CAUTION – this post contains references to icky things. If you’re squeamish at all, just give it a miss.
NB – nothing in this post constitutes medical advice. If you are worried about any topic raised today, use your common sense and contact your doctor.
The story so far…
In episode 1 we left Cath rattling like a maraca, full of pills supposed to keep her flow under some sort of control, as she waited for a follow up appointment with her obs/gynae consultant. What we didn’t know, is that her employment contract had come to an end, Cost Centres 1 and 2 were in the midst of teenage hormonal rages, and her self esteem had hit an all-time low. Oh, and it was Christmas Time.
It seemed as though life was conspiring to make poor Cath feel as dreadful as possible. This week we join her as she finally sees her obs/gynae consultant.
“Mrs Dean, take a seat. I see you’ve been having a spot of bother since I last saw you. It’s a shame the coil didn’t stay put.” smiles the . Well thanks for that summary Doctor Obvious!
“Yes you could say that. I thought the blooming thing had snicked an artery on its way out. I’ve not seen so much blood before. I nearly passed out. Why is this happening?” I asked, hoping for an explanation.
Boy, would I just love a conclusive answer to this. What I get is –
“Well it’s just one of those things we see sometimes. Look on the bright side. Your tests are all good. No fibroids, nothing suspicious in there.”
Biting back a snarky reply about the number of times I’ve heard the words ‘just one of those things’ I wait for her to continue.
“So, given that the IUD (intra-uterine device) and pills don’t seem to be doing the job, we’re left with two options.” states the doc.
“Let’s hear them. I’m desperate for a solution here. I can’t function like this.” I ask. In my head I have my fingers crossed and am chanting ‘please let there be a fix’ over and over.
“Ok. Option 1, and my preferred option in your case, is to remove the womb lining completely. This will render you sterile and is irreversible. Be warned, this procedure can fail and there are possible complications to take into consideration.” says the doc in a matter-of-fact manner. Hmm. This needs a good thinking session.
“… and option 2, which is our back-up if all else fails, is a hysterectomy. No womb, no periods. Of course, this is major surgery with its own set of risks and complications to consider. It’s up to you which one you go with.” says the doc. Oh my. She wants an answer now! No thinking time. No ‘chat it over with your partner…’ time. Oh heck. What if I choose wrong? Wait a minute. This is my body. I can choose for myself. Well it’s all the option I have at this point.
It’s a measure of just how much I wanted to get back to some semblance of normality that I made the decision on the spot.
“Let’s go for the balloon thingy. At least I won’t go into menopause overnight. If it doesn’t work, then obviously I’ll be back to get the whole plumbing removed.”
And with that, I signed away my fertility (not that I was planning any more kiddos. Mr D had been ‘snipped’ several years ago), without a second thought.
There was a little bit of pre-op preparation to go through. The doc wanted me to nip down to outpatients to have an injection. This would clear out my womb lining, nice and thin, to increase the chances of a good outcome. Nodding at everything the good doctor said, but not paying full attention, she mentioned I might have a few flushes and sweats – a temporary menopause, while the injection did its thing. Oh, and the bleeding might be a troublesome and prolonged but not to worry, I was already an expert at flood control!
Within minutes I was in a new cubicle, proffering up my arm. Silly me. The injection went into my belly. It nipped a bit but that was all.
“This is going to be no trouble at all” I smiled to myself. “How hard can it be to cope with the odd flush? I don’t know what all the fuss is about.”
This sort of thinking would come back to haunt me, of course, but not for a few years.
Before I left, the nurse reiterated what the doc had said, gave me a leaflet, and sent me off to get my surgery date. By now I felt positively elated. Something was being done. I would be fixed and fully functional again. Woohoo!
A slight speed bump … the next available date for surgery, the day after my birthday. Should I wait. Nah! Let’s do this. I’ll be fine.
At this point, I should mention I’d managed to find a new job. Yay!
But my boss turned out to be a misogynistic bully. Boo!
He was furious when I told him I had to have an op. Charming attitude! I made a note to be extra careful around him.
A few days later the injection kicked in spectacularly, right in the middle of a presentation at work. Fortunately Mr Horrible was not present. I could feel my heart suddenly race for no good reason, followed by a whoosh, as if I was standing next to a furnace. Wow! my first flush.
It was the first of many while I waited for my op. Evenings seemed to be worse. Waking up to a small pool of sweat in the dip of my breast bone was a new and nightly feature. I was either drenched in sweat or freezing cold. No happy medium and no decent sleep! No wonder menopausal women have this edge to them, the ‘don’t mess with me, I have no time for your drama’ edge.
Still, on the whole, I couldn’t see what all the fuss was about. If this was all there was to menopause, I’d breeze through it with a bit of HRT!
Finally the big day arrived. Not my birthday, that was the day before. Today I would be fixed. I was torn between being excited and being scared at the same time… but mostly excited at the thought of getting my life back. I had followed the pre-op preparation to the letter and turned up at the day surgery unit first thing in the morning. Little did I know that it would be another 8 hours before I’d see the inside of an operating theatre.
Well blooming heck! I could have stayed in bed longer (sweating and not sleeping), and more to the point, I could have enjoyed my birthday the day before! It had been the driest birthday ever! Not even a teeny tiny gin and tonic. To cap it all, the junior doctor checking me in, on reading through my notes, declared that I might not have the op done after all as they are reluctant to do this procedure on women who’ve had c-sections.
“You have got to be kidding!” I spat at her (hangry, tired and fed up) “You guys have had my entire gynae history in front of you in all my consultations. Did none of you look at them? If the consultant thought it would be an issue, she should have mentioned this!” I inwardly congratulate myself on not losing my cool (well, mostly not).
“We’ll see. In the meantime, let’s check your blood pressure.”
“Not yet. Let’s give it 5 minutes while I calm down from your bombshell.” The look on my face must have said it all – don’t mess with me!! The last thing I needed was her telling me my BP was too high for surgery! Aaaaand breathe!
As it turned out, the junior was wrong. I did have the procedure, which went well, and it was a success. It was a couple of months later before I could say for sure… but the first real period after the op was normal.
Welcome back me and bye-bye biblical floods!
The technical stuff
The injection I had to prepare me for surgery was a GnRH analogue. This basically shuts down the ovaries and puts you into a temporary menopause. No hormones, no womb lining build-up. The thinner the lining, the easier it is to do the op.
The operation was a balloon ablation. Not every woman is suitable for this procedure. If it’s something you’re contemplating, your doctor will advise you. If you do have this done, my advice is to arrange to have two or three days off afterwards to give yourself time to recover from the anaesthetic and to let yourself adjust to the new you.
In episode 3 we see what happens to Cath when she experiences a hibernating libido and insomnia. This power duo wreak havoc in Cath’s life, just when she was getting back into her groove again.