DYSMENORRHEA — The “D” word that led me to my hysterectomy.
From my page What is Dysmenorrhea?
DYSMENORRHEA — The “D” word that led me to my hysterectomy.
From my page What is Dysmenorrhea?
Fantastic article. Fantastic advice from Dr. Jen.
OK, it’s not a total secret, my total hysterectomy, but there are some people who I didn’t tell for various reasons.
I told everybody at work because well, I was going to be off four weeks and I had no shame getting the baby house taken out. My boss really wanted me to have a baby, but I’m older, my eggs are few and defective, and well, the only time I did get pregnant there were chromosomal problems. Alas, the fate of advanced maternal age.
I’d actually been thinking about a hysterectomy for YEARS but didn’t get one because having a healthy baby seemed like a good and possible thing. I suffered through years and years and years and years and years … did I mention years?! … of painful periods, lost time and utter fatigue.
At one point in my mid-twenties I was on a Fentanyl patch for the pain — three days every month. It worked well, but I completely lost those days of my life … I mean I remembered virtually nothing. I decided this wasn’t the best way to continue and stumbled onto Vioxx! Oh how I missed Vioxx! Vioxx made my periods completely manageable; I’m not sure how this drug did that but it did. Why question what’s working?!
Wow! That was TEN YEARS AGO! I tried Celebrex, a related drug, but never had pain relief and instead got facial flushing, mild chest pressure and pedal edema. So, I was back on the pain-med bandwagon … 😦
My recipe for my best attempt at pain control every month became a cocktail of Tylenol #3 (acetaminophen with 30 mG codeine), Tylenol and ibuprofen — all at the maximum safe doses. This has been my regime for the last decade combined with the use of a hot water bottle, heating pad, patience, hot baths, emotional support (from my dear husband) and copious sleep.
I have often thought how I would keep this regimen up month after month, year after year, wondering about the health of my liver and kidneys due to all these chemicals? When I turned 45 I thought this would be the year to say good-bye to my uterus.
Oh, back to the SECRET part … well, I had this surgery and have not told either my father or my parents-in-law. I haven’t told my dad because he’s a typical high-functioning genius Aspergian and his response would be … well, weird. I also feel there is no benefit for him to know of this surgery.
I’m pretty sure our conversation would go like this:
ME: Hi Dad. I just wanted to let you know I’m having a hysterectomy on [insert date].
DAD: Oh? Why are you doing that? [with a very puzzled tone]
ME: Well, I’ve had really, really painful periods for years and we’re not going to have children. [me, kind of embarrassed that I’m talking about periods with my seventy-something-year-old dad]
DAD: I planted a sweet potato vine out in the front. It’s not ready to harvest yet.
ME: ????! [thinking WTF?!, he didn’t even address my surgery]
So, suffice it to say, he’ll never know about my hysterectomy. It’s not that he’s an uncaring man; he’s simply VERY factual. In all honesty, I would like a bit more attention and a caring sympathetic response from my father but he is who he is. C’est la vie and que sera sera!
In regard to my parents-in-law, it would be a WHOLE other story. I would get loads of attention, lots of questions — not the kind I’d really want. Just last year I was walking around the block with my father-in-law who is well-aware of our previous baby loss, but remains hopeful, and told me about his 56-year-old friend — FIFTY-SIX! who got pregnant. Naturally. No IVF (in-vitro fertilization). Um, all I could reply was, “That’s interesting” and keep walking. When I told my husband about this he cried bullshit on the whole thing his dad said.
My father-in-law is a GREAT man. Seriously. No joke. And I love my mother-in-law dearly too. But what they won’t be getting from us is grandchildren. Ever. They have a grandson and granddaughter from my husband’s sister … so they do have grandchildren, simply not from us.
I didn’t tell them about my hysterectomy because there would have been the “whys” and “you can still have children” and “you’re young” and “blah, blah, blah” … not the conversation I wanted to get into. I may tell them one day when I’m in my 70s that we’re not having children … until then I’ll let them remain hopeful!
I certainly didn’t make this decision on the fly; it’s been brewing for many, many years — in fact, I’ve thought of a hysterectomy every month now for years! Pain is a lovely reminder (sarcasm).
