Friday, June 22, 2012
(Parents, you may not want your children to read this post - or at least not the second half. And if medical stuff makes you squeamish, you may want to skip it, too. I've put a note in the text to let you know when the ickier stuff starts.)
This week John had a minor surgical procedure, but since this is us we're talking about, it sure didn't seem all that minor. Not to mention any time someone cuts on you and you're awake at the time, that's a pretty big deal in my book.
The procedure was to take a bump off John's back, and he's actually had it done before. Problem was, last time he passed out on the table and had a minor seizure from the pain, and I was holding his hand and generally freaking right the heck out at the time.
Needless to say, it was a traumatic experience for both of us.
So this time, when the lousy bump grew back and was causing John enough pain to require another removal, we were both pretty hesitant. Especially when the new doctor refused to put him under/out. (I still don't get that; they can knock you out at the dentist's - why not the surgeon's office?!) Instead, the surgeon prescribed John one Valium. One.
John nearly cancelled the procedure when we picked up the Valium and were informed it was a pretty low dose, but by this point his bump had somehow gotten infected (I know that's a lovely mental image - sorry) and was too painful to ignore. So, he went through with it.
Aaaand...it went Ok! The Valium made him woozy and I think helped keep him conscious. I also stayed out of the room this time, since John claimed I was making him nervous. (Like everyone doesn't alternate between hand-wringing and glaring daggers at the doctor. WHAT.) He tells me the first cut nearly made him black out, but they had smelling salts and more numbing shots on hand, so after that things went Ok.
After the procedure the doctor prescribed John some pain kills. Specifically, he prescribed 35 Percocets, which have oxycodone in them. Fairly heavy-duty stuff. Funny thing is, these drugs put John out more than the Valium did! Makes me wish they'd given him one of those instead.
Still, John hates the pain pills. HATES them. They make him muddled and sleepy, so he's already switched to OTC stuff for the pain. (But on the plus side, now we have a starter pack for any future drug addictions we want to start!) (Kidding, kidding...)
Speaking of which, thanks to his stitches John now has a small pair of lips on his back. It's disgustingly hilarious. I'd show you a picture, but I'm pretty sure you REALLY don't want to see that. Hee.
And now that John has survived *his* medical ordeal, it's my turn. Like John, I had a procedure several years ago that just hasn't worked, and I think it's time for a do-over. In my case, it's your standard my-uterus-is-trying-to-kill-me stuff, and the procedure I had was an endometrial ablation, aka NovaSure. In a nutshell, the doctor scraped out my uterus and then cauterized it. (Mercifully, I was unconscious at the time.)
I had limited success with the NovaSure. It's certainly nice to not have the ultra heavy bleeding every month (or any bleeding at all), but the pain and cramping were only alleviated a little - and have steadily been increasing to their pre-surgery levels ever since. I'm incapacitated for 5 to 6 days every month from the pain and fatigue, and lately I've started to have sharp stabbing pains that make me gasp, as well. It's probably just fibroids growing back, but since I want this over and done with this time I think I'm going to ask for a hysterectomy.
Trouble is, I'm scared spitless of doctors and medical procedures in general. Part of it is from seeing so many clueless and/or condescending doctors over the past five years, searching in vain for a diagnosis for my sudden-onset anxiety. (None of them helped, btw. I had to find my answers on my own.) The other, larger part, is because the last time I went to an OB-GYN she performed an endometrial biopsy on me instead of the pap smear I was expecting.
If you don't know what that is (because I sure didn't), an endometrial biopsy involves the doctor using a long metal hook to rip out pieces of your uterine lining - while you're awake and completely unmedicated. I'm sure you moms out there have probably experienced worse, but I don't mind telling you it was the most painful thing I've ever experienced - and made more so by the fact that I was expecting the little pinch of a pap, not...that. I could *feel* my insides tearing, and it just...kept...going. (I later learned the doctor ripped out three separate pieces of my lining.)
John was in the room, but shut away behind a sheet because the doctor wouldn't let him see me. So all he could do was stand there, helpless, and listen to me crying out in pain and asking what was happening and begging the doctor to stop.
I'm sorry. I'm actually crying right now, because I can't think about this experience without reliving it. That day, I didn't stop sobbing for a solid six hours. I couldn't. I was incoherent, hysterical, and John nearly had to carry me out to the car. It wasn't so much the pain, although that was still pretty bad - it was the violation. And because I was a good, cowed little patient, I laid there and took it without fighting back. To this day, that thought fills me with anger and shame. I want to go back in time and scream at the doctor, to demand that she stop - to kick and fight to make her stop.
I know it's wrong, but I haven't been to an OB-GYN since. I can't stand the thought of getting into that paper gown again, of letting a stranger near me again. I'm not sure how I'll ever be able to again.
When John was finally allowed through the sheet to see me, he asked the doctor in bewilderment for an explanation, since we were only there for a pap smear. The doctor seemed flustered, and started to argue we were there for the biopsy - and then that it was necessary, anyway, because I'd complained of period pain. So she either mixed up my paperwork or intentionally withheld information about the test beforehand. I've often wondered since which would be worse, and if it even matters at this point.
We later filed a report/complaint with the state medical board, but it was dismissed. I guess performing unnecessary tests without patient permission isn't a crime, no matter how traumatizing it is. So the doctor was never held accountable - although she abruptly left the practice not long after my biopsy. Sometimes I wonder if that was related.
I'm not really sure why I'm telling you guys all this, other than to just sort through my feelings and try to face the fear of my new doctor's appointment next Friday. I'm scared, but the pain's kept me awake and doubled-over for two days now, and I know it will be back next month, and the month after that, until I do something about it. John tells me to focus on the "after," when all this is over and it won't hurt anymore, and I'm trying. In the meantime, though, I'll have to take an emergency Xanax - which I hate - just to get through the office visit, and then another for the blood work and ultrasounds, because in addition to the biopsy I'll also be reliving my ER visit from five years ago, and the four torturous days in the hospital after that, and all the specialist's waiting rooms and the needle pricks and the scent of antiseptic and the fear of the unknown as one more doctor tells me he doesn't know what's wrong, but here, try these pills now.
Yeesh. I'm such a mess.
But, at least I'm a mess that has John.
I nearly went to that OB-GYN by myself, you know, the day of the ambush/biopsy. It was supposed to be just a routine yearly check-up, and I remember saying so to John. No big deal, I'll just drive myself. But he was home anyway and offered to take me. I can't even imagine how much worse it would have been without him there - if only because I never would have made it home on my own.
After that day John swore I would never see a doctor without him ever again. Yes, even the dentist. Even the chiropractor, who we see once or twice a month. And he doesn't wait in the waiting room, guys; I'm talking he sees the doctor with me. In the exam room. Office personnel will comment on it sometimes. Most think it's odd, a few huff and glare, and a few think it's sweet. I think it's necessary. And, with John there, maybe I can get through this.
If you made it this far, thanks for reading. I guess it's pretty obvious that this post was just for me and my own benefit, but maybe there's a point in here somewhere. You know, something like "Love conquers all," or "[some] doctors suck," or "we're all human and we're all scared sometimes, and sometimes that's ok." Maybe all of that.
And maybe, if you're scared too, we can talk in the comments and remember we're not so alone, you and I.
[Update: I'm reading through comments as fast as I can with all these grateful tears in my eyes. Please be patient if you've commented - I'm stopping to respond to a few every now and then, so it might take a few extra minutes for them to be published. Also, I see now I was too harsh with my 'doctors suck' quip - I know there are good ones out there, and I appreciate everyone out there in the medical field who truly cares about their patients. So please, just ignore that bit. I'm a doofus.]
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