Kaiser Permanente can die in a fire.

At this point, why do I bother continuing to go to the doctor, especially now that I’m stuck with Kaiser HMO insurance.

Firstly, let me tell you the difference between HMO and PPO insurance in the United States:
HMO (Health Maintenance Organization) is cheap-o basic health care coverage, with the main goal of being a preventative health care system. That is to say, they don’t want you to get sick. Patients must have a Primary Care Physician, who is in control of referring the patient to specialists as he/she sees fit.

PPO (Preferred Provider Organization) is pricey-yet-comprehensive health care coverage, with the selling point being to manage long-term illnesses and conditions. Patients can self-refer to specialists.

Now, here’s what’s going on with me:
Yesterday and today, I had debilitating fatigue.
Last night, my period started up again after I thought I was finished and was barely spotting. After intimacy last night, I noticed bright red spotting.
This morning, I woke to bright red flow.

I have a rapport with my boss, whose daughter also has endometriosis. When I told her what was going on, and that I’d be dashing off to an appointment after work, she told me that she remembered this happening to me before. I told her I did not recall, but I do have excellent record-keeping on my computer. We talked about whether I could be perimenopausal or not. More on this convo later.

So I called Kaiser to make an appointment.

The person I got on the phone told me she also has endometriosis, and immediately I rolled my eyes, because I knew what would happen next. She asked me if I’d tried hormonal treatments. I told her no, and she launched into the whole, “well, you know that hormonal suppression is one way to stop the pain…” So I told her I tried hormones and they made me suicidal, so I refused to try further hormonal experimentation. She then asked about Lupron. NO, I have not tried it. She then asked me if I’d considered hysterectomy. Yes, I have, and I have decided against it. She then had the audacity to ask me if I had been surgically diagnosed with endometriosis. YES, I HAVE. TWICE.

Here’s the thing. I’m trying to make a fucking appointment with a GYN TODAY. That’s all. Just do your job as customer service intake or whatever the hell your job is, and find me a fucking appointment.

This woman doesn’t have any right to be asking me these questions. The only questions she should be asking me are the ones on her fucking script, which are:

  • When was the first day of your last period?
  • Are you experiencing any pain and where?
  • Are you experiencing nausea or vomiting?
  • What have you taken for the pain today?
  • Do you think you could be pregnant?

 
Based upon the answers I give, she enters the responses into her computer, and it tells her whether I am eligible for an appointment TODAY.

All these other questions, I know she’s only asking because 1) she has endometriosis 2) she is a nurse, so she thinks she knows better than I do about myself, so 3) she feels entitled to give me a what-for.

Here’s a tip: just because you have the same illness as me, bitch, doesn’t mean you get to tell me what is best for me.

No, I have not tried Lupron. No I have not opted for hysterectomy. Yes, I have been surgically diagnosed and don’t fucking patronize me when I tell you I’ve had two surgeries and you say “yes, but where they diagnostic?” What the hell kind of question is that? Yes, of fucking course they were diagnostic.

There is a rampant mentality among women with endometriosis: many of these women tell other women that if they are not surgically diagnosed, then they have no right to complain about the pain of endometriosis, because it might not be endo. It’s like a fucking sorority club: you don’t get to talk about your pain unless OFFICIALLY diagnosed with endo. Then POOF! You’re in the clique. You get full title to wail and gnash your teeth about your pain, AND BE BELIEVED by the endo sister community. That is some serious bullshit right there.

I remember being belittled like that. I knew I had Endo, but I still had to fight for 11 years to get it proven surgically. Now that I’m diagnosed, I have to always be ready to show my fucking papers whenever the medical community or SOME women with endo ask me if I REALLY have endo. YES BITCHES, I DO.

And you’d think my bad experience would have ended there – that was just the nurse line to get an appointment for today. Oh no, it got worse.

My assigned GYN is not in the office until Monday, so they just gave me the first available doctor for the time frame I could manage. When I got to my appointment, I was a little miffed that nobody told me that my gynecologist for today would be male. Apparently there is no communication between the intake nurse and the GYN on staff, or else he can’t be arsed to read the intake report before seeing his patients. He asked me the same questions. When I told him no I have not had Lupron, he said “Why not?” in a patronizing voice. I told him with pursed lips, “because it’s my decision”.
I am tired of explaining to these motherfuckers the multitude of problems associated with going on Lupron.
Lupron is a male prostate cancer drug being used on women when doctors don’t know what the fuck else to do. We get bone loss, we get deepening voices and hair on our chests and faces. We get worsening pain. We get permanent debilitating joint pain.
I am not going to be your fucking guinea pig to end up with even worse problems than I am already dealing with. And yet, these motherfuckers keep pushing the goddamn Lupron on us!

But no, all I tell this doctor is, “because it’s my decision”. You are lucky I spared your fucking head today, sir.

He thinks out loud: I could be perimenopausal. He might recommend an endometrial biopsy.
He opted to do a pelvic exam, which I granted. He told me I am not currently bleeding, which is a pile of shit. He pulled out the speculum and told me that there is barely any blood on it. I told him I have been bleeding bright red all day, so if he is unsure, he can wait…there’ll be more. He inserted his fingers and asked me where I felt any discomfort, pressure or outright pain. He described my bladder and I told him it was uncomfortable, bordering on painful. He then told me that he really doesn’t see a problem internally as far as endo goes, but the bladder sensitivity could be something else. I know what this means and NO, I DO NOT HAVE A URINARY TRACT INFECTION. I’ll bitch more about that in a minute.

When he was finished, it appeared as though he was wrapping up our little visit. Oh hell no.
I told him, “This is what I would like you to do. I would like a transvaginal ultrasound ordered.” He looked startled, and said, “ordered?” I replied, “given” as I pointed to myself still in stirrups.
He paused, then told me he was just about to go ahead with that, and he seemed miffed that I would demand something from him. Oh REALLY? I thought you were dismissing me like everyone else. HMO doctors are hateful little creatures.

