It has been so long since I’ve posted that WordPress has done an upgrade and I no longer recognize my blog platform. Hmph.
It’s pretty clear that I’m in denial. Since I’ve started seriously planning for the hysterectomy, I’ve actually been avoiding this blog. I just don’t want to talk about it. Actually, I don’t even want to think about it.
My big fear is not losing my femininity or some crazy thing like that. I’m not worried about hot flashes although everyone says I should be. I’m not worried about my libido or that my husband won’t find me womanly. I’m not worried that I might grow a beard or lose my hair or have other weird physical symptoms (I have these problems already!).
I’m worried I might sink back into the abyss that I was in during my postpartum depression. I’ve had clinically diagnosed major depressive disorder with anxiety and panic attacks for almost 15 years, and I’ve been treated quite successfully with drugs and talk therapy for most of that time. While I was pregnant with my son, my doctors switched me from Celexa, which had been working wonderfully, to Zoloft – deeming Zoloft safer for the baby. I felt fine mood-wise during pregnancy, so there seemed to be no reason to switch back to Celexa after I gave birth. But a month after I had my baby, everything changed, and I went to a dark place I wouldn’t wish for my worst enemy to visit. I woke up every morning at 5am on the dot having a panic attack, crying and hyperventilating. I then stayed in bed wide awake staring at the wall until 11 am while my husband went to work, and a friend took care of my newborn baby. By 11am, I was able to wrangle myself into the shower, go downstairs, and be somewhat functional but still never alone with the baby. I couldn’t leave the house. I couldn’t drive. I cried a lot about everything. By 6pm, I was back in bed staring at the wall while my husband took care of our infant throughout the night. I stayed this way for three months until I found a doctor who figured out the right concoction of medication to get me out of that hole.
Knowing the ppd was hormone-related makes me worry about losing all of my hormones completely. What will it be like when I wake up from the surgery? Will I be moody and hot flashy? Or will I be sunken into a pit of despair, dysfunctional, imagining walking off the nearest bridge? This is what I’m worried about.
To catch up on the logistics, I had an ultrasound of my ovaries last week and everything was normal. I then met with Dr. Sukumvanich and we scheduled my hysterectomy with salpingectomy and oophorectomy for July 29th – I will stay overnight but will be there less than 24 hours. He says the recovery won’t be too bad – some pain and restrictions on lifting for three weeks. I liked him very much, but at one point he explained that my risk of ovarian cancer will, after the surgery, be less than a “normal woman.” I’m usually the first one to say that I’m not so normal, but it’s different when someone else says it about you! He also explained that he wouldn’t recommend HRT given that I had DCIS and I’m BRCA2+. So, my options for dealing with surgical menopause are limited. I am meeting with a medical oncologist next week to determine if there might be some type of hormone therapy that would be safe for me. He also wants me to have an abdominal scan; I’m slightly worried about this since the last one landed me in the ER.
During the appointment with Dr. Sukumvanich, he asked if I was alone, just calling attention to the fact that I indeed was. His nurse later asked if there was anyone in the waiting room they wanted me to get. I know they wanted to make sure I felt comfortable and that someone else would be there to ‘listen’ – I’ve read that you should take people with you to these appointments because sometimes it’s hard to hear what they have to say. I go alone though. I’m an expert notetaker. And I can handle a doctor’s appointment – let my family save their vacation time to be with me in the hospital and during recovery. Interestingly though, for every appointment I’ve had that’s been related to this procedure (the gynecologist, the blood work, the ultrasound, and the gyn/onc appt), I’ve forgotten my purple folder of information – the one I carried with me everywhere throughout my breast appointments. This means I’ve had to fill out extra paperwork now and then. Not a big deal, but I wonder if, subconsciously, leaving the house without that folder is part of my denial.
That night after my appointment, my husband and I had sex. Since I went back on the Celexa (as part of ‘fixing’ my ppd), my libido has really suffered. Over the last few months, my new psychiatrist and I have been trying some new medication dosages and combinations. I’m now off the Celexa and instead taking Wellbutrin and Viibryd; I feel great. This combination has led to me actually wanting to have sex again! And while we were doing so, I began to realize how much I was enjoying it, finally after all this time, and I started to panic thinking, “this might be the last time I enjoy sex.” I began to sob. I’m trying not to be a drama queen about this, but it’s so much bigger than the whole boob thing. This really could change my life. I am a really happy person; I love my life right now. I’m so worried about losing that in such a drastic way.
Coincidentally, I have sailed down the Nile river (not D’Nile, but the actual Nile) when I visited Egypt in 1997. I was in a small motor boat with my then boyfriend and a child no more than 12 years old as our ‘captain.’ I am not a religious person, but I remember letting my hand hang over the side of the boat into the water and thinking, “this is where Moses traveled in his basket.” I remember feeling history – ancient history. There’s a metaphor here. I sailed down the Nile so I’ll sail through the hysterectomy? The Nile is ancient history therefore so is my uterus? I don’t know. All I do know is that this will be hard. I’d love to say, “and I’ll get through it just like I’ve gotten through the rest of this,” but hey, I’m in denial, so “this will be hard” is the best I can do right now.