Warning, I’m about to get all up in my own lady part business. If you get queasy reading about ovaries or uteruses (uteri?) or blood or pain, you should probably move along today to something else.
Ah, I know, here is a video about a baby elephant playing tag with a dog. Try watching that instead.
For those of you who are still with me, hi, welcome to my lady parts.
Sunday night I had another ovarian cyst rupture. Luckily, I was already at Urgent Care when that happened. I started blacking out from pain; the nurse gave me a shot of morphine and then did an ultrasound to confirm what I already knew: ruptured cyst. Now, I’ve dealt with my fair share of pain over the years—ribs popping out of my spine a half-dozen at a time, multiple times per week; I’ve had ribs so far away from my rib cage that they were cutting off blood circulation in the arteries that run under my collar bone and down my arm. My pelvis was cranked almost 90 degrees from where it should be and my neck and spine at one point were collapsing into my chest cavity. I’ve taken an airbag to the face, had a concussion so severe my brain was actually bleeding into my cranial cavity and pooling under my eye sockets (hello, killer black eyes!). THAT ALL BEING SAID, rupturing cysts are the only thing so far that have sent me in to shock, that have made me throw up from pain and black out just to escape my own body.
This is probably my 7th or 8th ruptured cyst in the last 10 years and it just doesn’t ever get easier. Apparently, about 30 percent of women have cysts on their ovaries, for many women those cysts can be shrunk by taking birth control. Unfortunately, the 3 or 4 types of birth control I’ve tried give me terrible 6 week long periods, soaking through super-absorbent tampons in an hour and losing fist-sized blood clots, then a blissful 1-2 week break followed by another 6 week long period. Seeing my own blood in the toilet almost always gives me a little panic attack, I’m sure this is leftover from the sexual abuse I suffered as an early twenty-something (and resulting non-menstrual blood that filled the toilet), but I have to give myself a little pep talk before I can put in a tampon or stand up so I don’t start hyperventilating. I can’t function having to do that for six weeks at a time my whole life; it’s just not worth it. Once upon a time there were surgical options to have those cysts scraped out, it’s super invasive and very painful, and the problem is that within a few months or a few years the cysts grow back. Big Insurance isn’t really keen on paying for multiple, ineffective surgeries; and most women aren’t all that thrilled with the idea of multiple very invasive surgeries without any real chance of fixing the problem. I have toyed with the idea of an IUD, but apparently my lady parts are super tiny and my doctor is legit concerned that I’m not big enough to get the damn thing in. Yes, IUDs are small, thumb sized, really, but the duck-bill clamp-thingies they have to use to open you up enough to embed it in your uterine wall are…not so small. They are terrifying, actually; for me the duck-bill clamps are far worse than a pap smear or anything else that happens at the OB/GYN’s office. Dah, it makes me hurt just thinking about them.
So. Where does this leave me? I have periods on a somewhat normal schedule, no birth control, bad cramps most of the time, and every 6-18 months I have a cyst rupture, get a shot of morphine take a day off work, and get back to my life. Is it ideal? No, it’s not. But it’s so much better than bleeding for 75% of my life.
Also, can we talk about morphine for a minute? I’ve never tried hard drugs, not even pot, and I’ve never really wanted to. But, oooohmygoodness, if that stuff makes you feel HALF the kind of relaxed happy that morphine does I can absolutely see how people can get addicted. Frankly, I am pretty sure I would get addicted after trying it once. Morphine makes all the hurt go away, and I can feel it coursing through my vein, warming up my arm and shoulder, and when it hits my heart there is this immediate flood of calm and happy that shoots through my whole body. Lawsy, it’s a good thing that I only receive morphine a) under extreme pain and b) administered by a medical professional. If I could get that stuff in a sippy cup I’d be sucking that thing constantly. Sooooo good!
(Yes, part of my love of morphine probably stems from the indescribable pain it immediately takes away. But the other part is the perfectly calm, happy feeling that is so very rare for me to experience. Also, probably exacerbated by the horrible, nauseating, will-I-live-through-this-feeling terror that happens immediately before a morphine shot. See: ruptured cyst.)
On Monday morning, while I was carefully tucked in to bed with a new book, I posted on Facebook about my experience, and the more I think about it the more I would love to see some kind of study. I wonder how men would react to the lovely side effects of having a period. What would happen if all of a sudden their penis started shooting blood for 5-7 days, combined with a penile Charlie horse (cramps)? And what if every doctor and website calmly assured them that this was normal, and even that it was a “beautiful and important part of manhood and fatherhood.” (Ha! Snort.) And what if a few weeks later it happened again, and then again, and again? For thirty-plus years. How would they—the general male populous—handle it? And what if every so often a balloon of blood and goo exploded inside their testicles? No reason, no warning, no cure, just BAM!–paintball to the testes. Do you think Research and Development labs would try a little harder to figure out a better solution? Do you think insurance companies would be more willing to invest in a procedure that eliminated this kind of thing? Do you think pharmacists would be able to distribute morphine to sufferers? (Ok, that last one might be a bit of a stretch…but still, would they?) It is a pretty solid assumption that the heads of medical research labs, insurance agencies, and Big Pharma are mostly men, and if they had this kind of debilitating horror to deal with every month you can bet your ass they would try and find some way to reduce their pain and suffering.
Reason #20,304 why more women should pursue STEM-related fields, why they should seek advanced degrees and pioneer research projects. Go to college, ladies, and stay there until you have that degree!
And in the meantime, I’ll be here with my sippy cup.