March for Babies

Thursday, June 10, 2004

I am NOT the Master

My friend S thinks that I am a master of time management and organization. I will use the events of this afternoon to illustrate the fact that while I do embody a little of each of these characteristics, I am not, in fact a master of either.
My car was in the shop today getting new brake pads and rotors installed. This required me to take my husband to work this morning and leave him stranded while I drove his car to work myself. He was able to get a ride home with a friend after work where he would wait for me to get home and we would go pick up my car from the garage. Sounds simple enough right?
As I sat down at my desk this morning with my first cup of coffee (decaf for those of you who are keeping track) I powered up my pocket pc to see what was on the schedule for today. I realized then that I had completely forgotten my 5:30pm massage. This was a problem. There is no way that T will remember my standing appointment (every other Thursday from 5:30 to 6pm) especially since I had forgotten it myself. I would have to call him to see if he wanted me to cancel or just wait until later in the evening to go retrieve my car.
At lunchtime it occurred to me that not only had I not called T about the afternoon scheduling conflict, I had also forgotten to call my Tupperware lady about a couple pieces I needed to fulfill an order from the book party I had hosted a couple weeks ago. Damn. I have to remember to do that.
Sometime around 3:00 I realized that I still had not called T and immediately did so. His response was "So". We decided that I would go pay for the car right after work, go get my massage and we would pick up the car later in the evening. He also reminded me to put gas in his car since it was getting low. OK, good we have a plan.
Around 4:00 I got to thinking that there may not be time to get down to the garage and then out to my massage in the 30 minutes between quitin' time and my appointment time. hmmm. Maybe I should leave a few minutes early to give myself that extra time, 4:40 should be good. Great, that's what I'll do.
At around twenty after 4:00 I decide it is time to let my boss know (whoops, I mean ask him) that I wanted to leave a early this afternoon, say in about 20 minutes or so. No problem. Whew! So that's all set. (Maybe I'm not so bad at this after all)
So, at 4:40 I hit the road and get to the garage and pay for my car. I asked if they had taken the old car batteries out of the trunk that T wanted them to dispose of, no. This question also reminds them that they were supposed to realign my headlights which have been whacked out ever since November of 2001 when I hit a deer. The passenger headlight was replaced but not aimed correctly and I've just put up with it ever since. They can take the batteries and fix the headlight right then while I wait if I would swing the car back around in the shop. Ok, this shouldn't take that long, right? It didn't take long actually, I was still in good shape. I could definitely get to my appointment by 5:30.
I pull my husband's car back out onto the road and the low fuel light comes on. Oh No! When this thing is empty it means it, my car you can squeeze out a few miles on fumes but not his Firebird. So, I have to stop for gas on the way to the massage. How long does it take to fuel a car, 2 or 3 minutes? That shouldn't be a problem. Except I got stuck at every red light between the garage and the gas station. Stopped at one of these lights I think maybe I should call K (massage therapist and fellow Endo sufferer) and tell her I'll be just a couple minutes late but I'm on my way. I reach for the phone and realize that I'm down to my last bar on the battery. I could probably dial her number before it quit. If only I had grabbed the phone charger out of my car while I was still at the shop! I returned the phone to my purse and said "shit"!
All fuelled up and ready for my massage and now having to pee really badly I headed off trying to think of the quickest way to get there and also the best way to explain a)why I was late and b)that I wanted her to wait a few more minutes while I relieved myself before we got down to business. I was stopped at a few more red lights which gave me time to swear a little more and also realize that though this is a standing appointment to which I am rushing, neither one of us had confirmed the appointment this time. hmmm. I hope she's there.
I finally pull onto the street and search the street and driveways for her car. (She does massage out of her parent's house so they can watch her daughter while she's working. They just moved last month and this was only my second time going to the new house.) I think I picked the right house but I didn't see her car anywhere. I check the clock. It is 5:40. Shit. Was I too late? Did she get a ride from someone else? She's had some issues with her dad lately, I wonder if she's not doing massage here anymore. She called me last time she had to reschedule, she didn't call me this time. Did she wait, decide that I wasn't going to show and leave early? Was 10 minutes fashionably late or a no show? I was thinking that it just required extra apologies and maybe the time deducted from my massage. Well, she wasn't there, according to my visual search for her car and I still had to pee and I still wasn't sure she remembered and I really didn't want to go knock on the door and ask if K was home. If she wasn't and I thought she was supposed to be that would make her look irresponsible to her parents and not help her situation with her dad. Shit.
I have to pee. Fuck it, I'll go to the library around the corner and use their ladies room and then go home.
So, lets review the skills in which I need improvement.
1)Communication (calling those I should, confirming appointments, checking with my boss about leaving early before I actually have to go,etc.)
2)Time Management (actually using the damn pocket pc, going to the ladies room before leaving work)
3)Organization (keeping my phone charged, actually using the damn pocket pc, etc.)

Sorry S, it looks like you've got the wrong gal. You'll have to find the master elsewhere, and let me know when you do, I need some pointers.

Monday, June 07, 2004

Superwoman 2001

I will never be able to forget the fact that I am a woman. Not just any woman either, that would imply only that I was born sans penis. No, I am a super-woman! I must endure "periods which are not so periodic,” as Steve Martin once wrote. I must live my life pretending to be normal so that the rest of the world will not discover my horrible secret. Not because they would judge me, I’m sure that they would not. It is merely the fact that what I’m dealing with on a daily basis is so unforgiving to one’s mind that to share my burden would not lighten my load, but pull those under with me whom I entrust with my experiences.

