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.


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.

Bedridden days are here for me again

Today I threw up from the pain. My period arrived yesterday after a 34-day hiatus.

My last post was May 7, where I was dumbfounded by an extension of my period, which was alarmingly odd. That pain and bleeding lasted until May 13. I then experienced days of no pain, days of some pain, off and on like that through to the end of the month. I thought my next period was due May 24, but that date came and went with no sign of george.

Then he arrived yesterday as I mentioned above. Obviously the endometrioma is wreaking havoc inside of me.

Yesterday and last night, I had moderate pain. It was manageable, though. This morning, as I was leaving the house for work, the pain suddenly shot up to a 7 on the pain scale. It happened right after I had to swerve and honk the car horn to avoid an asshole trying to run a stop sign. That minor adrenaline rush was all it took to set the pain in motion.
I had to turn around only a block from my home, drive back home, take some Tylenol 3 and put on a heating pad, and then try again to get to work. I was about 10 minutes late to work. I popped 800mg Ibuprofen and tried to go about my day, but the pain just kept getting worse throughout the day.

I took another half Tylenol 3 just before lunch time to no avail. I then popped 800mg more of Ibuprofen after lunch. I thought getting to 8 on the pain scale by lunch time was going to be my worst, but no… the pain got to 8.5 while I was in a head teacher meeting around 4pm, and was accompanied by a horrible headache. I tried to leave immediately after the meeting, but ran back inside the building to vomit. Yes, I vomited because the pain was so bad. I haven’t done that in a long time.

I got home and just like that, the headache subsided, as did the pain. I’m seriously exhausted from the trauma of it all, so I took a nap for an hour, only waking up because of the pressure on my bladder from all the buildup of menstrual fluid.

As soon as I used the bathroom, WOOSH the pain level shot up again and the headache returned. I just took a whole Tylenol 3.

Please kill me now.

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/

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.

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.

Quick update

I’m up to my eyeballs in work and school responsibilities right now, so I’ve not kept up with blogging in my usual narrative style. Sorry about that.

This is just a list – a run through of the past month. It will be TMI. I’m still experiencing some of the same things as happened before surgery.

Sunday, March 27, 2011: The usual pre-menstrual anal bleeds, which warn me that my period is on its way. It’s not always painful – it’s just alarming to see that much bright blood with a bowel movement. It happens every month right before my period.

Monday, March 28, 2011: Continued anal bleeds.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011: Moderate low back pain

Wednesday, March 30, 2011: Intermittent uterine cramps throughout the day.

Thursday, March 31, 2011: Very painful cramps which woke me at 3:30am. Took 1/2 T3. Cramps present again at 7am. Still bicycled to work because I’d missed my bus. Meanwhile, still dealing with bronchitis and had to use my inhaler when I got to work. Vaginal mucosa changed that afternoon to a pale pink.

Friday, April 1, 2011: George arrived. Still went to work for a full day. Hung out with friends at their house that night, eating tons of junky food.

Saturday, April 2, 2011: Day 2 of george. Took public transit to get my hair cut by a friend, then took transit home, then went and visited father-in-law in hospital rehabilitation.

Sunday, April 3, 2011: Day 3 of george. Bad pain day.

Monday, April 4, 2011: Worst pain day – called in sick to work. While sitting on the couch with heating pad, I turned to my side while in the midst of a violent coughing fit, and it felt like I broke a floater rib on my right side. The pain was excruciating.
Apparently this was the last of my coughing fits, and it really went out with a bang! I called the doctor, who said it’s likely a strain, not broken, cuz there’s no external bruising.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011: went back to work, still bleeding but the worst pain was over. Now dealing with the very painful rib strain. On 1,200 – 1,600mg Ibuprofen, taking Tylenol 3 at night to sleep through the rib pain.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011: Spotting. Still dealing with the very painful rib strain. On 1,200 – 1,600mg Ibuprofen, taking Tylenol 3 at night to sleep through the rib pain.

Thursday, April 7, 2011: Spotting. Still dealing with the very painful rib strain. On 1,200 – 1,600mg Ibuprofen, taking Tylenol 3 at night to sleep through the rib pain.