During this whole visit, his minion kept coming into the room without warning, which invades my privacy as I lay there in stirrups. He sent her out to get the ultrasound equipment as I scrambled to cover myself back up again. She rushed back in and didn’t even close the door as they began setting up for the ultrasound. I stared at her and then finally said, “Close the door.” Both she and the doctor looked at me, then the doctor gave her an impatient look and repeated for her to close the door.
At this point, I was about to lose my shit and set these people on fire.
But I needed answers, so I allowed the ultrasound to begin.

He had a look at my right ovary, which showed a very large black hole. I asked him what it is. “It measures half an inch”, he said. That’s about 1.5cm.

I then told him that I have a history of endometriomas. He replied that it looks like just a follicle to him, but he will mark it. Good. You do that.

At the end of the ultrasound, he reiterated that he does not think anything is wrong “other than normal cramps, not endometriosis pain”.

At this point I could no longer hold back my judgmental glare.
I am surgically diagnosed with endometriosis, and you are telling me that I don’t have endometriosis pain, just normal cramps? WHAT. THE ACTUAL FUCK. IS WRONG. WITH YOU.

But it doesn’t end there.

He then asked me something I knew he was going to ask, because I have had this fucking question asked many times previous to my surgeries.

“Are you sure it’s not a UTI?”

I gave him The Teacher Look.

I told him evenly and firmly, “it’s not”, at which point he put his tail between his legs, and literally held up his palms to me to let me know that I got my point across. He then said he’s not very well versed in knowledge of endometriosis (OH REALLY), and he even went so far as to acknowledge that I might know more than he does on the subject, to which I openly replied, “I do.”

What I don’t have to tell you motherfucker, since you were not interested in reading my surgery reports, is that I have endometriosis on the bladder reflection, which means my bladder is easily irritated when you poke at it with your fingers or with the vaginal ultrasound wand.
So, you might want to check the fucking surgery report before asking me if I have a fucking UTI.

At this point, I was expecting him to ask me another common question:

“Have you ever had an STD?”
If he had asked me that question, I would have leapt up off of the table and murdered him outright.

Instead, he mentioned offhandedly something nearly as infuriating:
He said I should really consider hysterectomy, or pray that menopause does not give me worse problems than the endo already does, because I have refused hormonal treatments, Lupron, and hysterectomy…and opted to just stick with narcotic pain management, which is frowned upon.

TRANSLATION: YOU ARE AN ADDICT.

In general, I am really tired of doctors. I’d really like for that pain transference device to be invented, so I can show these asswipes A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A WOMAN WITH ENDOMETRIOSIS.
And when they are screaming in agony, or literally dying from this pain, I will tell them all of the things they have told me and my endo sisters throughout the years.

I really miss UCSF. I fucking hate Kaiser, I hate starting over, I hate HMOs. The whole reason I am stuck in Third World Healthcare again is because my excellent medical benefits went out the window when my ex-spouse cheated on me and divorced me for the whore.

Now, I have Kaiser through my workplace, which as I mentioned is HMO hell. The exam room I was in today was behind office desks at the back of the building, in what looks like used to be a closet. The furniture in there looked to be at least 25 years old, badly scratched up and in need of paint. Actually, that furniture reminds me of the office furniture aboard the USS Hornet… A WWII vessel.
I would say that the health care provided by Kaiser is roughly similar to WWII healthcare.

Have I mentioned that I miss UCSF?

When I got home, I remembered the convo I’d had with my boss earlier in the day, and so I scoured through my iCal and photos of my whiteboard calendar to see if I could find any easy reference to this in the last few years. I check out my calendar notes first, before going meticulously through my blog entries, because I don’t always know what keywords to look for at first. Looking at patterns in my cycle via the calendar gives faster insight for me, oftentimes.

I finally found it – it was just 11 months ago – my boss was right – this has happened before. In May of 2014, my period stopped and then a day later started up again. I went to Kaiser and got a same-day appointment (at the time, with a new GYN since I was new to Kaiser). A transvaginal ultrasound revealed a 4cm fluid-filled sac. I was in even more pain last year than what I’m going through this year, and of course I was… last year it was a 1.5 inch cyst. This year, it’s a half-inch cyst. Either way, it causes me to bleed outside of my usual cycle.

So I have my answer, and I have a pending complaint against one Dr. Hong Kim, and a further complaint against the Kaiser healthcare system for letting me fall between the cracks when my regularly appointed GYN is out of the office.

And as far as cysts go, all I can do is Wait And See.
Will it reabsorb? Or is it an endometrioma?

And then I’ll take it from there…by going to see Dr. Andrew Cook down in the South Bay. He doesn’t take insurance – it’s out-of-pocket. After all I’ve been through, I’m ready to go this route.

Today is a rough day.

I had a moment of panic in the bathroom today at work, when I discovered I’d started bleeding heavier than yesterday.

My period was supposed to be done last Sunday, but I started spotting bright red again yesterday.

Today, the blood was dark brown with debris – the so-called ‘coffee ground’ blood. At this point, I finally acknowledged consciously that something is wrong. I suspected once again that I’m dealing with an ovarian cyst. This is something that, in the past few months, I’ve given brief attention to, but pushed it out of my head. Today, I was forced to acknowledge it as fact.

So I looked back in time and realised that this endometrioma or cyst has been in the works for the past six months – since probably November, 2013.

Nov. 4, 2013: 5 waves of intense pain – 7 on the pain scale. Nausea with evening pain flare. Took half a vicoprofen.

Dec. 1, 2013: Nausea, extreme fatigue, shakey legs. Mild to moderate pain. Dark brown flow, turning to red.

Dec. 29, 2013: Bedridden. Puked from pain. 8.5 on pain scale.

Jan. 21, 2014: Moderate uterine and ovarian pain.

