Late February cycle

I had about 12 consecutive pain-free days from last cycle til this one.

I began getting intermittent uterine and ovarian cramping on February 16, when I was feeling sad and missing my grandmother, as it was her birthday. She’s been gone for 25 years, but I still grieve for her.

Two days later, I spent the day grieving for a friend who’s been gone for 9 years. Every year around the time of his death, I get little reminders seemingly from beyond, that he’s still with us somehow. Because I was sad, I got cramps again.

A few days later, my husband returned from a weekend-long gaming convention, and I was happy to see him, so we were intimate. The next day, I experienced either dyspareunia or premenstrual cramping, and then a day later (yesterday), george appeared two days early.

The thing is, I think I brought it upon myself. I’ve had a rough month emotionally, as I’ve been really sad for people who have died. And then I had a really bad day at work, wherein I got emotionally involved with a child who was having tantrums. When I tried to lead her out of the room so as not to cause further disturbance to the class, she had a big meltdown. I picked her up to expedite the removal from the class, and she wriggled free and fell to the floor screaming. My face was beet red with embarrassment and also with anger. In my effort to do the right thing (get her out so as not to disturb the lesson taking place in the classroom), it actually sped up the child’s complete meltdown.

Within minutes, I felt a trickle and a hot sear of pain, and I knew that I had made not one but two bad choices: taking the child out of class and causing myself a release of stress and anger hormones, which flooded my system and started the endo flare.

And I was supposed to be the head teacher all this week, as my head teacher is on a family retreat.

As soon as I got the child stabilised emotionally, and made sure the assistant teacher in the class was still running things alright, I called upon the director and the afternoon supervisor for help in finding substitute teachers, in case I could not make it in the next day.

This morning, I woke determined to get SOME work done. I wrote:

Attention: I am going in to work. Endometriosis can DIAF.
I’m the boss, dammit; I call the shots in this body.

 
I got through 5 hours before the pain and exhaustion took me out of the game. Then I came home and passed out for 3 hours with second round Ibuprofen and heating pad. Outside, we had an unusually warm and sunny winter day – it was in the 70’s, which is weird even for California. In February, it’s supposed to be raining hard all through February.

But because of george, I missed a beautiful sunny day, and I will miss it again tomorrow, too.

I spent the rest of the day today couch-ridden, working on importing endo blog posts over to Facebook.

The pain has been steady throughout the day, and I resorted to taking a half Tylenol 3 pill in the evening.
After dinner, I needed the other half pill. I’ve consumed 2,000mg of Ibuprofen today. The pain has been constant at 7 on the pain scale.

This evening, still in the thick of an endo flare, I counted out the days til the next one.

The next endo flare is due on the anniversary night of one of my favourite night clubs.

I’m seriously thinking of showing up – even if I have to arrive in my wheel chair. I AM SO FURIOUS WITH THIS ILLNESS TAKING JOYFUL EVENTS AWAY FROM ME.

Early February cycle

February 2, 2012
~7:30am
Today is the cautious day. I am moving slowly about the house, trying not to stir up the Endo hornet nest. Gonna try to go to work today.

8:05am
And the doom just ramped up, but I hadn’t arranged for a sub cuz I was sure I’d be able to go in. Now I have to go in and wait for the late morning shift to arrive to hopefully stand in for me. It’s going to be grueling. Why do I do this to myself? Oh yeah, cuz I’m stubborn.

~12pm
barely maintaining on 1,400mg of Advil

~1pm
Today’s my long day. Working til 6pm. Kill me now.

~7pm
Today was brutal, but I survived work on 1,400mg of Ibuprofen and a heating pad. The children were super at helping me out. ♥

February 3, 2012
~11am
Rough day for me today. I thought the endo flare was over, but it returned while at work. Came home sick for the third time this week – just like old times before the last surgery. :(

~6:50pm
Feels later than it is. Normally that would be a good thing, but with all the pain and meds I’ve had today, I just want the day to be over.
> > Nate (my friend): did you rest?
Me: Hah, of course not. I’m stubborn. I have been couch-bound all day, though, does that count?

