Pre-nuptial rumination

It’s hard to think about without wincing but sometimes my mind wanders and I think of the stupid things I’ve done to get men to love me.

How I’ve shushed that voice inside me that protested. How I’ve talked my way around it. How I knew going in that it was a bad idea but how I convinced myself that no matter what at least I’d get a good story out of it. It’s always worth the story, right? Yeah, sure, may be. But you don’t just carry the story with you and break it out at parties and then put it back in its case and back on a shelf until the next time you need it. You carry the shame too, and that shame will creep up on you and buckle your knees in the shower or in long walks across parking lots when your mind wanders. Is it still worth the story then? Yeah, sure. May be.

Maybe not.

There was this one man who came after me like a bull running toward a billowing red flag. That’s how it felt to me. It was exhilarating. He must have smelled the sadness on me, a bloodhound hunting the lovesick. He made me his mark and he must have known I’d think it felt so nice to be marked that I would go along with what was a very bad and very hurtful plan for everyone involved. He must have known. He must have laughed to himself at how easy it was. Maybe he did.

Maybe not.

There was this one man who spent many of his waking hours and of some his sleeping hours radiating a disdain for me that was palpable. You could walk into a room and feel it. I could walk into a room and feel it. He told me when I confessed my unhappiness that we had made our bed and even though we weren’t happy, we needed to lie in it. Forever. Because that was the right thing to do. I imagined myself dying a withered and dried-up husk of a person. Sometimes I think about what life would be like had I stayed and lived out my life pushing that boulder up the hill. The thought errors out every time. It cuts to a “footage not found” screen. Maybe that man would have grown to love and respect me with time.

Maybe not.

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I’m thinking about these things a lot lately because of how so many of my past relationships contrast so sharply with the relationship I have with the man I am going to marry. All that time I spent positioning myself so that I could lap up crumbs of an aloof man’s affection; what was I thinking? Who was I? Why was I so sure that I had to settle for whatever I could get at that moment because it was pretty unlikely that I’d ever find more? Why did I need to self-loathing to play out externally as a relationship with another person? What did I actually learn from any of that, other than don’t do that again, dummy?

I’m under no illusions that marriage will be easy. But to be stepping into it with someone who has never once made me question my self-worth feels like a revelation, a sunrise, a new notebook, a popped cork. There is magic and comfort there, with room to grow and without fear.

It’s exactly what I have been pining for my whole life.

Neti pot head

The CT scan showed that I’ve got chronic sinusitis plus a nasal septal spur on my right side, and that thing is keeping stuff trapped in my head that just keeps festering and perpetuating the gross cycle of crud in my skull. So I’ve got an appointment with an ENT to talk about my options. I’ve been doing nasal irrigation daily for a week or so and it seems to be working. In fact, I skipped it last night and woke up with a sore throat. INTRIGUE!

Pins and needles

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I’ve been sick for nine weeks. Upper respiratory infection-type stuff that runs its course and before leaving my body, regenerates like it’s stuck in a loop.

Sore throat, sinus congestion, stuff issuing from my skull that runs the colors of the rainbow, crusty eyes (at one point double pink eye), a dry cough, then a wet cough, junk dripping down my throat from my skull, popping ears (at one point an ear infection), then a cough that keeps me up all night, then a sore throat and is begins again. It’s run three complete cycles since Dec. 29 including after a round of antibiotics and I feel like I am going to lose my mind if I don’t get totally over it soon. I’m hacking up a lung everywhere I go, I’m hoarse and tired all the time, there are gross tissues falling out of all my pockets and my purse, and I smell like cough drops because I CONSTANTLY have a cough drop in my mouth. I sleep with a cough drop in my mouth or else I don’t sleep at all so my teeth are probably going to rot out. (And I’ve had two nights where I woke myself up coughing around 1 a.m. and could not go back to sleep.)

I thought maybe something in the new house had me on an allergic trip so I went for allergy testing today. After 45 minutes of being poked and injected with pins and needles dosed with pure allergens, I learned that I am only allergic to dust mites, mold and horses. Yes, horses. Because why not?

So it’s not the dogs or the down comforter or even the trees, which have opened up unseasonably early thanks to the warm winter. No pollen allergies. Ain’t that some shit?

The allergist referred me across the street to the radiology clinic so they could do a CT scan of my skull and see what’s going on in there. I learned that a CT scan is a relatively pleasant experience, compared to an MRI. So that’s nice.

At this point if there was a small pony living inside my skull, it would be a relief because at least I’d know what was fucking me up.

