My reproductive health journey & the taboo of talking about it
Why is it so hard to discuss women’s reproductive issues?
It’s a long story and I’m basically using this blog as a bit of cathartic process but also, I’m going to be honest about it all because for some strange reason I wouldn’t think twice about telling you that my leg was broken but this all felt a bit taboo discussing even though it really shouldn’t be and it sucks that we have to go through it all and keep it quiet.
So, this has been going on for years and it looks like it’s going to be on for a few more years to come yet. However, about 4/5 years ago (maybe longer now, who even knows what year it is at the minute?!) my menstrual cycle just stopped.
There was no reason for it, nothing had changed, yes it gets affected by stress, but as far as I was aware nothing major was going on that hadn’t been going on for a long time? The only time this has happened for a prolonged amount of time previously, was when I was going through dance training. Excessive exercise can be a cause of it stopping but it came back and it wasn’t an issue.
I went to the doctors after 6 months and was told to stop taking the contraceptive pill. I’d been taking for so long to help with my AWFUL anemia inducing periods. I went back after a year and eventually I started having blood tests and ultrasound scans. Luckily *sarcasm* the first time I went for an ultrasound scan they hadn’t sent me the letter about drinking pints of water beforehand so I ended up having to have an internal ultrasound, what fun!!! Which subsequently meant that every time after that they had to conduct internal ultrasounds for the comparison. Wonderful!
Anyway, I had a consultant that I had to go and see each time for the results, thank god for the nurses that were in the room is all I can say! In both appointments the consultant rang friends (I’m hoping they were also consultants!) of hers whilst I was in the room to ask their opinion as she didn’t know what was wrong. Finally, in one of my many appointments she told me that I was going through the early menopause and that was it. I left the room, I walked down the corridor and I broke down and the nurse came out and comforted me bless her and I wont ever forget her kindness.
So, there I was, single and just been told that I was going through the early menopause, so who would want me now? I couldn’t give them children; it was a conversation I’d have to have early on in a relationship if I did find someone and I’d be putting weight on based on what I’d seen about menopause in the media.
I always assumed I would have kids, especially with teaching so many amazing children and being a part of so many kids’ childhoods, I loved them more than anything and so many parents had said what a good mum I’d be, I think it was just something I expected would happen and in that one moment it had been taken away from me and I genuinely felt like I wasn’t a complete person and no one would ever want me.
I had a huge cry as I got back to work just before teaching a class and then carried on, I had so much support from my bosses, they took me to the Chinese restaurant that night and we laughed and giggled and again, the kindness again is something that won’t ever be forgotten.
I got a personal trainer, worked my butt off (literally!) changed my food but I continued to put weight on. So, my mental health having not being great naturally was rapidly declining and as now I felt I was half a person my self esteem was a taking a battering.
Six months down the line I was given a new consultant, thank the lord above!!! More tests and scans and she told me she didn’t think it was early menopause, six months I’d carried this around, I broke down again in the room, the same nurse remembered me from before and was again there for me. I ended up having to be booked in for a camera inside me and a biopsy to be taken.
I drove myself to the appointment, after having again been given the wrong letter which told me I could eat breakfast. The anesthetist came round and couldn’t believe it, I’d have to do the whole thing on 2 paracetamol! EXCELLENT! By this point I felt like I’d be poked, prodded, scanned, I’d got no dignity left in this area just do what you need to do. What fun that was, wheeled in to the room in my gown, the person carrying out the procedure said oh well at least you can watch yourself on the screen. Amazing, I’ve always longed to see what cervix, uterus etc looked like haha *eye roll* She takes the biopsy and out I go, the tears flow, my body felt a bit shocked all of a sudden, by this point I just want to go. I lie for all long as I can and then get up, I need to go, blood pressure goes, I faint, standard! Come back round, packet of crisps, cup of tea I need to go now, drive myself back, park up run up the stairs and head straight into to teach a class.
