The end of April I went on my very first overnight backpacking trip and it was the bee’s knees. There is something so liberating and invigorating about carrying only what you need on your back and just existing in nature for 24 hours. We filtered our own water, cooked our dinner over a campfire, I laid awake freezing my ass off all night and acted like a bear by taking a shit in the woods. I have never felt so alive.
Two days later I could barely walk.
One would think my inability to walk was from the long and strenuous hike that we endured on our backpacking trip. I wish that was the case, but it was not. We had a very moderate hike. Adam wanted to make sure he did not kill me so I would want to go again. This was a different kind of pain, one that I was all too familiar with. It was located in my lower right abdomen and I knew exactly what it was. I was fucking pissed. We had plans for a weekend away in Utah to hike and camp in Zion National Park in two weeks and I knew that trip was no longer going to happen.
You see, I have suffered from endometriosis since I was a teenager. Endometriosis is defined as a disorder in which tissue that normally lines the uterus grows outside the uterus. I would rather describe it as a plague that infiltrated my abdominal cavity, took all my organs hostage and engage in hellacious battles of guerilla warfare every month, taking prisoners hostage and spreading radioactive contamination as far as they can throw it. I had four surgeries starting in 2007 through 2013, ending with a hysterectomy in 2014 (just before my 30th birthday) because of the severity of the disease. Each time, my bladder was adhered to my uterus, ovaries were adhered to the side the uterus and cysts on the ovaries. During a few surgeries, they found endometriosis on my liver and my colon.
Around 2013, I was having bleeding issues and I knew in my gut that something was wrong. I insisted that my doctor do something (I am sure they love it when their patients insist that they “do something” like they are magicians or the like) and after a D&C, we found that I had the starts of uterine cancer. If it had not been for the D&C, we would not have found the cancer and by the time we had it would have progressed and we would have had to take far more aggressive actions. We started birth control via the Mirena IUD and stayed optimistic that between the birth control and D&C that the cancer would not return.
Back to the pain following my backpacking trip In May…I got a sonogram and found out I had a 5cm mass where my right ovary used to be. I met with my doctor and although she did not curse, she was totally like, “What the fuck is going on inside of you?” She said that I was amazingly talented that I could grow something like that (the mass) and that I was not supposed to have things like that (the mass) post hysterectomy. Just incase it was a total fluke, we waited a week and I came back for another sonogram and sure as shit, the little fucker grew even larger. I was scheduled for surgery 2 weeks from my initial sonogram.
My surgery was a success, but I lost my remaining left ovary. My mother traveled cross country and stayed with me for two weeks so I could rest and heal. She cared for me, my family and my cats. She helped keep a careful eye on my mental health as each of the five times previously, I have had mental breakdowns following each surgery.
This is a Segway into the topic of chronic illnesses and how it affects a person.
When a person suffers from a chronic illness it becomes part of your life. You wake up with it, it accompanies you all day, it’s your companion when you go to bed. It’s always there with you. It’s all encompassing. Should you have more than one illness, let’s say a physical illness and a mental illness comorbidity would be in effect. Comorbidity is defined as the simultaneous presence of two chronic diseases or conditions in a patient. Dual diagnosis is the term used when a person has a mood disorder such as depression or bipolar disorder (also known as manic depression) and a problem with alcohol or drugs. A person who has a dual diagnosis has two separate illnesses, and each illness needs its own treatment plan.
Each time you get over one hurdle, you take a deep breath. You made it. You should celebrate, you should be ecstatic, you should want to throw a party with balloons, and mini horses and goats and face painting, but you don’t. You look over each shoulder and see if you can see if anything is approaching. Is there anything on the radar that is about to come and knock you down? Some nasty little creature that is going to come and try to nibble on your toes? A bat that is going to fly right into your head? Some pig that is going to run and jump and knock you over?
In my house, we never hold our breath when I get over one hurdle because history has told us that something else is bound to come right up behind it. One could say that’s a pessimistic way of thinking, but I say it’s more realistic. We are always hopeful that I wont have anything else come up, but a common saying is “it’s always something.”