And then there was one … ovary

Well, that was interesting.

This whole thing ended up with me getting a referral to a gynecologic oncologist, who examined me and recommended that I get surgery to remove the endometrioma, which had grown to 10 centimeters by the time I met with him. He did not feel strongly that the uterine fibroids had to go too, but he was fairly adamant that the cyst needed to go quickly, or else I’d risk it rupturing.

So, I scheduled a laparoscopic procedure for the end of August.

I bathed in antibacterial shower scrub the night before and the morning of surgery, donned brand new fat pants, wore my glasses (no contacts allowed), had Richard be my chauffeur, met my parents at the hospital, forked over a grand to get through the doors, and waited for them to call me back.

They did pretty much right on time, and my crew and I trekked to the surgical waiting room, where I gave out hugs and goodbyes and wished Richard well, as he and my parents were going to be hanging out for a few hours together.

Back in the first waiting area, I stripped down and put on a paper gown that was lined with little places that would balloon up with warm air. I laid on a gurney and waited while the surgical prep folks got ready for me. They started giving me medications — antibiotics, anti-nausea, etc. — and asked me to lie down and relax. Finally it was time to take me back to the pre-op area. I had to hand over my glasses, so from that point on I couldn’t really see anything, which is a super bummer, because the whole process is completely fascinating.

I took a trip down some twisting hallways on the gurney, still totally awake and aware. They parked me in some kind of staging area, where there were several other people parked, too, waiting on their number to be called. A team of people descended on me, one or two at a time, and hooked me up to an IV. The anesthesiologist’s assistant guy wore a big gold watch and was cracking wise with me. I couldn’t see anyone’s face, which was disorienting. Watch guy asked me if I was freaking out, and whether I was ready for the relaxation drugs. I said sure, whatever. I had a pretty calm head about me at the time because I felt like I was in pretty good hands, but I didn’t put up a fight about the drugs either. So he pushed something through my IV and in a few seconds I definitely felt it. I was suddenly super chill, and they were pumping warm air into my weird puffed-up gown. There was a lot happening around me with four or so people doing stuff on either side of me and me just sort of lying there, unable to see anything. (Being very near-sighted sucks for lots of reasons, but it’s an extra kick in the groin to not be able to watch what’s happening around you in this setting.)

Then it was go time. They wheeled me into the operating room, and I was feeling pretty good from the drugs. I remember it being so cold in there. The crew loading me into the room asked me to help scoot myself from the gurney onto the operating table, and I complied as best I could, even though maneuvering in my weird puffy gown with my IV dangling around my arm was awkward. I remember getting onto the operating table and looking up and trying to make out the huge and complex lights above the table. And then I was out. I don’t remember counting.

When I woke up I was in recovery. Someone was speaking to me and I don’t remember what they said. I remember being in a room with many other beds. I remember waking up and feeling pain and not realizing it was pain at first. It took me a few minutes for my brain to understand how intense the pain was. I was in a fog and it hurt so bad to breathe. I remember hearing someone moaning in pain. Maybe it was me, maybe not. I remember lying there for a while in pain, thinking it would go away on its own, but every time I breathed or moved or coughed, which I felt the need to do (having been intubated), there was this searing abdominal pain across the middle of my torso, just under my lungs. I recall having to work up the strength and stamina to summon someone to tell them I was in pain. They must have upped my medicine then because I relaxed and it didn’t hurt so badly to breathe, although I was careful to not move too much.

They let me lie there for what seemed like a long time, until finally Richard got to come back to bring me my clothes. I reached down and realized my gown was hiked all the way up to my armpits. I had been lying there thinking I was naked. Weird. Richard’s task was to get me to the bathroom and make sure I peed before I could get dressed and go home. I was totally out of it but I peed and I think he let me have a drink of his soda or something.

They put me in a wheelchair and wheeled me to the curb while Richard went to get the car to retrieve me. The ride home I felt pukey and sleepy.

I went straight to bed and stayed there with intermittent breaks for a few days. Breathing was excruciating. It felt like someone had gone in and pummeled my diaphragm and lungs and for about two or three days, taking in air was so painful and I was hoarse and could barely talk from the intubation.

So, what they did:

They went in through my belly button and puffed my belly up full of gas to get my skin away from my organs. A robot, controlled by my surgeon, put a bag around the endometrioma and proceeded to drain it. Then they extracted it through my belly button.

A ROBOT, Y’ALL.

They tested the tissue for cancer during the surgery and came up negative. (An in-depth lab showed negative later as well.)

