human, being

It sucks being a girl: Part II

Once again, to my readers, this may be TMI, so proceed with caution.

Last Thursday, I finally got the ultrasound to see if there are any structural issues that have been creating my ultra-heavy periods with ultra-heavy PMS. Today, I had a visit with an ob/gyn at University of Colorado Hospital to get the results.

I have a small, dimed-sized fibroid, but the doctor doubts that it has any involvement. Fibroids are generally caused by an overabundance of estrogen. I’ve had an issue with an overabundance of estrogen for my entire reproductive life, which is why progestin-based birth control works so well for me. But I don’t want to take it anymore.

Her recommendations were this: progestin (Mirena, bc pills, Depo), uterine ablation, hysterectomy or living with it. She heard my objections to anything progestin-related. “How about you schedule the workup for an ablation on the way out?” she said.

Now, I have to admit that this particular doctor was not my first, second or third choice. Looking at her picture and reading her bio on her UC Denver page, I could tell that she’s by-the-book Western medicine. So I’m not surprised by her recommendations. I’m just disappointed that she was completely closed off to anything other than fake-hormones or surgery. I mentioned the acupuncture I’ve been receiving from Debra Kuhn, but she gave me a blank stare.

I asked the doctor specifically if she thinks my hormones are out of whack, and if they are, what they’d do to get them back in whack. She said it’s hard to tell because blood-derived hormone levels aren’t accurate. (Obviously, very Western because there are many other ways to test hormone levels throughout your cycle, and the least invasive one is journaling your symptoms and how you feel). She said bcp are the only thing they’d give to women my age. I asked her about my horrible PMS for the past two months, and she basically shrugged her shoulders as if to say, “comes with the territory,” then once again said bcp are the answer. Having been in a wide variety of bcp since I was 16, I can tell you that those hormones make my PMS worse in many ways, so they are NOT the answer for me.

Uterine ablation essentially is frying the endometrium with a laser, with a balloon filled with hot water, or using another method. This kills the tissue and causes heavy bleeding to stop. The doctor said about 90% of women are satisfied with the results–less or no bleeding. However, for the 10% who are dissatisfied, they may actually get worse. The procedure is done under general anesthesia, too, so it is not a “no biggie” surgery. Not that I want more children, but it is nearly impossible to maintain a pregnancy after this procedure.

The whole thing seems very invasive to me … so invasive that I am feeling like a wimp for not being able to deal with my period nowadays. But then, this is day six, and I am no longer deeply depressed and anxious, I am no longer bloated. I am no longer nauseous and frazzled. I am not longer cramping. I am still bleeding, but it’s not the flood it was on day 1. The acupuncture seems to have helped to balance out some of the irregularity, but the bleeding was still much heavier than it has been since I was a teenager.

On Saturday, as I lay on Debra’s table, I could barely handle a single needle going in. She had to put them in in stages–I was so ultra sensitive. Eventually, the needle between my eyes and the ones in my anti-nausea points calmed me down and dissipated the nausea. I stopped crying, eventually, too. I was that emotional and wiped out that I couldn’t control myself. By the time I left, I was feeling more myself. She used cups on my back to help relieve my cramps (she let Lauren help put them on and take them off, which my kiddo is still talking about) and needled my neck some more, which killed my headache and the end of my nausea. I feel so grateful that I found her, because she really can make me feel better. However, I’m still a bit of a skeptic about the long-term benefit of acupuncture, that it will “stick” (no pun intended). It’s expensive, and while I’m dedicated to trying it for another month to see if we can continue to change my bleeding level, I don’t think I can go weekly after that. I’m paying $260 a month right now.

Debra’s encouraging me to take herbs to regulate me further. I’m curious about them, but to be honest they’ve not done much for me in the past. The herbs she gave me for my IBS had no noticeable effect. The nasty raw herb tea she had me brew to get my massive bleeding slowed down in January, though, totally worked. My other issue with herbs is that they only work if you take them religiously, and I can’t take them with the handful of pills I swallow each morning and night. Despite really needing my daily Zyrtec so my eyes don’t swell up in reaction to whatever’s in the air, somedays I still forget to take that pill. I’m not the best at remembering, and taking things in the middle of the day, as I’d have to with herbs, is problematic at best. It requires planning ahead for days when I’m working, or not working. Yes, I’m avoiding. I admit it. They are also an extra cost in a time when our household income is down by 25%.

