We Interrupt this regularly scheduled program to bring you this PSA:
Ladies, do you have all the symptoms of being pregnant and excessive bleeding but without the fetus? Get yourself checked out -you might have fibroids.
Currently, I’m recovering from a UFE: Uterine Fibroid Embolization.
Fear not, I have a strong aversion to needles and anything larger getting poked into me, but this process from diagnosing (MRI) to expulsion (UFE) was a breeze –I kid you not.
What’s a fibroid you ask? They’re nasty but benign tumors that seek refuge in and around your empty uterus because evidently, your uterus isn’t doing enough for you these days. Stats show that at least 50% of all women get them and the fibroids can range from mildly irritating to downright debilitating.
Here are the all symptoms copied from ask4ufe.com that I experienced most of the time:
* Very heavy menstrual bleeding and prolonged monthly periods, sometimes with clots
* Frequent occurrence of soiling events due to excessive menstrual bleeding
* Anemia (excessive fatigue due to low red blood count)
* Pelvic pain or pressure
* Pressure on the bladder which leads to a constant need to urinate or incontinence
* Pain in the back of the legs
* Pain during sexual intercourse
* Pressure on the bowel which can lead to constipation and/or bloating
* An enlarged abdomen which may be mistaken for weight gain or pregnancy
Fortunately, I didn’t have pain in the back of the legs, unless of course, I mistook missed work-outs at the gym for more fibroid issues. I also frequently experienced low-grade fevers and severe energy drops even though I was on a low-sugar, high-protein diet. In the end, we just started to blame everything ‘on the fibroids.’
And no, just because I never got pregnant or had babies, doesn’t mean the fibroids grew out of spite. I’ve known several women who have had or are currently hosting these little bastards while they’re pregnant -fibroids that is, not the babies.
My Experience Over the Past 18 Months
Flashback to November 2006.
I discovered discomfort the week Andrew went in for his scheduled back surgery –I thought it was stress– pure and simple. The following Spring, I decided that when I scheduled my annual that I would present these bloodletting concerns to my Nurse Practitioner (NP). During examination, she realized immediately that I had fibroids.
We scheduled an ultra sound soon thereafter and I forced Andrew to accompany me. After all, we were having at least quadruplets and we had to see them to name them!! If you’re a Liberal reading this entry, you can only imagine the evil names we applied.
The UltraSound This part is R-rated.
I discovered during our visit and exam, that the tech performing the ultrasound (the wand, not the jelly belly roll thingy) was a bit conservative. I strive to find the funny side of life whenever I’m in a precarious situation, today was no different. I asked if the dildo came with any attachments. OMG, the horror! Yah, that wasn’t the worst. I then asked her if my husband and I could have 10 minutes with it alone. Yup, I said it. Wait, here’s the last straw. The tech insisted that if I get aroused during the procedure that she would have to stop. I looked over my paper-draped knees and quipped, “Oops! Too late!”
Recently, I found out that she no longer worked in their office. Was it something I said?
After discussing 2 options with my OB/Gyn: the Pill or Hysterectomy, I decided to opt for the pill -even though I had great suspicion that there were more options available to me. In the past, the Pill and I never courted very well and I was increasingly skeptical about the reintroduction but I agreed. A few weeks later, my body convulsed at the fact that I had all of this extra progestrin and hormones -it simply refused to acquiesce. The NP suggested the Nouveau Ring (I fondly call the “O” Ring), again, too much hormone introduction. Although, I did experience some amount of reduction and control -no more multi-periods within the same month. Our Honeymoon to Europe was a breeze, no issues, no periods, so I was very pleased.
February was another issue. The bleeding began and continued to make it’s rounds 2x a month -it was June when I finally said I’d had enough.
In talking w/my NP and a new OB/Gyn (I opted out of my former assigned OB/Gyn), I learned more about the UFE and talked it over with Andrew -it seemed like a natural step toward alleviating these b*stards. We scheduled a consult with an UFE specialist (Dr. IR) and both he and his assistant covered the bases on processes & procedures. They gave me additional material, included the Web site: Ask4UFE.com to further elucidate on the fibroid lifestyle, if you will.
Throughout this ordeal, I began to doubt my own symptoms, I thought I was becoming a big baby.