~11:59pm
Okay, I’m finally giving in and going to bed. I spent the day couch-ridden, but productive. I have gone through most of my stockpile of news articles and research bulletins – I have enough to post one a day for the month of March (National Endometriosis Awareness Month)! Will continue stockpiling research, of course.

February 5, 2012
Saturday was a cautious day for me physically after spending a week w/ an endo flare. I was excited that my body was able to do the Time Warp at the Castro Theatre. HOORAY FOR UPTIME! Time to LIVE LIFE until the next flare, around Feb. 24. I want to go out dancing every Friday, and I’m going to really try to get to another favourite dance club on Mondays right at 9pm as often as I can.

(Later that evening…)
Whoops, I guess I’m not officially in uptime, yet. Had great energy all day, cleaning the kitchen and bathroom. Went grocery shopping with my husband, and on the way out, I zoomed the grocery cart like a giant scooter all the way back to the car. Now my legs are shaky and I feel a bit nauseated. So I’ve been saying for the past few days, “okay body, TOMORROW then.” I say it again. Okay body, TOMORROW then…it will be uptime.

February 6, 2012
You have GOT to be kidding me.

This is the second woman in the last two years to have completely faked an attempted suicide and resulting coma. I now doubt whether she has endometriosis, or any of the listed medical conditions she talks about. Trust is completely destroyed, and now I’m hearing rumour there’s a third. Seriously, I gave these strangers a chance. I accepted them at face value, because they said they go through what I go through with endometriosis. I am ready to unfriend all of them because of three women. I am ready to shut down again on humanity – the way I used to be back in the early to mid 1990s. I was Mean Not Nice. Everybody deserved my wrath. Everybody was guilty until proven innocent, and even then, people got a squint of mistrust. Is that what I need to go back to? I know it’s not, but damn that’s how I feel right now.

My Story

I just discovered a blog wherein a fellow endo sister asked others to share their story. So I sent her my story, and then realised I really didn’t have a narrative of it here on my blog. So here is my story:

I got my first period at the age of 14 in 1985. By the time I was 15, I was vomiting from painful periods. Everybody told me I was being a baby about it. My mother threw Midol pills at me and told me to shut up. My friends did not have the pain as bad as I did, so I knew there was something wrong.

In 1991, I was put on Loestrin, firstly as a birth control method, and secondly with the potential benefit of easing my cramps. I went psychotic inside of 3 months, and stopped treatment. I wasn’t very good at recording details of my pain or treatments back then. All I have is the memory of wanting to kill everything in site, and weeping all the time, so I stopped Loestrin treatment.

In 1996, when I was 24 years old, I was fed up with people telling me that this pain was common to every woman, when I saw for myself that this was a damned lie. NOBODY around me was going through what I was going through, and I certainly wasn’t making this shit up. I hired a new gynaecologist – a man this time – and he told me I hit every symptom in the book for Endometriosis. He scheduled me for surgery, but my boyfriend got hired across country for a new job. I desperately wanted to go with him and leave the hometown we’d been trying to flee from for years. I promised the surgeon I’d schedule surgery as soon as I moved across country. How hard could it be? I’ve already got one doctor saying I likely have Endo. All I have to do is take that paperwork with me when I move, hire a new gynae and get the surgery.

THAT WAS A MISTAKE.

See, I knew nothing about health insurance in the United States. I had great Preferred Provider Organisation (PPO) coverage when I lived in Michigan. When I moved to California, suddenly the health insurance of choice for employers was Health Maintenance Organisation (HMO) coverage.
Under HMO insurance, it’s all about preventing illness, not treating existing illness. If you have existing issues, they don’t want to talk to you – they want to deflect you to other services. I spent the next ELEVEN YEARS begging doctors for surgery, only to be told I don’t have endo, I ONLY have Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or I ONLY have Dysmenorrhea, or I am simply out of shape and need to spend more time at the gym (I was bicycling 30-60 miles on average during this time, for fun!).
I was referred to chiropractic for period pain!! I was flagged as drug seeking for the pain!!

