My procedure is just one week away. Hot flashes and restlessness continue to disrupt my sleep. I was awake at three o’clock this morning wishing the sun would rise, wanting to get up. But being up in the middle of the night feels like you’re sneaking around, doing something wrong, acting stupid. How can anybody be up at three a.m.? What do you do at three a.m.? The paper boy hasn’t even come yet. If I turn a light on in the kitchen, I might surprise a cockroach and catch him darting across the floor. Argh! Watching a movie might be okay, but the noise of the TV at this hour seems irreverent somehow. What I want to do is to take one of those Ambiens I’ve been saving for overseas flights, but I know that it’ll make me sleep too late in the morning. So, here I am, once again, sitting at my computer, talking to you in the middle of the night. I’m exhausted from sleep deprivation.
Delia called to confirm my appointment and asked if I had filled out any papers. She said, “I’m so sorry, Linda, and so mad that the secretary didn’t give you the forms to fill out. We have no written medical history on you. Would you mind answering the questions on the phone so I can fill out the form?” Her demeanor was efficient and professional, but also supportive and sincere. We completed the task and I felt like I had a new best friend.
Today’s the day for my hysteroscopy. The office is near my sister’s house, so I’ll go to her house afterwards for a lunch date. I don’t allow myself to think about the actual procedure because I know it’ll hurt, albeit only for a minute or two. I’m just getting a little nervous, sort of like when you’re going into labor and know that there is only one way this baby can get out of you—and it’s going to hurt like hell.
Later, February 14:
Delia, my nurse and new best friend, took me back to the room, and said, “Undress from the waist down,” and left. I searched for something to wrap around my lower nakedness, where might those wraps be? After what seemed like forever, I discovered the wraps in a container on the wall, one for GOWNS and one for LOWER BODY. I could barely get the L.B. one around me. It had no fasteners or ties. I felt deserted, abandoned, and a little scared. Plus, I was worn out, having been up since 4:45 this morning. I laid myself down on the exam table and propped my right foot into the stirrup on the right, crossed my left ankle over my right, and stretched out for a nap. I dozed off until the door opened and Dr. Gordon and Delia walked in.
The fun began.
Dr. Gordon turned on the TV monitor so that I could visualize the viscera of my own uterus while he was looking around in there. Hiney-forward, feet-in-stirrups, legs-spread, feeling exposed and nervous, I took some controlled breaths. He explained everything as he moved along. Unfortunately, he couldn’t get the probe into my cervix and had to dilate it. OUCH! I felt one huge unrelenting cramp. I began Lamaze breathing. It took two passes with increasing sizes of probes, to get my cervix open enough to get in. WHEW! The cramps were subsiding when he inserted the tube to allow the flow of saline into my uterus to look around. I started watching TV, thinking this wasn’t going to be too bad, when my full uterus cramped to expel the saline. Deep breaths. “Ooooooh, yikes, almost done?” I asked.
“Everything looks good. I don’t see anything abnormal and no polyps. I’m going to do a biopsy and we’ll be done here. You’re a good patient.” (+3 for Dr. Gordon.) That was music to my ears. No abnormalities, plus I like being a good patient!
Once again, he threaded the probe, which felt like a fishing pole, through my cervix and up to the wall of my uterus. The clamp used for the biopsy must have had dull blades because it seemed that he held on to my precious tissue for an eternity. The cramp was ceaseless. “Oh my God, is it about over? This really hurts. If I could sing, I would.” I was ranting, talking just to distract myself and keep from fainting.
“All done with that one,” he said as he withdrew the enormous clamp. “Now we need to get a second one to be sure.”
Another one? I thought, oh, man, I don’t know if I can take this any more. A little Advil or Tylenol would have been nice to dull the edges of my discomfort. (-1 point.) I took another controlled breath. The second biopsy proceeded just like the first one, only this time I said, “I HATE YOU,” not loudly, just firmly. I followed that with, “Please hurry.” (I can’t believe I said “please.”) When he extracted the probe, I said, “I don’t hate you anymore.” He didn’t care whether I hated him or not. He was just doing his job. Delia cared. She said, “Men, if they only knew.” She also told me to lie quietly for a few minutes to regain my sanity, but not in those words. She said she’d call me with the results of the biopsies. The cramping wouldn’t stop, but at least the procedure was over.
Finally, sporting a mini-pad and a knot in my uterus, I left, took three Advil, and drove to my sister’s house. If she had offered me a glass of wine, I would have accepted. (She didn’t.)
I emailed Alton in from Brenda’s computer and told him I was pregnant. He liked the joke and was relieved to hear that it was over and that everything looked clear. Of course, when we talked on the phone later tonight, he wanted the details; he was terribly worried. I gave him a short synopsis because I was afraid he’d need resuscitating if he heard about the fishing pole.
The bleeding from the biopsy finally stopped today. Must remember to go to Victoria’s Secret to buy some new undies.
My cell phone rang at 9:45 a.m. “Linda Russell, please,” the man’s voice said.
“This is Linda Russell.”
“Linda, this is Dr. Gordon.” Whooaa, this must be bad news. Delia was supposed to call me with the results. The doctor would only call himself if it weren’t good. I think my respirations slowed and I know my heart skipped a beat (or two). “We’ve gotten the results of your biopsies and they were negative. The pathology shows that the lining of the uterus is under the effect of estrogen, which is why you were bleeding. Are you still bleeding?” He gave me some advice to try to reduce the estrogen dose in about six months, said to call him if I have any other problems, yada, yada, yada. MY LUCKY DAY! WOO HOO!
I was relieved. I didn’t REALLY think I had a malignancy, but there was always an inkling of uncertainty lingering around. I called my husband. He made no attempt to disguise the frog in his throat or silence his sniffles. We were whole again.
The total amount of time since I began bleeding until I got results from my evaluation was about two months. It seems like an eternity. I am glad it’s over. I am fortunate that the outcome was positive.
Postmenopausal bleeding happens to many women and a lot of women aren’t as lucky as I was. Some receive the dreaded endometrial cancer verdicts, but I suspect that there are many, like me, who receive benign diagnoses. The American Cancer Society states: “The chance of any woman being diagnosed with this cancer during her lifetime is one in forty.” Those odds are considerably better than our odds of developing breast cancer, which are one in nine.
Thus ends my saga. Thank you for letting me share it with you. I recognize that this journal has been all about me, but I hope it has served its purpose. I hope you’ll find comfort and reassurance from my words. I hope that you’ll seek medical attention if you’re having similar symptoms. I hope you know that you are not alone.
I’m okay. I hope you are.
Read Part One
Read Part Two