Jan. 22, 2014: Moderate bleeding and cramps. Severely fatigued all day, w/ fatigue lasting through Jan. 24.

Feb. 16, 2014: Debilitating pain. Did not note whether mostly ovarian or low back. Bedridden for part of the day on the 17th.

On May 2, 2014 the pain ebbed and flowed. I felt better after work, but then on the way home from hanging with friends, I was crying from the pain, which was mostly on the left side, radiating down my left leg.

May 3: intermittent moderate pain, especially in the lower back.

May 4: Low back pain mainly, but also stabbing on both the left and right side ovaries. The bleeding was subsiding, so I thought I was done with my cycle. That night, the pain cranked up to a 7.5 on the pain scale, and I laid on the floor on my back, crying, while my S.O. looked on helplessly.

May 5: pain and bleeding subsiding.

May 6: my entire back was locking up at the end of the work day. Then shooting pains down side of left leg, then right leg, then pelvic. I started bleeding bright red again.

May 7: ‘coffee ground’ discharge – a mixture of new and old blood, so much that I thought I started my period again. As the day wore on, I got more locked up in the pelvic and low back region again. I had to take 600mg Advil, then half a Norco, by 12pm.

My S.O. convinced me to see a GYN TODAY, so I called and got an appointment.

At the doctor’s office, I got a transvaginal ultrasound done (I’m a serious veteran of that wand, now). This ultrasound revealed a 4cm fluid-filled sac on my left ovary. The GYN also noticed a dark spot at back of my uterus; she said it could be the left ovary attached at back of uterus. I had her look at my previous surgery reports. She thinks it is most likely adhesions pulling the left ovary to back of uterus once again, and that I have either a large cyst or an endometrioma on the left ovary.
However, she urged me to go to ER for a doppler ultrasound and a uterine biopsy, because she is concerned about torsion, which can be dangerous, and she is concerned that the cyst is 4cm in size, which is the threshold where doctors get freaked out about cancer.

However, I am going to wait on it, based upon previous experience w/ cysts and endometriomas.
(See http://www.livingwithendometriosis.org/steph/2008/11/status-on-ovarian-cyst/
and
http://www.livingwithendometriosis.org/steph/category/ovarian-cysts/)

I also told the doctor I’m not comfortable going to E.R. because of an incident once where I went to the E.R. and instead of listening to me and reading my surgery reports, and just making me comfortable with an IV of drugs, they made me wait the pain out, then forced a pelvic exam, stirring up the bees nest again.

Today’s GYN doctor said that as a patient, I have the right to refuse a pelvic exam and ask only for the doppler ultrasound. She says I can request that first and then opt to have a pelvic afterwards, if something significant is found on ultrasound.

Just to make her stop trying to sway me, I did promise the GYN that if the pain gets any worse, I will go to the E.R. and request the doppler ultrasound.

I am feeling very defeated today at today’s news.

Not a day goes by where I don’t curse myself for not sticking to a caffeine-free and sugar-free diet since my last surgery in 2010. I have been able to successfully cut out red meat and pork, but the other two are just too much to ask for, apparently.
I also know that I cannot blame my diet alone on my pain. I know full well that I have abnormalities on chromosomes 1, 7, 9 and 12, and that endometriosis has been with me since I was created. I know this. I know that diet alone is not going to stop the pain. So I need to have a happy medium – not feel guilty about ingesting caffeine and sugar, but not going hog-wild with the two, either.

But cysts and endometriomas will still happen to me. It’s the nature of endometriosis in general, and specifically the nature of how endo affects MY body.

I’m just tired. I’ve been battling this goddamned illness for 29 YEARS.
I’ve had two surgeries. I don’t want any more surgeries. I know of women who have had over 20 surgeries and they’re STILL not any better. In fact, some are worse off! So I don’t want any further surgery. I just want to try to make it to and through menopause, and see if that burns the disease out.

But dear gods, I am so, so tired.

Happy New Year…

Sorry I’ve been away for so long.

Just so I don’t leave you hanging, I did not have a better day after my last journal entry. In fact, it was my worst pain day at work that week. I wore a heating pad all day and consumed 1,600mg Advil.
After that date, I didn’t record my pain for the rest of the week. I was likely too pissed off about the pain to bother recording it. Although I had noted on December 1 “Nausea, extreme fatigue, shakey legs, mild to moderate pain. dark brown flow, turning to red.”

I got my period again near the end of the year and was actually bedridden from the pain.

THIS PART IS IMPORTANT:

Since December, I have become sexually active again, and as a result have been dealing with drama in one case, and what my housemate calls ‘New Relationship Energy’ in another case. So maintaining my endo blog had not been priority. ;)

Although I blamed becoming sexually active again as the reason why I must have been bedridden. Why else would I have had such a great year previous to that, pain-wise, other than the fact that I’d had a noticeable lack of sex, specifically penetration sex?

Ok, interrupting the pain diary for a moment to tell you about relationship stuff!
In December and again in February, I had a fling with a friend. I ended it after February, though. In March, I began seeing a newish friend, and we’ve been together – not separated by more than five days at a stretch – since March 21st (Happy Spring!).

Right…back to the pain blog:
Looking back through the last 24 months of my blog, it reads like someone who grabs at straws each month, looking for a tiny amount of hope that things could be improving pain-wise, but in reality the pain actually has remained the same the entire time.

For all of 2013, though I was bedridden only once, the pain continually got to between 7 and 8 on the pain scale, which is still unacceptable. The surgeries have not been worth it in that regard. The only benefit of surgery was a short-lived lengthening in span between pain cycles. The Gabapentin is what helped me to not be bedridden for over a year, until I became sexually active again. The end of December and into January was very rough on me, pain-wise. Same thing for February.

During March, I pushed through the pain because there was so much already planned for that weekend. I got up to a level 7 pain on March 13, and said ‘screw it’ and didn’t record my pain levels for the rest of the week/weekend because of all that was going on.

