Radical. Womb. Hysteria, Lapro-What?
Of course I’ve googled ‘hysterectomy’ (and other variations: ‘hysterectomy at 35,’ ‘hysterectomy for young people,’ ‘hysterectomy support’) more times than I would care to admit. Seeing the words that come up in the search I get a shiver. Knowing this is an actual thing that I’m going to experience, something about it feels so unlike me. I’m thinking it’s the language. It could use an update. Searching for someone like me, someone who doesn’t want their defective uterus anymore. I find no one.
“The term ‘hysterectomy’ originated ….”
I look at the clock. Time goes by so fast when you’re online. I don’t have time for this right now. I have homework. Lots of homework. I’m graduating soon, with a Masters degree from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. I circle April 18th on my calendar. I draw a heart around May 14th. So many things to do. So close to being done.
Taking breaks between reading articles, writing papers, making art and filling out paperwork for my upcoming hospital stay I try to find time to notify my professors of my upcoming absence. Calculating the dates I will need to take off of school and work, oh that’s right, I also have a job. I will have to request for time off. That also means I need to make a tighter budget, no work equals no money. I really need money right now. I figure I can miss three days of class and maybe a weekend of work. I know that sounds ridiculous, but I really want to finish strong, I’ve worked too hard to get to this point to give up now. Plus I’m in love with my studio class, and I don’t want to miss a single second of it.
Telling people through emails seems to be the most comfortable way to go about this.
“I just wanted to let you know that I’m going to be having a hysterectomy on April 18th…”
Typing ‘I’m going to be having a hysterectomy’ feels silly to me, I laugh. Up until this point of my academic career my attendance has been flawless, and paired with the dedication I give my studies, I’m certain my professors will understand. I add a few “my partner is taking time off work to support me following surgery,” and a “my doctor is a specialist and he has been incredible throughout this process.” Typical me, always trying to take care of how people will feel when I give them less than pleasant news. It’s my way of preventing people from worrying about me. I don’t care for people worrying about me. I will get through this, I’ve been through worse. Definitely not posting this on social media, I can already read the “I’m so sorry you have to go through this” comments in my head. Maybe, someday I will tell my story, but not today. The thought of writing a blog passes through my imagination.
Pulling out some watercolors I think I should ‘make some art about this.’ After all, I am training to be an art therapist, I should practice what I preach. After about 15 minutes of playing with colors I chose simply because they are not colors I would typically choose, I become anxious about the time. There are so many things to do. I snap a picture, post it to instagram, get lost scrolling through #hysterectomy for a bit. Still nothing. No one’s story I can relate to.
My last period was by far the worst pain I’ve ever experienced. I would later find out the reasons behind this unfortunate timing. Rarely missing work because of uncomfortable pain, this was a time I had no choice. Laying on the couch, heating pads, heat wraps, pain meds, sweating. Hungry but not wanting to eat. Running to the bathroom every 15 minutes.
“Why does my lower back hurt so bad, my uterus isn’t back there? Or is it? That’s a lot of blood. That can’t be good.” My bathroom looks like a murder scene.
My partner supplies the ice cream. We make jokes. He sends me memes of angry cartoon uteruses. I laugh.
“It knows I’m getting rid of it, and it’s not going without a fight,” I would say.
Most of my close friends would laugh at the sarcasm I used to move through this*, but some people didn’t know how to respond to my sense of humor. Making jokes about what I was told is “a very serious procedure” didn’t sit well with everyone, and they would remind me with their nervous faces while they lowered their voices and whispered what a “major surgery” I was about to have. It felt condescending. Like I didn’t know. The way I saw it was I have to have surgery and the only choice I had in the matter was how I responded to it. I chose to laugh, the pain was unbearable, I needed to laugh. Also I wonder, “why are we still talking about our uteruses, periods, menstruation, ovaries, all of it, in whispers? Why does it have to be so serious? Let’s just stop doing that.”
More doctor appointments after classes. Lab tests on lunch breaks. Uncomfortable conversations with people about why I won’t be in class or work.
So many interruptions.
This is not how I imagined graduation.
Not at all.
*Thank you to all of you who laughed with me throughout this journey. It may have seemed like a simple gesture at the time, but it meant more to me than you will ever know.
Watercolor, Ink on Paper
March 29, 2018