Greetings, fair readers! I submit to you my humble apologies for my long absence. Much has happened since I last updated this blog, but today I am going to talk about my uterus. Of course, you probably didn’t know that there is anything noteworthy about my uterus, and there really isn’t. It is like many other uteri out there, save for the fact that it is mine. And it has a story to tell.
The saga begins on my 12th birthday and goes downhill from there. On that day that began with such promise, I felt the as yet unfamiliar rush that has now come to mean “uh-oh,” and the first in a long line of undergarments that would be relegated to the corner of the drawer was created. AKA, Period Panties. Our one family vacation that year was ruined for me. I would stare longingly at the swimming pool for the rest of our stay. Good thing I received Stephen King’s “Skeleton Crew” for my birthday-always look for the positive!
From my youthful loins there was no trifling flow that some call “light days.” No, mine was the stuff of legends on the level with an apocalyptic vision from the Revelations. The Four Horsemen themselves galloped gleefully through my tortured womb. My insides twisted as if being vitamixed into a tempting vampire smoothie, I skulked down the aisle of the drug store with winged maxis, briefly considering the adult diapers. Shamefaced and pallid, I plopped down my mammoth box of sanitary pads and a mega-sized bottle of Pamprin. For two weeks I bore the curse that left me pale and shaken, barely able to venture from my room.
And so the story replayed itself over and over on a strict lunar cycle, broken only by three pregnancies and extended breastfeeding. Some think that breastfeeding my youngest until three years old is creepy. Judge not the woman who knows this would be the last respite from the floods until menopause! To slow that mad march of wizened eggs down the maze of my fallopian tubes, my heroic breasts were offered up as pale victims to the gods who demanded blood sacrifice.
I realize I am being a bit dramatic; it wasn’t that epic. Fast forward to the present…
I had a full physical with a new doctor a couple of months ago. She was really cool, and by cool I mean very Asheville. Her skirt had little pompoms hanging from it like a Mexican sombrero and she was wearing Tevas sandals. She was both focused and lackadaisical, if you can imagine it. But really nice and I felt comfortable relating to her my health history.
I mentioned that I had recently begun flirting with veganism, though this has gradually morphed into a quasi-vegetarian/pescatarian hybrid diet that leaves me pining for bacon. I told her I was always tired and a chronic insomniac. I spoke of my many failed attempts to donate blood due to low hemoglobin. In a determined effort to donate successfully, I popped extreme doses of iron before my Red Cross appointment. I finally accomplished the level of 12 that was needed on my third try. I happily chatted as they tapped my vein, right up to the moment that I found myself with legs in the air as the nurse attempted to revive me from a swoon. The doctor suggested “you oughta get your blood levels checked, dude.” She hastened me to the lab for the obligatory stick and peaced out.
Sure enough, it was confirmed that I had abysmally low levels of hemoglobin, iron and B12. Cue the order for sub-lingual B12 and a nasty concoction called Floradix that doesn’t tear up my insides and clog my pipes like regular iron pills. And an order for an ultrasound of my lady bits. WTF? Yes. My doctor informed me that anemia is CAUSED by something and you must find out what that cause is to cure it. In my case she suspected that I might have fibroids in my uterus causing heavy bleeding. So a trans-vaginal ultrasound was in my near future.
For an intrauterine ultrasound, one must chug about 64 ounces of water about an hour beforehand. The morning of the appointment, I drank the obligatory amount of water, but having a notoriously nervous bladder, I had to pee even before I started my fluid intake. So I found myself sitting in the waiting room, cold sweat running down my face, legs crossed and frantically shaking. The others waiting had a similar look of desperation.
Finally the technician calls me back. I disrobe and sit shivering in a paper gown as I struggle not to pee. The technician comes in and instructs me to put my feet in the stirrups. Assume the position, as any lady knows how to do. The first in a series of awkward moments ensues: “Your toe nails look pretty,” she says. “Ummm, thank you?” I reply with my knees in the air. “Did you do them yourself?” “yes…” What is with this lady and her obsession with toes? “Shall I insert the wand or would you like to?” She asks. “I guess you,” I respond, thinking that neither option sounds any better than the other and I am concentrating on NOT PISSING all over the place. Then she starts poking around and taking what I presume are snapshots of my womb. All of a sudden, she turns on the sound and I hear what sounds like heartbeats! My heart leaps to my throat and I stop breathing… The technician notices the look on my face and laughs. “That’s just the sound of blood going through your vessels, hahaha!” I emit a sickly laugh and wonder if this can get any worse. It doesn’t, thankfully. In a few minutes I am sighing with pleasure on the potty.
So, long story a bit shortened, I tested positive for fibroids and have to wait forever to get in to see a gynecologist to find out what, if anything, I am going to do about it. There are many options, but they all sound shitty. Fibroids are basically tumors of varying size that are usually not cancerous, but can cause all kinds of havoc. Heavy and painful periods, swollen belly, back pain, restless legs, frequent urination…all things that I have been suffering all of my adult life.
I may be over sharing, but I have a purpose in chronicling the trials and tribulations of my uterus. I have learned a few things that I didn’t know before. I had never even looked up the definition of anemia before. I always thought that it just meant low iron. Paleness, fatigue, nothing serious. Actually to be anemic means that you don’t have enough red blood cells in your body to carry adequate amounts of oxygen to tissues. Anemia can be quite serious and it may indicate a serious underlying illness.
Ever since I was pregnant the first time, I have had a terrible and powerful craving for ice. My husband went into hunter-gatherer mode in search of the perfect pearls of ice that might calm my intense need. Incidentally, I found the holy grail of ice in the hospital when I gave birth to my first child. I think I will dedicate an entire post later to my quest for perfect ice. But for now, know that this craving is called pagophagia and it can be an indicator that you have iron-deficiency type anemia. If you are tired, easily winded, craving ice or other non-food items, get your blood checked! Not sure what craving lemon peels means, but I ate those too. No scurvy for me!
Vegans and vegetarians often have low levels of vitamin B12. This type of anemia can also be caused by autoimmune disorders, heavy drinking, Crohn’s disease, and other problems that inhibit absorption of B12. Symptoms include light-headedness, rapid heartbeat and breathing, easy bruising and bleeding, intestinal distress, pallor, tingling or numbness in hands or feet, and even cognitive impairment. Long term deficiency can lead to nerve damage, so don’t mess around!
It’s important to get your blood tested to find out if you have anemia. Don’t try to diagnose yourself. Iron overload can lead to serious health risks. Too much B12 can lead to cancer.
As I await my next appointment, my internet research has given me plenty of scary scenarios to ponder on. I also fantasize that my stubborn leftover baby fat is actually a fibroid the size of a 5 month fetus…