Monthly Archives: February 2010
February can be so cruel with its temptations of light. Lighter mornings, lighter evenings, as we hustle and bustle to and from work. Spring is just around the corner, the advertisements tell us, promising the joys of swimsuits and shorts.
And then, HA! Snow and cold return with a vengeance.
The light box burned out two weeks ago. I have not replaced it. I thought I could fight past all the ugly feelings that usually continue well into April. I believed this year would be different, that my attitude had changed, that depression could never take over my life again. In spite of all the health issues that linger, in spite of blood sugars all over the place, in spite of more surgery ahead, in spite of my own personal history – I would easily survive this winter.
I was wrong.
February has been cloudy and snowy and cold. All I want to do is stay inside, curled up in bed eating chocolate, surrounded by felines.
Yeah. I need to order that light box tonight.
For this week’s Perfect Moment Monday, I reach back half a lifetime ago to June 1993.
Up until the second semester of my junior year of high school, I’d been a so-so student. While I made the lowest echelon honor roll with a decent GPA every semester, there was so much untapped potential. I would rather do my homework while watching television than really concentrate on anything fully and it showed in homework and test scores. There were plenty of arguments in the house about my lack of interest.
That second semester, everything was different. I enjoyed almost all of my classes and as I finished up exams a day early, I felt confident that my grades would be better than usual.
And then in a few instants, that day that my junior year wrapped up, everything changed. My father experienced a heart attack that evening, followed by quadruple bypass surgery nearly a week later.
I had nearly forgotten about school by that point, but when my mother and I returned home from the hospital after a long day of waiting until he was out of surgery, the mail was there. My grades were there. And they turned out to be the best of my high school career.
I absolutely could not wait to tell my father the next day, now that he would be awake, and not hooked up to a ventilator and all those tubes and wires like he had been immediately after surgery. I don’t remember if he was coherent the next day, but I do seem to remember a smile that warmed my own heart.
How can I explain it? This feeling that keeps coming over me each time I cycle lately, wondering if I am in the final months of experiencing the fullness of being a woman, wondering if things will change drastically the next time they cut me open to alleviate the lingering pain.
For several years, I have been quite aware of my fertility thanks to the dermoid cyst resting on my left ovary, never letting me forget when the egg is released each and every month. Never letting me forget the possibilities that could have been or could lie ahead if only the pills and the condoms were tossed aside. No other time of the month did I hear the ovaries scream, “create life! ” And yet, the door to doing so has been slowly closing all this time – and it may be slamming shut soon enough.
More than that, for twenty-one years, the monthly cycles have appeared. Not always clockwork, due to stress or illness or by manipulation of the birth control pill, though more times than not, a perfect twenty-eight days. Despite all the pain and the moodiness and the mess of it all, it makes me feel whole to cycle, it makes me feel like a woman, it makes me feel strong.
There are no guarantees that I will have enough tissue left to produce the monthly cycles. There are no guarantees that I won’t enter a new phase of my life much earlier than I ever expected.
Beyond all the concerns over increased risk of heart disease and breast cancer and osteoporosis, there are the practical concerns. Will I still feel sexy if I’m menopausal at the age of thirty-four? Will he still want me with all the hormonal confusion?
When this was an emergency situation, where we knew it could all end right then and there, I didn’t have time to really think it all through. Now I think about it constantly. Sometimes I cry myself to sleep, sometimes I have to take some moments to breathe in the bathroom at work, sometimes I have nightmares. Everything else seems insignificant when I think about what could happen.
If that seems selfish, I am sorry. It’s just that I don’t know how to be me without that monthly reminder of being a woman.
In an attempt to lower blood sugars that have been continued to make me sigh and cry, I decided enough was enough – I needed to lower my threshold. While an upper limit of 130 grams of carbohydrates was certainly fine before the whole illness and surgery crud, it isn’t now. So, down to 60-100 carbs per day.
Today was day #7.
And my favorite co-worker, also known as co-worker A, brought in leftover German chocolate cake. One of my favorites. And so I tweeted about the internal struggle over low-carb vs. German chocolate cake. (Her twitter name has been protected for both our sakes.)