In April, I got george TWICE. On top of that, I began dealing with severe low back pain. I wasn’t sure if it was related to endo, a cyst, or spinal deterioration. I went and got an X-Ray, and bone spurs were found on my lumbar spine (#1-3).

My latest cycle began April 29th. The pain was intermittently bad. I consumed over 1,200mg Advil a day for a week. On Friday, May 2, I was out with friends and had to pee every half hour it seemed. On the way back home that night, the pain ramped up and was so intense on the left side that I cried a little. It hurt to be in sitting position. I just wanted to be in bed with a heating pad. Again I wondered if I had an ovarian cyst, or if the endo was sticking my left ovary to the back of my uterus again. But I didn’t want to dwell on that, because it’s too depressing.

Oh! Also…starting in January, 2014, my cycle changed from 28 days back to 25 days. It took a few frustrating months for me to notice, but after continual let-downs when my period showed up 5 or more days ‘early’, I went back and re-counted my cycle days again. Sure enough, it’s back to 25 days after a short stint on a 28 day cycle.

So now you are basically up-to-date.

October absentia

I went the entire month of October without a new menstrual cycle. The lengthening in time between my periods over the past year has really been interesting.

I got my period on September 30, and then it didn’t appear again until November 2.
And just like in September, where I had pain a week before my period, it happened again in October. I had moderate pain for one day and then no period until almost two weeks later.

Yesterday was moderate pain. Today was heavy pain. It just kept getting worse. Finally, after work, I broke down and took half a Vicoprofen because I was getting nauseated from the pain. It took about 45 minutes to kick in, and now I’m happily dissociated. I hit 7.5 on the pain scale today.
The blood started off dark brown, then turned to bright red, then tapered and hit a thick dark brown again. That coloration, combined with the nausea, makes me wonder if I’ve got another ovarian cyst. And of course, the intermittent pain I’ve experienced over the past two weeks is on the left side – the same damned ovary that was discovered tied to the back of my uterus twice during surgeries. The damned endo has likely tied up the ovary again.

I haven’t done too well in the past year with documenting my endo flares. I’ve had other things on my mind, like intense grief. But I’m FINALLY getting past it. Finally. You have no idea. I can feel it easing up. Soon, I will be back to paying attention to the endo and modulating treatments and diet accordingly.

My doctor said I could increase the gabapentin during pain flares, so starting today I began taking three gabapentin per day (100mg each) instead of the usual two. Unfortunately, it did not really help with pain relief. I consumed 1,400mg ibuprofen today before taking the vicoprofen, and I’ve had a heating pad on me several times today, even at work.

I’m down to my last two vicoprofen pills. I’m brand new on my school’s health care (Kaiser), so it will take awhile to see the necessary doctors to get a renewed prescription. :/

I wonder if Halloween season had anything to do with the increased pain. My sugar intake has been UP this past month! On the To Do list – cut sugar from the diet again.

So that’s yer update.

Update on my health

Let’s start with a review:

My second laparoscopy was December 17, 2010, in which I was diagnosed with new endometriosis growth, and put at Stage I.

My surgeon found endometriomas on both ovaries, and cleaned out as much as she could. She removed a 1.4cm endometrioma from the right ovary, and had to leave the endometrioma in the left ovary, because it was too deeply embedded, and I did not want to lose my ovary. There were adhesions pulling the left ovary back towards my uterus again, just like in 2007, so she cut away the adhesions and repositioned the left ovary as best she could.

I spent the next three months healing from the surgery, and still experiencing debilitating pain. However, between pain cycles in May and June 2011, I experienced 20 and 17 consecutive pain-free days respectively – the highest number of consecutive pain-free days EVER since I began meticulously recording my cycles.

In fact, for the entire year of 2011, I never fell below 10 pain-free days in a single monthly cycle, which was an improvement over the year before.

Beginning in April, 2012, I experienced moderate nausea on the 14th, 17th and 19th (throughout my cycle). I had to take ginger tea, the nausea was so intense. This to me usually signals an ovarian cyst, so I called my surgeon and scheduled an ultrasound.

Then, on May 3, 2012, something unexpected happened, that has (I think) nothing to do with the endometriosis.

On May 2, 2012, the workplace had the carpets cleaned as per routine, but when I walked in the building on the morning of May 3, I immediately had respiratory distress. Now, I have a history of breathing problems and chemical sensitivity dating to 2009, when the interior of my apartment was sprayed by an exterminator for ants at the landlady’s request. But I’d never had wheezing issues or felt like I was drowning in lung fluid before.

On May 3, my breathing got worse over the time I was waiting for a backup assistant to come into the classroom, and by the time someone arrived, I was a sobbing basket-case from not being able to breathe. The director of the school drove me to my doctor’s office, where I had some preliminary tests run, and was given an albuterol inhaler and an epi-pen. I was told I probably have asthma.

Three weeks later, I finally got to see my allergist, who ran me through a computerised breathing test, and detected a ‘lung blockage’ and gave me a steroid inhaler. Within 2 days on the steroid, I had ‘roid rage’ and discontinued it. I continued taking the albuterol inhaler, though. Four weeks after that, I was given another computerised breathing test, and nothing had changed. I was given another steroid, and this one worked for about three weeks, at which time I became clinically Manic on the stuff, so discontinued it. I have used the albuterol throughout, as a ‘rescue’ inhaler.

So the ovarian cyst took a back seat to a new health condition; asthma.

I researched whether asthma is also an autoimmune disease, and was dismayed to find that people don’t really know much about how asthma develops. Even my own asthma specialist doesn’t know if asthma is autoimmune.

The reason I want to know is twofold: first, endometriosis is autoimmune, and when a person has one autoimmune disease, it means they have other concurrent as well as other undiscovered autoimmune diseases.
Second, there have been cases of lung endometriosis.

