I’ve been commiserating with my little sister about the assholery of our uteri.
We may not be biologically related, but we have both had our histories of hysterical tissue issues. Mine are rooted a bit higher, in my ovaries with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). Hers, a bit lower in whatever was left of her cervix after multiple surgeries to remove cancerous bits, with fibroid growths to really get a party started.
I started menopause about a year and a half ago, with missed periods here and there, and she’s being chemically induced into menopause to bitch-slap her uterus into better behavior.
My uterus, not to be outdone by hers, has decided to head for the nearest exit. The technical term for this is prolapse. I think my sister correctly called it when she told my uterus to fuck off and quit being an asshole. Being more muscle than brain, my uterus simply flipped her off and continues it’s exit strategy, crawling out of my vagina.
I thought I was going to have a nice and easy peri-menopause, progressing without hiccup into full menopause, thus creating a permanent détente to my chronic battles with PCOS.
Up until this, I wasn’t having nearly the issues my mother had. In fact, by my current age, my mother was completely done with menopause, although hot flashes were a thing for her for quite some time. When I first started skipping periods, sometimes for up to three cycles, I went to my gynecologist, who gave me some brochures, tested my thyroid (all my doctors are convince there’s a thing going on with my thyroid, despite ever so many tests proving to the contrary) and told me that this was all very typical for a woman my age.
In June of 2017 my daughter was diagnosed with leukemia. She passed away in November. My husband and I have custody of our 11 year old granddaughter. Grieving is taking it’s toll. Last month I was admitted to the hospital for being suicidal.
I think about my daughter all the time. I spent every minute in the hospital with her for 5 months. Telling my granddaughter that her mom was dead was the worst thing I’ve ever had to do. Whenever I go outside for a smoke, I think of my daughter. Whenever I drive the car, it reminds me of the drive to the hospital.
My mind won’t stop thinking suicidal thoughts. My brain constantly hammering me with negative thoughts. I’m hopeless, sad and feel out of my body. I don’t recognize my thoughts or myself. I am so lost. The emptiness is everywhere and I don’t know what to do.
I’ve been treated for depression for years and have had suicidal thoughts the entire time. I spent 2 days in the psych ward. I slept most of the time. I attend an outpatient program and went to a new psychiatrist today. He said my bipolar diagnosis was incorrect and adjusted my medications.
Perfection isn’t always attainable and the cost may be too high.
Talk to your loved ones:
My sister P has an unrelenting drive to pursue perfection.
In the 70′s, she started working as a file clerk. She worked and worked, harder and harder until she was Vice President of one of the biggest banks in the world. All without a college education. remember as a child, she’d get up at a ridiculous time every morning to iron her clothes so she was perfect for her day. On the weekends, she would wash and detail her car so it was perfect, too. She was meticulous about everything she was involved with.
When someone gave her a gift she liked or someone did something well she exclaimed in a high pitch voice, “PERFECT!!!” I gave up on her level of perfect a long time ago, knowing I was never as driven as either of my sisters to keep up appearances.
She was nicknamed, after Olive Oyl, the character in the Popeye cartoons who was tall and slim with dark hair just like hers. My sister and I always struggled with our weight as children and adults but not P. She vowed as a junior high school student she would never be fat and she never was.
When P discovered she had cancer she fought extremely hard. When she was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma 20 years ago, the survival rate was much lower. Her treatments were hard but she kept her spirits up. After her bone marrow transplant she got out of the hospital faster than anyone else had before.
Year after year passed and P remained cancer-free against all odds.
Yesterday, my sister K and I drove 3.5 hours each way to see P. It was a tough visit. She’s not breathing on her own, has 5 tubes down her throat, has had a heart attack, and her kidneys are working at 25%. She is being kept alive on machines because of an infection anyone normally could get at home. Part of this is because she had a bone marrow transplant and will forever have a compromised immune system.
After talking to P’s doctors we also discovered she partially did this to herself.
P didn’t eat enough and when she did eat she didn’t eat healthy foods. I can remember for years now if she ate a normal meal she would be in the bathroom with diarrhea or throwing up.
We found out yesterday along with all the medical issues P is facing she is suffering from long-term malnutrition.
This is a woman who has money. She can afford to eat but she chose not to. We know now she didn’t eat enough for a long time. In her search for her version of perfection she is fighting for her life and on life support with an infection that you or I would be in bed with mildly inconvenienced .
She always had Cosmo or Glamor magazines in her home and strove never to be bigger than a size 6. She was forever losing just 8 more pounds.
I hope all the women I know read this and take it to heart.
P will always suffer the effects of her long-term malnutrition. It is not too late for your daughters, it is not too late for anyone reading this who struggles as P does with food. It sickens me that my sister who I love so dearly is malnourished.
Talk to your daughters. Talk to your friends. Before you skip that meal to fit into that new dress think of P and eat something healthy. Trying to be some unreal version of a woman can kill you.
I have no words for the anger I feel about this. I have always hated the unreal images of women and the shapes I will never be, but this event takes my anger to a whole new level. If women as a whole don’t buy into the magazine image of a woman then the image of the size 0 woman as perfection will have to change.