I am not going to touch the German chocolate cake that co-worker A brought in. Nope. I will not. Really. (about 8 hours ago from web)
Making another valiant attempt to fight off the carb cravings today. (about 7 hours ago from web)
Rachel 1, co-worker A’s German Chocolate Cake 0. (about 6 hours ago from web)
Solid. Solid like a rock. That’s me against the dreaded German chocolate cake. Less than an hour before co-worker A takes it away. (about 5 hours ago from web)
Sugar-Free Dark Chocolate Jello Pudding. 11 g carb, much better choice than co-worker A’s German chocolate cake with a bazillion carbs. (about 4 hours ago from web)
That’s right. I fought off the urge.
Now if only I’d see a difference on the meter when it comes to blood sugar readings.
Nearly seven years ago was the first likely encounter with Mr. Dermoid Cyst. After six months of mid-cycle pain and a palpable mass in the area of my left ovary, my doctor ordered an ultrasound which showed nothing. She handed me off to a male gynecologist who brushed the whole thing off as typical ovulation pain and/or a hypochondriac manifestation of my recent bout with depression.
The nurses I worked with at the medical manufacturer saw red flags all over the place and urged me to seek out a second opinion. Another co-worker offered the name of her female gynecologist who had helped her through a difficult situation. Being young and stupid, I did nothing.
I listened to that male gynecologist and his opinions of the situation. For seven years. Mid-cycle pain arriving so that I could time the arrival of my period. Mid-cycle pain that no over-the-counter medication could touch. I thought it was normal because no subsequent doctor or nurse practitioner seemed concerned, though any intimate female conversation with friends indicated otherwise. No other woman I encountered thought it was normal.
So, finally, I decided 2009 would be the year I’d seek out a gynecologist to have this resolved. Becoming an empowered patient was a trait I’d developed since being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes after all. I wasn’t due for my annual exam until the end of the year, so I had time to find someone to fit my needs – female, attentive to pelvic pain issues. Or so I thought.
Hindsight is 20/20, my motto of the week.
The best things I can do are get my blood sugar under control, get my body back into shape, get my mind in the right place before surgery #2 with the right gynecologist.
Things I have control over
- The length of my hair. I cut a bunch off (in layers, even!) on Saturday. It looks fabulous, if I do say so myself.
- How much I exercise. I walked 1.5 mile each way from work to the hospital to have the repeat CT scan today. Between that and the elliptical workouts from this weekend, I’m feeling decent physically and mentally, except for this thing I have no control over.
The thing I have no control over
- Needing another open surgery in a few months. That cyst should come out, it’s been causing me problems for close to seven years. Not to mention the radiologist was “very concerned” about the inflamed appendiceal tissue he was still able to see and rushed to contact my GYN about it this afternoon, soon after the repeat CT scan. I feel like a time bomb is ticking inside me, knowing the radiologist wanted to make sure I was feeling okay. I haven’t actually spoken to the GYN yet, she only left a message on our answering machine. More to come in the next few days, I’m sure.
Things currently put on hold because of that ticking time bomb feel
- Just when I was thinking of going ahead with an idea I had last fall, I don’t think I can do it knowing that I’ll be out of commission again soon.
- Travel. Our semi-planned road trip to New Orleans is almost certainly out as I can’t spend so much time out of the office – again, knowing I’ll be out of commission again soon. Plus, I wouldn’t want to end up getting sick and infected again while away from the GYN with whom I’ve built trust. That would also make a trip to see my family in Wisconsin risky, though not as much. If something did happen, my brother lives near Madison and there’s good health care there. And I want to see my twin nieces before they start walking and talking.
I knew it.
I knew it before she walked in the door.
I knew it before I made the appointment.
I knew it on Christmas Day.
I knew it once I woke up from surgery and was coherent enough to understand what had happened.
They didn’t take the dermoid cyst off my left ovary when they went in to rid my pelvis of infection. The initial concern, the reason I had gone into urgent care and then to the gynecologist and then to the emergency room, had not been resolved. They said it was a measure to preserve my left ovary knowing that they were unable to see much right ovarian tissue, they said this because they knew I didn’t want to lapse into early menopause.
I should have said, do what you can to save the ovaries, but if it means leaving that dermoid cyst, I would rather accept the consequences of not having enough ovarian tissue to menstruate.
Because as soon as I started feeling that familiar mid-cycle pain on Christmas Day, I knew. I knew this would be a continuing issue, I knew that I’d eventually need more surgery (and that was even before I consulted Dr. Google).
I don’t know the whole story yet. There are CT scans to compare, pathology reports to request, risks to be calculated.
All I can do is cry. Cry over the missed opportunity to correct this problem, cry over the prospect of more surgery, cry over the mid-cycle pain presenting itself yet again this week.