I was stabilizing for about eight months and during that time I had my surgery in May. Then in June I had a horribly ingrown toenail. Apparently, I cut my toenails wrong and I had been wearing a pair of hiking boots that were a half size too small. Well, I put off seeing the doctor for, a little while, which turned into three months, so when I went, it was infected and I had an abscess. The ingrown toenail was removed and I was put on antibiotics. I had never heard of the antibiotic, which is odd because I have been on a ton of antibiotics in my life, but I have never had problems, so I figured I would be ok.
Well, I was wrong. Within a few days I started to itch. I was not thinking much of it. Probably from the new laundry detergent I bought, that’s what I get for buying the stuff on sale and the one I had the coupon for, stupid trying to save money thing. I know better, stick with Arm and Hammer! More days passed and the itching was continuing and it was all over my body, and I am talking all over. You know it is one thing to itch you arm while at work, but when you have an itch, “down there” yeah not so appropriate to itch that at work. Again, I was thinking, this must be the laundry detergent. I tried using Benadryl and it gave me some relief, so I was drowsy and only slightly feeling like I needed to take a wire brush to my delicate Petunia. I began to wonder what the hell was happening to my body and what exactly did this doctor give to me that would make my vagina so incredibly angry at me. I attempt to apologize to her but she just continued to throw her hissy fit. I stopped the antibiotics because now my toe looked just fine, it was down there at the end of my foot looking up at me all smiley and shit, while my delicate flower was trying to disconnect herself from my body. So, I did the only thing I could do, I contacted my mother.
It is a blur to me now, if I called or texted, I think I texted, I was in such a dark place of desperation, I was incredibly in need of my mommy, because mommy’s can make anything better, even vaginas. I explained how it felt like a whole family of mosquitos had attacked my wilted flower and how I was dying a slow and agonizing death. She told me that she was certain that I had a yeast infection and I should try some probiotics. I immediately went to the store and had to stop myself from ingesting the entire bottle. Mom’s remedy was helpful, but was no match for the plague that was waging war between my legs. It was time to go spread eagle in the doctor’s office and have them examine my “ness” under a microscope. I explained to them about the horrible penicillin that the doctor put me on, how I have been living in hades for two weeks and how I was about to file for disability because I was unable to function. The doctor looked at me as if she was considering getting me a psych eval and said she needed to go examine the culture and would be back. When she returned, she informed me it was a yeast infection, gave me two refills on the special miracle pill and some magic unicorn cream that you can put anywhere and it will make your life amazing. I was told I would feel better in a few days.
Later I explained to Adam that if I had known that I would have had to go through so much hell for my toe I would have never had the ingrown toenail cut out. I let him know that my vagina is far too important and valuable to be treated is such an inhumane fashion. That what it has been put through has been abuse and the authorities should be called. I told him that I don’t care about my fucking toe, I care about my fucking vagina.
A week later, my other toe had an ingrown toenail. I cried. I was done. I didn’t want another thing to be wrong with me, even if it was as minor as an ingrown toenail. But, after I cried, I picked myself back up, I went back to the doctor and I laid down the law. I let him know that there would be no antibiotics because my vagina could not handle any of that shit. He apologized and I let him know that it was ok, that it was MY vagina, and we forgave him.
I have lived my life like a weeble wobble toy… you know how the song goes… they weeble and they wobble but they don’t fall down… I keep getting hit with things… the last week I have been depressed for four days, manic for three, depressed for four, manic for two and then just yesterday I was both manic and depressed in just one day (it’s called rapid cycling and it is of the devil). I am tired of getting hit with things. I am exhausted of just barely getting my head above water, only to get pulled under by the current. But, there is this fight in me. It’s this fire that just won’t go out. Even on my darkest day, there is this voice in my head that says, “keep going” … it may be faint, it may be weak and water logged, but it’s there.
Be like the weeble wobble toy… weeble, wobble and don’t fall down. And if you do fall down, do everything you can to get back up. If that means that you ask for help from someone else to get you up, do it. We must keep going, it’s the only choice we have. We can’t succumb, we must persevere.
In the next blog, I am going to talk about how our chronic illness affects our family and friends…stay tuned.
#endometriosis #bipolar #depression #anxiety #weeblewobble #vagina #perseverence #chronicillness #backpacking