Even from the beginning, my periods have been a little off. My first period was light but it lasted two weeks. Some years later I had bouts of nausea and vomiting on the first day of my period. I was eighteen then and I thought God was punishing me for losing my virginity, until I realized that perhaps God had better things to worry about.
Period during Pregnancy
My period even made an appearance when I was pregnant. At about nine or ten weeks into the pregnancy, I started to bleed at work. It was darker like at the end of a period. I panicked, as any woman would. I thought I was having a miscarriage. The emergency room could not tell me any different. I was put on bed rest until it stopped. It went on for two weeks and then stopped just as mysteriously as it began. My son was born about six months later after an emergency cesarean. Two years later, my daughter was born also by cesarean. Perhaps those two c-sections and the tubal ligation are what caused a nightmare that lasted more than a decade.
Tubal Ligation and Heavy Periods
Soon after my tubes were tied, I began to have heavy periods. They would last over a week. I would seem to have to change tampons every hour and a half. When I went to my Ob/Gyn, he put me on birth control pills to snap my hormones back in line. It worked for a while. I took them for about three or four months and then stopped. My periods returned to normal length and flow for a short span of time. Then, it would start again and I would begin the hormone roller-coaster again. Every time I went on birth control, I had to take it longer for it to work. I became frustrated with the fact that my tubes were tied but I was still taking (and paying) for birth control pills. After six or seven years, my body had become immune to the pills. They no longer worked. Worse than the heavy periods was the increasing pain.
Heavy Periods plus Searing Pain
My lower back pain stayed with me since the birth of my children, but it got worse as the years went on. I also developed ovarian cysts and other lower pelvic pain. I had moved and was seeing a new Ob/Gyn. This one seemed to make it a race to see how quickly she could get me out of her office. She didn’t listen to my family history when I told her that every woman in my family had a hysterectomy due to fibroid or endometriosis. She would send me for ultrasounds and other tests that always came back inconclusive. But she never attempted to find out why I was in so much pain or why I had to use two tampons just to be vertical. Her answer was Depo-Provera. It was a shot to stop my ovulation, and therefore, my period. Perfect answer, she said. My periods stopped. My weight shot up forty pounds. After two shots, I decided I would never take any hormones again. So a year later my period came back worse than ever. I lay on the bed for four days straight with back pain that made me want to punch a nun in the face. The bleeding would be bad to normal, but it was the pain that was the unbearable.
Fighting to Be Taken Seriously
I changed doctors again. This time, I went in prepared. I did my research. I knew that if it was a fibroid tumor, the scan would have picked it up. I also knew that many of the suspected conditions could go undetected on such scans. In fact, that was the problem. Endometriosis and adenomyosis can go with symptoms and no real answers for years. As I read the lists on the internet, I recognized signs that I did not even think were linked to my period. Perhaps my back pain had nothing to do with strained muscles. Perhaps my UTI symptoms that seemed to appear around the time of my period had more to do with my period than ill timing.
With a list of symptoms and searing pain to remind me exactly where my backbone was, I walked into the office. I was not going to be bullied or pushed out of the office. She sent me for the same tests: ultrasound and transvaginal ultrasound. The back pain following the exam almost made me pass out. This was not normal, I said to myself. One of the nurses called to try to refer me back to my primary physician. I told her that this pain came with my period and left when it left. This was not a primary physician issue. It was a gynecological issue. She scheduled another appointment and I saw another doctor that was too quick to push me out. “The tests were normal, so I don’t know why you are here. I thought they called you.” She ‘there there’d’ me and handed me a brochure while she encouraged me to think about getting the inside of my uterus singed or taking something to throw me into menopause. As I walked into the office for my next appointment, I overheard one of the nurses comment, “yeah, her ultrasound was fine. I don’t know what she’s complaining about.” That was it. The doctor came in like nothing was wrong so I flipped my bitch switch and let it go. “I know this is new for you but this is old for me. I am tired of going on and off hormones. Every time I go off them, it is worse. I don’t want to do ablation because 40% of women end up needing hysterectomies anyway. I don’t want to chemically force myself into menopause. I do not want to stick a band aid on this. There is something wrong. And while I may not know exactly which bleeding problem it is, I know that ablation is not a definitive answer for any of them. I’ve had my babies. It’s time to solve the problem and stop throwing a pill at it.” She gave in and set up the referral for a surgeon.
Flipping the Bitch Switch
Truth is that I am not sure exactly what it is that I have. On January 24th, I go in for surgery. It was not a quick decision by any means. It came after almost fifteen years of increasing pain and problems. It came when I decided that I was not going to shut up and fill a prescription. So please, if you are out there and still struggling with pain and periods that seem like they are in competition with Niagara Falls, find your own bitch switch and let it go. Because despite what the medical community would rather have us believe, a person can make it all the way through med school and still be a moron. You know your body better than anyone. Take care of it.