Feeling Wronged by Your Doctor
I am hitting the two-year mark of my hysterectomy, which has made me think back to what a struggle it was to even find a surgeon willing to do it. Not only was it a challenge to find an ob/gyno more open to the idea of me removing my uterus, but I was also often subject to inane and sexist comments.
Ironically from women doctors.
Let me rewind all the way to my first lap, which I received nearly two decades ago at the age of 24. The surgery finally diagnosed endo, as well as removed a lot of it.
Feeling pressure from doctors
I had gotten the surgery only a few months after moving from New York to Massachusetts, where I not only finally found a surgeon who finally believed in my pain and also suspected endo, but health insurance that would cover the entire procedure, which I definitely could not afford at that time.
Yet, after the surgery I became quickly disappointed in the doctor when he tried to pressure me into taking a drug after the surgery that would put me into medical menopause for a year, followed by non-stop oral contraceptives until I wanted to, his words, "become pregnant".
I didn't like the idea of medical menopause and have known women who had done this treatment and had had horrible reactions to it and long-term side effects, including premature osteoporosis.
I knew my body back then, as now, to be very sensitive to medications, especially those that messed with my hormones. This was why I also didn't like the idea of being on oral contraceptives, especially perpetually, as I had always had adverse reactions and didn't do well on them.
Finally, I was annoyed that the doctor assumed I would want biological children one day. In fact, the way he worded it seemed clear he thought I'd be up for having them in a few years' time.
I gently pushed back on his recommendations, asking if there were other alternatives, whether that be diet or lifestyle changes, holistic remedies, etc. He scoffed at me, and it was as if a switch had been flipped.
His calm and compassionate demeanor dissipated and in its place was sneering condescension. He snatched the brochures of medications away and said something along the lines of "Well if you are not going to follow my medical advice, you better have kids soon because otherwise, you might not be able to have them at all."
I simply shrugged and replied that maybe kids weren't in the cards for me then, because I wasn't going to have them for this reason, and I wasn't going to put my body through hormonal hell just to preserve my fertility. He stomped out the door and that was the last I saw him.
Asking doctor to perform a hysterectomy
Fast forward years later, in my late thirties. For some years, that lap had helped improve the pain with my periods, and I had some moderate success with exercise, diet, herbs, and acupuncture.
But around my mid-thirties, my periods got very painful again and also began to happen more often. Twice a month instead of once.
I had also been diagnosed via MRI with adenomyosis in addition to endo. So when planning for my second, and what I hoped to be final lap, I approached doctors to also inquire if I could get a hysterectomy with my lap.
Most evaded me or tried subtle scare tactics, emphasizing the things that could go wrong during such a surgery, like a nicked bladder or bowel. But one appointment stands out, particularly in my mind.
It was a woman doctor, around my age, perhaps even a few years younger. At the time, I had only recently started my relationship with my current partner and was about six months in.
When I asked about a hysterectomy, the woman asked me what about children. At this time, I had long made up my mind I didn't want children, or biological children, which I shared with her. Then she asked if my partner wanted children. "Nope," I answered.
"But what if he changes his mind down the line?" she asked. "You wouldn't want to disappoint him would you?"
My jaw fell open. I couldn't believe this doctor was prioritizing the needs of a boyfriend over the patient, or guilting me with the idea of "disappointing" him with my decision, as though my uterus, and by extension, my body, was a vessel for his use and desires and not my own.
I answered her brusquely, "I guess he and I wouldn't stay together then because I wouldn't have a baby just to satisfy a man." She tried to backpedal a bit and re-frame her words to something softer, something about regret for us as a couple.
But the damage was done and I stopped seeing her as well. It questioned the notion that I had that women doctors are always more empathetic, especially on women's issues, compared to male doctors.
It seemed this woman, a mother herself, was projecting her feelings on the issue of babies and kids onto me and not considering me as an individual with autonomy.
I want to feel heard by my doctors
Eventually, I did find a doctor, a male surgeon who was an endo specialist, who was more than fine with my decision to have a hysterectomy. By this time, I was going on 40, and I do wonder if my age also finally allowed doctors to see me as a candidate for the surgery since I was no longer of prime child-bearing age.
I don't regret waiting till 40 to have my hysterectomy, but I still do wish I was taken seriously earlier and that doctors were willing to work with me and my needs to find a better treatment plan.
I wish that I wasn't so often floating and left to fend for myself. I know myself and my body better than anyone, and it's about time the medical community recognizes that in their patients.
Have you ever been denied surgery, whether a lap or hysterectomy by a doctor? Have you had other disappointing interactions with the medical community when trying to collaborate with them when trying to manage your endo?
Please feel free to share your experiences in the comments section below.
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