My family has a history of bronchitis, emphysema and endometriosis, so this is something I should be concerned about. I’ve never smoked cigarettes, but I did grow up in a heavily industrial and polluted area with pack-a-day cigarette smokers. I’ve always been sick with sinus infections and bronchitis every winter and/or spring.
Oh and hey, as of a 2010 study, it appears that emphysema may be autoimmune. File that away for potential future reference…

In the meantime, my periods were getting worse, and I was back to being fully bedridden during each cycle – something I’ve not had happen regularly since before surgery in December, 2010.
This means I had just over a year and a half of slightly improved health from surgery. That is to say, I had a longer uptime between periods, and one or no bedridden days per cycle, BUT I am still getting up to 7 or 8 on the pain scale at times, I am still experiencing heavy bleeding, and I am still consuming Tylenol 3.
Basically, it boiled down to “I’ll take what benefit I can get from the surgery.”

Once I was being treated for the asthma, I went back to address my worsening symptoms, still suspecting an ovarian cyst. On July 11, 2012, I saw my surgeon, who performed a vaginal ultrasound. She detected a 7mm (0.9cm) endometrioma on my right ovary.

For those who are questioning, YES, it IS possible to detect endometriomas through vaginal ultrasound. My surgeon visualised the 1cm endometriomas on both ovaries in September, 2010; three months before my surgery (more on sizing in a moment).

So my suspicions are correct in that I once again have an ovarian cyst, but I had not anticipated an endometrioma. I thought it was just an ordinary cyst, and I wanted to get specs on it to make sure it wasn’t too large to reabsorb.

What I got instead was really bad news; an endometrioma does not reabsorb or go away.

Ovarian cysts are formed when the egg doesn’t fully release from its follicle, and just keeps growing inside of the follicle. The cyst can live in or on the ovary, or in the fallopian tube, and most often goes away on its own, despite causing some nasty pain and/or nausea while it is present.

An endometrioma is “a tumor containing endometrial tissue.” Endometriosis has traveled outside of the endometrium and has embedded itself onto or into the ovary, where it begins to grow. It is called an endometrioma when it goes from being an embedded implant to a growing, swollen, fluid and blood-filled foreign mass. It is now called a tumour.

I’m told that endometriomas are not considered a threat under 4cm in size. Past that, one should be closely monitored in case the tumour turns malignant.

We discussed how to manage the endometrioma and the endometriosis in general for the long term. My surgeon knows I will not take hormone therapy. I made it clear to her that I also do not want any further surgery unless my life depends upon it. I told my surgeon that I just want to be made comfortable til I hit menopause. I want pain medication and pain management. I’ve already put myself back into acupuncture, massage and naturpathy for alternative healing.

My surgeon exclaimed that it’s such a long time before I hit menopause. I told her no, my Ma hit menopause by age 43. My surgeon has referred me to a pain management clinic, and is still urging me to try the Mirena IUD, which puts out a small amount of levorongestrel (the same ingredient as in emergency contraception called Plan B). Due to my extreme sensitivity to hormones in the past, I don’t care how small the dose is, I’m not touching any further hormonal therapies.

I had a phone call with my Ma today, and confirmed that she hit perimenopause by the time she was 40, and was definitely in menopause by the time she was 43. She said her mom also had early menopause.

So that’s where I am at…waiting for menopause to hopefully burn the endometriosis out. It’s a hope, with full knowledge that it might not work.

The tally for August so far…

I was couch-ridden for three days during the August cycle; Saturday, Sunday and Monday. What made it more convenient for me to not push my limits this time around was the fact that my husband was away at a game convention. Normally on Saturdays, we bum around town running errands or just being out of the house for fun. Because he wasn’t here, I not only lacked the desire to be out and about, but I had no one to drive me around while I was all medicated to the hilt.

Had my cycle fallen during the work week, I would likely have missed THREE days of work. Thankfully, it fell on the weekend again. So in the grand scheme of things, I’m still getting lucky so to speak.

I woke up Tuesday morning unsure of whether I could go in to work. The bleeding subsided overnight again for the second night in a row. Unlike Monday when I woke and the bleeding and pain resumed, on Tuesday there was no such mess. Figuring Tuesday was “Last Gasp” day, I thought that if I did go in to work, I’d maybe get two or three hours in before I’d have to go home in grave pain again. But I called work, cleared it with the director, and went in. I chanced it.

And you know what? The Last Gasp never happened! Or rather, perhaps it did, because a little bleeding did resume during the course of the day, but the pain level never got above a 4 the entire day! I did require 1,200mg of Ibuprofen in an 8-hour time frame to get through the work day, but I did NOT have to come home early in agony! This to me is simply amazing!!!

The bleeding tapered and stopped by late afternoon.

My husband took me out to sushi and ice cream last night. :)

This morning, I’m back to feeling uncertain again. I’m still spotting, and I had an uptick in hormonal hot flush and nausea again before breakfast. Because I feel like I got away with something yesterday (no ‘last gasp’), I am now worrying that today might be it, even though it’s not logical according to the ‘usual’ behaviour of my cycle. I should technically be home-free until August 31st.

We’ll see. If I make it through today, then I’m golden for sure.

August downtime

On Sunday, July 31, I was driving with my husband when suddenly my lower back screamed in agony, leading me to cry out in a high-pitched wail mid-sentence. The stabbing pain lasted less than 30 seconds and was gone without a trace. What the hell!?

The very next day, PMS set in just over a week before I was due, in the form of Cleaning All The Things™Allie Brosh. The day after that, I got left side ovarian stabby pains, which lasted for two straight days. I ate a lot of Ibuprofen.
At this point, I knew the party uptime was over. I actually became quite depressed about this.