I am not alone in my body. My torso is being used as a host for the most frustrating of parasites. A chronic, incurable but not terminal disease. One causes real pain, with real muscle cramping, real teeth clenching, real misery, real depression, real fear and real tears. It has a name which is almost impossible to pronounce when first heard and once pronounced is quickly shortened into the first two syllables simply because saying the whole word out every time would become almost as exasperating as the symptoms themselves.

This vile and unwelcome occupant of my body plays tricks on me and reminds me constantly that:

1) I am a woman, and

2) I am not a normal woman.

It is difficult to explain to others that what they assume is a normal cause and effect relationship (menstruation, pregnancy, child birth, menopause) is complicated because I have to throw in that ever-present factor of my disease. I believe, even after all the years of physical struggles that the worst effect this disease has had on me is mental. It is like being in a dysfunctional relationship only instead of a husband who is emotionally, sexually and physically abusive it is my own body doing it to me. I can’t fight it because I’m too young or the treatments would do more harm than good. It is a disease you are supposed to live with, you don’t get over it. You are supposed to learn coping skills and join support groups. You seek what understanding you can achieve from family, friends and co-workers, but unless they’ve had it, they don’t really understand, they sympathize.

My husband has always been supportive. We were still high school sweethearts when I was diagnosed and, being an extremely personal topic we didn’t discuss it much at the time. He’s always been very squeamish about medical things anyway. He holds me when I’m in pain, he listens to me when I’m frustrated and need to talk. He didn’t leave me when I told him that I may not be able to have children. He married me knowing the health insurance would be stretched to its limits. He loves me for who I am and he hates my disease right along with me. For reasons I still don’t understand he loves my body. I still get flustered and confused when he tells me I am beautiful because I don’t really believe him. It’s not that I think he is lying to me; it is merely that I think empirically I am not beautiful and he, in erred judgment, believes that I am.

I have never been at peace with my body. I remember when I was ten years old and got my first period. I felt sick all day and didn’t understand the stain on my underwear. My Mother almost cried she was so excited. All I knew was that I felt like crap and this dark brown stuff coming out of me did not look like the blood I was expecting. Blood was red and fluid. I’d seen it hundreds of times on cuts and scraped knees. This was entirely different. Mom laughed out loud. So, at the tender age of ten, I had breasts and my period, I became a woman! Let me say now that I would gladly go through life flat chested and hairless if it meant I didn’t have to put up with my constant unwelcome companion.

It is a reproductive disease. It is literally the endometrium (the lining of the uterus) in patches outside of the uterus. These “implants” can settle anywhere, on the outside walls of the uterus, on the abdominal walls, on the ovaries, on other organs, on the connective tissues in between. Anywhere they can float, they can land and make their home and feed on the estrogen my body produces. Of course, the whole point of this tissue is to shed itself periodically, hence the term menstrual period. As I mentioned before, I am not a normal woman. Not only are my periods erratic in timing, but also in nature. One could be short and light with only mild twinges on the first day; other can go on f-o-r-e-v-e-r (my longest was 7 weeks) and have heavy bleeding and intense cramping. The best part is the breakthrough bleeding. This is when you are on birth control pills but bleed anyway. Of course the pills do hinder it some, so you could get light spotting or in my case thick black sludge-like mucus discharge which won’t be absorbed by tampons or panty-liners. You simply wear them to protect your clothing and must take regular trips to the ladies room to clean yourself up before too much builds up and it spills over your Always.

Sex of course must wait until the bleeding (or sludge expelling) has stopped. It is hard not to think about it when your husband tries to remind you that you are still newlyweds and you can actually have sex during the week. Then the sad and shameful part comes into play when once again you have to explain to the man you love and desire that you are not in charge. Your body has taken over again, and you would love nothing more than to be intimately embraced, skin to skin but the disease always comes first. You could have sex if you really wanted to, but it would be a very NASTY affair. Such things are not signs of affection; they are for the depraved with a fetish for the Swamp Thing.

My chant, my mantra that keeps me going is “Take it out, I’ll adopt”! This would seem reasonable enough were I not diagnosed at the age of 18 when marriage and children were so far out in my distant future my doctor refused to discuss fertility. Now that I am married but still not seeking children I am actively taking steps to convince my doctor, or if she refuses, another doctor to give me a complete hysterectomy. Take it all and take it now, while I am still young enough to recover from it quickly. Doctors of course wouldn’t dream of this since I am only 26 and have not had children yet. What if I change my mind in the future and come back to sue them for malpractice? So, I am keeping a log of my symptoms. Writing down pain, pain relievers, describing my periods, break through bleeding and every explicit detail I can fit into those little calendar squares. I hope at the end of two years, with a lot of encouragement and maybe a disclaimer, I will get my wish. I could be post menopausal at the age of 30. This requires extra planning on my part. Heart disease and osteoporosis will be significant factors in my life at an earlier age than most women. Again, I remind you that I am not a normal woman. I am a super-woman.

I continue to hide my secret from the public. My horrible burden that I carry through life while pretending to appear quite ordinary.

My Curse

My Disease

My Endometriosis.