Friday, April 8, 2011:

The pre-op appointment (Mark II)

Because my first pre-op appointment three years ago was not documented, I give you… super long ass detailed entry for this pre-op appointment!

I woke this morning around 6:30am in debilitating pain. I estimated I was 7.5 on the pain scale. Getting out of bed ramped it up to 8 on the pain scale. I wolfed down some cereal and took 1.5 Tylenol 3 in an effort to whack the pain.

Just after 7am, we loaded the wheelchair into the car and were on the road. I was nauseous and shaking from the pain – about an 8.5 on the pain scale. I cried on the way to the doctor’s office.

The pain meds kicked in about 30 minutes after taking them. I became chatty and felt alright. We were on the Bay Bridge, just approaching the toll booth at that time.

Then it went aweful again.

I became really dizzy and nauseated from the Tylenol 3. It occurred to me then that this had happened before – on the drive back from our one year wedding anniversary in Mendocino, California last year. I was on Vicoprofen at the time, but the results are similar enough – I was severely nauseated and dizzy and hunched over in the seat to try not to vomit.

So I noted out loud that when I am on codeine, I must not be in a moving vehicle, nor should I be ambulatory.

The visit itself went well. Nurse Jessie could see that I was poorly, so she ushered me into the room she usually reserves for me when I visit. She had me lay on the exam table and put a blanket on me. She got me a cup of hot water to drink.

My husband was with me the whole time. I was able to snooze for a few minutes, and then Dr. Giudice and her assistant, Dr. Skillern, came in to start the visit. At first Dr. Giudice described the general procedure and what to expect. She let Dr. Skillern talk a few times. After a few minutes, I said I was confused – I thought Dr. Wang was going to assist. Dr. G and Dr. S looked at each other, then back at me, and Dr. G simply said, “she was, but no.”

Oooooookay then! Wonder what untimely end her employment met!

At this point, I gruntled and shifted and forced myself to sit up so I could take notes, because I noticed my husband was not writing down anything on the questionnaire I had typed up. My surgeon took the 3-page document and we went over it together, twice, just to make sure everything was covered.

You really should copy these questions for your own surgeon interview. I got the questions from various places on the web, as well as using my own questions.
The questions are barely in any ordered format.

1) How many pelvic laparoscopies for endometriosis have you performed?

Well over 500 since 1987.

2) How many in the past month?

Dr. Giudice is a big ‘ol rock star now, so she often travels for seminars and such. She said that 93-95% of her surgeries per month are specifically for endometriosis.

3) How many had complications during the procedure?

She hates to jinx herself, but she says only one complication, and it was a fibroid issue – she discovered it was embedded in the uterine wall when she tried to take it out….

4) Do you have rectal surgery experience?

Yes, but it depends on how serious the endo is in that region.

4a) If not, will you have someone on hand in case there is rectal involvement?

No – she said that if adhesions to the rectum and intestines are found, they’ll do what they can within reason. However, if it requires a bowel surgeon, it’ll have to be yet another surgery. They just don’t have the surgeon on standby like that. Ugh.

5) Do you have intestinal surgery experience?


5a) If not, will you have someone on hand in case there is intestinal involvement?

See 4a above.

6) How much experience with pelvic laparoscopy for endometriosis does your assistant have?

More than 84 laparoscopic hysterectomies.

7) How many staff will be in the operating room with you, and what are their jobs?

Roughly six people: surgeon, surgeon’s assistant, anesthesiologist, anesthesiologist technician, scrub tech, and a circulation nurse.

8) Will you please correct my retroverted uterus?

Sadly, she cannot. She said the uterus is already held in place by a series of ligaments, and to push it into a position it was never in, even if it’s the “right” position, can lead to tissue damage and serious side effects. She said she’d see what she can do while she’s in there – perhaps she can put some sort of material between the uterus and the bowels so that it’s not gluing itself to the bowels anymore…

9) What sort of preparation is necessary for this surgery?

She wants me to do a bowel prep. HUGE SAD FACE.

10) What kind of anesthesia will be used?

General – I will be intubated.

11) Will I be given Versed?

I can ask for it at time of surgery.