Befuddled by my depression, knowing I have dealt with this illness for almost 26 years now, I wrote the following:

Dear Steph:
You must acknowledge that you have entered Downtime. You are not lazy, you are not slacking – it is just time to go. You cannot fight this. You are Persephone. Just go to the Underworld quietly and do your time, as you have done for two and a half decades. You will emerge again – you always do. Stop thinking diet or depression or laziness might be bringing on the pain. It’s none of that. Just go under and do your time. Look out the window or go outside and enjoy the sunlight for one more day, but mark my words, by the end of today, you will either go of your own power or I will take you forcibly. Stop whining – you’ll be back by Monday. Sheesh. Be thankful that it’s only a cumulative of 3 months out of every year you spend in the Underworld. It could be consecutive. You don’t want that, do you?
-Hades

Still getting left side stabby ovarian pain, and having struggled through a hypoglycemic morning, I got my ass up off the couch and said, “FINE! I will go and enjoy the sunlight for one more day, you bastard!”
Well, I said a lot more cuss words than that, but you get the point.

I put on some sweats, a tee shirt, bicycle arm warmers, knee braces, bike helmet and off I went for a bicycle ride while my laundry was washing.

Here's me telling endo what it can do with itself.

Here's me telling endo what it can do with itself.


Foeniculum vulgare (fennel), a pretty but invasive plant on our shoreline.

Foeniculum vulgare (fennel), a pretty but invasive plant on our shoreline, along with Spartina alterniflora x foliosa (smooth cord grass), another horrible invasive, in the background.


My highest speed that day was actually 17 M.P.H.  -pretty good for one on the verge of an endo flare.

My highest speed that day was actually 17 M.P.H. -pretty good for one on the verge of an endo flare.


 

After two days of stabbing pain, I then spent the next four days dealing with hypoglycemic attacks while my body went down the drain hormonally.
Despite all that, I still managed to exercise every day that week leading up to menses. I weight-lifted, I did aerobics, I bicycled, I cleaned house like a rabid meth fiend. After the bicycling, I got nauseous and weak in the way that only I know means it was pre-menstrually-related.

On Friday, August 5, the vaginal mucosa turned pink, and I knew the do0m was upon me.

So naturally I went dancing.

I wanted to go out to a club, but I could not predict how rapidly my body might go downhill, and besides, I’m flat broke financially after the traveling I did this summer, so I stayed in and held Club Steph:

Club Steph: A Gothic Nightclub Of One, held irregularly.

Club Steph: A Gothic Nightclub Of One, held irregularly.


 

In short, I went to the underworld to do my downtime kicking and screaming, like I always do. After dancing, the nausea set back in. Nausea has been big during this menstrual cycle, making me think I have another ovarian cyst.

Regarding the kicking and screaming…before my second surgery even happened, I had regressed to a crying, sputtering three-year-old, throwing a fit every time I was about to go into downtime again. After 25 years, I’d just had enough of it. I was no longer stoic, I was no longer accepting of my fate, or even willing to work with what uptime I had each month.

I had a lot of hope that the second surgery would give me more uptime, and you know what, IT DID, but not enough so that an employer would notice. This is what keeps my stress level up – the fact that I know there was some benefit to both surgeries to my quality of life, but yet it didn’t make enough of a difference to employers. I had to call in sick today, and I wonder if I’ll be well enough to go in tomorrow. This of course makes my employer unhappy. She has stated to my face that she is concerned about putting me in a head teaching position because of my illness. Because she has not denied me of the position yet, I cannot take action. Because all of her discriminatory remarks as regards my illness have been verbal, I don’t have much solid proof of things to take action with, and so I am in a constant state of mental anguish and a feeling of gross job insecurity.

In order to feel a bit more justified and dignified, I went back through the past five years’ worth of data on my menstrual cycles. It looks like it wasn’t until December, 2008 that I caught on to the idea of trying to pinpoint when mittelschmerz was happening.
Though I had caught on to the idea of tracking my uptime between cycles in November, 2007, it remained an abstraction. It wasn’t actually until August, 2010 that I actively employed this tactic on my calendar.

We already know that my first surgery in 2007 barely helped me in the grand scheme of things. Sadly, I did not have the tracking discipline that I now have going on, and I use the term ‘discipline’ loosely.
All I remember from the 2007 surgery is that it felt like I gained a week of uptime back in my life each month. This means that instead of getting pain and other symptoms two weeks before menstruating, I was, after surgery, only experiencing pain a week to a few days before menstruating. This meant that my uptime between cycles had lengthened.
Once menses hit, however, I was still bedridden every month and missing work. That part hadn’t changed a bit.

I wanted to find out if my second surgery fared better, so I have spent the last two days going through my calendar and my blog posts to gather data. Again, record-keeping was crappy in 2008 and pretty much non-existent in 2007 going by calendar alone, so I just focused on the past two-and-a-half years’ worth of data.

You can see immediately that surgery provided benefit where job loss and uptime is concerned. The fact that I’m still missing one day of work per cycle is still troubling to my employer of course, but dammit, I’ll take what I can get. Check it out:

george uptime & days off work, 2009 to 2011

 

It’s not much, but it’s what I have to work with. And I did all this data compiling while stoned out of my head on Tylenol 3. Too bad I am completely useless in my current line of work when I’m on the Tylenol 3. Maybe I should just go back to tech work and find a job working from home full time.

One last thing that is very important to note for my morale:

I had my second surgery in December, 2010. Upon recovery, I was not bedridden from endometriosis in February, March, April, May or June. I was couch-ridden from the pain in July and August, but there has been moderate nausea with these last two cycles, and as I keep saying, I think there’s an ovarian cyst going on, on top of the endometriosis. But I have not spent 12+ hour days in bed in my pajamas with the heating pads on me at all hours of the day and night like I used to before surgery. This is a vast improvement over the first surgery I had in 2007.

There is still hope that my condition will improve. I just need to get back on track with the dietary restrictions. I lapsed from May onwards due to graduation, travel to see family, and general summertime fun. I need to cut sugar and alcohol again. It will be difficult. I will cry again. I will wail and gnash teeth over it like I did last time, but I’m doing this to further the benefit of surgery.

