Three years ago I sought the advice of a trusted, and seemingly competent, gynecologist. The pain was well over 20 on a 10-point scale, and like many women I’ve heard from over the years, I had “given up”. I was done! I wanted this busted uterus gone from my body. I wanted those blasted, estrogen producing ovaries out of my body. And I wanted, more than anything in the world, for this endometriosis to stop cursing me with monthly agony. I just wanted to be free from being chronically ill.
It was at the consultation when my physician’s nurse practitioner closed the door gently behind her and asked me, “is this really what you want?”
Of course it was! I begged for this! I pleaded and screamed and kicked my feet until I found a gynecologist who would do this surgery on someone under 40. Was this lady daft?
She must have taken my look of “wtf?!?” to mean I was unsure. Either that, or she just didn’t care. She was looking out for her patient and holding true to the first tenet of medicine -“first, do no harm”. I remember her heavy sigh as she took my hand in hers and said, “you should not get this hysterectomy.”
Who was she?!?! She had no clue about my pain. She had no clue how this affected my life. Then she said, “I have been where you are now and I have seen the other side. It is not one to walk down lightly.”
She proceeded to recount her experience with endometriosis. Her tale was strikingly similar to my own, and to many other women with the disease. Years of heavy, painful periods. Days spent sitting out of life, clinging to heating pads and pain reliever bottles. Treatments tried and failed. Being a spectator in ones own life.
She then told me that having a hysterectomy was akin to buying another used car when your previous junker has clunked out. With your current car, you know what you’re getting. You learn to know its noises, and how to get it started even when it makes that “put-put put ” sound or smoke bellows out the exhaust pipe. But when you trade it in – for a hysterectomy – there can come all these new problems – problems you couldn’t conceive of. And there is no Lemon Law. They can’t graft back in your ovaries – your uterus. There is no turning back. And you could awaken in that recovery room a miserable mess. And she described the sudden loss of estrogen – like going 80 and slamming on the brakes.
And hormone replacement therapy increases the risk for heart disease and cancers. And one must weight the decision to have a hysterectomy with the possibility of life without estrogen.
I left her office that day confused. I took a long, hard look into my life with endometriosis. A very long look. And I came to the realization that my endometriosis – much like an old car – is predictable. I’ve lived with it for so long I know how it acts, when it acts, and how to mask it. I know what works, what doesn’t, and what my body will not handle. And I made the personal decision not to cross into the unknown frontier. No thank you Captain Kirk, but I will not be going boldly where others have gone before.
And I stress, this is a personal decision. Some cases may warrant a hysterectomy. This is something for you and your physician to work through.
But we need more awareness as to the myriad treatments available. I was told Nuvaring failed, BCP failed, the shot failed… time for surgery. They gave up and I almost gave up on my self.