12) How long do you expect the procedure to take?

Two and a half hours.

13) If one or both ovaries are badly damaged from the endometriosis, will you take one or both out, and what are my next steps (even if it’s just one ovary that has to be taken out)

It is not her intent to take anything. She only intends to treat surface disease and excise the endometriomas.

14) Will there be photos or video of the surgery?


15) If a biopsy is done, when can I expect to receive results, and will my doctor call me?

Ten days post-op, though the holiday may delay until after Christmas (unless it’s bad news, then I’ll be notified immediately). The doctor herself will call me in either case.

16) I do not plan to take hormonal suppression after surgery – will this prolong healing time?

Not per se – taking hormonal suppression only serves to help prevent regrowth.

17) What vitamins/supplements should I avoid just prior to and after surgery?

Everything on my vitamin and supplement list is safe to take up to the day before surgery.

18) What foods and drink should I avoid just prior to and after surgery?

No food, drink or vitamins after midnight the night before surgery – otherwise, just stick to my current diet.

19) I know that being overweight can make me more high risk during surgery. How much weight should I lose in the next two weeks?

Not necessary to lose any weight (I am 5’5″ and weigh 166lbs and Dr. Giudice says it is not considered dangerous or obese for the surgical procedure).

20) What areas of my body need to be toned up in the next two weeks?

Nothing I can do will matter for this type of surgery, says Dr. Giudice, but if it will make me feel better, go for it.

21) Would a tubal ligation help in any way towards the “hormonal suppression” idea, or is it merely a birth control move?

It is merely a birth control move.

22) How many menstrual cycles do I need to give it before I declare this surgery a success?

It’s always hard to say. The risk of this surgery is that I might not experience any pain relief at all, just as with the first surgery. I was told not to be so hard on myself. I was told that they hope that I would have immediate benefit from surgery, but giving it 3-6 menstrual cycles is also rational.

23) When can I return to work as a preschool teacher?

Six weeks, preferably. Four weeks is okay with restricted movement.

24) When can I resume bicycling?

Four weeks.

25) When can I resume sexual intercourse?

Four to six weeks.

26) What results can I expect from this surgery?

Find the scar tissue and fix it. Correct the pulling on the right side.

27) What is the next step if this surgery does not work?

The Mirena IUD will once again be suggested, along with seeking help for Chronic Pain Syndrome, and continued pain management therapy.

I’ve been worried about sleep apnea and heart murmur again, because I often get up multiple times during the night to urinate, and I often have a racing heartbeat in the middle of the night. This has been going on for about a year, but I’ve been too stubborn to accept a new medical issue. Now that I’m facing surgery, I’m concerned. I would like to push for an ECG, to see if the murmur is stable since my last exam, which was in August, 2001 at CPMC.

I was told to talk to my primary doctor. I called my insurance and they said I can self refer, so I’ve got a call in to a cardiologist.

Other notes to doctor:
Please be super careful when intubating me, because last time, my lower right inside gums/jaw was scraped open. I had a gash to worry about healing in my mouth, on top of the pelvic wounds. It took weeks for my mouth to heal up.

I was told to tell this to the anesthesiologist.

Other notes to doctor:
Please be super careful when catheterising me, because it took me several months after surgery last time to regain muscle strength to stop leaking urine.

She had her assistant note this, and said they will use a pediatric cath this time.

After the appointment, which I ended because I really needed to use the bathroom, I dreaded the walk back to the car. The Tylenol 3 was still coursing through my bloodstream, so even the elevator ride back down to the main floor made me wanna hurl. Once outside, I was off balance and shuffled a lot. I had a fixed gaze and probably a stupor to my face the whole way back to the parking garage. I did not use the wheelchair, though, because I felt that sitting and being pushed would be like being driven in the car, and that made me super nauseated.

The car ride back home was just as nauseating as the car ride to the appointment, but with the added hell that the pain relief part of the medication was wearing off. I felt every single bump in the road, and yelped continually. I declared that we are renting a Lincoln Continental or similar for surgery day. I want something comfortable and quiet to ride in. Hubby said no problem. ;)

I had blood work to submit, so my husband took me to the lab in our town. It’s not usually busy. I staggered in and filled out the paperwork, and waited. There was one guy ahead of me, rattling off all the names of people close to him who’ve died in the past year. So sad. He was getting blood work to rule out some kind of illness – he was saying he hoped he’d get good news back. I hope he does, too.