In 2001, I convinced my HMO primary care doctor to send me to a surgeon for evaluation with the suspected diagnosis of endometriosis. I was so excited to be so close to an official diagnosis. When I got to the surgeon, she flat out denied me surgery! She said I ONLY have Dysmenorrhea. She took a biopsy of my cervix, without any pain meds, knowing full well I’d driven there myself with no one to drive me home. I left her office feeling completely violated and abused. I noted the degree on her wall – University Of Alabama. I wondered if all doctors who trained in the South were this barbaric. She said my cervical biopsy came back normal. I fired her.

In 2005, I once again sought the help of a male gynae, hoping for a compassionate doctor such as the one I had back in 1996. Nothing could be further from the truth. This doctor looked me up and down with disdain as I told my story, and replied that I did not have endo – more likely it was bladder infections or sexually transmitted diseases! I noticed the degree on his wall – University of Kansas. Again, I wondered if all doctors trained in the South were specifically trained as barbarians. He was rude and condescending, but I let him perform a pap smear, hoping to exonerate myself. When the pap smear came back normal, and again he insisted I did not have endo, I fired him immediately.

Finally, in 2006, a friend referred me to her surgeon, and I had also finally scored a job which allowed me to have PPO health insurance. I saw the surgeon, told her my story, and she scheduled me for surgery. In February, 2007, I was laparoscopically diagnosed with Stage III Endometriosis on the ovaries, bladder, uterus and peritoneum. I was also told that I have a retroverted uterus and an everted cervix, which could account for Dysmenorrhea aside from the endometriosis. On that note, I was finally officially diagnosed with Dyspareunia. Why the hell wasn’t I told any of this when I had my cervix biopsy back in 2001?!?

I filed complaint against the surgeon who saw me in 2001, who had refused to give me surgery and who had said emphatically that I did not have endo. She was, coincidentally, a colleague in the same hospital as the surgeon who DID diagnose me with endo in 2007.
The hospital performed an investigation and came down unequivocal on her side, instead blaming my primary care doctor for improper referral, which had confused the surgeon, who did not know I was there for a surgery consult!! Are you kidding me?!?!

I experienced NO pain relief from the surgery. Initially, I was put on Yasmin to suppress the ovaries after surgery, but within one month, I exhibited the terrifying symptoms of Akathisia and Anhedonia (I just learned of the term Anhedonia from another fellow endo sister’s blog post, entitled Progesterone intolerance: Loss of enjoyment).

Two months into the Yasmin treatment, I was completely suicidal and had to be placed on 72-hour lockup while the doctor stopped the Yasmin treatment and fed me full of Xanax around the clock.
After that mess, I found that I did experience longer amounts of time between endo flares, where I was more often pain-free and had more energy. Each menstrual cycle however was the same as it had always been – I was bedridden from the pain. Six months post-op, sobbing in the surgeon’s office, she admitted to me that she had not gotten all of the endo out of me – that there was a spot on the bladder reflection – she was too afraid to get to it, because she feared she would have ruptured my bladder.

I knew this meant I’d have another surgery.
Three years later, in 2010, I had my second laparoscopy, and was re-diagnosed with Stage I Endometriosis. Again, my uterus and ovaries were covered with endo, and now endometriomas in the ovaries as well. There was a complication during surgery – they accidentally ran into the mesentery
The second surgery showed better results, but I have never been completely pain-free during my cycle. I may have spent far less time bedridden in 2011, but I still experience level 6 and 7 cramps, and I still have to come home sick from work. On the upside, I experienced 20 consecutive pain-free days in a row after this past surgery. It was amazing.
Of course, 14 months post-op, the endo symptoms are returning again. I have decided against further surgery, since I’m in the home stretch for menopause, which should begin anywhere in the next 6 to 10 years. That seems like a long time, but when surgery has been an ineffective pain management tool for me, and I’ve already been suffering with endometriosis for 26 years, I choose my battles carefully. I know the behaviour of the endo in my body. I have figured out my windows of uptime. I’m tired of hormonal and surgical experiments to quell the pain, which only brings up new and more terrifying complications.