Debra has a new naturopath at her practice. She’s calling the her now to get her opinion on what combination we may do to help me get back in balance. My friend Nicoleta has been seeing a naturopath, and my friend Helen swears by hers too. Seeing Jamie would be yet another expense. However, the cost of the ablation would be at least $500, so I’m trying to convince myself that it’s a wash. I’ve been curious about naturopathic medicine for a while, but despite my Eastern/complementary medicine leanings, I still have doubts about possible qwackery. After all, in Colorado naturopaths aren’t licensed or regulated. Yet, I want to get to the bottom of this, because what is happening to me each month is not normal for me, so something is not right.

I had so hoped to come out of today’s appointment with a precise and clear explanation about what is happening with me, and with a course of action I can live with. The doctor had no solid explanation about what is going on with me, so the mystery continues.


I only do kegels when I hear the word kegels
January 17, 2009, 2:37 pm
Filed under: Girl Stuff

Last night, I tuned into Oprah’s webcast with Dr. Laura Berman on sex (This link will take you to the download). It was interesting and hilarious at the same time because Oprah is so obviously uncomfortable talking about sex in detail. I have to say I got some perverse pleasure about watching the poised of the poised squirm a little.

One hilarious moment: Dr. Berman started talking about kegels. And when she said the word, I found myself squeezing those particular muscles, a la Pavlov’s dog. Oprah started making faces because she was doing them too, and I laughed and wondered if I’m not alone in this phenomenon. I mean, all of us women know we’re supposed to do kegels at every traffic light, or during TV commercials. I hope we know that we’re not supposed to do them on the toilet (you want to relax there). The benefits of strong PC muscles range from lack of stress incontinence (ah-choo, oh no I peed) to more intense orgasms. Men should exercise their pelvic muscles too for the same reasons. Dr. Berman said we all should be doing AT LEAST 100 kegels every day.

I’m sorry, what?

In order for me to do kegels, I’m going to have to change the ring tone on my cell phone to the word KEGEL (over and over) so I’ll remember to do them. I’ll have to add another reminder to my Outlook calendar, put a sticky note on the refrigerator, write the word on my hand in Sharpie. Maybe then I’ll get in the prescribed 100 or so every day.

The webcast was also interesting because of the questions that were asked. The discussion included everything from sex toys (girls, check out the Adonis in Dr. Berman’s own sex toy line), to lack of libido in men and women, to helping men hold out longer, to fantasies, to ways to spice up a dull sex life, to (ahem) anal sex. That one really made Oprah squirm.

I loved this series about “Your Best Sex Life.” I am a big believer in the idea that women should embrace their sexuality and should RIGHT NOW stop judging themselves for the things they feel and fantasize about. I spent most of my life believing that there was something fundamentally wrong with me because you know what, I like sex. A lot. Now, I’ve come to terms with who I am as a woman, and this woman is a sexual being. And face it, we all are sexual beings. It’s normal. It’s natural. It is nothing to be ashamed of, ever. I think that the shame and embarrassment many women feel about sex is anti-feminist; it’s a way for our patriarchal society to keep us girls in our places. I believe that when women of all ages take back their sexual power (instead of giving it away, as we’re raised to do for the most part), we grow stronger as mothers, workers, lovers, sisters, friends. Embracing our sexual side means we fully accept every part of ourselves. And that makes us powerful beyond measure.

I want Lauren to grow up believing that her sexual feelings are natural, normal and good. I want her to never feel shamed about this core part of her, as I did. Sure, there’s a time, a place, and a level of emotional security I believe are essential to being healthy–spiritually, emotionally and physically–as a sexual being. I hope that when the time comes, I am brave enough to walk this talk with her. And of course, I’ll tell her about kegels. And maybe she’ll be better about doing them than I am.

Being a girl sucks beyond belief
January 13, 2009, 12:44 pm
Filed under: Girl Stuff | Tags: , , , , ,

For many of you, especially the boys, this is TMI, so stop reading now. But if you’re morbidly curious, like me, then read on.