The phlebotomist I had was horrible. I think she was still rattled from the last guy, cuz when she emerged from drawing his blood, she looked like a deer caught in headlights. And she was young. She asked me what my blood draw was for and when I told her, she had no idea what endometriosis was, and told me she hoped the surgery lasted so that I’d never need another. Feh. That’s not how endometriosis works, but thanks.
She stuck the needle in without first securing the tourniquet or even telling me to squeeze my fist. Then she moved the needle around confusedly when the blood didn’t start pouring into the vial. I squirmed and yelped and whined, just as my husband returned with his coffee and said ‘Hi!’ … then he went grey and backed away into the waiting room.
The phlebotomist apologised but kept at it. A few seconds more and I could take no more. I told her to stop. She looked defeated. I told her to try the other arm, and not until the tourniquet was on for a moment, and not until I was squeezing my fist. She obeyed, and the blood squirted forth into the vial.

When we got back from the lab, I got into my pajamas, ate a couple of potato chips and went to bed. I was only able to sleep for about 45 minutes before I woke starving. I ate some pumpkin pie and something else – I forget.

I was unable to go back to sleep, but at least the pain had gone back down to a 4. I was still pretty high from the one morning dose. I kept trying to nap, but it wouldn’t last long. Around 3pm, I finally fell asleep for an hour and a half. The only reason I woke was that my cat had knocked against the inside of the closet. The noise alarmed me, which alerted me to the fact that my bladder/uterus was screaming to be emptied. I also noticed at that point that I was insatiably thirsty. I went through a pint and a half of water in minutes. This of course led to me having to pee every five minutes for the next two hours…

At about five minutes to 5pm, while bedridden and hanging out on the laptop, a new round of cramps appeared. I had the webcam on while chatting with my husband, so he got to see the change in my face, and he mentioned it. The cramps ramped up immediately from a 6 to an 8. I whimpered and yelped and tried to breathe. I took a full Tylenol 3, cursing the entire time, as I had only had one half hour of lucidity all damned day, and now I had to start a new round of being high on pain meds.

No position was comfortable. I stood up. I squatted down. I got on hands and knees. I stretched up, then down. I tried heating pad on the front, then on the back. I sat on my knees. It wasn’t until the Tylenol 3 kicked in and I had some dissociation that the intensity calmed down. Now I can feel the stinging pain, but at a distance. I have low level nausea from the meds and all the blood. And if I wasn’t already tired, I’m more tired. When my husband gets home, we’ll have Indian food delivered and then I’ll go to bed for the night, and hope I wake up pain-free tomorrow.

Wait For It…

Here we are, once again, with the waiting game, and all the uncertainties of moment-to-moment planning.

I could blame it on all the sugar and alcohol (sake) I’ve consumed over the past four days. I could blame it on the blasted endometriomas on both ovaries. I could blame it on being stressed out by work, unfinished summer school homework, and my upcoming surgery. I could blame it on me being 39 years old. I could blame it on the overall illness itself: endometriosis.

But the fact remains that George was due on Saturday, and there’s still no flow, yet.

It’s the same thing I’ve ranted about, before:

I feel like I’m in limbo whenever my period is late. I go through each minute of each day knowing I should have been bedridden already. I’d already planned for the time off work. I’d already stocked up on groceries and tried to prep the house for my descent to the underworld. And then george is a no-show and I’m left biding my time, Waiting For It.
I’m in that special hell where I cannot exert myself too much because it causes pain…but I’m not in debilitating pain. And I’m super tired – I want to sleep all day and all night. And yet because there is no constant gnawing pain and/or bleeding going on, I feel like I’m expected to BE somewhere and DO something productive. But my body isn’t up for it. But my mind is restless. So the guilt sets in. I have video blogged about the guilt before, but it’s so hard to LEARN the lesson and just be okay with whatever my cycle is doing – just roll with it.


