Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Choices and Understanding

For the past two years I have struggled with the decision whether or not to have a hysterectomy due to my endometriosis.  I came very close once, but ultimately didn't feel right about it.  I had a laparoscopy instead (my fourth) and for almost a year it did bring some relief.

Even with the combination of birth control, my pain started to creep back in.  Before I knew it I was uncomfortable all of the time.  Ninety five percent of the time I awoke already hurting.  The pain would come and go all day long, but always was at it's worst in the morning.  I think it was due to have a full bladder and that irritating the endometriosis that covered it.  I had no choice, but to push through and take care of my kids even though I just wanted to lay down in fetal position all day.  I'm thankful I had my children to teach me to endure despite set backs.  Not to mention, I never knew what pain was connected to endo and what was just normal.  It's hard to decipher what your suppose to feel like when you've always had issues.  To me it wasn't necessarily pain, because I never felt anything BUT uncomfortable.  For all I knew everyone felt like that.  I always wondered if I just ate something that hated me.

Early this year I had a cyst the size of an orange.  It had a possible cancerous spot and after some thought and prayer I decided to have my whole ovary removed.  I knew a hysterectomy was close in sight, so losing one ovary didn't scare me too bad.  Gregg was still in school and we were barely surviving so I knew it was not the time for a full hysterectomy.  I would need a huge incision in order to pull out the giant ovary and safely remove it without spreading possible cancer throughout my body.  I was mentally prepared and just wanted relief.

During my pre-op appointment the day before surgery my doctor did one last exam to make sure the cyst was still there and growing.  Sure enough it was so he went over everything I needed to know and then left the room.  I immediately felt more uncomfortable, but figured it what due to the exam irritating my insides.  I still had to go to the hospital to do my pre-op check in and get blood work done.  I didn't feel good, but the intensity was about the same I had had on and off so I pushed through.  The nurse asked my what my pain level and I said it was a five.  Which makes me laugh now.  After I was done I picked up dinner and went home to finish cleaning the house for the next day.  I didn't feel too different than normal so I decided not to waste an Ibuprofen and to just deal with it.

I awoke the next morning feeling back to normal and we continued on with surgery.  After I had been put to sleep, my doctor decided to do one last exam before cutting me open.  To his surprise the cyst was completely gone.  They did an ultra sound and found lots of fluid floating around my abdomen confirming that the cyst had burst recently.  I came out of anesthesia very confused and also very embarrassed.  How did I not know I had a cyst burst?  Doesn't that send people to the hospital because of the intensity of the pain?

It didn't take long for me to realize that the pain from my endometriosis caused way more pain that a cyst bursting.  It was the first time my doctor or I understood the intense misery I was really enduring every day.  It was time to have a serious conversation with myself about having a hysterectomy.

At first I cried a lot.  I knew the time was near, but I didn't know if I had the strength. My infertility was thrown in my face all over again.  Friends my age were announcing pregnancies and all I could think about was the fact that I should be able to relate to them more than I could to 50 year old woman.  I had always secretly hoped I would become pregnant by surprise and I would finally be able to take a breath of relief.  My burden would be gone and I wouldn't be infertile anymore.  Just like I always suspected.  I obviously hadn't come to terms with being grouped as such.  My mom had six kids for heaven sakes.  I should be freaking out about being pregnant AGAIN not coming to terms with the fact that I will never, NEVER know what it's like to birth a child.

It was sad and tragic and I let myself cry...alot.  I had to mourn the loss.

We set a tentative date for 5 months away when Gregg was done with school.  I knew if I was going to make such a permanent decision I had to have a concrete answer from up above before I could go through with it.  I prayed and prayed and prayed some more.  I weighed the pros and cons and went back and forth on what to do constantly.  After one such prayer a thought came to me saying, "your home will still be filled with children."  It was comforting that there was still an important plan for our family that didn't involve me birthing children, yet I still had reservations that having a hysterectomy at this time was the right thing to do.

The ONLY concrete answer I ever had was that of Free Agency.  Meaning, it was my choice.  If I was done I could be done.  If I needed more time I could have more time.

NOT the answer I wanted.  You see,  I am a rule follower for the most part. Not that I don't make mistakes or occasionally go against the teachings of the LDS church, let's not get into my weaknesses at the moment,  but when making big/huge/permanent choices I like to know the Big Guy is directing me on what to do.  I mean WHAT ON EARTH WAS HAPPENING?  Just tell me yes or no and let's get on with life.  I should not be trusted with such important decisions and yet, here I was.

In an email I received a couple weeks ago from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints they answered this perfectly.  Elder Richard G. Scott said in a general conference talk, "You may want to express thanks when that occurs, for it is evidence of His trust....God will not let you proceed too far without a warning impression if you have made the wrong decision."

I moved forward and actually made the call to schedule surgery.  During and after the phone call I was completely calm.  I took that as a good sign to move forward.  

Preparations were made, babysitters found, and before I knew it I was laying on a table with big scary lights above my head ready to be turned on to change my life forever.  My last memory is one of prayer.  I admitted I was scared and needed peace and comfort.  

Before I knew it, my name was being called and I immediately felt horrid pain.  Greater than that was the overwhelming peace covering me like a protective blanket.  I did it.  I made it through.  Despite feeling like...well... like something had been ripped out of me, I felt relief and quite possibly even joy.  

Never have I felt so watched over and comforted during a time that should be upsetting and bitter.  

I was kept in the maternity ward during my night at the hospital.  Twice I had random nurses burst into my room cheerfully asking us where our baby was.  My nurses were like Pit Bull's protecting their young and angrily sent them away.  I literally laughed it off.  The irony, I thought to myself.  During the night I heard newborn after newborn crying in their mother's room.  I was only thankful I could go back to sleep without worrying about feeding a baby.  The next morning as I was being wheeled to our car we shared the elevator with a dad holding gift bags and pastel pink balloons announcing the birth of their new baby girl.  The nurse kept me busy talking about my own two children, bringing memories of their unique and precious deliveries.  I thought, how lucky am I to have M?  She made a choice far harder and more important than I just did and she did it.  I recall during the few weeks before Emme was born, M using the word peace over and over.  Placing Emme was physically and mentally excruciatingly heart wrenching for her, yet she used the word peace several times.  She had complete agency to choose, but she was not left comfortless.  While riding in that hospital elevator I finally understood what it was like to have an army of angels sent to comfort and provide at the most critical moments in our life.  I like to imagine a room full of women calming and holding me during my hospital stay.  I felt them and know they were sent to carry me through.  

About a week after my surgery Gregg and I had a moment alone thanks to my mom coming to help.  I started to cry as I told him about my experience and the realization that the intensity of their warmth had left.  I told him I was ok and I would be ok.  He just needed to know that random tears would be shed here and there as I continued to seek healing from infertility.  

And so it goes...seven weeks post op and I have very minimal pain.  I can already see the benefit of having a hysterectomy.  The choice was mine and I am thankful I was trusted enough to make it.

--Then sings my soul, My Savior God to Thee.  How great Thou art, How great Thou art.