So, the most amazing thing happens, before my next appointment my period comes back!!! On the day of one of my best friend’s wedding, I’m a bridesmaid and it comes back!!! I, as you can imagine, was thrilled!!!!!! I headed into my next appointment thrilled to tell her. Again, no idea why this has happened but it has and I’m happy.
At the same time, they’ve found some cysts on my ovaries, one of them which was getting bigger each time. Again, more blood tests etc., but they weren’t coming back as anything terrible, fairly common. The best moment was waiting to go in for a blood test and someone who I kind of know, comes up to me and excited puts her hand on my belly! I just have to tell her I’m not pregnant, if she only knew how much pain was associated to that sentence.
So, it gets to the point where they want me to have surgery to remove it because it may twist around ovary and then that will need to be removed. I’m thinking you’ve just given me the chance back of having a child, please don’t let them take it away again! So, the following May I was to have surgery, then guess what...COVID happened! The operation did not happen, more tests and ultrasound scans, this time including a very quick MRI scan referral (which makes sense later on) and after another cancelled date I finally got my surgery on 10th December 2020!
I’d never had surgery before; I was bloody scared! I just wanted to wake up from the anesthetic! I go down they go over all the possibilities again and next thing I know I’m awake and alive! More tears! They tell me the surgery went well, my fallopian tube had wrapped around the cyst they’d managed to salvage everything and they’d found slight endometriosis on the ovary but other than that they weren’t worried at all there was no need for any follow up incase anything happened again. Woohhooo!
Just a few scars from it all, I can cope with that, the incredible NHS had salvaged my reproductive system which as much care as if they knew me and the pain that it had been causing me mentally and physically. Absolute heroes as we all know! I cannot thank you enough!
So, when I got another appointment through just after Christmas, what was this about?! I rang to say I’m not sure why I need this appointment? I was told on the phone it was to discuss the operation. I thought hmmm they told me this at the time but tried not to worry too much.
I arrive, new consultant, new nurses, new faces. They’d found something in the cyst. It’s called a borderline tumor. It was actually on the fallopian tube rather than the ovary which he was incredibly excited about as he sat trying to find published literature about it as we sat in silence for what felt like a lifetime. I gave my consent to be written about, just like to be different obviously! Basically, there was 1.5cm of stage 1 cancer in the cyst. It hadn’t spread, which was amazing. However, I will still need continual scans (including MRI) and blood tests to keep an eye on it. I can still try for a family and then once the family is complete. I will need the fallopian tubes taking out and then the ovaries. It was all explained to me by my Macmillan Nurse again taking me into another room for a chat, I think probably noticing the shell-shocked look on my face.
What a weird day. I went round to tell my mum and dad, them stood on the door step, me halfway down the path, just wanting to hug them for them and for me, but there we go! Got to keep them safe and I’m so grateful to be able to do that and to have them there to do that as I know so many people don’t.
I’m still digesting it all. My head says I get 6 monthly check ups and I get additional scans if I ever do get pregnant as I have a high chance of an ectopic pregnancy, so that’s all extremely positive and god damn lucky. I think my heart is just about computing the world at the moment, let alone this.
So that’s the journey that I’d been going on for the past few years that I haven’t spoken about as I feel it’s not the thing to speak about. Why is that? Is it society? Is it how the media makes it, I don’t know? I wouldn’t think twice about telling you in something else in my body was broken? But we carry around the pain from this without saying anything.
Maybe things are on the change especially with the tampon tax being removed now. It is the conversation being had in public, instead of being a closed door. The world is realising this is something that is natural part of our lives, each and every one of us so why do we have to hide it, especially when it causes so much pain.
So now I start a new journey of reconnecting my mind and my body. Of being grateful for my kickass insides and the protection that they have provided me and the battle that they have fought and won, whilst all I’ve done is looked in a mirror and hated every part of me as I’ve been getting bigger. It’s time to come together and be the badass wonder woman team that I should be, Mind/Body working together, because ultimately, we are one, my mind can heal my body and my body can heal my mind, so let’s frigging do this!
Here’s to the future!