I’ve been feeling bad for months. At first, it started out very subtle: a little fatigue, slight stomach pains occasionally. I chalked it up to aging, bad diet, and lack of exercise. It never dawned on me to go to the doctor, because I honestly didn’t have the time. I didn’t try to make the time. Life was already full and I didn’t want or need anything else on my plate. So I put it off. Wrong decision.
I know as a woman we are SUPPOSED to get regular check-ups, exams, preventative care; but I just didn’t know how to fit that in. I have three kids, one with extensive medical issues that keep me in doctor offices. When I’m not at work, I’m taking care of the other two and, unfortunately, that leaves me usually cancelling or rescheduling my appointments.
But now it seemed like every month that passed, my symptoms got worse. Again, I justified my extreme pain and fatigue to a hectic schedule, having children with special needs, work, and anything and everything else besides a real medical issue. I started getting light-headed, dizzy, couldn’t focus, my stomach and back pains increased, and I didn’t have the energy to make it through my day.
My exhaustion got to the point that I couldn’t interact with my children. I wasn’t sleepy, but my body just couldn’t function properly. It was hard for me to breathe some days. Even putting a sleeper on my active toddler exhausted me. Walking became hard because of the back pain. My menstrual cycles became heavier than I’ve ever experienced. This was my wake up call to make a doctor’s appointment, keep it, and actually show up.
In my early teens, I was diagnosed with endometriosis. It’s very common, but I had never heard of it. It’s when the tissue that lines the inside of your uterus grows on the outside and cause pain; severe pain in a lot of cases. I remember my doctor not saying anything to me about endometriosis or explaining what it was or how to manage the symptoms. He handed me a pamphlet and walked out. I looked at it, couldn’t pronounce what it was, and threw it out when I got home.
I didn’t know to ask questions or make him help me understand what was going on with my body. I just spent years dealing with horrible pain during my cycles. I would lay on the bathroom floor because it hurt too bad to walk, and I was constantly nauseated. The pain was so bad it made me vomit. I would miss up to 3 days of school a month because the pain was that intense.
In my early 20’s, I couldn’t take it anymore. I went to another doctor, and I was told what I had and what it was. I spent so many years in pain and didn’t know why. I thought it was normal. They did an ultrasound and saw I had fibroids growing inside my uterus, and they’d been there for quite some time causing damage. Due to the endometriosis and the fibroids, the best course of action was surgery, after other preventive measures didn’t work. Since I was single and without children, they decided to go in and remove the fibroids. I was fine with anything that took the pain away.
The surgery went well, but the fibroids had been there for so long that they caused more damage than they realized. They gave me a unilateral oophorectomy – removal of one ovary. And since I had endometriosis, there was a high chance the fibroids could come back, and then I could need a hysterectomy. They advised me if I wanted kids I should consider it sooner than later.
After several years and three beautiful kids, I forgot all about my endometriosis. I hadn’t had symptoms for a long time. I was accustomed to pain so it was just a part of my every day life. I didn’t connect the dots. My pain was different this time; my symptoms were different.
But back to the situation at hand: my current doctor is very thorough. She ran blood tests, I had a few ultrasounds due to some areas that were a cause of concern, and it turns out my fibroids came back with a vengeance. I was also severely anemic. Now I knew the source of my misery. I was just happy to know that I wasn’t crazy. My doctor laid out a plan and I go back at a later date for a follow up. I’m even at the point now that I feel like my old self again.
I didn’t want to put off caring for me, but I felt so obligated to put everything, and everyone else, first that I often put myself last. I don’t regret my decision; it is what I had to do for my life and my level of responsibilities. I do know that I should’ve listened to my body in the beginning, and asked for help so I could make it to my doctor’s appointment. Being a mom, it’s hard sometimes just to do the simple things, and it can get even harder when you’re the parent of children with special needs. People make it sound so simple, but it’s not. Between being a mom and working full-time I was just at capacity.
I’ll never beat myself up for being a good mother and doing what I thought was right at the time; but I do promise myself that I’ll listen to my body and ask for help when I need it instead of suffering in silence.