Then the doc zapped a few spots of endometriosis for good measure.

They stitched up my belly button from the inside and then glued my belly button together on the outside.

For a week I just wanted to sleep. Getting up out of bed and going from lying to sitting to standing was painful. I haven’t been able to lift things. But I feel good now. It’s incredible how they were able to do the procedure through one incision that you can’t really even see (although my belly button is all bruised to hell and weird looking right now).

My follow-up appointment went well and I seem to be making a full recovery.

Having one ovary shouldn’t really adversely affect my fertility or hormones, which is pretty amazing.

I’m so grateful everything went well and I’ve had such a good recovery.

It’s what’s inside that counts

Since March, I have now had four or five pelvic ultrasounds (yes, both the external and the internal probe Congress loves so much) and a pelvic MRI.

Here is what we know:

There are masses inside of me and they are growing, and they need to be removed.

Here is what we think we know:

One of the masses is an ovarian endometrioma the size of a tennis ball (and growing). Until late June I’d never heard of such a thing but turns out I’m intimately acquainted and just didn’t know it. Essentially, I have endometriosis that has invaded my left ovary and taken over to the point that it likely cannot be extracted and removed; the whole ovary has got to go.

I have other masses in my uterus that are fibroid tumors. At least one of them is also the size of a tennis ball. I was sent to have an MRI this past week to find out the number and size and placement of them all, since apparently, from the expression on my specialist’s face, there’s a bunch of crazy shit happening in there, all together, that has her thinking I should get a hysterectomy, STAT.

My specialist asked me, while prodding around my guts with her fingers, if I was done having children. Well, I said, I didn’t think I was. She pressed her hand down on my lower stomach from the outside and pressed her fingers inside of me upward, so her hands met around the parts inside of me that are swollen and cramped, and I felt a pain so deep it didn’t register in my body but it registered deep in my emotions and I began crying.

I am 34. I have always had regular periods that last three to five days and that come with minimal discomfort. I’ve never been on hormonal birth control and I had a quick and lovely eight-hour natural labor and delivery. I have always joked about being built for breeding, with my wide hips. I have had friends and family who’ve fought with period pain, endometriosis, cysts, fibroids and excessive bleeding and have always counted myself as being very fortunate to have a system that seemed, more or less, to do its thing and keep the peace.

I have finally met the man I want to spend the rest of my life and have a family with, and, in my more selfish moments, it’s a little like a cosmic middle finger in the face to think that that might not even be on the table for us.

My gynecologist asked me if I have a high pain tolerance. On the one hand, how great to have not suffered from the discomfort of my insides twisting and growing and crowding my organs. On the other hand, the lack of pain means I didn’t even realize what was happening for so long, and now it’s likely too late to really fix it and keep it functional.

I go back to the doctor Thursday to find out exactly what the MRI shows and what’s next. I know it will not be great news because they called and moved my follow-up appointment up a week. They told me come by whenever; they will work me in. That only happens if something is concerning enough to need action.

My family and friends are of course being supportive and wonderful in every way. My mom had a major bout of fibroids in her 40s and ended up with a hysterectomy. But she’d already had three kids and had her tubes tied; she knew she was done adding to her family. But she knows what a tough row to hoe this can be for the brain and body when it happens.

I had hoped I was finally getting to start a family in earnest, with someone who loves me and my son. It will be difficult to let that dream die before it even had a chance, if that’s what it comes to.

I know I will need surgery. I just don’t know how much and how soon and how serious.

I know I can feel a dull thud of pain on my left side where the ovary continues to grow larger each menstrual cycle. That pain wasn’t there four months ago.

I know sitting up from lying down is increasingly uncomfortable.

I know I can feel tenderness all across my belly, and sharp pain whenever a not-to-be-named 4-year-old gut-checks me while wrestling.

I know I am scared.

Boo

I wanted to write something about ghosts. Something about how when they show up in your dreams they steal rest from you all night long. Not the kinds of ghosts that wear sheets and chains or the kinds of spectral presences that populate spooky stories. I’m talking about the kind of ghosts that used to live large in your life but that you killed off, metaphorically speaking, so you could move on. About how when they use your dreams to resume their presence in your life, it sucks the wind right out of you. Who gave them the right?

I wanted to write about those ghosts but I couldn’t come up with anything to say, really.

Bite it

Holden has taken to yelling, “Mama! Watch your tongue!” at me unprompted, many times a day. Even when I’m not saying anything inappropriate.

And, as rude as he is, he’s right. The tongue is going to get me in trouble some day.