Monday, February 13, 2006

The Explanation

I wonder how my life would be different if they had listened 12 years ago.
It’s just cramps.
You’ve strained a muscle.
It’s nothing to worry about.

I started to think I was a hypochondriac.
Who has pain constantly?
They were right, of course.
Surely it was just cramps.
I’m 13. No one has problems when they’re 13.
Not there.

I’m 16.
The pain is worse.
It’s not a dull consistency, anymore.
It’s a sharp pain.
It stabs at me during classes.
Pulls my attention from my strokes in the pool.
I’m eating aspirin like candy.
My mother starts to get more concerned.
“You’re going to a gynecologist. I love Lanigan, but I don’t think he’s listening to us.”

Dr. Hall.
He doesn’t listen either.
“You’re too young to be experiencing the problems you’re describing. Have you run into anything lately?”
“With my abdomen?”
“It’s been known to happen.”
“Then it’s probably just a pulled muscle. Or cramps.”
He does the pelvic, but doesn’t use his fingers.
I didn’t know they were supposed to.
He puts the speculum down and looks at me.
“Everything’s fine. I’m going to put you on birth control. It should help the cramps.”

It’s not cramps.
Cramps don’t occur everyday, all day.
They don’t wake you up at night.

I’m 18.
The pain has become unbearable.
But I ignore it.
Mom hears that a friend has become a nurse practitioner in obstetrics and gynecology.
“You’re going to see Debbie. Maybe the problem is that we keep sending you to men.”

The exam isn’t like the others.
She sits me down and talks to me fully clothed first.
She presses on my abdomen and winces when she sees me jump in pain.
“That’s not normal. Get undressed, I’ll be right back.”
She doesn’t use a speculum.
Her fingers are inside me and her hand is pressing below my stomach.
Tears are in my eyes and I’m fighting to keep the whimper from turning into a scream.
“There it is.”
She slides her fingers out of me and throws away the gloves.
“You have a tumor. I’m pretty sure. I can feel it. I’m sending you over to the hospital right now. I want an Ultrasound done immediately.”

And there it is.
The radiology technician shows me the black spot on the screen.
I have a tumor.
It’s on one of my ovaries.
It’s the size of a tangerine.
There’s something more.
Both ovaries are covered in cysts.
“That’s why you’ve been in so much pain! Why didn’t you see a doctor?”
“I did.”
It’s all I can think to say.

The surgery is scheduled for the summer.
Dr. Crosby will do it.
He’s the best doctor I’ve ever met.
He’s not personable at all.
Cold, calculated, precise.
But thorough.
And honest.
He doesn’t hide the truth from me.
“We may get in there and discover we need to remove everything. It just depends on what we find. You understand that, right? It’s been untreated too long.”
I start to cry.
“I want to have kids.”
“We’ll do what we can, but there may not be a choice.”

We check into the hospital the night before.
My mom and I.
She won’t leave my side.
Even if it means sleeping in a hard, orange hospital chair.

They wake me up seconds before shoving a needle the size of a pen into my hand.
I look at my mom and see her tear up.
Three more seconds and I’m blubbering.
“Momma, don’t let them do this. Please. Tell them. Don’t let them take everything. No matter what they find. Please. I want children. Please.”
She just shakes her head at me.
She kisses my forehead.
My grandmother can’t handle it.
She starts crying and walks out.
They’re wheeling me down the hall.
I’m yelling at my mom.

I wake up in more pain than I’ve ever been in my life.
Normally, they would do a laparoscopy procedure.
Tiny cut.
But this is different.
The cysts make them worry.
They cut me 9 inches across my abdomen.
Sawing at the muscles and tissue.
I have internal, self-absorbing stitches.
I have 21 staples on the outside.
I can’t even ask questions.
Because I’m not sure I want the answers.
Is there anything left?
Am I still a woman?