Ladies, if you think you’re over-reacting, read this excerpt I just found on ask4ufe.com (after my UFE) :
“Even if minor, signs and symptoms of fibroid tumors should not be ignored. Many women underestimate the severity of their fibroid symptoms because they have become accustomed to the pain, pressure, and other symptomatic conditions that fibroids can generate.“
In other words, we’re told to suck it up and keep a stiff upper lip as adolescents when we start menstruating. This is also the time when we’re offered the chance to begin to experimenting on several levels with alcohol, sex, the rent’s personal pharmacy, and a whole lot more. This is also the time to remember that you’ve got one body, you don’t get a second one -so treat this one like a temple- not an amusement park.
Okay, only on weekends.
A day after the MRI results were reported to my specialist, his assistant called me and announced with jubilation that I was indeed, a candidate. Yee-haw. We made an appointment for early September. I’m still embracing the inner symptom minimizer.
Tip: Maybe it’s just me, but before your MRI, be sure to drink plenty of water -otherwise they can’t find your veins. They had to inject some kind of dye to ‘highlight’ areas in question.
The night before the surgery, I lamented that I might be awfulizing the situation even though Dr. IR said I was a good candidate. I had just ordered the MRI results and they weren’t due to arrive until the day I return home. Such a procrastinator.
Sept 2, 7:00am – We arrived at Patient Registration
Identified who we were, completed paper work, lab work was done and we were expedited to the prep area where the intake Nurse continued to fill out paperwork. After I asked her about specific procedures to be done we were escorted by the attending Nurse during my operation. Stripped down naked (allowed to leave my socks on) and changed into the gown, surgical booties, and a silly surgical hat. The nurses got cool paisley hats, I got a blue hair net. Ick.
Folys (yes, plural. ask) and IVs were not so skillfully inserted -my veins and orfices like to hide, I guess. If there was going to be trouble inserting the needle, I made the nurses dig around on my left hand –I’m an illustrator dammit, and I don’t want my hand aching a week after the surgery similar to my experience with the MRI.
Dr. IR came in to talk me thru the procedure again and asked me if I had seen the MRI results. We admitted that we had not and he said that my largest one was 8 cm (huh? Imperial please), that’s about 3 inches and he held his hands out like he was following a contour of a baked potato. And you’ve got 4 of them.
“What?! They’re not tiny like I imagined? What the hell are we waiting for! Let’s go zap those b*stards!”
Naturally, I waved the preproom goodbye like any self-proclaimed royalty.
10:20am – OR
Wheeled into a room with giant equipment, I urged Andrew to take a peek inside, “Oh, cool.” He really wanted to watch and we asked permission with eagerness, alas, they said no.
While Dr. IR had his assistants prep me, I was the peanut gallery that entertained the staff as they went to work. I really wish I could have worn a G-string because it just seemed that there was too much fluffing of the sheets to get to my femoral artery.
Boyz, you really should have given me more Versed.
Then I made the mistake of asking aloud, “Anyone here a Democrat?”
“Okay then. Indie-pendent?” A little stir, but not much more. So much for taking a risk with conversation. Why do I always take risks at the most inopportune moment??
TIP: Never talk religion, politics, or sex when your professional has the knife in his hand -I learned this a few weeks ago with my hairdresser. The same advice goes for any professional that holds the keys to your best interest.
Filling me with great drugs, I could feel the wash of the brain cloud take over -there was no conquering the volcano this hour. Just a tiny pinch (I’ve felt finger thunks hurt more than this) and he inserted the catheter into my femoral artery. I constantly begged to see the 3 giant screens Dr. IR used to see as he maneuvered the tiny lead through my lower cavity; he obliged now and again.
Throughout the procedure, he’d ask me to take a big breath, let it out, then hold it so they could take a photo. We watched the screens with great anticipation as the white Embospheres (R) Microspheres were injected into the artery. When the Microspheres got released into the bloodstream -it felt as though all of my pores opened up and I was peeing hot liquid all over my lower body. It was so bizarre!
The imagery on the monitor was in negative format, so the white liquid looks like black ink. Amazingly enough, the whole screen with organs, arteries, and veins looked like an ink wash. It was impressive and I tried to commit it to memory to repaint in the studio.
