This isn’t the way I thought it would turn out, not at all. I knew better than to jump into it with too many preconceived notions, but still … I never imagined it would be this hard. I have always thought of myself as a strong person out of necessity, but I have grown weary of being strong. I would rather just curl up in a ball somewhere soft and wait for all of this to be over, but giving up has never been an option. In fact, my unwillingness to give up is what got me here in the first place.
Having gotten engaged in July 2008, I was busy planning for my July 2009 wedding. I was in the middle of sewing my wedding gown last January when I began to feel that something wasn’t quite right. I’ve always experienced little moments of pain during intimacy, but my OBGYN thought it was because my fiancé was hitting my ovaries, and to change positions until I found ones that didn’t hurt. I accepted this for a time, but things slowly escalated until I was feeling pain while doing nothing at all. I decided this was definitely not just a case of bashed ovaries, so I made an appointment to see my doctor. I had my first ultrasound in January and I had no idea what a huge can of worms I had just opened up.
The ultrasound showed nothing out of the ordinary, which was both a relief and a disappointment. While it wasn’t a tumor, I still didn’t have my answer. My wedding was coming up faster than I’d like, now that I was in pain a great deal of the time. We proceeded to laparoscopic surgery in April, despite my inability to take anything stronger than ibuprofen for the pain. My doctor found spider web-like scar tissue, called adhesions, that were sticking my internal organs together. She was unable to explain why they were there, but didn’t seem overly concerned about them. They were lasered off and I was told to go back to life as usual after two weeks. When my two weeks was up, I jumped back into bed with my fiancé only to discover that the pain was still there, though it seemed to be less spread out since the surgery. I was a bit cheesed off by this, to say the least, so back to the doctor I went.
After explaining that the pain was still there and seemed to be increasing once again, my doctor told me that the next step would be hysterectomy. I’d had female problems all my life and had been half-hoping that someone would please remove evil uterus from my life forever, so this was good news. My fiancé and I did not plan on having children, so I wasn’t interested in preserving my fertility. I was surprised that it was being offered as an option because I am only thirty-two years old, but my doctor said the smartest thing I’ve ever heard a doctor say: “we’re big girls; we can make our own decisions.” Too right! I could not have been happier, except there was not time for me to have the surgery before the wedding. The recovery time would render me unable to finish my hand-made wedding gown and the other 500 hand-made things on my to-do list. I resigned myself to think carefully about my decision until the wedding, though I was unlikely to change my mind.
Meanwhile, I got married. Everything went off without a hitch and I tried my best to give my new husband an unforgettable wedding night no matter how much it hurt. A week after the wedding, I called my doctor’s office to set up an appointment. After a two month wait, I finally got in to see her. “I’m ready,” I said, “let’s get me neutered, STAT!” The plan was to remove my uterus, cervix, and left fallopian tube, which was most likely filled with the dreaded adhesions. My ovaries were left in so that I would not need hormone replacement therapy. I waited patiently for Laurie the Scheduling Goddess to call me and set up a date. After some weeks, I was told my surgery would be on November 5th, two more months away. Alas, it was not to be. I suffered multiple colds on top of the Swine Flu in October, which took all month to get over. On November 4th I did the horrid bowel prep for the surgery, and on the 5th I arrived at the hospital. They stuck me with the IV and were justabout ready to roll me into the operating room when the anesthesiologist said “no”. The flu had damaged my lungs and she didn’t think I was well enough to go under anesthesia. I was heartbroken, not to mention exhausted and dehydrated from drinking a twelve-day supply of Miralax inside of eight hours. I had psyched myself up for this; preparing to undergo major surgery without the benefit of painkillers is no small feat. The only way it could have been worse was if they’d strangled a kitten in front of me while they were at it!
My husband drove me home and I began the long wait for a new surgery date. I finally got one: December 23rd. Well Merry Freakin’ Christmas, everybody! I looked on the bright side: finally, a valid excuse not to visit the in-laws over the holidays. So I psyched myself up all over again and did the hideous bowel prep one more time. I arrived at the hospital and this time, I was not turned away. “Oh joy, it’s nearly over now”, I thought, as they injected prophylol into my IV and I drifted into darkness. Waking a couple hours later, I asked for Tylenol in the recovery room, just as I had with my laparoscopy. Let me tell you, nothing makes you feel more alive than waking up after surgery with no painkillers in your system! They couldn’t give it to me without a doctor’s order, they said, because I was being admitted to stay overnight. Unbelievable! But I had great luck and was given a private room, where I asked for Tylenol once again.