They took all of one ovary.
Half of another.
Radiation is working to keep the remaining half an ovary undiseased.
If that’s a word.
But, the cysts are still troublesome.
“We need you to see an endocrinologist, too.”
Gynecologist, oncologist, pathologist, how many more do I get?
“We think you have Poly-Cystic Ovarian Syndrome.”
But . . . more? I can’t have just one disease?
“He’ll need to confirm the diagnosis. We’ll be in constant contact with him. We’re working together on this. You’re going to be okay. We’re a team.”
I have a team.
I’m 18 and I have a team.
I stay in the hospital two weeks.
I’m in bed at home for another three.

“You have Poly-Cystic Ovarian Syndrome. But . . . we think there’s something more.”
“Your urine analysis showed extremely high levels of cortisol. It also showed very high creatinine levels. We think your kidneys are failing. And you might have a disorder known as Cushing’s syndrome. You have a lot of the symptoms.”
What symptoms? - I’m tempted to ask.
But I don’t want to know.
“What . . . what does this mean?”
“We need to run more tests.”
Of course they do.
“You’re scheduled for an MRI on Monday. You’re also going to have a lot of blood work done today. And we need you to save all your urine for the next two weeks. Just to make sure it wasn’t a fluke.”

Becca and I wheel coolers of urine jugs into the lab.
Four large blue coolers, on wheels, with handles.
16 brown jugs filled with urine.
Iced down.
It has to be cold.
To maintain the integrity of the urine.
Whatever that means.
My refrigerator has been their home.
I never want to eat again.

“You have Cushings Syndrome.”
“So I don’t have PCOS?”
“No, you have PCOS, too.”
“Did the cancer cause all of this?”
“We don’t know.”
“But I thought . . . .”
“We don’t know. But we do know the Cushings is new. You don’t have all the symptoms yet. But they’ll start to show. You’re going to gain some weight. Your face will become more round . . . ”
They trail off.
I’m not listening.
I’ve heard too much already.

I’m 70 years old.
My grandfather and I stand at the sink.
Racing to see who can get the most pills down the fastest.
I win.
I’ve taught myself to swallow 8 at once.
8 horse pills in one fail swoop.
I do it three times.
“You’ve got more pills than I do!”
“Yeah, grandpa, I know.”
My mom watches us.
“It’s my fault. I should have breast fed you. I breast fed your brother and he’s fine.”
“It’s not your fault, momma.”
She shakes her head and tears fill her eyes again.

I’m 20.
I’ve gained 18 lbs.
I don’t recognize myself anymore.
I cry myself to sleep.
I work out twice a day, two hours at a time.
I gain 10 more.
I stop eating.
I live off water.
I pass out on the stairs in the dorm.
15 days.
I gain 7 lbs.

“It’s what it does. It’s normal. We need to find the source. The MRI isn’t showing a brain tumor, but there may be one there hidden, its hard to see in that area of the brain. We’re going to run a CAT scan on your kidneys. Sometimes it’s on the adrenal gland. But wherever it is, whatever it is, it’s causing this overproduction of cortisol and testosterone. We’re putting you on diabetic medications. It will help your body try and break down the carbohydrates and complex proteins, but it won’t fix things. We’re putting you on hormones, too. And an anti-depressant, for the fluctuations.”
“What can I do?”
“We’ll see where the medicines get us. We’ll go from there.”

But we don’t get that far.
There’s another tumor.
On my remaining ovary.
And a baby.
And you know the rest.
I wonder how my life would be different if they had listened 12 years ago.


Steph said...

Fuckin hell Megs. I don't know what to say. My heart is aching for you right now. fuck. There is nothing TO say that doesn't sound trite or just plain stupid. Soooo many wanky posts, mine included in the blogosphere, we all have our heads so far up our own arses we can watch ourselves digest food, and then there's you. And your raw, wrenching honesty.

Wish i could hug you.

Lizzie said...

I don't know what to say other than I'm sorry, Meg. Just really sorry for everything you've had to deal with.

i said...

wow.. your strength never ceases to amaze me!

*wants to jump through the screen to hug you!*

Indiana said...