While I ‘ohh’d and ahhh’d’ through the procedure as though I were watching fireworks, I commented about just how cool the little SciFi white pearls looked that were that being thrust into my veins surrounding my tumors. My attending nurse replied, “If you really like them, we might have some left over after the procedure and you can have them!”
Oh, you know my retort was coming, “Yeah? Great, can they come in the form of a snowglobe?”
It really seemed like a hurry up and wait process. I felt Dr. IR play around near my knee, I’m guessing he had a keyboard that allowed him to access the monitors and such.
I was bored during most of it until the end. Dr. IR had to close the artery.
Boyz, you should have given me more Phentenol. Fortunately, the striking pain lasted for only 30 seconds or so when Dr. IR stitched the artery closed. Damn that hurt. Believe me, I said so at least 3 times.
I watched the clock and it was 11:15 when they wheeled me out.
Met Andrew in my room and we both commented how much prettier it was compared to his God forsaken box where he recovered from back surgery. I had already prepped Andrew about what I wanted for my overnight stay: mostly quiet as I wanted to try to realign the mind and body without any more interruption than what was already planned by the staff. He wanted to fill my bag with books but I knew better -I really didn’t want to mess with my glasses- getting lost, broken, stolen. Plus, I planned on feeling like when I’m saddled with the flu: groggy, unfocused, but awake. What a miserable state that is, but I’m glad I planned for it.
Immediately, we found the barf bin and filled it with my trade mags, small MAC laptop, sketchbook, and iTouch for music. It’s also my walking portfolio and would have whipped it out at anytime to show and tell, but none of the nurses were interested. They were just interested in getting the hell out of my room after I’d tell them a dirty joke. Just kidding. I don’t know where the fire was, but kept hearing Code Blue and babies cry.
Get to Know Your Nurse
Rarely, did I see the same nurse twice, but I guess I made an impression on the staff -a good one, in case you had to guess. I’d tell a joke. They’d come in and congratulate me on weaning myself off the pain meds in a short amount of time. I’d tell a joke. They’d congratulate me on being small with no belly. I’d tell a joke. They put me on a second form of pain relief & while I got a bit queasy, there wasn’t much to spew about. I’d tell a joke. By midnight, I had gone thru my crackers & water and met a new nurse, bless her little heart. “Nice to meet you, I gotta pee.” I’d tell a joke.
I dosed on and off and Twittered intermittently. My Twitter buds thought I was nuts, but I was BORED. I’d tell a joke.
By 7am, they stopped the meds; 7:45, they yanked the IV. 8am, I was dressed and ready to go home.
Felt bad about calling Andrew to come pick me up because he said that he’d swing by about 9. I called, he came, and we waited until 10:00 to get my discharge papers. Can’t they follow hotel standards and just let me check out thru the TV? Humpfth!
At Home, A Few Days Later
Upon returning from the hospital, I felt good, better in fact, walking around. I was relieved that the surgery wasn’t more than my family and friends were making it out to be. I think they were all bemused at my recovery rate. Wha???
Tip 1: Walk. Walk s’more. If you’re prone to sitting at your desk painting, crafting, or mastering other creative endeavors -get up! Get up and walk. Get 10,000 steps in a day. 3 miles snags 6000 immediately and at a fast pace, you can do this in 40 minutes. The rest of the day is yours! The remaining 4000 you can accomplish by merely standing while working. My laptop serves as my mail machine and I stand while reading mail, news, blog, almost everything. It’s not difficult to put in 10,000 if you make these simple changes.
Tip 2: Work out the core -abs, back, and gluts specifically. Each time I go to the gym, I make I do these things first and each time. Doing 3 different types of situps will strengthen each part of your ab as well as your back. You know how skillful I feel when I reach for something on the floor while still in bed? My back is so strong I feel like I’m part of Cirque du Soleil team -weeee!
Start slow. I could barely do 10 situps -2 weeks later, I felt like a rubberband. It was fabulous. I can do it, you can too.
Tip 3: After this type of surgery, I felt good enough to walk that afternoon. I didn’t. I was trying to take it easy. I coddled myself too much, although I remained standing for half the time based on my usual day. Scar tissue begins to build up around the artery and it hurts. Walk dammit. Walk and walk s’more. An hour or so after my walk, my issue disappears and I feel 80% better -I was already feeling 20% good. 😉
Now, it’s time for my walk! I’ll be back in 40!