On July 15 I had a hysterectomy.
A decision not taken lightly of course, but a decision I had to make.
A few weeks prior to that I had an appointment with an OB/GYN to look into some issues I was having with some pretty intense periods.
This included very painful cramps and excessive bleeding which ultimately made me anaemic. These are symptoms I have been living with off and on for seven years. And I thought they were just normal.
When the symptoms started I talked with my mom, I asked her what her experience was like at my age and her description matched what I was going through. So I wasn’t really worried but I was miserable.
After a while though, I just wasn’t convinced this was normal. So several years ago, I visited a doctor and at that time they said, “that all sounds normal” but did recommend getting an ultrasound.
Shortly after that appointment, I found myself laid off, uninsured with an unsure future. I was freelancing some, but there was another dip in the economy at that time too, so things were super slow.
As a result, I put off the ultrasound.
Knowing what I was dealing with wasn’t every month, it was some months. Having been told, “my experiences were normal”, said to me that I didn’t need to worry.
But when I would have these rougher months, it was really impactful, it was sometimes incapacitating.
I have had days where I felt like I couldn’t leave my home.
I have had days when I was stuck in bed, with a heating pad or ice packs to help ease the pain.
I have had moments where I was in tears from the pain, and honestly depression.
But this was all normal. I had been told.
This spring, as we battle a pandemic, I reached a point where I couldn’t take it anymore. This can’t be normal and if it is normal surely there is something that can be done to help me. This was impacting my day to day functionality, and making me depressed, as my energy continued to deplete.
I went back to the local clinic I’d gone to in the past because I don’t have insurance and now I have very limited income. Again I was told it all sounds normal. One doctor suggested I go on a pill form of birth control to see if that would help. Another doctor suggested an ultrasound.
This time without insurance, without much money, I took that referral and decided to make it happen. And so far I’m grateful I did. The OB/GYN I met for an initial consultation listened to me and for the first time in my life, heard me. She also offered me a plan on how I could start to feel normal again.
That plan was maybe an IUD, maybe another type of birth control and potentially a hysterectomy if that seemed like the best option.
But we had to do the ultrasound, we had to figure out if there was an internal cause for the excessive bleeding. Because to her, it didn’t seem normal. Had she had patients with similar experiences, yes, but the percentage was small. Not as “normal” as other doctors had indicated.
A few weeks later I had an ultrasound and they found a mass they called it a polyp. The size of the mass was taking up half of my uterus.
This now meant a new plan: Remove the mass and look at birth control options. A less invasive option.
During the ultrasound they did a biopsy of the mass. The results came in indicating there was no cancer. My initial doctor felt confident they could remove it and things would probably be okay but she did send the results to an oncologist to review.
That review led to an appointment with an oncologist who specialises in female reproductive organ cancers. During that appointment the oncologist indicated even though the biopsy came out clear that there was still a 40% chance of cancer.
While that number is below 50%, it still felt like a scary percentage. Her recommendation was to do the hysterectomy.
She stated if we just removed the mass there is a chance the cancer could’ve spread or a chance that something could come back with an even higher percentage of cancer.
On July 15 I had a hysterectomy.
On July 16 I found out I had cancer.
During that procedure they did a broader biopsy of the mass and found cancer. As I write this I still don’t know what type of cancer what stage it is in or if they got it all.
Right now I am focusing on recovery from the surgery, trying to do a little work and teaching and a hope that this surgery got everything.
For those of you who know me you know I am a very private person. I typically don’t share things that I’m going through with just everybody but I felt it was important to share this.
We live in a country where everyone doesn’t have access to healthcare.
We live in a country where that lack of access prevents us from pursuing care because the costs associated with healthcare are overwhelming.
I don’t think this is fair, we are supposed to be a country that is looked up to and we are falling behind.
I’m sharing this because I want people to listen to their bodies, I want people to seek help when they feel they need it, even if they are told this is normal.
I should have listened to myself sooner. But I let hearing things like “this is normal”, my lack of access to healthcare, my lack of income make my decision, instead of trying to get help.
Today, I’m sitting in my living room, gathering my thoughts and wondering what is ahead, as I anxiously await results.
I’ve achieved milestones like:
- showering on my own
- making coffee
- cooking eggs
- i’ve even taught two online classes with PCNW
Some of those seem so simple, everyday tasks, but they are little moments I’m grateful for.
I am also grateful to those who’ve helped me through this, from texts, flowers, my friend Kim to getting me to and from the hospital, my friend Hyde for flying in to stay with me to make sure I didn’t fall on my booty!
As I continue to move through this process, I will continue to share.
Thanks for reading.
My hope is this story will help someone, somewhere, to choose themselves and their health over waiting to see what could happen, or hoping it will just go away. Some things may, I feel most things won’t.
I grew up in a home where going to a doctor wasn’t a priority. So that’s behaviour I’ve learned. And behaviour I have to unlearn. Do I think I need to go to a doctor for a sneeze, no, but I’m definitely learning to listen to my body more and how my health impacts me, both physically and mentally. I’m just sad it took me so long to do that.