So, my secret’s out with some … just a few. Sadly, the people I’d most like to share this life-changing event with are the ones I’m not.
Some people may think getting a hysterectomy is a bit extreme for painful periods. These people have never had MY dysmenorrhea. I’ve tried hormones — I still have pain and exhausting fatigue. I tried fish oil and ended up bruised all over without any relief during my periods. I tried Vitex, an herb from the Chasteberry tree; all I got was a severely dry mouth and no change in menstrual pain. I tried acupuncture. I tried meditation. I tried yoga. I tried belly dancing. I tried vigorous regular exercise. I tried lots and lots and lots of sex. I tried prayer. I tried changing my diet to gluten free, dairy free, being a vegetarian … nothing helped, nothing changed.
I never got pregnant again since June 2012 so even another pregnancy wasn’t an answer to this pain relief. The only reason I kept the baby house around (AKA the uterus) was in case I did get pregnant. Now I am over 45 and can’t conceive of myself as a first-time mother at this age. I’ve accepted my childlessness with some sadness.
When I was newly pregnant in 2012 I told my Ob/Gyn that no matter what happened with my pregnancy I would know before I died I was pregnant at least once — something I thought was impossible. I could be happy just knowing that at least I was able to get pregnant once.
Here’s the thing about miracle cures … usually, they’re not really miracles … and usually, they’re not really cures, either.
Finally, in 2009 (or 2010?) I got a new Ob/GYN and he suggested a laparoscopy. Finally I thought I would get answers to the monthly pain within me. The laparoscopy and anesthesia recovery were easy. I did feel like a bloated giant blueberry for a couple days from the laparoscopy though. The procedure went well and I was told that I only had a few endometrial implants that were easily fulgurated. By the level of my dysmenorrhea pain I thought I would have been riddled with endometriosis, but no, I had the average amount of endometriosis for a woman of my age.
I learned that a woman can be filled with endometriosis and suffer no pain, and the opposite is true as well — little to no endometriosis with severe dysmenorrhea. So, with that diagnostic test under my belt I was left wondering what the cause of my pain was … I only knew what it wasn’t.
For many years, as long as I can remember I have suffered from painful periods AKA dysmenorrhea.
I started my period at age thirteen and couldn’t have been more excited. I was so excited to finally “get it.” It was a big deal back in the 80s when I was growing up who would get their period first … like some sort of perverse race. My period in the beginning wasn’t painful and any pain I did have was managed easily by the over-the-counter medication Pamprin. Does anyone use Pamprin anymore?
When I turned seventeen I started on the birth control pill and my period pain was still manageable at that time. It wasn’t until my mid-twenties that the pain from my periods became horrible. I was at the point where the cramping went down my legs both the back and front, the low back pain was unrelenting and I had bouts of intermittent diarrhea. The pain was so bad I had to crawl around on my hands and knees at times (at home of course, not in public), and would miss a day or two of work almost monthly.
In my late twenties I decided to go off the pill and try to get pregnant. Without contraception, I never became pregnant and had unexplained fertility. I am still baffled why no gynecologist suggested a laparoscopy to investigate my dysmenorrhea.
My pain was eventually managed by my primary care physician who put me on a Fentanyl Patch of 50 mcG for three days out of every month with breakthrough pain managed with Tylenol #3 and 800 mG ibuprofen. After enduring these medications for a about a year and losing days of my life every month due to the combination of pain and the sedating amnesic effects of Fentanyl, I decided to go stop using the Fentanyl. I didn’t want to lose parts of my life even though the pain was completely controlled. At that point I started taking Vioxx — a non-narcotic, non-steriodal anti-inflammatory medication that would eventually be pulled from the market … FOREVER. 😦
The diarrhea episodes eventually subsided after several years but the severe back and leg pain continued every month without fail. And then for the last decade a debilitating fatigue would set in almost every month. I would get dark, dark circles under my eyes, and yet never heavy bleeding. I have never been anemic. I would take Tylenol #3 and Ibuprofen, staying in bed sleeping the painful period days away. This is the prelude to my hysterectomy.
PS: For more on DYSMENORRHEA see my page section at the top of the blog!