And now, the TMI part. It’s for science! It’s for education! It’s because there is no owner’s manual so I try to create it as I go!

On Saturday, I experienced low back and pelvic pain throughout the day – I was at a 3.5 on the pain scale for much of the day. It was annoying pain, but not debilitating. My mid to upper back kept trying to seize up, though, and this got worse by 10pm, when my vaginal mucosa changed from clear to pinkish. I contemplated taking a Tylenol 3, but I’m running low on it, so I didn’t take any. I did however consume 1,200mg of ibuprofen that day.

This morning (Sunday) I began spotting – it is dark brown and sticky, which is why I’m blaming all the sugar and alcohol intake. The spotting never ramped up the entire day, but the pain has been like a yo-yo. I took a total of 1,200mg ibuprofen again, and ate half a Tylenol 3 during the afternoon, which surprisingly made me quite loopy when I ran some errands with my husband. Thankfully, he was the one driving!

I was hoping that since I’ve been in moderate pain for the past week that I could at least have had my period by now, but noooooooo. The spotting that was happening has since disappeared since my shower this evening.

I’m setting my alarm for the usual time tomorrow, because I have no idea if I’ll be in any shape to go in to work or not. Had everything happened on time yesterday, I’d have spent half of yesterday in bed, all of today in bed already, and would be on Day 3 by tomorrow already. But noooooo. I get to start off at Day 1, Take Two, tomorrow.

Day 6 and 7 of November Hell

This has officially entered into NOT OKAY territory.

I continued to have pelvic pain throughout the day and evening on Sunday. I forgot how much Advil I ingested, but I know I took half a Tylenol 3 Sunday night before going to a friend’s house to hang out.

Yesterday was my first day back to work after missing two and a half days late last week. I bicycled to work, because I was excited to no longer be bedridden, and the cramps and bleeding had gone away. Or so I thought. :(

I experienced intermittent, sharp pain in the low uterus and on the right ovary throughout the day. The pain got really bad when I pedaled hard from work to my psychology appointment (ONE MILE), then pedaled hard to get home (HALF a mile!) so I could make it to my naturopathy appointment in time.

These are short distances I pedaled, on level ground. To be in a lot of pain like that threw me for a loop, but it’s not the first time. It happened to me back on September 20, while bicycling to my psychology appointment after work. I experienced pulling, stabbing pain in my right ovary. The pain lasted for several minutes after I climbed the two flights of stairs to my shrink’s office. Same thing again yesterday, but it was both the low uterus and the right ovary.

I have had the usual “OMG I’M SO TIRED” post-menstrual cycle thing going on, only it’s exacerbated by the fact that we just observed Daylight Saving Time this past weekend. So this fatigue thing will last through the next cycle for me, at least. :(

Last night we hung out at another friend’s house, so we could watch the second episode of The Walking Dead (it’s awesome, btw). Once again, I needed Advil (400mg) and Tylenol 3 (half a pill) to get through the evening. It was much worse to be standing or walking. The pain was likely a 5.5 on the pain scale when it struck throughout the day, spiking to 7 when I was riding my bike. The pain dropped to a 3 on the scale when I was sitting, though every muscle in my body was tense again, steeling against pain.

I got home from the shrink last night and then hopped in my car and drove over to the dispensary to attend my first Naturopathy class. Like most things, I’ll try it once and see how it goes. The naturopathic doctor I saw knows what endometriosis is, and seems confident she can help alleviate some of my pain. She is realistic and knows that the condition is currently without a cure, and very tricky to control. For that, I am retaining her. I like smart doctors who aren’t arrogant or cocky, or who promise me a cure *coughchoke*doctorkateo’hanlan*cough*

This brings us up to today. The pelvic pain is STILL with me. I had intermittent pain throughout the day again, and it got to stabbing level, spiking to a 7, when I ran half a block from my car to my home to catch the FedEx person in time. Once again, standing is worse than sitting. I’m about to head out with my husband for some groceries and supplies based upon my visit to the Naturopath last night, so we’ll see how bad the pain gets. :(

Going back to the Naturopath for a moment – she has several things for women with endometriosis to try. I am sharing these things here for women who do not have a Prop 215 card and/or who cannot afford to see a Naturopath:

