I have suffered problems with my periods and hormones since my early teens. Not just the usual period pain… Nooooo! The kind of pain that makes you not know where to put yourself, that makes you cry, and that makes you try sleeping with your legs resting up the wall or curled in a ball to see if it makes any damn difference.
Of course, at the age of 15 I didn’t know why I was presented with such a challenge. I just “got on with it” and tried to work through it each month. I became so good at mentally focusing on other things and not the pain, that to this day I can still have fillings in my teeth without an injection.
It was only in my 30s that endometriosis was diagnosed, and that was because I had collapsed in such severe pain that the doctor had to come to my house and my upcoming holiday was cancelled. Part of that pain was from my shoulders going into spasm and my chest tightening so it became difficult to breathe. That’s when it became apparent that I wasn’t just a whinging female and that there was something more serious going on.
I was sent to have tests. At that point, two endometriomas were found by ultrasound, one 3cm and one 5cm, on my left and right ovaries. Endometriosis has cost me a lot of lost time over the years, curled up in pain with embarrassing and distracting cramps and severe IBS. It has forced me to undergo laporososcopic surgery in 2005 to remove some of the scarring and tissue that shouldn’t be in my stomach cavity, in the hopes of alleviating the symptoms. Endometriosis also lost me a baby.
On 8th May 2006 I’d been in London that day, meeting with clients. I had stoically ignored the pain as usual, walked across Green Park in the sunshine to the meeting and got on with it. I remember that on my way back to the office on the train I was slightly annoyed that the ibuprofen I’d taken just weren’t touching the pain and I was starting to break out in a sweat. Hey – no problem, I could do this I thought… it was nearly the end of the day in the office, so I sat at my desk and concentrated on my breathing and answering emails. Then the pain worsened.
I was starting to feel faint so I lay on the floor with my legs higher than my head like they always tell people to do in the movies. Once I was down on the floor though, I felt like something was really, really wrong. It was no longer time to be brave and stoical me and it was time to ask for help (I’m not good at that!). I called a colleague over, giggled about me being on the office floor, and then asked him to fetch my husband, who worked in another office in the same building. After a very brief discussion where I explained that I couldn’t move around or sit up again without an excruciating pain in my side and I didn’t think there was any way I could go to hospital in the car, the three of us agreed that perhaps an ambulance would be best!
I started to realise that this was pretty serious when the nee-naws were switched on and I zoned out a little as the ambulance wove its way through the streets. When I arrived in the hospital the ambulance guy explained to the team there that my blood pressure was seriously low and they agreed that I needed fluids – fast. I grumbled quietly and politely as drips were put in both hands and both feet and I started to look like a marionette. I don’t remember it clearly but it felt like there were about 8 people around me and that they were sticking needles in me and wheeling me down corridors at the same time.
As we sailed down the corridor of the hospital, I suddenly had an epiphany. To this day I don’t know why I had it then or there, but I believe it helped save my life. I grabbed my husband’s arm, and in a slightly embarrassed stage whisper (why hadn’t I realised?!) I said, “I think I might be pregnant” and I knew something was really wrong. He immediately told the nurse, and that’s when things began to move faster.
I was prepped for surgery within a couple of minutes as they began to correctly suspect what had happened – an ectopic pregnancy – which had ripped open my right fallopian tube and caused me to lose about 5 pints of blood already… They had to perform an emergency caesarian section. I’m assuming all that blood was sloshing about in my abdominal cavity though I don’t remember being able to feel it.
Obviously, I don’t remember anything else at all after that until I woke up in the ICU, but my husband will tell you that it was one of the longest nights of his life, listening to shouts for “more blood” and watching people speed-walking up and down the corridors whilst all he could do was wait. Once I was out of the ICU, I was moved to a ward with 7 other ladies of varying ages, who were all having some kind of gynaecological ops. I vividly remember not getting a great deal of sleep those few days because one of the women had also had something traumatic happen. I know this, mostly because she kept letting out a hideously distressing wail of anguish every so often and this would bring at least two of the nurses rushing over.
Meanwhile, I was finding it hard to get anyone to notice that I needed some help. Eventually I became so frustrated that I burst into tears. I remember thinking that it is so wrong that a grown woman has to bawl before she can get someone to offer her any pain meds! I made sure I was up and about and eating healthily as soon as I could be so I could get out of that place. It was not a fun time. I was pretty stunned by the experience for a long time, particularly as it felt like I was being stupid or self-indulgent to grieve, so I didn’t, really. After all – it wasn’t really a baby it was a thing, a pre-baby, a small thing, and it was only mine and known for a few minutes. In the scheme of things, I felt that far far worse things have happened to “real” babies and to people that knew they were having them.
I reckon it took me 6 weeks to recover physically from the op, and 6 years to recover mentally and emotionally. However, what it never did was make me angry with or jealous of other people who do have children. My path is my own and whilst I resent the choice not totally being mine, having kids was never in my original life plan so there’s really no point getting grumpy about it. I’m also very lucky to have some amazing nieces and nephews and children of friends who I can spend time with. Plus, I get to hand them back when I’m worn out!
There’s a little black spot on the sun today
It’s the same old thing as yesterday
There’s a black hat caught in a high tree top
There’s a flag pole rag and the wind won’t stop
I have stood here before (inside the pouring rain)
With the world turning circles (running ’round my brain)
I guess I always thought that you could end this reign
It’s my destiny to be the king of pain
Lyrics by The Police – Sting, Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland
This is a very moving piece. We are both lucky to be alive, I too had an ectopic pregnancy years and years ago, lost 3/4 of my body’s blood; thank goodness for transfusions.