I spoke to someone last night who I see occasionally at meetings. She also sees Carole sometimes, and she reads this blog. And she asked me about my health drama, which made me think I haven’t been totally clear about it and what’s going on.
Here’s the short version. After many years of heavy periods and a short cycle, I skipped three months back in 2005. I went to the doctor, and was tested for menopausal hormones, and none were found. The doctor gave me a prescription for a hormone to bring it on, but I was getting married, so I didn’t take it. Meanwhile, it started up on it’s own, and all was regular for another two years.
Then I started skipping periods, having extra periods, and having super long periods. Once, when I bled for two and half weeks, I called the doctor’s office, and was told to call back when it had gone on for two months. I should explain that the period wasn’t heavy, and it wasn’t making me weak or anything, it just wouldn’t end. But finally it did.
Last month, I went to the doctor for a regular yearly (which was 18 months after my last one), and I brought with me my record of the past 18 months and my wonky periods. Aside from the two long ones, and some months when I had two, especially during the last six months, it was infrequent and sometimes lasted for just two days. I went in all happy like yay, I’m having a good menopause, it’s just going to go away quietly without surgery or drugs. So so so many women I know of a certain age have had hysterectomies, there’s hardly anyone out that there who can tell me what a normal menopause is like.
So I was all happy and the doctor was like well, maybe it’s a nice menopause, but maybe it’s cancer. Thus began the tests. She ordered a blood test, an endometrial biopsy, and a pelvic sonogram. Over the next week and a half I had all those tests, all the while worrying about cancer. The blood test again showed no menopause, but I don’t really understand that, since I have gray hair aplenty. But I’m not interested enough to investigate.
The biopsy came back with no sign of cancer or precancerous cells. That was the biggest relief. The sonogram tech told me all was well. Then I started a big, bloody, painful period. Then the doctor called and said there was something on the sonogram, and I need another sonogram. She said there could be polyps that, I guess, are too small to be sure. The next sonogram she wants me to have must be done during my period, so now I have to wait for another one to go get it. During all that I also had a mammogram and breast sonogram, and it was OK there.
So. Most of the time I think that really, I’m just going through a normal if early menopause, and the doctor just wants to intervene. She’s asked me several times if I want birth control pills to regulate my cycle, and every time I’ve told her no. No, if the wackiness of my cycle isn’t negatively impacting the quality of my life, I don’t want pills. She also said this next sonogram will show more which is preferable to having surgery just because.
So for people who are reading and wondering, I’m most likely fine. This does bring up oldtimer issues for me though. For all of my adult (sober) life, I’ve always tried to take the minimum of medications and there are no prescription drugs that I take. It’s been vitally important to me to get off of pain medications as quickly as possible. I am no fan of pain, and I don’t believe in suffering in 2008 if we don’t have to. I even asked the vet for pain meds when my cat got spayed. However I know that at times these things lead sober alcoholics back to drinking, or at least to being addicted to the pills. I am not criticizing people who have chronic pain. I can’t imagine what that’s like, and I don’t feel qualified to pass judgment on that situation. But for me, with no chronic conditions, it is imperative that I get off of pain meds as quickly as possible.
I used to take laughing gas at the dentist. I remember very specifically how it was when that gas hit my brain. I tried to manipulate the dentist to give me more by gripping the arms of the chair and acting as if it hurt. Once, under gas, I heard on the radio that scientists had speculated that a giant meteor had crashed into the earth, causing dust that changed the climate and killing the dinosaurs (remember, I’m old). For some reason this struck me as funny, and I giggled, and the dentist asked if I was OK. I understood then I had to tone it down or he would tone the gas down.
I decided, under the influence of gas, to drink as soon as I left the dentist’s office. I loved the feeling of that drug, and I marveled that I ever gave anything like that up for good. I decided to drink again.
This decision always left me as the gas left me, thank God. But all that I’ve described is addictive thinking and behavior. It shows me the way my mind works around mood altering chemicals.
For that reason and others, I’ve always tried to get away with the minimum of medicine that I can. I’m lucky to be basically healthy – lucky because I don’t take very good care of myself. But facing this recent health scare has underscored to me that I don’t want pills and surgery that I don’t need. When I was pregnant with my son in 1987, the doctor asked me if I wanted a sonogram. I asked him if it could detect something they could treat, and he said no, so I said no. I projected the image of the worried mom enough that the doctor was surprised. But again, I didn’t want the test just to have it.
I’m wondering now if my doctor just wants to intervene, surgically or with medicine or somehow, just to intervene. I wonder, and I have to also consider that she knows what she’s doing, that I’m blessed to have so much technology available to me, that it may catch some awful disease while it can still be treated.
This episode has made me think about dying more often and in more detail than I’d like. It has increased my gratitude many times over for the life I do have, and the time I’ve been granted. My interpretation of the steps and program around issues like this is that I am to appreciate what I have and remember that each sober day is a gift. It was given to me, I didn’t earn or deserve it. And the part I like least of all, the part where I have to accept that everyone dies, and all people alive now are fragile.
It also showed me that lots of people care about me, and I’m humbled by that. It reminds me of that phrase they say in church sometimes, “When I think of you, I thank my God.”