Megs, there really is nothing to say to such a post, no comment will do justice to your honesty and heart pouring post...I am sorry.

auburn said...

I can barely see the screen through the tears, and they're only mine.

You are such a strong woman.
The heart, soul, passion and conviction, and your heartwrenchinig honesty and openness...well, they make my heart ache for the pain you've suffered and will always have. But it also makes my heart soar, because here you are...such a compassionate and selfless person, stronger than people like me could ever hope to be, and making so damn much of yourself.

You are an inspiration honey.


alison said...

amazing. for so many reasons.

Laurie (aka buggy) said...

I luv you Meghie.

I haven't been online long enough to read everyone's blogs and then I come on yours and this is the first I read and I'm reminded why I need to keep up with things. Because I don't want to miss this type of honesty and your story and your inspiration to me.
The things we endure - physical, emotional - all of it, one or the other, it does bring us together. Thanks for being so real.

My heart hurts for what you've gone through and go through with all of this.

janestarr said...

Megs, "what if's" are a bitch, don't stay there too long, although the fuckers should be sued. I hate doctors, I try not to see them. I see all the crazy nurse practioners, ones who do touch for health and analyze hair samples. My sister saw a hypnotis, and I see a chiropractor who uses alternative medicine...anything but listen to the ego-know it all prick doctors. Doesn't really help,huh?

I guess just remember we think you are one of the coolest cats in the blogosphere. Love you honey.

Coyote Mike said...

Did you ever see those doctors who didn't believe you were in pain after your op? I bet there's a malpractice suite and retirement fund in there somewhere.

Coyote Mike said...

Your blog makes no sense. My reply shows up on the reply box, but not in the extention of the post. Weirds.

meghansdiscontent said...

Steph - I lurv you, chica. Don't worry about me, I've had a lot of time to deal with this crapola. Just got tired of semi-explaining it to everyone . . . decided to lay it all on the line. Rawness is sometimes the only answer.

Lizzie - Thanks, girl. It's no biggie. It made me who I am. And I wouldn't alter that.

i - I'll take that hug, babe. :)

Indiana - Don't be, love. I'm a better person because of it all.

Auburn - OH. . . damnit . . Aub, you cry enough as it is. I hate making you teary. And don't you DARE say things like that! "could ever hope to be" - Auburn, I admire you and your strength every day. I wish I were more like you. We are all inspirations to each other. We have all overcome our own hurdles. Don't judge yours by mine, love. Please don't. You're amazing in EVERY way.

aay_dubelyu - I have no words.

Laurie - I luv you too, doll. As for being real . . . ha, as though I could be any less. Even when I wish I could. I'm good, babe. I promise. I'm still here. And better than ever. :)

Janestarr - Amen, sister. I thought about suing, but it's damn ridiculous. What good does suing do? It just ups my insurance even more . . .and they already don't pay for squat. I spend my life around doctors - both professionally and due to medical reasons . . and they're just like any other profession. They have bad ones and good ones. I keep a list in my wallet of doctors that I don't want NEAR ME if I'm ever in an accident. Working at hospitals teaches you to beware. But you're right, it doesn't help. As for being a cool cat - - from the Queen of Cool, that's a high compliment. :) Love you too, dear. Honestly do.

You guys are all so amazing . . . and I cherish you. (cheese moment, sorry)

Drunken Chud said...

wow, i have this overwhelming urge to say i love you. so, i'm just gonna go with that. wow...

meghansdiscontent said...

Coyote Mike - poor kid, I have no idea why blogger was denying you. As for the doctors - I suffered some "phantom" pain, and still do, from the lost ovary. Can't blame them for that. Other pain was taken VERY seriously . . . after the first diagnosis.

Chud - Hon, I want desperately not to poke fun - but we need some levity. I don't think I've ever seen this many serious comments from you. I wish I could hug you . . and maybe even kiss your cheek. Much love, babes.

Kate said...

