February 23, 2014

6 Weeks Post Surgery

The external incision is just below my pants line, horizontally.
The internal incision is vertical; from my pants line up to my bellybutton.
Blue area = lost skin sensation. Weird.
I feel as though I should have some very wise insights after 6 weeks of chilling/recovering.  But I don't.  I do, however, have a lot of random thoughts that have been stifled from sharing with others, simply because I'm not out in the world to share them.  Sometimes they burrow a discordant hole in my brain, so here I share them. Some are connected, some are not.

I usually live my life very productively.  I move from one project to another.  I take care of myself (good food/exercise), but beyond that self-care is a back-burner issue.  These past several weeks, have been quite different in that the focus was 100% on me.  Take care of me, get well.  Heal.  Insights:  it was what it was.  It had to be.

I am grateful (so grateful!) to live in a time and place in which the medical attention I have received was possible.  But things are not fair.  I'm lucky, but not infinitely so.  I now have medical bills that I am unable to afford.  Nature is not fair.  I understood this fully for the first time in the jungles of Nicaragua, where life exists under one ethos: eat or be eaten.  This, I believe, is the underlying state of life everywhere, some societies have just become better at painting a slick wash of HighQualityOfLife over it.  I have been enjoying watching the BBC's Tudor Farm, which shows the ins and outs of English farmers' lives 500 years ago.
  It's fascinating to see how religion coats everything, how religious beliefs further indenture farmers to the church instead of liberating them in any way from it.  It's fascinating to see the solutions people used for building, fencing, cooking, heating, travel, trade, and so on, all without electricity or running water.  Then, I watched Shadows of Our Forgotten Ancestors, a 1964 film which depicts life in the Carpathian Mountains among the Hutsul in Ukraine.
Again, I was fascinated by the way of life, the religiosity, the harshness of life, and how similarly human life looks to the jungle where nothing is fair, and luck plays a greater part of the puzzle than it seems to play in our modern lifestyle in the West.  I was struck by the fact that while the medieval Tudors lived 500 years ago, the Hutsul way of life existed as recently as 100 years ago.  Two nights ago, I watched As I Lay Dying and it really hit the right chord with me.  Not only did this story take place also 100 years ago, but it took place here in this country, in rural, poor Mississippi.  Bad luck often begets bad luck, and this is compounded when the people in question are poor.  Despite my great social capital (6 years of undergraduate education, 4 years veterinary medical education, 2 years masters degree), I have significant negative financial capital.  My student debt to income ratio is 10:1, five times higher than suggested as reasonable. (No, I can't declare bankruptcy on it. Yes, I've consolidated where possible).  I am lucky to have health insurance.  But I still have bills for this surgery in the thousands, which I simply can't afford.  These thoughts swallow me whole sometimes.

Before surgery, we thought I had 2 ovarian cysts.  The surgeon thought she'd have to remove the left one altogether as it was enveloped inside the tumor, but she thought she'd probably be able to salvage some if not all of my right ovary.  So, right before my surgery, I told my doctor that if she thought she might have to remove both ovaries to just go ahead and do a hysterectomy too.  She asked why, and I said, "well, if I can't have my own kids, I wouldn't want to have the option to have any." During the surgery, they realized I had endometriomas (tumors made of the inner lining of the uterus) instead of ovarian cysts, and the doctor was able to salvage both my ovaries.  But, as endometriosis recurrs in ~45% of patients after surgical removal, I now have to choose what type of hormonal preventative treatment I want to be on so I don't have to have surgery again every year.  My choices are depo-lupron (puts me into early menopause, decreases bone density), depo-provera shots (birth control, decreases bone density), or birth control pills (which I went off in the first place because I puked every month.  Only after I stopped them did I realize I had had suppressed libido for 10+ years. Super sad.)  Of course I don't want surgery again, but I also don't want to go on any of these medications.  It makes me angry that my surgeon's default goal is to protect my fertility and never even asked me what MY goals were, other than when I brought it up 2 minutes before they put me under anaesthesia. It makes me angry that the way the literature and informational pamphlets talk about the options is very binary: either you are young and want to be fertile, or you're old and dried up and it's time to retire you.  I never saw myself represented.  What about those of us that are not young but far from old, who never really desired kids but aren't opposed to it, who lean a whole lot closer to not wanting kids even if it means hysterectomy than saving troublesome bits of organs at all costs which might mean we'll have multiple surgeries in the future?  It makes me angry that I still have a troublesome uterus when the surgeon was just in there and could have removed it, and the entire issue of my endometriosis with it.  It makes me angry that everyone assumes what my position on the subject of MY HEALTH is simply because I'm a female of a certain age. It makes me angry that reproduction is the default goal in an overpopulated world.  It makes me angry for feeling the whiplash of this societal default--that I feel sad for never having felt loved for having been a woman with the awesome capability of reproducing.  It makes me angry to have been born female at all.

Once I feel these angers and sadnesses, I come back to knowing, simply, that life isn't fair.  And that while no options are good ones, at least I have options?  *Sigh*  Every time I feel like my life is turning up, I get kicked in the teeth.  I keep metaphorically clambering up again to enjoy all I can (because who wants to be miserable all the time!?!), but reality can really be a bitch.  No surprise, then, that the first day I had my regular amount of energy, it came attendant with low grade anxiety.  The next day, I still had anxiety, and it grew over the course of the day. Why's it gotta be like that?  Ben reminded me that post-surgical anxiety and/or depression is common and normal.  Great (*sarcasm*). Cue post-surgical anxiety, I guess.  I am glad it only lasted 3ish days.

Today I start work again.  I feel well.  I think it will be good to be working regularly again.  I hope it's motivating and not too overwhelming to jump right back into work. I had just under 6 weeks of recovery time.  Solidly 4 weeks of that was spent mostly in bed, brain fogged, exhausted most of the time.  During week 5, I started to be more active, but then got sick which knocked me out again for several days.  These past several days have been good: I've been more active, have had more responsibility with cooking for myself again etc (HUGE THANK YOUS to all my wonderful family and friends who helped me out with food and entertainment!!!!  You are the greatest, and it was really really helpful!).  I am looking forward to spending less time on Facebook.  I'm on it a lot in general, and generally I find it productive/rewarding.  But watching the newsfeed scroll by one status-update at a time for weeks on end is too much.  I'm annoyed by the link-bait headlines, the repetitive posts, and how we're preaching to the choir on there.  I see a lot of back-patting for thinking the same ways that we think, but I see very little actual action on these issues compared to the number of people posting about them. (Um, but I DO have lots of active, involved friends doing meaningful work creatively, intelligently, socially, which is why I find FB to generally be rewarding, when I'm not just sitting in front of the screen 24/7).

Okay.  Thanks for indulging my rants, and allowing me to get things off my chest.  Upward & onward!

February 9, 2014

Donate to Holding You Hostage!

Laughing your ass off at us?
Feeling sorry for us because our sense-of-humor-o-meter seems broken?
Whatever the reason you're here, we're glad.

~Sisters Holding You Hostage