breathed in more than a shallow pant, it hurt like hell under my ribs. I suddenly burst into tears, unable to deal with the shock and terrible feelings. I ended up lying on the floor for a good 40 minutes while the waves of pain increased and then gently floated away. I was glad to not be alone, and Phil talked me through it — mostly he was on the internet, asking my symptoms and entering them into a WebMD symptom checker. After each inquiry, he’d tell me the online remedy was “go to the hospital.”

“Try another one,” I’d reply. I’m not going to the hospital unless I damn well need to. Not only do they not deserve any more of my money, but all they’ll do is keep me cold and braless for 6 hours, take an ultrasound or maybe an MRI if they feel adventurous, and send me home with the classification “unknown cause, please follow up.”

Even just tonight I walked to the bathroom here at work. By the time I got there I was gasping — the knitting-needle-to-the-cervix pain left me breathless and sweating. And the damn things go as quickly as they arrive, so had anybody walked in as I was regaining composure, it would have been a bizarre scene indeed.

I know that my intestines aren’t that happy with me. More pain meds mean more constipation mean more pain — you can’t get around it. And my wonky overtime schedule this week has mean I’m neglecting the awesome essential oils I was given that actually seemed to start to make a gentle difference in my stomach situation.

But what can’t be denied is that I’ve been here before. I was a crumpled mess before my last lap (just go back a few pages, you’ll see) and when they went in — DAMN. Massive endometrioma in the right ovary which was stuck to the uterus and that whole clump stuck to the pelvic wall; the left sigmoid colon stuck to itself and the pelvic wall; endo on the bladder, the uterus, and knotting my ureters together (AGAIN) and for the first time, endo in the cul-de-sac and the diagnosis of adenomyosis.

And I knew I was in pain. I was blacking out from it, even behind the wheel. I was going two weeks with no BM (as I have recently, and it is NOT fun). I was weeping and narcotic drunk and not functional. And it STILL took 4 years, three doctors and a third surgery for anyone to believe it could be “that bad.”

I can’t wait that long this time. Nobody should. I may have exhausted my resources locally, but that doesn’t mean I will let my body suffer. I have one ovary left and it is mine, endo can’t have it, and my life is mine, endo can’t have it.

So I guess it may be time to travel again. You know, I’ve never been to New York City …


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The 2013 Endo Challenge: A prep for Endometriosis Awareness Month

Holy hell, folks.

It’s the end of February. Which means it’s almost March. Which means (you maybe guessed it): Endometriosis Awareness Month is here again!

It’s a celebration of US, y’all. (Found on Google Images using Creative Commons license filter)

In previous years, I’ve tried to blog every single day for Endo Month. Sometimes that’s worked really well; other years, not so much (i.e. I’m still trying to get over the fact that I abandoned ship in the middle of the month in 2012 after a traumatic gyno visit, about which I *still* have yet to talk to anyone about).

This year, I’m going to take a different approach that I think we all will enjoy: More articles, more reblogs from other awesome endo folks, more photos – maybe not every day, but certainly no blogging famine either.

And in that spirit, I present to you a challenge. THE 2013 ENDO CHALLENGE, to be specific.

Here’s what I want from participants in the Endo Challenge: Set a goal, know why you’re setting it, and then go ahead and do it. Blog about it, tweet about it, post it in the Endo Sucks! group, email me about it — however you want to communicate it so we can share together.

For example, my first Endo Challenge for myself: NO MORE SODA. No sugary drinks, no sugar-free drinks. I don’t know how many more articles and charts and studies I have to see before I give up the ghost and admit the negative effects my caffeinated indulgence can have: cellular damage, the terrible effects it can have on metabolic rates and sugar spikes, inflammation, the unsavory effect it has on your teeth …. UGH. As the many 2-liter bottles around my desk can attest, we drink way too much of it, even if I work a night job. I’ve given it up before, I’ll survive. I’ll just have to take up Water Joe again when I really want caffeine!

I’ll start there, but how will you challenge yourself this month? Here’s a few ideas from the top of my head:

* Start a positivity journal. Write down something good that’s happened to you every day, to remind you that you are living a life, not just a life with endometriosis.

* Participate in a local endometriosis awareness event. For example, The Great Endo Balloon Race 2013 is a way for endo survivors worldwide to pick a day to hand out yellow balloons to strangers, doctors offices, hospitals — pretty much anywhere — and attach information about endometriosis to it, as much or as little as you like — a definition and a URL of an endo blog or a group like the Endometriosis Research Center, the is a good place to start. They also have tips on more eco-friendly balloon choices and other ideas. Join the group and tell them Endo Sucks! sent you! :D There’s also races, meet-ups, the endo quilt — possibilities abound!

