A Dream & A Hysterectomy: Part One
In a couple months, the girls and I are going to the ocean; Kiawah Island, specifically, in South Carolina. We’re looking forward to it. We all love the ocean. It’s beautiful, and peaceful, and awe-inspiring, and we can’t wait to go on a sunset cruise and learn to surf and comb for shells and feel the swell of the Ocean waves carrying us. Everyone loves the ocean.
It’s not without its share of dangers, though. My daughter is very scared of sharks and, having been stung by one, the idea of jellyfish doesn’t excite me at all. I love swimming and all things water related. Swimming in the open water, though, is challenging. The swell of waves crashing your face, salt water filling your nostrils, treading water to keep your head from going under… swimming in open water is work.
Irregardless of the dangers of the ocean, though, given the choice, I’ll always go.
Surgeries do not normally frighten me. A good thing, as I’m awaiting number ten tomorrow morning (literally missing several organs; did you know you can function while missing a handful of organs?).
Fourteen years ago, I started bleeding—and have not stopped since. Most of the time, it’s fairly light, almost spotting, but there are almost 8 days or of every month where I am literally having to wear both tampon and pad and changing those every hour. Fibroids kept reappearing. Cysts.
Initially, I tried to figure it out and stop it: two D&Cs, multiple prescriptions that were supposed to stop it—but didn’t. At first, doctors thought it might be because I wasn’t on the right dosage of a thyroid medication. But when my TsH levels normalized and I was still bleeding, they said I had unusually thick lining and that it might just be my normal. Sometime around three or four years ago, there word hysterectomy started floating around.
My immediate reaction? Absolutely not. I wouldn’t even discuss it. It was simply off the table. It was so off the table that my doctor refused to do another D&C because he said that we were putting a bandaid on the problem and also lowering my chances of another pregnancy.
So… the only thing left, really, was to accept that that was my new normal. Whispers about how the bleeding might be contributing to the chronic anemia began. I didn’t care. A hysterectomy simply was not open for discussion.
The why behind that is complicated. It really isn’t that I expected to get pregnant again. I am already a mother, and will always be the luckiest one alive in Breathe and Alight. Instead, I think it’s the finality of it, the relinquishing of another quiet, maybe unspoken, dream. And of how many have been taken, or sacrificed. Whatever the myriad of reasons, I wasn’t willing to discuss it.
Instead, I gave up on trying to stop the bleeding or control the fibroids and cysts. I went through each surgery, I started getting iron infusions every three months for the chronic anemia. And I handled the bone deep exhaustion and the dizziness upon standing and all of these minor symptoms that, together, create a bigger problem.
Then, in January, I went in for what I thought was to be a normal iron infusion. Instead, I was given a new type of iron and an allergic reaction resulted in my losing consciousness and being admitted to the hospital with a blood pressure of 60/40.
It was not fun.
At that time, they told me I had more fibroids and also another cyst, and recommended I see someone about it. I almost ignored their advice because I knew what would be the recommendation. But the anaphylactic reaction to the iron frightened me more than I thought it did. I’ve worked really, really hard for life over the last decade. And the idea of losing it now, over something that I might could fix, weighed heavily on me. The night before the appointment with the OBG-YN, I prayed hard and asked for guidance.
My heart broke as I thought about the dreams I’ve lost, has taken or given up. Becoming a mother literally gave me life, one that I had not had before. It taught me to live each day optimistically, to see the light at the end of every tunnel. It literally changed the way I live, and the way I think. It made me question self destructive thoughts I’d believed since childhood. In more ways than I can explain, becoming a mother saved my life. And, even though I have been single for nigh on ten years now and am pretty much past the window of pregnancy, a hysterectomy feels like I’m voluntarily giving up something precious, a dream and a lifeline all at once.
At the end of the day, though, if the fibroid filled, cyst dotted uterus could be contributing to the anemia, then losing it could mean gaining more sustained energy. It could mean less risk over time. If losing the uterus means reducing the chances of scary medical illnesses, then it could mean a healthier life. And a healthier life of more energy could mean I could be more for my girls. And that, that is worth everything.
Over the last month, I’ve compartmentalized emotions quite effectively. Whenever I thought about the surgery, I called myself silly for thinking about it. I wouldn’t talk about it because I knew if I did, I’d cry. Basically, I just pretended it wasn’t happening. Then, last week, I started feeling sentimentality set in. A random email led to the re-reading of an emotional book, the resulting panic led to the reading of a lighter love story in an attempt to distract my mind. Last night, I dreamed of Kid again for the first time in a long time. Real dreams, the kind of the heart, the dreams you scarcely acknowledge for fear they’ll vanish, are hard to release. But, in the end, what matters most is a life lived with hope.
When presented a scary mountain, what are you going to do? You can hide, you can run in an effort to protect. I’ve done those things for nigh on 14 years with this one. For the most part, though, this relic of motherhood, this dream of feeling enough, is the only one I haven’t relinquished. I haven’t shied away from a painful past; instead, I try to turn ashes into diamonds by creating bridges for healing. When I feel like giving up, I don’t, because I have two little girls who still need me. And, when faced with a choice to hide or to chase hope – I choose to chase the light of hope even if it means another sacrifice.
I like stability and familiarity and I’m willing to give a lot to maintain it. Stability is like a blanket that comforts when the world is in shambles and I’ve fought for stability. Similarly, I’ve pleaded for a way to keep away from a hysterectomy; I’ve fought to keep this souvenir of motherhood even at the expense of my health. But it’s not about me and nobody wins in a fight that drags on too long. The real dream is to love my girls, to help ensure that they are mentally and emotionally and spiritually healthy. If I can help do that, then I’m currently living my life’s biggest dream; nothing else matters.
The OBGYN said, “you don’t even realize how bad you feel” — and that’s a distinct possibility. A nurse today that had to poke and prod for a vein said her hysterectomy was “the absolute best decision of life, no joke. I felt like a new person.” I don’t expect the anemia to really go away. I don’t expect the migraines to disappear. But living without painful fibroids and constant bleeding—what would that do for my day to day life, what would it do for my mental health? The what ifs are the rainbow I’ve been given to chase now, and I am looking forward to seeing that pot of gold tomorrow.