Regrets collect like old friends
Here to relive your darkest moments
I can see no way, I can see no way
And all of the ghouls come out to play
And every demon wants his pound of flesh
But I like to keep some things to myself
I like to keep my issues strong
It’s always darkest before the dawn
- “Shake It Out” Florence & The Machine
Let’s start this with something heavy. Literally.
Two and half years ago I had all my reproductive organs removed. Little did I know then that it would be the catalyst for the final leg of my journey into authenticity, a journey that up until then was largely being walked by my subconscious.
The pain I went to the doctor about grew from an annoying twinge under my skin to a debilitating lead ball of pain deep in my abdomen in a matter of months. Canadian health care, being the equal opportunity underfunded sludge that it is, assured me it would get to me before long. Unfortunately for me, long was not a terribly well quantified concept. I couldn’t stand up straight. I couldn’t care for my children, I couldn’t farm, I couldn’t make it through a store without being fodder for old ladies wondering why I was crouching at the end of aisles focusing on the next breath, just the next one, goddamn it no, I don’t need you to help me up.
By the end, I couldn’t leave my bed.
I got a small glimpse of what it would be like to live with the most crippling, eviscerating condition around as it marked its territory with the relentless waves of chronic pain. It’s not good. I popped the pretty pharmacy pills like they were candy. When I woke up gasping in the night and couldn’t get down, the ER docs with their furrowed brows said they’d do whatever it took to get me under the knife. It still took over 6 months from acknowledgement to finish.
I’d had 4 children: 3 vaginal births with no pain relief and one C-Section. I knew pain, but the mass straining to get out of my middle taught me I knew nothing, nothing at all. I jokingly called it my “tumor baby” and planned its slow, twisted death. Judge all you want, the fucker was trying to kill me.
They finally slotted me in and sliced me open from side to side. The surgeon removed a 14.6×8.7×8.4 cm “thin walled dermoid cyst” (“mature cystic teratoma”), my uterus with adenomyosis, two ovaries with smaller cysts, endometriosis on my fallopian tubes, and my cervix. It was all some seriously fucked up in there.
I learned a few important things in those months that I’d like you to know.
- When they take your reproductive system all at once, it fucks you up in ways you can’t imagine. There is relief of pain, sure, but then everything that kept you ticking had better be replaced by something artificial or you’re going to have a hell of a time keeping your head above water. If you have a particularly brilliant OBGYN like mine who thought it would be fun to send me home with no HRT, call them and make them change their mind. Go to their clinic. Go to their house. Show up at their gym and don’t leave until they fully understand that the sweaty, freaked out mess of a human being you are is their fault and they had best fix YESTERDAY. Hormones are just not meant to be candidates for the cold turkey approach.
- If you’ve been a good girl and staying in a hetero marriage “for the kids”, and you’re busy thinking your dumbass husband will step up and take time off voluntarily to help so you can have surgery if something goes wrong and he’s NEVER STEPPED UP BEFORE, who is the real dumbass there? Probably you. Make some friends as insurance. They’re usually better anyway.
- If you’ve been hiding shit from yourself, it will all come out. Your hormone roller coaster was more important to your impulse control than you’d ever thought possible.
- The medical system doesn’t give a flying fuck about women and their reproductive system, except if something of interest – like a baby – is coming out of it. This is because the medical system is full of women but almost exclusively run by men. This hasn’t changed in millennia. It isn’t going to change unless we get fed up with dying because woman parts are too weird to talk about.
- HRT takes time for your body to accept. You are going to get HOT in a fraction of a millisecond, so HOT that you think you are literally going to explode into an inferno in the middle of dinner. No one will notice until you are planting your bare ass out in the snow in a failed attempt to cool off. You’ll discover a whole new meaning to dressing in layers. The good part is that if you were like me and always cold before the surgery, you will be able to move to the Antarctic in a tent and enjoy outdoor BBQs in your shirt sleeves for quite sometime.
- You will have little patience. You’ll be frustrated. Be kind to yourself. Your guts just got ripped out. If this happened routinely to guys, they’d be down for a year and then need a special rehab program to get them back to 100%. And the problem that caused them to lose their insides in the first place would be solved already for about 110 years.
But by far, the biggest thing I learned is that life is short. I was almost 40 when this happened and I thought my biggest personal issue was reaching middle age. Now I know I was lucky to reach it. If 40 was the middle of my life, I’m a truly lucky woman. I got to have more time. So many of my sisters don’t get this. Their results don’t come back labelled BENIGN. They might not even make out from under the scalpel.
Every day is precious. Live your life for you and for no one else. Don’t be afraid to get as loud as you need to, don’t be afraid to shake the walls until those who are sleeping finally hear you. Don’t be afraid to embrace how important, how inestimable you are. It’s not vanity, it’s an under-acknowledged truth.
We matter. Damnit, we matter.