* Get in touch with an endo group. Most countries have endometriosis associations; just check out how many I follow on Twitter or what groups have pages on Facebook, or just Google it! Don’t have one? Consider starting one. Small steps lead to great journeys. The ERC is one; other places to start include the Endometriosis Foundation of America and Endometriosis.org.

* Make a change. Change your exercise routine. Start an exercise routine. Eliminate known food triggers from your diet and see how you feel. Drink more water. Eat less gluten. Again, it’s amazingly up to you. Be sure to give diet changes at least two weeks to judge their efficacy and change one food at a time so you know exactly which food is or isn’t helping.

* Talk it out. Make time for this. Talk to your mom and ask her about her experiences. Talk to your friends and make them know that they need to meet you a little more than halfway when it comes to what you can and can’t do with endo. Talk to your partner and gently explain how you feel and what you need from them when you have an Endo Day. Post to the Endo Sucks! group. Talk to a counselor. Unburdening yourself and educating others is a great way to find support you may never have known was there. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need!

* Do your research. Did you know many women with endo also have Interstitial Cystitis, and some of your pelvic pain may actually be bladder pain? Did you know the company that makes Mirena is coming out with a smaller IUD called Skyla that is supposed to be better tolerated by women who’ve never had children, and can help with adenomyosis pain? Challenge what you think you know about endometriosis and related conditions, and know that doctors work for YOU — you have the DUTY to ask as many questions as possible and explore every avenue of treatment.

* Ask your job for Intermittent FMLA. This is something I believe every single working woman should do. The Family Medical Leave Act offers Americans specific, paid protections of their job when it comes to surgery, chronic conditions, maternity leave and caring for others — but they may not come out and say “Hey, did you know you can fill out the FMLA form, get Intermittent FMLA, and have your much-needed endo days at home paid 50 percent by FMLA and 50 percent by your paid time off?” My job didn’t. You don’t have to tell them WHY you need an Intermittent FMLA form — just sit down and ask for one. You’ll need your doctor to sign off on it, but it is SO worth it. (A guest blog is coming soon on this topic!)

* Take time for you. Dare to take good care of yourself. Get a massage. Don’t get out of yoga pants all day if you don’t feel like it. Treat yourself to a movie. Learn to make a new favorite meal. DO FOR YOU and don’t take no crap from nobody.

That’s what I can think of for now. Leave me a comment and tell me what YOUR 2013 Endo Challenge will be — and if you have a blog about it, please link to it in the comments!


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In truths that she learned, or in times that he cried

So how do you measure a year?

This is one of everybody’s favorite songs from RENT, “Seasons of Love.” I was and am a giant RENThead and was able to introduce the movie to Phil on Christmas Eve. Not as grand as the stage version, but I’d actually forgotten just how powerful it is. And it always strikes me extra hard that the writer, Jonathan Larson, never even got to see just how far his story would reach into the world: He died of a heart problem the night of RENT’s final dress rehearsal, the result of his until-then-unknown Marfan’s Syndrome.

Here’s the video I meant to post for the New Year (see previous entry as to why it was delayed). I chose this one over one from the movie because it’s more full and is the original Broadway cast (OBC) version. There’s plenty of videos online if you want to see it sung by the actors; it’s moving.

Lyrics:
ALL
Five hundred twenty-five thousand
Six hundred minutes,
Five hundred twenty-five thousand
Moments so dear.
Five hundred twenty-five thousand
Six hundred minutes
How do you measure, measure a year?

In daylights, in sunsets, in midnights
In cups of coffee
In inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife.

In five hundred twenty-five thousand
Six hundred minutes
How do you measure
A year in the life?

How about love?
How about love?
How about love? Measure in love

Seasons of love. Seasons of love

JOANNE
Five hundred twenty-five thousand
Six hundred minutes!
Five hundred twenty-five thousand
Journeys to plan.

Five hundred twenty-five thousand
Six hundred minutes
How do you measure the life
Of a woman or a man?

COLLINS
In truths that she learned,
Or in times that he cried.
In bridges he burned,
Or the way that she died.

ALL
It’s time now to sing out,
Though the story never ends
Let’s celebrate, remember a year in the life of friends
Remember the love!
Remember the love!
Seasons of love!

JOANNE(while ALL sing)
Oh you got to got to
Remember the love!
You know that love is a gift from up above
Share love, give love spread love
Measure measure your life in love.
Seasons of love, seasons of love