Nobody has ever said that pink walls and pastel artwork helps those with cancer cope.
This is her story:
Have you ever wondered who chooses the artwork hung in your doctors’ offices? The first time it occurred to me was when I had an ultrasound on my breast–having already been diagnosed with breast cancer (my daughter was 8 months old, my son was 3). The walls were pink, the paperwork was pink, the robes were pink. And on the walls held ungodly Georgia O’Keefe knock-offs. You know what I am talking about…the “blossoming flower” (wink wink).
In the “Women’s Imaging” center that day, the color scheme and fallopian-tube flower work was as if to say “Hi, you have cancer, but if you gaze long enough upon theses soothing feminine images, you won’t mind as much.”
Two months later, I visited my mother at the at a prominent cancer treatment facility 90 miles away. She had been diagnosed Stage IV colon cancer only a few weeks before my breast cancer diagnosis. I walked into a wide, long room hosting at least thirty patients in big, lazy-boy recliners. Each person was “under the bag” (cancer-speak for getting chemotherapy), faced toward the center of the room where sat the biggest fish tank I have ever seen. I mean, it was obscenely big—jutting out into the middle of the room in all of its aquatic resplendence like a big middle finger flipping off every cancer patient.
All of those people, their lives distilled down to hours spend under a chemo bag force-fed aquatic serenity—as if they were children in a pediatrician’s office—easily distracted by shiny bright objects floating in water. Something tells me not one of those people felt better about the fact they were getting chemo because they were looking at a fish.
When I stepped into one of the private rooms to see my mom she, too, reclined in a chemo chair—sick. A whisper of the woman she once was. And above her, one badly painted picture of…a lily pad. I went on over the next few months to my own cancer treatment. I took notice of the floor to ceiling photographic murals of “peaceful scenes” in my oncologists’ minuscule examination rooms.
When I lay down on the table my toes nearly touch the nose of a fuzzy bunny in a field in Exam Room 1; a doe grazing in the dew of a spring morning in Exam Room 3; or the tepid water of the pond holding LILY PADS. Right next to the medical chart of the female reproductive system is an 8foot x 8foot wall of LILY PADS!!!!!
I kid you not.
I thought it mere coincidence until I was received further treatment at a nationally renown university cancer center. Waiting room? Fish tank. Exam room? LILY PADS!
By this time I’m pretty sure these lily pads and fish tanks are some sort of secret code for kind of insurance we all have. Or portals into a fourth dimension. What is the art work like at HIV clinics, or pediatric cancer units, or prostate cancer centers? Thrusting erect shapes in dominant tones? Exactly how is someone else interpreting our fears for us and prescribing certain images to calm us?
I don’t know about you, but when I walk into my oncologist’s office I need to either see Lenny Kravitz working behind a Starbucks cart or Johnnie Depp, shirtless, handing out Valium if they want me to get my mind off of why I am there. Fish tanks, lily pads and Procrit squeeze balls key holders to the women’s room don’t cut it.
Can you imagine if every woman diagnosed with cancer walked into a doctor’s examination room and given paint and a blank wall? I doubt we would find one freaking lily pad…ever. What would you paint on your doctors’ walls? What would your mother have painted on the walls of her doctor’s offices?
And don’t get me started on the images for pregnant women…I have been a birth professional for nearly a decade, and I have NEVER seen a woman dilate more when gazing upon a protruding petunia.
Screw the pastels—we are women for god’s sake, stronger than any other element in nature.
So I go to my 6 month check up with the oncologist. He’s been my doctor for years. Nice guy who gets me. I am in the exam room when a strange doctor comes in and out of my mouth flies: “Who the hell are you?” SNAP! Dr. Young-Thing proceeds to tell me he is a resident (oh crap), and that he is going to examine me. Like a deer in headlights, I say, “Like hell you are…where is Dr. S?”
I thought for sure he was going to push some hidden button for non-compliant patients. But he sits down and pulls up my chart online. Dr I-Have-Tattoos-Older Than-You proceeds to overview my ENTIRE medical history with me. We are talking 7 years.
I’m thinking: Noooooo, it was 2003 superstar, now get me the real doctor and do your fancy learnin’ on someone else.
“I am going to examine you–is that okay?”
To which I say, “No, not really, but I will let you see the magic that is my mastectomy!”
Oh, I was in rare form. (undoubtedly precipitated by a phone call with my parents not ten minutes earlier that mimicked Terms of Endearment–where I was ready to go Shirley MacClain on my dad’s sorry ass—”Get My Mom the medicine NOW!)
Dr Young thing: “I am feeling for your spleen, don’t find it.”
Me: “Wow, you need to study more.”
Dr. YT is fairly flustered by this point and steps out–leaving me the keys to the kingdom– My personal files online, for me to read! AHHH yeaaaaa! You know I did, kids. I sat right down and scrolled through that puppy like I was on a shopping spree at eBay. Okay, you ready…Here it is…the undeniably recorded in history and for all of UCLA and the world at large to read as a description of me as written by a my oncologist:
“This is a pleasant lady, alert and oriented x4, in no acute distress”
A resounding endorsement for Zoloft if I have ever heard one.