I have such a hard time knowing what to say after one of your posts Meg. Your posts are all heart and everything laid bare. I can't add anything better than what your loyal commenters have said, but I wanted you to know that I agree with them whole-heartedly.

Rolligun said...

I think your an amazing person, don't dare humble those words in your reply.

I think you know more about strength than anyone I have ever known.

auburn said...

Hey, take that back! I don't cry! :)
Love you honey.

Drunken Chud said...

meg, i'm sorry i haven't been able to say anything snarky, or crass. i mean, as classless as i am... what you have been writing, is just so... real, and honest, that to say anything about how "i would have used my fingers" would really come through and take away from the true beauty of the statements you're making. but rest assured... "i would have used my fingers."

Drunken Chud said...

oh, and hugs and cheek kisses would not be turned down. i'm a slut like that.

angel, jr. said...

I'm so sorry that you had to go through that.
I wish there was something I could say to make all the pain of this go away.

MappyB said...

As a fairly new reader of your blog, it's interesting to read your history. The last paragraph - I'll have to read your archives to learn more about that. I can't believe how much you have been through in your life....

pk said...

Thank you for opening up to us like that. Thank you for surviving. Thank you for letting us get to know the amazing person that you are.

PJ said...

As usual, I am speechless. I've said it before, you are an amazing person.

And you have inspired me to write on something that was too scary to delve into.

I'll share it with you on my new site:

beachgirl said...

Sister friend you already know how much I love you!! Doctors are bunch of idiots, but you already knew that!

I'm not going to get all emotional today... Let's get on the trip to NashVegas!! Anybody else want to come?

mrshife said...

Wow. Wow again. You are pretty effin' amazing and the way you wrote was pretty amazing as well. Thanks for sharing.

Bone said...

Your attitude and outlook is amazing, Meghan.

And you already know how I feel about your writing.

Now, about your aversion to the Cowboys...

ChickyBabe said...

No comment can do this post justice. But I will say one thing, having being through the loop of "I wonder how my life would be different if...", please don't do it to yourself. You're an admirable person.

trueborn said...

Happy Valentines Day Babe!

meghansdiscontent said...

Angry, much?
I posted an answer to at least 8 of these comments this morning . . . and blogger ate it . . so here we go, again:

Kate - If it makes you feel better, I have no idea what to say to commenters on posts like this. Thank you seems to small and trite and you can only throw hugs at people so much before seeming insincere. But . . thank you and hugs. :)

Rolligun - YOU will understand this: Know Thyself.

Auburn - Honey, you cry less than I do. Take that for what it's worth. :) Love you.

Chud - Babe, I would comment sincerely, but I'm STILL laughing at the fingers comment. And take some more hugs and kisses, slutpuppy.

Angel, Jr - Thank you, hun, but the truth is, I wouldn't want it to go away. Again, it made me who I am. And I'm very happy with that.

Mappy B - Don't go searching through all that crap in the archives, hun:

That should give you all you need to know.

PK - Anytime. And I'm no more amazing than anyone else. Honestly.

Pam - I can't wait to read it!!! I'm so glad that you found your way here and that led me to you.

Beachgirl - I've got a doctor story for you! You'll LOVE the message I got on voicemail today. I forgot to tell you about it earlier. CALL ME.

Shifey - Thanks, luv.

Bone - I could overcome that aversion . . .for the right reasons. Or maybe some wrong ones, too. :)

Chickybabe - Thank you, babe, but don't worry . . . I wonder, I don't stew. Not in my nature.

Trueborn - And to you as well, babe!

Ang said...

Darlin! I have so much respect for you...not for what you have been through, but how you carry it now. You manage to see the positive in the shite and it is beautiful to see. Embrace the pain and the sorrow because they are what make you the powerful amazing woman that we are so blessed to be gettting to know today!

My mom was had a tumour on her ovaries that went misdiagnosed for about 5 years. It was the size of a football when she bloated up and had to be rushed to ER. At the time she was being treated for a bladder infection. A simple internal exam would have found it years earlier. Letting go of anger is one of the most important but ellusive steps!!