“You’re going to need surgery,” he says quickly, staring at the monitor.
At this point we’ve known each other for less than an hour, and he knows more about my body than I do. Or even want to. I knew something was wrong. Looking down at my misshapen abdomen covered in cold, sticky jelly, I’m annoyed at the paper gown draped over my chest. What’s the point of a paper gown? It feels cheap, and I’m certain I will be receiving a bill that would have paid for something much more comfortable. That’s where my mind keeps going, money and comfort. Two reasons why I’ve avoided, cancelled, changed and found any excuse possible to find out why my body isn’t right.
I’m going to be completely honest, I’ve always had a rough relationship with my uterus. I started having a period when I was in the fourth grade and was put on birth control soon after to ‘help regulate and control’ the effects it had on my body. My period was never on schedule, involved severe cramping and pain, an amount of blood loss that always made me anxious & mood swings so bad I can still hear my Grandma in the other room saying ‘Pete I just don’t know what to do with her.’
Now here we are, at 35 I’ve googled a specialist in Chicago & made it to the 4th rescheduled appointment. Surgery I think, maybe it’s something simple, outpatient & no anesthesia. He seems confident and smart, and I can tell he cares about all of this. Although I could have done without the ‘I know this is uncomfortable’ comment. Actually sir, you don’t know, I wink at the nurse who is standing by my feet. She knows it’s uncomfortable, she gets it- we both smile.
I get dressed and follow him down a long hallway, passing exam rooms and bathrooms. It’s like a maze. He is walking so fast his white coat flies up behind him. I’m actually relieved. I very much dislike talking to doctors in exam rooms, it’s cold, sterile and that paper gown… Maybe we are going somewhere nicer, the walk is allowing me some space to get my thoughts together. Passing his office, papers everywhere, thank you cards and letters sitting in every available surface, I think, “if I were a doctor, that’s what my office would look like.”
We go into the next room with one of those big long tables used for conferences and important meetings. A window with a view of Chicago, more thank you cards line the window sills.
A nurse comes in and sits with us. He tells me I have fibroids. I’ve known this for a while. He says they’ve gotten worse and they need to be surgically removed. He asks how I know that I’ve had them. I tell him about a time a few years ago moved to Chicago and had to spend the night in the ER because I was bleeding so bad. The doctor during that stay told me it was because of the fibroids, but didn’t say it was something that was very serious. He tells me this is serious. They are taking up so much space in my abdomen that they are pushing my organs around. This explains the pain. Basically they gotta go.
Great. This is good I think. Let’s take out the bad parts. New year, new me.
He starts talking about surgery. There will be anesthesia & cutting me open. Not great. I’m scared now. He tells me I have a 40% chance of them coming back. When they do I have to go through removal processes all over again. More money, more expensive doctor visits.
I take deep breaths and focus on the view outside. Just say it I tell myself, just ask him, what do you have to lose? I remember asking questions like the one I’m about to ask, the disgusted faces, the ‘Absolutely not! You’re too young!’ responses. Every well meaning doctor or nurse, man or woman I’ve had up until this point has given me a lecture when I ask them this question. Like I’m a child that hasn’t lived in this body long enough to know what I need. Living in a society that tells me I’m old enough to use my body to make babies, but too young to make decisions about whether or not I want to. It’s confusing.
3.2.1… “Can I just take it out, can I just have a, uh a uh hysterectomy?” I blurt out. Maybe if I say it fast enough he won’t be weird about it.
He says that it’s an option.
I stare at him. Now what? It’s never gone like this. Ever. Am I going to be able to take out an organ that I genuinely feel is out to destroy my happiness, and apparently now my health? I’m relieved.
We spend the next 15-30 minutes discussing the reasons behind my desire for a hysterectomy (I will revisit these reasons in a future post). He makes certain that I know what this means. No babies. I assure him I’ve done my research, the self reflection, I’m studying to be a therapist, I tell him. Most of that work is about understanding myself. I’m 35, I’ve thought about this a lot, I know I have no desire to be a mother. I’m not going to use it anyway, let’s just take it out, like a bad tooth or an appendix.
He is kind, he tells me that he wants to do what I chose for my body. He says he is here for me. I sit there, staring at the thank you cards. I make a mental note to write him one, for this exact moment of freedom from judgement he has given me.
After he leaves the nurse schedules the appointment.
“I graduate in May, so can we do it before then,” I ask.
She pauses, “but that’s so soon, we usually schedule a few months out.” (This appointment took place in late March.)
“I know. It’s just that I’ve been working so hard for such a long time on this degree, and also insurance.”
Her face softens.
“The school I go to requires that I have health insurance, so I pay for it in my tuition. When I graduate I won’t have it, and I can’t afford this on my own.” I look down at the table. Why do I feel constant embarrassment during times I can’t afford insurance?
“Let’s see, how about April 18th,” she says. “And don’t worry, we will figure it out. Here’s my number in case you have any questions throughout this process. Even financial ones.” She smiles.
“Cool. Great. Thank you.” I grab my folder full of pre surgical to do lists, papers to fill out, a very generic, outdated ‘things to expect’ piece of paper.
In the elevator I pull out my phone and respond to my partner’s list of messages about how it went.
‘I’m having a hysterectomy on April 18th’ I type.
‘Oh wow. Are you ok?’ he responds.
‘I think so. It’s a lot to process right now.’
Walking past a margarita bar I think, ‘I could really go for one of those right now.’
Hand Embroidered Uterus Iron On Patch