So yesterday I wind up in the ER because I got my period. Imagine the flood that Noah survived, and you have my Monday experience. At about 11:30 am I found myself stranded in a stall at work, praying to god that someone would come in soon, because I couldn’t leave without some help. My pants were soaked to the knees, and the bowl had at least two inches of blood in it. Of course, because I am incredibly dramatic, I think I am bleeding to death. The clots the size of my hand (think bloody jellyfish) aren’t helping my near-hysteria. Are those my insides? Am I having a miscarriage? (and how would that be possible?) I have had horrible periods before (don’t get me started), but this was EPIC. I am freaking out, crying, drenched pants and underwear puddled on the floor. Finally someone comes in and I ask for help. I think, had I opened the stall door completely, she would have screamed. Instead she just looked at me strangely and ran to get our administrative assistant. Suzanne fetches my cropped exercise pants from my bottom desk drawer, which I had put there almost two years ago under the feigned belief that one day I would exercise during my lunch hour.

As she goes off to find feminine hygiene products that could possibly stanch a fire hydrant, another coworker comes in and helps me. I am standing at the sink wearing my turquoise blouse, cropped exercise pants, brown knee high socks and sneakers (Stacy and Clinton, I DARE you to fault my fashion ha!), trying to wash the blood from my favorite pair of wool trousers. I am shaking and crying, but also completely stubborn. She insists that I go to the ER. I refuse. She insists. I refuse. She insists. I give in. My friend Jill fetches her car, and Kim walks me out. I cannot walk without assistance because I am shaking and so dizzy. I think it’s called adrenaline.

Almost two hours later, having flooded through four pads the size of a Subway sandwich, I am finally in an ER room. I wait. An EMT trainee (yeah, it’s a teaching hospital) tortures me by starting an IV. They take several vials of blood, which sit there on the table next to the bed for the entire four hours I’m there. Eventually a doctor comes in to give me a pelvic exam. She tells me that she thinks either I’m having an issue with a fibroid or maybe it’s an after-effect of not having my period for 7 years due to the fucking Mirena (oh, darn it, I said it again), or maybe it’s a side effect of the Wellbutrin, which is known to cause some “menstrual changes.” Or maybe it’s just a hormonal imbalance because I’m in perimenopause, and I can either go back on hormones (uh, I don’t think so) or live with it. They give me some fluids, a medication to lessen my dizziness and nausea, check my hematocrit a couple of times to make sure I’m not anemic, then send me home. No answers at all. My final diagnosis: vaginal bleeding. Here’s my $150 copay, thank you very much for that.

Today, I’m still home, partially because really, I don’t feel good and partially because I feel incredibly embarrassed that all of my coworkers witnessed me with blood soaked pants from the crotch down. The only other more embarrassing girl-related moment was in high school, when I was auditioning for the Sound of Music and discovered, as I was singing on stage, that I had bled through the back of my dress.

I have an appointment with the “ER follow-up clinic” on Friday for some tests to see what’s causing this. Today, I’m going to see my wonderful acupuncturist and herbalist, Debra Kuhn, to get some herbs to slow down the bleeding and get some acupunture to calm me down. I know the doctors will immediately say one of the following: endometrial ablation, progesterone, hysterectomy. My answer to all of that is uh-uh, not unless it’s life-or-death. Maybe I’m being stupid, but after being on progestin for more than half of my life, I really want to experience what life has in store for me hormone-supplement free.

My boss is a wonderful human being. When I emailed in sick today, she not only related personal stories about her own womanly history, but also pulled some strings with the administrator of the hospital’s Women’s Services clinic to try to get me an appointment with a real doctor today (the clinic on Friday is with the residents). My coworkers, who refused to leave my side until my parents got there (Steve was in training and could not come for me), are angels sent from above. Really, how many people do you work with who would drag your ass to the ER when you’re being stubborn enough to think that you should just go home to your empty house, and drive yourself there as well? So to Kim and Jill, thank you. I owe you big time.

I hope to god this is not the new normal for me. I think that Debra will fix me up for the time being, and the baby-docs will figure out if this is a more serious issue. All I know is that sometimes, being a girl sucks beyond belief. And this is one of those times.