Overcoming Ambivalence over Surgery for My Adenomyosis
When I was college age and suffering from what I highly suspected was endometriosis, I promised myself I would never have a hysterectomy to address the issue. More specifically, short of a cancer diagnosis necessitating its removal, I assured myself I would leave with world with my womb intact; I felt the commonplace status of hysterectomies in our society was nothing more than a prime example of the patriarchy at work.
Managing my endo symptoms
Also, I have never done well with many mainstream medical treatments for assorted my ailments, including endometriosis. Hormonal birth control not only failed to help me, but in some cases even exacerbated my cramps, while also causing other (sometimes serious) side effects.
While I think the first lap I had to diagnose and remove much of my endo benefited me enormously, I refused the doctor's insistence afterwards that I take medicine for a year to induce a state of artificial menopause and then follow that up by going and remaining on birth control until when I decided to have children (I did not like that the doctor assumed I could be or wanted biological children, as it was something I was also ambivalent about at the time). I still feel that was the right choice for my body at that time. And for many years, I had relative success managing my residual endo pain with exercise, diet, herbs, and supplements.
However, in the past several years, my pain levels and complications related to my period have not only regressed to their pre-surgery levels, but have taken on new dimensions. For instance, when I was in my twenties, it wasn't unusual for me to skip a month or two of my period- or even sometimes three. And while that sometimes caused anxiety that I was pregnant (which was never the case), at least I had some relief from bleeding and period pain those months. Now I have the opposite problem: I often get my period twice a month, and sometimes as often as two weeks apart.
My periods are painful enough, but at least in the past I could count on only having to deal with them at most once a month (and sometimes a lot less than that). And from my late twenties through most of my thirties they were fairly predictable so I could plan around them. Now they are not predictable. Added to that, my bleeding is getting heavier and sometimes my periods last longer than they used to (another saving grace was my period- as terrible as it was- often only lasted a couple of days). It has come to the point where it has made planning my life difficult and my schedule revolves around my cycle.
Getting diagnosed with adenomyosis
A few years ago, I was diagnosed with adenomyosis, which is when endometrial tissue penetrates into the actual muscle of my uterus. There is no cure for adenomyosis, other than removing the actual uterus. I tried to double down on diet and herbs and acupuncture to see if it could help; While it helped a little, it was not enough. My pain has not improved and is getting worse. Furthermore, I now have chronic pain in my whole body, and cannot exercise the way I used to.
Last year, nearing 40, I decided I had had enough and would be having surgery. I decided I shouldn't be stubborn and cling to ideals I formed from two decades ago at the cost of my own suffering in the present day.
Deciding on surgery
While I admittedly still have reservations with how hysterectomies are over-prescribed in our society and in cases where people are pressured into having them (which I do still believe is a symptom of misogyny), I also know that it is wrong to shame women for making independent choices about our bodies to advance our quality of life. I've done my research and I have explored and exhausted most of my other options. While I wish there was more research into treatments for endo and adeno that would hopefully yield less extreme measures than surgery and removal of muscle, I at least have the privilege of the options I do have. And I fortunate to live in a state and have a good health insurance that will be covering the procedure in full- something that could change in the future, considering the current national political atmosphere and the hostility toward public health insurance programs like Medicare and Medicaid.
While I still sometimes feel a little sad about losing a part of me, even if it's caused me pain, I am mostly looking forward to my new life sans-uterus and now it is the right choice for me under the current circumstances.
Have you ever experienced one or more of these side effects from your hormone therapy?