  • Drink half your body weight in ounces each day to facilitate elimination.
  • Use castor oil packs over the abdomen and pelvic region every day for 20 minutes (see instructions below).
  • Buy the Anti-Inflammation Diet and Recipe Book, by Jessica Black, ND
  • 1oz vitex agnus-castus (chasteberry) twice daily via dropper or mixed into food
  • 15 drops of seroyal chelidonium plex twice daily
  • Seed cycle: From Day 1 of menses to Day 15, take 1tbsp daily of ground flax and ground pumpkin seed. From Day 16 back to Day 1 again, take 1tbsp daily of ground sesame and ground sunflower seed.


To create the castor oil pack, you will need:

  • unbleached, non-dyed cotton, wool or flannel cloth, about 15″ – 20″ in size
  • plastic wrap (or wax paper)
  • glass dish with lid
  • small bath towel
  • hot water bottle or heating pad
  • 6oz castor oil


Directions for the castor oil pack:

  • Pour enough castor oil onto the fabric to saturate the cloth.
  • Lie down and place the oil-saturated cloth directly on skin over treatment area.
  • Castor oil stains! You may wish to cover the saturated fabric with a piece of plastic wrap or wax paper.
  • Place the bath towel over the plastic wrap. If using heat, apply it now (medium warmth).
  • Rest. :) You can rest for 20 mins or leave the pack on overnight.
  • When you are done, store the oil-saturated fabric in a glass container with a lid. The fabric and oil can be used for months this way. Add more castor oil as needed. If you take a break in treatment days, just store the container w/ fabric in the refrigerator.
  • To remove the castor oil from your skin, wash with a solution of 3tbsp baking soda per quart of water. You can use the same solution for washing castor oil out of linens and fabrics. Keep in mind that castor oil WILL stain cloth!

It seems like a lot, but I’ve done a lot more for other regimens, elimination diets, and detoxes/flushes.

It’s one more thing I have to say, “Hey, I tried it.”

Surgery going forward as originally planned

Back on September 13th, I said we could not afford a second surgery for me until sometime next year.

Well, I forget, but it was sometime last week that I called my husband’s health insurance company to find out exact costs and co-pays for a second pelvic laparoscopy.

To my utter surprise, it appears that we have already met the deductible for the surgery, and some of my regular visits to the UCSF campus for pain management have been applied to the overall co-pay.

So the expected $1,400 co-pay for surgery is actually just under $300!

I had another talk with my husband, and asked if he could *please* put money away at each pay period through December to help me go through with this surgery.

I also asked what kind of surgery Dr. Giudice prefers. The staff asked for me, and I got a call back telling me that she prefers electrocoagulation type laparoscopy, and will do that for part of my surgery. BUT where it comes to the ovaries, she prefers to excise the endometriosis. I was told that she will use her best judgement and likely do both electrocoagulation and excision wherever necessary during my surgery.

She is not afraid to tackle the endometriosis on the bladder reflection, but will be cautious.

She is not afraid to check in the recto-vaginal canal for endometriosis, which she thinks was missed during my first surgery (and is very often easily missed because it is hard to visualise in the laparoscope).

So…that’s that. I will continue to avoid Dr. Cook for the time being, who is too good to take health insurance. Much of my costs at UCSF can be covered with my insurance through Aetna with a famous and renowned surgeon who does both electrocoagulation and excision surgery.

Pre-op is set for December 1, 2010.

Surgery is set for December 17, 2010.

No, going through one surgery does not make it easier to go through a second surgery.

I am terrified. I have lots of little fears and ‘what ifs’ as to things that could go wrong. That never changes.

And now I’m faced with having to possibly have no choice in taking a mood stabiliser, because I may have to go on hormonal treatment again after this second surgery. I don’t want to be more unstable than I already am, but I might have to go through it anyway (re: trying out the lamictal) – Just In Case surgery comes along and says ‘sorry, had to take an ovary’ or ‘sorry, killed the ovary by accident’ or ‘I don’t want you menstruating for three months post-op’. Any of those scenarios could happen. And I will need to be on mood stabilisers already -stuff that has been tried and trusted by the time of surgery – already in my system – so the synthetic hormone therapy doesn’t make me whacked and seriously With A Plan suicidal like it did back in 2007.