I am fully aware that endometriosis could continue to ravage me despite entering menopause. If that becomes the case, I may go in for the big surgery – hysterectomy. Unfortunately, since the endo attacks my ovaries, I’d have to lose them, which means being put on HRT. If there’s ANY endo left in my body after a hysterectomy, then the HRT could stir up a new hornet’s nest, because endo feeds on any estrogen – whether natural or synthetic. There’s also the issue of progestin intolerance, which I am convinced was the case in leading me to become completely mental when I was on Loestrin and Yasmin. So far, I have refused any other hormonal treatments. No Lupron, no Danazol, no GnRH treatments of any sort – none of it. I refuse. I would rather have pain every 25 days for up to 4 days than ever deal with Akathisia, Anhedonia and planning suicide again.

For further information, see Things I’ve Tried To Combat Endo.

Bedridden and missing work again

I had a lot of pre-george pain this cycle, to the point where I was taking over 1,000mg of ibuprofen to get through the day.

I had intermittent right side ovarian stabbing pains all day on Tuesday, January 24.

On Wednesday evening, January 25, I got a sudden droning headache, shivers, 
G.I. issues, crushing fatigue, runny nose. But because I have allergies, it could EITHER have been a food reaction OR a virus.
 People are dropping like flies at work from the stomach flu and bronchitis.
Interesting to note; the crushing fatigue started before dinner. Everything else began during dinner.
So was it a combo of PMS and fighting off a virus, PMS and food reaction, or just PMS?

On Thursday, January 26, I woke feeling much better. However, by afternoon that day, I had the distinct feeling of adhesions pulling deep inside my abdomen. I forget what side; I want to say it was the right side. I had forgotten to record it til Sunday in my calendar. According to facebook, I ate 1,200mg Advil to get through the day on Thursday.

On Friday, I was so busy that I don’t remember if I was having intermittent cramping. It was daycare day at school, and parent/teacher conferences were happening. I was floating from the preschool yard to the elementary yard to parent conferences all day long. Then I picked up one of my students after work and babysat him and his brother til 9:30pm that night.

The next day, on Saturday, January 28, I experienced mild uterine cramping. I chose to drink with friends rather than take any pain meds, because it was an all-day birthday gathering for one of my friends. I wasn’t ready to admit downtime was coming for me. I still wanted to play. I never got drunk that day, but I did have five drinks over the course of about 7 hours. I paced each drink and also consumed water.

I was not hungover on Sunday – like I said, I never got drunk. Sunday however was brutal. I experienced moderate uterine fullness and soreness, and spent the entire day on the couch near tears from the pain. My entire lower back was on fire, and deep inside my pelvis there was a volcano of death brewing. 

I took 800mg Advil, half a Tylenol 3, stretched slowly in doorways, used my TheraCane on the lower back, and used heating pads. I was close to having an emotional meltdown, because my period hadn’t even started, and yet I was in so much pain. Later, I dug into the Tylenol 3, which helped, so I took half pills of that for the rest of the day.

I had 15 pain-free days in January (non-consecutive). The good news though is that nine of those 15 were consecutive.

George arrived on time on Monday, January 30. I’d like to note that January is a “Blue Moon” menstrual month for me, since I got george twice (January 5 and January 30).

Sunday night I had gone to bed nauseous and expecting to get george during the night. Thankfully, I awoke on Monday with minimal pain and no nausea, so I went in to work. Of course, by the time I was leaving for work, the pain and nausea set back in. I was able to make it through the day on 1,100mg of Advil, a hamster bladder, and some whining.

On Tuesday, January 31, I wrote in facebook:
“So is it bad that I’ve been sitting here for the past 43 minutes, waiting for the pain to stop so I can eat food and get ready to go to work?

I guess the 800mg of Advil for breakfast so far didn’t do the trick.

I have 30 minutes before I have to leave for work, but I need to make the judgement call in the next 10 minutes in order to attempt to find substitutes for the day.”

Just under an hour later, I wrote, “Can’t find substitute – still short-staffed. Going in with heating pads strapped to my body like incendiary devices. Hoping for the best. I may very likely have to take a half of a Tylenol 3 on the job just to get through.”

I tried 800mg Advil, then 3 hours later I took 600mg more Advil to no avail, then a protein bar and half Tylenol 3. Finally, the extended care supervisor found some staff to juggle, and gently pushed me out the door around 11:20am. She’s super empathetic and in general awesome that way.

