Two months ago today, I went into the operating room for a surgery I had been trying to get for a year.
At that point in time, my health had continued to decline, and it was declining faster and faster as time went on.I saw an amazing nurse practitioner who listened as I cried, explaining at a 7am appointment about how miserable I was. I had been in the ER the night before due to the pain. She told me that I had gone through more than anyone else should ever have to endure, and that while she couldn’t do much for me as a nurse, she could refer me to a doctor and start me on the path to surgery.
The doctor I ended up seeing after two rounds of blood work, two ultrasounds and a month of anxiously waiting while dealing with the daily pain from endometriosis made it very clear at that appointment that she had no interest or plan in even helping me have somewhat of a normal life.
She told me:
I was fat.
That OTC pain killers would cure all the pain (yeah, okay).
She told me to come back in three months, and if then I had “lost weight”, she would “consider” surgery.
I walked out, got into my car and sobbed. I had such high hopes for this appointment and wanted to feel better. I wanted to feel like a medical professional understood me, cared about me, wanted to help me as I had only been getting worse, and worse, and worse.
Instead, I was pushed out and told to make a follow up appointment in three months if things didn’t get better. They didn’t. They got worse. My girlfriend saw me start to wither away because I was exhausted. I couldn’t sleep. I continued to be in and out of the ER due to pain and heavy bleeding. I was only getting worse… and no one cared.
Three months later, I anxiously made my follow up call.
I spoke up, saying this doctor really was not the right fit for me and asked to see someone else.
The next doctor I saw changed my life entirely.
At that same appointment, the first time I met Dr. Hastings – she agreed surgery was what we needed to do. She sat and listened and watched as I cried, telling her about how no one wanted to help me, how my health was going downhill. I had been in and out of the ER several times in the past year because of endometriosis.
She told me as I left that she was going to help me get the relief I needed, the relief I deserved. That same day, she carried my file into the surgery coordinators office. I was told to call back if I hadn’t heard back in about a week. I walked out of the appointment stunned.
Time and time again, I had gotten my hopes up and had them crushed.
Time and time again, I was left to only get worse, worse, worse.
Three weeks later, when I got the phone call with my surgery date – I sat at my desk with “Fight Song” playing and cried. This was going to happen. I had a surgery date. I was on the road to recovery. I was on the road, waiting anxiously until my surgery date.
On August 12, 2016 – I walked into the outpatient surgery center, registered and sat anxiously to be called back to be be prepped for surgery. I had hardly slept the night before. I was anxious. I was worried. At the same time, I knew that I was in good hands. I had a doctor who cared about me and who wanted the best for me.
Oddly enough, I had found out just two days prior that my doctor would be having a collegue assist in the surgery. At first I was pissed when I found out who it was, but Dr. Hastings assured me that she would be doing most of the work and the assisting surgeon would be there only if needed. Who was this doctor? Yup. You guessed it. The one who called me fat and made it clear she didn’t want to treat me.
Going into it, I knew that there was a very real chance that I could end up with a larger incision. It was one of those things where we planned for it to be a last resort, but I also knew because of how sick I was – that it was a very real chance it would happen.
My mom came in and we took some pictures before they wheeled me back into the operating room.
The last thing I remember were the jellyfish floating around on the operating room, moving onto the operating table and the anesthesiologist telling me he was giving me some medication in my IV to calm me down before surgery started. I don’t remember anything after that.
When I woke in recovery, I really had no idea what the fuck was going on. I don’t remember much, even two months later. My mom said I was in a lot of paint, but I don’t remember it.
I remember feeling gross. I vaguely remember my doctor coming in and giving me an overview of the surgery. I remember trying to focus on her and what she was saying but the only thing I could absorb was this:
“We had to do the larger incision, we got in there, and we realized we needed to open you up all the way. It was the best option and we were able to excise a lot of the disease, adhesions and scar tissue.”
What I didn’t know and understand at that point in time was just how sick I was.
I later learned that I was unable to be weaned off of the oxygen, and even with the oxygen, I was wheezing. My heart rate was sky high and eventually that started to come down as we found a pain medication to help… it didn’t last long once they had me up and moving.
They had gotten me stable enough they thought I could go home and removed the catheter. The nurses helped me into a wheelchair and took me into the bathroom to make sure I could urinate on my own. I remember clutching one of those barf bags in my hand, remembering how I threw up post op nine years ago with my first surgery.
The moment they got me up and started to get me back into the wheelchair, I nearly passed out and threw up.
It wasn’t too much later that they decided to admit me for the night for observation. I was still too sick, too unstable. I was upset, but I knew that this was the best option for me. I hated it. I wanted to go home. I wanted to be in my own bed. I knew I had to stay.
I surprised my nurses over the night 18 hours at how well I was up and moving on my own and how well I had begun to recover. I was still shaky, exhausted and sore. My blood sugar was high but my breathing and heart rate had finally stabilized. I blew those nurses away.
I proved to them, and myself, that I am a fighter.
It’s been two months now.
In a way, it seems like it was forever ago. What turned into what was supposed to be four one inch incisions, turned into a six inch incision and two months off of work while I recovered.
I had staples. I had a minor infection.
I sunk into a deep post op depression.
When I look back today, I don’t really think I grasped how this surgery was going to impact my life. I knew it would change a lot of things. I knew I would start to feel better as I got further and further into recovery, but I never really fully understand how different things would be.
I celebrated the day I had my staples removed (that entire experience had me terrified and on the edge of a panic attack, but it was over before I knew it with minimal pain. I felt so much better once those damn things were out).
I celebrated my first shower (thank god for shower chairs).
I celebrated as each steri strip began to fall off.
I took daily incision photos.
Every day, I started to notice a difference. Some days I slept more than others, I bled heavily for the first week post op. The day to day pain I remember before surgery wasn’t entirely gone… but the surgery had helped so much that I have only had two, maybe three days, where I’ve had to take the prescription strength pain meds.
It’s been a long two months. It feels like it’s been forever.
I just went back to work last week (surprised my work kids – they had no idea I was even picking them up, much less coming back that day). It’s getting into a new routine. It’s learning that I still need to be gentle on my body. I’m still healing. I had major surgery with major complications.
It’s a period I shouldn’t be having and the endometriosis pain that comes along with it. Even with surgery, I knew I would still have pain. Remember, there is no cure for endometriosis. It is a daily battle, even with surgery making such a huge difference in my life already.
It’s learning that I still need to rest when my body is telling me to rest.
It’s learning that my body is still regaining the strength and energy I once had.
It’s pushing through the last of school and walking the stage for the local graduation ceremony – one month and three days after surgery. I walked across the stage and become a high school graduate.
It’s been healing – and it hasn’t been easy. It’s exhausting. It’s painful. There are days where I have to stay in bed and just listen my body and take care of myself.
A lot has changed in two months… I’ve come so far, and there’s even more to come as time passes.
Overall, it’s learning that my entire life has changed.