Set the clock: about 21 days

My husband had woken me up about two hours after my last journal entry, to say he was going to take off to game night, unless I needed him to stay with me. I pleaded with him to stay. He said he would, but that he just didn’t know what to do if I was going to spend the rest of the day sleeping.
I told him that made me feel guilty – that he should just go to game, then.

It was clear he didn’t want to leave me alone, but he didn’t want to not be with his friends. It took me about 20 minutes or so to rouse myself out of my pain and pain medication stupor, but I told him “why don’t I just go with you to game, then?”

He liked that idea.

We collected my heating pads, my meds, the laptop in case I wanted to blog or attempt any homework, and two books; one for school and one for pleasure.

We got to our friend’s house and to my dismay, it smelled like smoke. I have a smoke allergy/chemical sensitivity. I was grouchy at my friend C – “WHY DID YOU SMOKE IN YOUR HOUSE.”
C replied, “Yeah but that was hours ago.”

I resigned to my fate – I was stuck here. My husband was already setting up the kitchen table for game night.

I was told where I could make myself comfortable, and I was told that a friend J, who lives in that house, was downstairs with a burst ovarian cyst. I didn’t want to disturb her unless I heard her crying out in pain, so I stayed upstairs in my own little world of pain.

I tried to heat up my heating pads, only to be reminded that they do not have a microwave in that house. I was directed to a big heating pad and was allowed to use that.

The offending smoker friend also helped set me up on his wireless network, but the moment I was set up, I was suddenly exhausted again and so I put the laptop away. I couldn’t even keep my eyes open long enough to hold conversation with anyone, watch TV, or read a book.

A third friend, also named J, who lives in that house, was also not feeling well. He sat in the living room on his laptop the entire night. He’s had spinal cord injury and had surgery after surgery to cauterise nerves. He thinks nerves are growing back or something, and is in a lot of pain again. I gave him one of my Tylenol 3 because he did not have any Norco on him.

At one point, around 8pm, the stabbing right side ovarian pain returned. I ended up on the floor, moaning in pain, rocking to and fro, with the heating pad. I was on all fours, then on my back, and then I settled into an arm chair w/ ottoman for the rest of the night. Their crazy cat October decided to be nice for once, and curled up on my tummy and purred all night. I was told she only likes women, and likes women best when they are in pain – that is the ONLY time that cat is nice.
Crazy cat.

So, the pain I had on Sunday lasted through until after 10pm, despite the fact that the bleeding had subsided again. My abs and ribs still felt bruised all that day.

I got home, showered, changed into my bedclothes, and went to bed.

Woke up Monday morning pain-free and got ready for my first day back to work. I was still spotting a little. I decided to try riding my bike to work, but as I went out the door to go to work, the pain set back in, and so I abandoned the bicycling idea and drove the measly one mile to work, instead. Glad I did. I needed my energy at work to move stuff around and help set up for the new school year.
I required a total of 800mg Advil to get through the day.

Got home and was very tired, but went on to my psychology appointment. I’m seeing a shrink again ever since I had a major depressive episode at the end of July. I’m still trying to figure out if it was JUST all the stress I have been under from school and finances, or if the Cannabidiol I tried for pain management set off an even worse episode of pre-existing stress and depression.
I evened out by August 18, but that was three weeks of pure hell from one menstrual cycle right up into this next menstrual cycle, which started on August 19. I am still on anti-anxiety meds (ativan).

I spent the rest of Monday evening hanging out with my husband, making and eating dinner, and watching TV. No homework got done on Monday.

Today is a new day – I start the clock so to speak – I have 21 days til next bedridden. Today I will go to work (not sure if driving or biking yet – it’s supposed to be in the 90s today so I guess biking would be better on the ozone), and when I get home, I will force myself to do some more homework.

In about 8 days, I will have Mittelschmerz – so the middle of next week – the first week the children are back to school. Hopefully it will go easy on me while I navigate my first week in the classroom.

One last thing – about last week sometime, I developed a cough again. So this is the second virus / cough since July 18 that I have caught. And now I’m going to enter a new school year with preschoolers. I expect to be sick continually in one form or another until December. I am pounding Vitamin C and Zinc and all the rest of my supplements, and will be back in the gym by no later than Thursday this week, once the heat wave cools down. Today is Day 2 of the first heat wave of the Northern California Summer.

The last gasp – let’s hope

The pain and bleeding stopped overnight, so this morning I got up, made breakfast with my husband, ate, got dressed, and went to the weekly Alexander Technique pain management class today at the dispensary.

While in class, we are told to stand up, sit down, stand up again, sit down, etc. We are showed how to move our body in more natural alignment, rather than moving always in protective or preemptive mode because of the pain.

I had just sat back down, and I felt a trickle. I’d been in class for about 15 or 20 minutes at this point. I did not get up and rush to take any medication, however, because the instructor hates pills and the whole purpose of this class is to show us how to move in ways that lessen the pain. So I sat there, and the pain began to ramp up.

And well, I was sobbing within 10 minutes of the trickle.

No position the instructor could put me in would help. I laid on my back, and the instructor showed the whole class – they all (there were six of us plus the instructor today) had to lay on their backs.
What is interesting is that everything he was showing them, I was already doing on my own; open up the shoulders. Open up the pelvis. Put both legs down on the ground. Make the back touch the ground fully. Release those muscles.

The tears streamed down my face when the next pain flare hit. The instructor came over to me again and tried to help me by taking my left leg, bending it, and pushing it up towards my chest, very slowly. I told him that hurt a lot in the pelvic region. He then showed me how to put my right leg up, left leg back down, and roll over onto my left side. Then he had me get to all fours, then bring the left leg forward to use to push myself upright. I wailed and tears flew, and he helped pull me gently to my feet and let me sit in a chair for the rest of the session.

After the class, he said it is rare to have someone in that much pain coming to his class. I told him I’d been bedridden this weekend, and knew that today would be a respite for a few hours before the next pain wave hit. He told me ‘ahh so you took a chance’. He told me I was brave. He thanked me for coming out despite the pain, and said he hoped to see me again next week.
I thanked him for being nice and caring and helpful.