By then my real doctor, the author of my epitaph, comes in. I tried really hard to be “pleasant, alert, oriented x4 (not sure what the highest possible score is, but I am optimistic). Now, he has passed several of my is-this-doctor-a-dipwad litmus tests and so he is familiar with my work as a pain in the ass patient! He does his thing, and I tell him they should tell folks before they send a resident in to a patient.
He asks, “Why?”
“Because I had cancer, have no boobs, and a right to choose who looks at the train wreck that I call a body, reads my history, and for that matter is in the same room with me.”
I think I lost points for “pleasant lady…”
But then I look up at Dr Young Thing, and see his name tag. “Dr. Krishna” to which I said, “man, not much pressure with that name, huh?” They both started laughing so I think I got some points back for pleasantness.
The best…and I did this for all of you…is when I left. I saw yet another Dr. Young Thing standing in the back office. He was beyond GORGEOUS! I said to the whole staff, “I will have him as my resident next time, thanks”. Could have heard a pin drop…
Love to all of you pleasant, alert, and oriented x4 women out there who are only occasionally in acute distress…
1. This Band right here? Y’all? Knock me over with a damn feather for how blown away I am by you. Your words, support, mad crazy love and humor are sitting at the tippy top of the stuff-I’m-grateful-for sundae. I love each and every one of you and there will never ever be way for me to express my love and gratitude. I wish I could make all of you chicken parm. Because my chicken parm rocks.
2. Anyone offended by the word fuck in all its versions and glory should probably stop reading right now. (I just re-read this post. Take this warning seriously.)
3. If you don’t mind, oh interwebbers, I’m probably going to be here a lot. I JUST started my own blog but this little issue I’ve got going on is a little personal and raw so this is stuff I’d like to keep here, where I feel safe and loved. Do you mind ?
OK. So the doctor’s office was essentially big, mega, fucking bullshit. After sitting in the waiting room for NINETY MOTHERFUCKING MINUTES, I finally see Dr. V. who does a little poking around my poor sore breasticles. You know, they should really have a class in medical school on the poker face. Like, I don’t need to see you looking startled. Oh, and I also don’t need you to ask me three times if there is any chance that my eggo is preggo. Dude, I am so fucking sure I’m not knocked up. I mean, if I am, hallelujah because not only does it explain the sore boobies, me and Chelle are about to be really, really rich. And I may even be able to make it on the Rachel Maddow show.
So he immediately starts writing out the referral for a diagnostic mammogram and sonogram and informs me that depending on what those show, we may need to do a biopsy. A biopsy? Doesn’t that involve a needle? In my boobie? Speaking of needles in my boobie, yes, my right nipple is pierced (that’s a good story, I will tell it to ya someday). He also looked at that in horror and informed me that I need to take it out. Which, I mean, I knew but that’s an added stress because it has been there for almost 15 years. It has never been taken out. When you go through 12 gauges of needle going IN, why the hell would you ever take it out? Plus its lots of fun going through medical detectors in deep south airports. So yeah, I’ve got to worry about that, too. Motherfucker. He also gives me a prescription for this massive antibiotic in case it is mastitis. He jokingly informs me that this is what he gives teenagers to treat their acne, so my skin will be great. Okay, first of all dickwad, my skin is already pretty fucking awesome. Secondly, I’m not here about bumps on my fucking FACE!!!
Anyway, referral for all the poking, prodding and boob squishing in hand, I leave the doc to walk over to the CVS to fill the prescription for the antibiotics. I am all about being proactive, so I decide to call the imaging center he has referred me to and see when I can get in because he said sometimes they are open on Saturdays. Full of the Win right ? Well, not really since I am informed that my motherfucking government employee insurance is not accepted there. Are you fucking kidding me? So now I’m pissed. I drop off the prescription and head over to Starbucks to wait for it and to call the motherfucking HMO. They inform me that even though it’s a DIAGNOSTIC mammogram, not a shits and giggles one, there are a very limited number of centers I can go to, all of them roughly in Indonesia. AND I am currently car-less (another sorta funny story).
Again, ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?
And, just because I was CLEARLY Attila the Hun in a past life and karma is making me its bitch, Monday is a holiday so I dont know if any of these places are open. I leave for fun-filled Kansas City, Missouri Wednesday morning for six days. So basically if I can’t get an appointment for Monday or Tuesday, I’m laying up in Kansas City, stressed the fuck out, licking BBQ sauce from my fingers, with sore boobies and a growing sense of dread and doom. For SIX MOTHERFUCKING DAYS.
So that’s where we are kids. I’m glad that I’m fairly consumed with a cocktail of detachment and general pissed off-ness so the panic and fear have to take a number for now. But ya know what? I am going to kick that lump’s ass, no matter what it is. I’m bigger than whatever it thinks it’s got. And I have one hell of a posse.