There is just too much on my emotional plate.

Too much.

Too much.

The mental state of Steph

I should start noting my mental state here. I’ve been seeing a psychologist, and I saw a psychiatrist on September 14. Both think I may be bi-polar, but they do not agree on which type of bi-polar I am.

The psychiatrist gave me a prescription for abilify, but I refused to take it. I asked for and got Lamictal, instead. I still haven’t taken it, though. I am afraid of more side effects. I’m done with more and more mental stuff going wrong with me.

I’ll restate what I said in my previous entry –
Because I’ve not really enjoyed a pain-free or sick-free or allergy-reaction-free day in about seven weeks, I have hit my breaking point emotionally.

I’ve already been wrestling with what I call ‘dangerous depression’ since the end of July.

Well, it’s getting louder in the head, and more externally vocalised.

I went with my husband to a Victorian-era home showing that happens every year in our city. There were eight homes on the bill to walk through. I did not enjoy it this year. It was painful to move. My low back pain crept back in to flare with the trapped nerve in the shoulder, every time I had to climb stairs, or really move at all. And I was still in pain from one visit to the gym last Thursday.

I was super depressed.

I guess it doesn’t help that I’ve been on Soma (muscle relaxer) for two weeks, and I know from experience that it adds to my depression. I have not had a dose of it today and will refrain from taking any more of it.

After the home showing, there was the annual parking lot sale over at the famous tiki bar in town, so we went on over.
I immediately went for the booze. First time in 51 days that I got absolutely full on drunk. My husband had gone off to his sacred game night, leaving me in the company of friends still at the tiki bar. I was still going when his game session got out around 10pm. He picked me up and took my sorry ass home. Thankfully, no tears or puke or hangover this time. I drank lots and lots of water, thanks to a very attentive bartender, and was a good girl and drank lots of water when I got home, and took vitamins and advil.

I remain dangerously depressed.

Today at work, while rocking a child at naptime, I got stabbing right side ovarian pain that lasted for about five minutes. It went away until now. I’m just sitting on the couch, typing, and the ovary is pulsing a low stabbing pain. Today is Day 10 of the new cycle, so I guess it’s mittelschmerz, which usually happens at Day 8 of the cycle, but has been off by a day or three for a few months, sometimes not happening at all. I blame it on the endometriomas on both ovaries.

I bicycled home from work in 95°F heat – thankfully the ovary did not stab me on the ride home.
But I am wiped out after spending some time in the outdoors at work today. Ugh.

So this mental health thing. The meds. I’m so tired of meds. Today I started a detox diet – the one I tried to start back in July or August and didn’t keep up with. So I started it over today. Lots of supplemental pills to take with every meal.
And then either tonight or sometime this week, I might begin taking the Lamictal. I’m terrified of it. Read all the horrific side effects here. If you think that looks bad, read the side effects for Abilify, which is what the psychologist originally wanted me on and I said no way.

Now, let me tell you again what I’ve said before. I have been going through what I call dangerous depression since the end of July, 2010, because of all my pain conditions and reactions to medications.

This is also known as, yes I will spell it out and face up to it: suicidal ideation.

I have wrestled with suicidal ideation for much of my life, so this is nothing new. The frequency is what is worrying me.

But look here, if I take Lamictal or Abilify, the warning is basically the same:

Patients, their caregivers, and families should be counseled that AEDs, including LAMICTAL, may increase the risk of suicidal thoughts and behavior and should be advised of the need to be alert for the emergence or worsening of symptoms of depression, any unusual changes in mood or behavior, or the emergence of suicidal thoughts, behavior, or thoughts about self-harm. Behaviors of concern should be reported immediately to healthcare providers.

Why would I want to take a drug that will make me MORE suicidal than I already am?

I already went down that road once, with SSRIs (Paxil), back in 2000.

Honestly, I probably won’t take the medication. I’ll get my diagnosis officially recorded as bi-polar something and then I’ll manage it myself. I’ve lived this long…