My husband and mother left, and there I was, all alone, feeling every little bit of what the surgeons had done to me. After an hour long wait, I had to ring the bell and ask once again for Tylenol, since no one had brought me any yet. Finally, I was given two pills but it was too late… once pain like that sets in, it is very difficult to get under control. What could I do? Nothing. A stronger pain pill was guaranteed to make me throw up and feel much worse than I already did.” OK. This … is … SPARTA! No whining, no wimping out … just take your little pee bag and IV pole and walk it off like a good little soldier,” I told myself, and that’s exactly what I did. Seven hours after surgery I was walking laps up and down the hospital halls, trailing my tubes and bags behind me. After a night of sleeping in short installments with walks in between, I was released to go home on Christmas Eve. My wheelchair orderly disappeared while I was waiting for my mother, so I walked out of that hospital on my own two feet.
The weeks that followed were brutal. This was boot camp for the uninitiated; trial by fire for neutered girls. I experienced eighty-three flavors of pain I never knew existed, and ibuprofen didn’t do a thing for any of them. Five abdominal incisions were closed with stitches that were sure to leave railroad track scars all over my once-pristine tummy. My neck and shoulders felt as if someone had tried to pull my head off during surgery, and I could not find a comfortable sleeping position to save my life. Only by the grace of xanax did I get any sleep for the first two weeks, and that was sleep in installments as well. Chocolate was a better pain management tool than any pills I had, and I could barely get through a shower and a blow-dry before becoming exhausted and having to lie down again. There were a few very bad moments, but most of the time I remained chipper and upbeat, receiving my visitors in full make-up and opening Christmas gifts. Every day I told myself that the next day would be better, but I had never been so tired in all my life.
After three weeks of hanging out on the couch and watching Wife Swap on daytime TV, I went back to work. If I could do it over, I’d have stayed home another week. The fatigue was overwhelming by the end of the day. The pain got better as time went on, and I thought everything was going pretty well. Then the bleeding started. There was minimal bleeding that stopped a few days after surgery, but around week four, I started spotting every day. The time came for my six week check-up, when I expected to be released from care and able to resume relations with my poor patient husband. The spotting continued, and the doctor told me to wait a couple more weeks until it cleared up before attempting intercourse. This was very bad news, considering we are newlyweds who never got the chance to have a honeymoon due to all the pain I was in before the surgery. So I waited… and waited… and ten weeks out, the spotting continues. We are still waiting for the wonderful honeymoon lovemaking I’ve been dreaming about. To add to this despair, my pathology report found nothing unusual and after all of the trouble I’ve been through, no one can tell me why I had the adhesions to begin with. I would have liked to know the reason why a whole year of my life was consumed by doctor visits, anxiety, and invasive procedures. I suppose that’s not meant to be either.
No one ever told me it would be this hard. I didn’t know what kind of toll it would take on my marriage. My husband is reluctant to touch me too much, even after ten weeks. Extended kissing and cuddling are too frustrating for him after such a long dry spell, and I am just as frustrated as he is. Even though I fully understand his reasons for being distant, it still hurts me in all my soft places. I am trying to learn patience from this experience, but having crammed two surgeries and a hand-made wedding into one year has been almost too much for me—I’m exhausted in every possible way. I miss my husband to an unbearable degree, and his loving patience and emotional availability make me want him even more. This was not how I thought my first year of marriage would turn out. This is the first time I have not rapidly bounced back from a physical setback and I expected much better from myself. I keep telling myself that it will be worth it in the end, but doubts are creeping their way in. No one can tell me when this will end and I can go back to life as I used to know it. I don’t regret my surgery, not yet, at least, but I wish I’d been able to do it any year other than the year I finally got married. There is much to be learned from this, to be sure, but I am tired … so very, very tired.