Friday, June 19, 2009

Update on my body

'cause I know you have all been just dying to know.

****Space so guys who don't want to hear about these things can close the window or something****

Anyway, I went to the doctor because I was bleeding every other week and though I was certainly concerned that it might be cancer or other bad things, I also really wanted to just make it stop. I found out it wasn't cancer and was offered ablation or hormones to try to control the bleeding. I chose hormones.

On a side note, I find it curious to remember that when I was in my 20's I was adamant about not using hormones as birth control. I was a careful and successful user of the diaphragm for 10 years (then Roland got the surgery). It was all about feminism, as I recall. Being a feminist meant respecting my body, working with it, honoring its cycles, or some such thing. Now of course my feminism is about understanding my own privilege and working to end the oppression of others, so hey, bring on the hormones.

I'm taking two completely separate prescriptions: an estrogen and a progesterone. Actually, multiple versions of each at low doses. I take the estrogen every day and the progesterone on the first 14 calendar days of each month. I started about a month ago. Now the advantage of taking two separate prescriptions is that it makes me feel like OB/GYN Guy must really know his stuff. I'm getting treatment that is just for me! The disadvantage is that I pay two copays and there is no way I can Google my treatment and figure out how this drug treatment is supposed to work. (It just occurred to me that there might be another insurance advantage. I imagine that all the prescriptions that combine the hormones are classified as birth control, and I don't know if my insurance pays for that. It didn't back when I was using the diaphragm, but that was 16 years ago.)

The OB/GYN Guy told me that it would take me a couple of months to find out if the pills were going to work. However I stopped spotting two days after taking the estrogen, so I was all like, "Hah! It works for me right away! Woo Hoo!" As the days passed I had to keep reminding myself that I had gone 7, 8, 9, 10 days without spotting over the past several months. I shouldn't get too excited until I had gone 3 weeks, like I did back in the olden days. Sure enough, on the 13th of the month, (which would have been after 12 doses of progesterone, since I take that in the evening), I started spotting.

I haven't stopped.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen (if any remain), I have been spotting now for a week.

Today I would say I am actually bleeding.

So far not that much different than before the meds. But the meds aren't supposed to work right off, right? I reassured myself. Give it some time. After a while... suddenly occurred to me that I did not know what should happen after I took them a while.

So I called the nurse. I asked. Would I not have periods at all? Would they be light? Would they occur at the same time every month? If so, when?

The answer are: unlikely, maybe, probably, within a week of stopping progesterone unless it is just after starting progesterone. You know: individual results will vary. On the up side, after three months I will know what my results are, except of course they could change as my body continues its journey through menopause, but probably only in that whatever bleeding I have should get lighter and then maybe stop. In case you are wondering, failure to "work" is defined entirely by whether I am happy with whatever results I get. If I am not, I can chose ablation or insist on an elective hysterectomy. (Insurance will cover either. I've even met my co-pay, which is an incentive to do whatever I might want to do before the end of the calendar year).

You know, I am not a very patient person. I want to know now.

When I first heard about ablation I was sort of creeped out by it. I'm not sure exactly why, but it just seemed wrong. A hysterectomy seemed cleaner somehow. Also the only thing that is guaranteed to work. If I am unhappy with the drug therapy I am leaning towards hysterectomy. All other treatments may fail and I could end up there anyway. I know that I might not, but the thought of just getting it done and never having to worry about it again is very appealing. Besides, every single woman I know who has had one has said the same two things. First, it was real surgery and it did require recovery time. Don't take it lightly. Second, they are thrilled with the results.

But I am going to give the drugs a real chance to work. If they don't, I can' always schedule surgery at the beginning of Christmas break and be waiting on while everyone is on holiday. That should be long enough since I should qualify for the two-week recovery time version.

And that is my ever-so-exciting update on my body.


  1. I had the ablation back in January. I have endo and it stopped that nightmare in it's tracks. That's also how they found the precancerous cells. The ablation stopped my bleeding 100%. I totally recommend it if it is an option. Way easier to recover from than the he'll I am in today.

  2. Two friends of mine have had the ablation because after they had kids their periods were never normal or consistant. One has had it done for a while now and loves the results and another just got it done last week. I guess the recovery time is only 24hrs. The doctors said that she could go for a run the next day if she felt like it.

  3. I am having an ablation done THursday. My friend had it done and LOVES the outcome.

  4. Anonymous9:29 PM

    Many women also have bad outcomes from ablation. It involves burning the endometrium until it's scarred and can't bleed, but the bleeding often returns and the damage is permanent, sometimes resulting in a hysterectomy. A good source for information about all these issues is hersfoundationDOTorg. They have a new book called THE H WORD. It's really awesome, and the subtitle tells it all: The diagnostic studies to evaluate symptoms, alternatives in treatment, and coping with the aftereffects of hysterectomy. It's totally comprehensive, and gives an anatomy lesson like you won't see anywhere else...except also on the HERS site. Check it out.

  5. Sheri,

    PLEASE tell me as much as you can about the procedure itself. I still have this total lizard-brain anxiety reaction to it. Basically I have trouble with anxiety when I have to be quiet and still while someone does something painful -- especially to my girl parts. I actually do well with things like post-op pain. That's just pain; that's not being docile while some one is causing the pain.

    Anyway, I want to hear anything you can tell me.

  6. I had an ablation two years ago and it worked like a charm for a little over a year (meaning no bleeding at all) and then I started spotting very lightly once a month and more recently have started spotting randomly (more on than off) and am looking at a hysterectomy. My OB/GYN says about a third of people never bleed again, about a third have really light periods, and about a third return to where they were pre-ablation within a few years. I've heard stories of doctors doing the procedure while the patient is awake but I was knocked out cold for mine and while there was some pretty spectacular cramping right after the surgery I was fine within a couple of days. As far as "the damage" the best of my understanding, ablations are for people who do not ever plan to USE their uterus again. Damage is kind of the POINT of the procedure. The only real risks come from the D&C they do beforehand (infection and slim chance of perforation) and the anesthesia.


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