I got outside to my car and called my husband, but he was not answering his phone. I assumed he either left the house without his phone or was in the shower. Either way, though, it made me upset, because I needed him.

I stood there for a few minutes, gathering myself, and then slowly got into my car and slowly drove myself home. I experienced the usual burning sensation of pain in the pelvis, and occasional stabbing pain which made me grit my teeth all the way home. I sat hunched and to the right side because of the pain. Every time I tried to lean back in my chair and open up my shoulders and chest and straighten up, the pain was worse.

When I got within three blocks of home, my husband called me back and apologised; said he’d been in the shower. I asked him to meet me out front to help me get out of my car, and he did. He asked if the pain had come back during the class. I said yes, and he gave me a big hug.

I got in the house and was medicating with 1.5 Tylenol 3 and 600mg Advil, when the next wave of pain hit. It was knifing and in the right ovary. I nearly dropped the bottle of Tylenol 3 into the sink. I clutched the bottle and the sink and sobbed. Tears poured from my eyes. My husband stood there over me to support me. He took the medication from me and steadied me. He opened up the Advil so I could take that medication.

After several minutes of sobbing, the pain eased off, and I said I needed a moment alone in the bathroom. I knew I was passing something. Sure enough, several thick, dark clots had come through. The colouration was nearly brown, the red was so dark.

After that, I got the heating pads and sat in the hard kitchen chair. My husband was close to me the whole time, hugging on me, braiding my hair, talking with me.

In all, the horrible pain lasted roughly an hour and 45 minutes.

I’m doing better now that meds kicked in and I have two heating pads on me. I am still bleeding moderately and passing clots.

I was in less pain bleeding profusely on Friday and Saturday. Today is easily the worst of the pain – I definitely hit 9 on the pain scale today.

And now the meds are taking me under. I must sleep.

This remains a scary cycle

Yesterday’s running thought was, “I cannot for the life of me believe that this much blood can keep coming out of me.”

The flow is usually heavy for several hours, then it dies down.

It never died down yesterday.

I turned in for the night after midnight and was still bleeding heavily and whimpering in pain and had nausea. My abdomen and stomach muscles all feel like I’ve been doing situps.

Actually, that may be true…yesterday was the first day I forced bedrest for much of the day, rather than continue sitting in the hard chair in the kitchen. Although it was easier on the pelvic pain to sit in that hard chair, I wanted badly to be under warm blankets and SLEEPING. So I forced the bedrest. Once in bed, I was restless and could not sleep for very long – due to the pain – so I kept sitting up.
Going from prone to sitting up uses the abdominal muscles. Perhaps I strained myself.

Or perhaps I’m bleeding so much that it’s “normal” for my abs to feel all bruised like this. I don’t know which scenario is true, and whether I should be concerned/scared…but the emotional truth is that I am really scared.

I woke up a few times during the night to go to the toilet, and even in the wee hours, I was still filling the bowl with blood – and also big clots. I kept saying to myself, “It’s never this heavy for this long. What is wrong?”

Both my gynecologist office and my local doctor herself called me back yesterday to tell me that all this bleeding is NOT caused by the endometrioma on my left ovary – that the ovary itself does not produce blood – that the bleeding is caused by the shedding lining of the uterus – that it must have just been extra thick lining this month.

And yet, every woman I’ve talked to who has dealt with ovarian cysts and/or endometriomas has said that they have encountered super heavy bleeding. My online friend V said she went through FOUR pads in one hour a few days ago!!! She also has an endometrioma.

Also, Mayo Clinic, the U.S. governmental Women’s Health page, and wikipedia all tell me that abnormal bleeding can be the result of having an ovarian cyst and/or endometrioma. These sites even mention the ‘bruised ribs’ / ‘worked out abs’ feeling I am experiencing – as being ‘normal’ for one who has an ovarian cyst or endometrioma.

So my endo sisters and the Internet ease my panic and fears over all this heavy bleeding, while once again, my doctors dismiss my experience.

I woke in pain at 7am, after emotional dreams. My best friend from high school and my best friend from back in 2002 – both who left me – was morphed into one person in the dream, and she was re-establishing contact with me to introduce me to her wife and show me her toddler son. She had been uneasy about this little reunion, because she thought I’d be mad at her for coming out of the closet, since I’d had a crush on her and she’d spurned me. I just wanted everything to be okay between us again. It was very awkward and emotional.

Anyway, I got out of bed and went and stood in the kitchen eating some food so that I could take more medication without running the risk of a stomach ache. I took an entire Tylenol 3, 600mg Ibuprofen, and .5mg Ativan.

I cannot remember how much medication I consumed yesterday. I think it was a total of three Tylenol 3 pills in a 14 hour period, and 1,200mg Ibuprofen, and .5mg Ativan.

My pain yesterday never got below a 7 on the pain scale, and was often hovering near 8. I need to also note that I’ve had annoying ‘growing pain’ type pain in the left leg all throughout this cycle.

In graphic terms, it would look like this on the Allie Brosh pain scale:

alliebroshpainface8

 

But when I woke at 7am this morning, still bleeding heavily and passing big clots, I became even more scared. I kept saying to myself, “The bleeding is supposed to have tapered off by now.” This put me in the Allie Brosh pain scale graphic of:
alliebroshpainface7

 

The drugs have kicked in, so I’m going back to bed. I lose another productive morning to the pain. I hope I do not lose the entire day like I did yesterday. There’s so much homework still to be done. I return to work on Monday. I had completely hoped I would have all of my homework done by the time I returned to work. Because of my emotional meltdown at the end of July and into the first three weeks of August, and because of the endometriosis pain last cycle and this cycle, I have lost MANY DAYS of productive homework time.

I hate this illness. I hate it. HATE. IT.