The pain hovered between 6.5 and 7.5 on the pain scale all day and all evening. I saw that I still had some Vicoprofen in the medicine cabinet, so I decided to give it a try again, since the Tylenol 3 didn’t appear to be dulling the pain enough for me. I took half a Vicoprofen and half a Robaxin muscle relaxer I also had left in the cabinet. The pain during this cycle has been centered low on the uterus and pressing into the bowels through the anus. It’s enough to make me whine and cry like a three-year-old. It’s been REALLY brutal.
Tuesday night, I was in bed before 9pm because of the strength of the medications I had taken.

In the middle of the night (3am), I woke from a crazy dream in time to find myself bleeding through my bedclothes. George had circumvented the thick overnight pad and went through my underwear and pajama bottoms to the bed. I had to change my clothes but was not about to change the bedsheets at three in the morning! Thankfully the bed wasn’t a disaster.
Wednesday morning, I awoke with heavy flow, nausea and grinding uterine pain. Thankfully, the woman I had asked the night before to sub got back to me and said she would come in. I took another half vicoprofen and half robaxin pill. Within 20 minutes, maybe less, I was higher than a kite, so I went back to bed. I was fine as long as I was bedridden. If I tried to get up, I was super dizzy and cranky from the medication.

The pain hit me again four hours later, so around 10:30am I took a half vicoprofen and half robaxin. Once again, it took roughly 20 minutes and I was higher than a kite from the meds. This time, however, I decided I was just DONE being so stoned. I was done being bedridden, and now I was depressed over it, because I couldn’t just stop being high. And besides, the pain was leaking through the meds – just as it had done with the Tylenol 3.

That’s when my memory kicked in – didn’t I have a problem with vicoprofen in the past? I turned to my own journal, knowing full well I’d find out that I had a big problem with vicoprofen. OH LOOK, THERE IT IS…
http://www.livingwithendometriosis.org/steph/2009/10/vicoprofen-review/

And so I spent much of the day stoned – trying to leech the meds out of my system. I took only Advil for the rest of the day and the pain crept back in, but I was adamant that I did not want to take any more opiates or narcotics til the bleariness of the vicoprofen wore off. And here I am, at 6:15pm, STILL FUZZY from that shit!!!

All I can do is smack my forehead and label the bottle THIS WILL KILL YOU or some other means of avoidance. I don’t want to throw the stuff away, because in case of emergency, I’d rather have something in the house.

Now…going back to the end-of-January pain cycle. I was saying it was really painful pre-george.

My question is, am I having a bad pain cycle because of the stress at work during the last two weeks of January (parent observations, prep for report cards, and parent conferences)

OR

am I having a bad pain cycle because I chose to drink with friends two days before george was due?

OR

am I having a bad pain cycle because of BOTH the stress and the drinking?

OR

am I having a bad pain cycle for no reason other than It’s Just Endometriosis?

It’s my age-old question, steeped with guilt over the possibility that I am doing the wrong thing to bring more pain.

Whatever the reason or lack of reasoning, the fact is that in the new year, 13 months after surgery, I am still missing work and still on occasion bedridden from endometriosis.

I was bedridden one month after my surgery when the first real menstrual cycle hit. I was bedridden nine months after surgery.
I was bedridden 10 and 12 months after surgery.

The good news is that since my surgery in 2010, I was only bedridden for FOUR cycles, and only couch-ridden during TWO cycles out of 14 cycles total in the year 2011.
That’s much better than I was doing before surgery, where I was bedridden nearly every cycle of the year.

Doing the numbers helps me keep focus, helps me keep a semblance of morale up.

I’ll continue to track bedridden times through the year 2011 and see if I’m edging back towards pre-surgery illness. I’ll continue to tweak my diet, even though overall, dietary changes have not in my opinion shown vast improvement to the overall pain level during each cycle. If I don’t keep doing something to fight, then there’ll be no reason to fight, and the endo really will consume me.

My workplace, some friends and family, and total strangers will not see any improvement in my condition. I see little fluctuations that to me are major. I must continue to point them out so you can see how major in the scope of my illness these small changes are, and why I must keep fighting.