ChiefD | 14:29

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"I hope this inspires someone else... a woman in her 40s who's having God awful periods that are messing up her work and home life "

Hysterectomy Fibroids Endometriosis Hormones Menopause Exercise Diet

Story Transcript

Hi. My name is Dawn am, 55 years old, and I live in Neenah, Wisconsin, and I'm going to tell my story as far as a health issue that I have had, that I am dealing with without taking pills or having injections or anything like that. Back in 2007 when I was 42 years old, I was planning to have a complete hysterectomy. They took out everything. Both my ovaries and my uterus. Up until that time, for many years, I had been having horrendous periods. It was just awful. I would usually have my period for about 10 days. And for probably eight of those days, I bled heavily, to the point where I became anemic because I bled so much. Not only that, the pain and cramps were just excruciating. It was very hard for me to concentrate when I was at work, and I had to make so many trips to the bathroom because I would soak through two pads in the space of an hour, hour and a half. So I was constantly worried and I've had numerous accidents. Of course, it was horribly embarrassing. I started wearing a whole lot of dark clothing after a while because it got to the point where I was afraid that if I wore anything bright, if I did have an accident, it was gonna just mess me up for the entire day. And it just got worse and worse. And then people are like, well, you're in your forties now, this is normal for this to be happening to you. So despite going to see a gynecologist and having my annual pap smear, it always came out normal and all that. They kept telling me, you're in your forties now, so this is normal. In a few years, you'll hit menopause. I thought, okay. But I was experiencing more and more problems that it was starting to get me quite depressed because it just weighed on my mind all the time between the pain and embarrassment and just worrying that I just felt like my body was trying to tell me something. Something was very wrong.

After a while, one day I was at work and the pain got so bad, I drove myself to urgent care. And then they actually referred me over to the E. R because they thought they noticed something. And when I got to the ER, they did a bunch of tests like an MRI or something like that. And it turned out that I had a very large cyst and one of my ovaries had just ruptured. I had never had that happen before as far as I knew. And if I thought my periods were painful, that made those periods seem like nothing compared to them, the pain was excruciating. It felt like my whole gut area was on fire. I mean, like a knife. They couldn't really give me anything for the pain. They said, well, this is common in women your age. What we'll be doing is a follow up in a few weeks to make sure that you're okay. But all you can do is just go home and rest. I was like, okay. So 2-3 months later, they did a follow up ultrasound, and I know that the girls who were doing the ultrasound, we're kind of looking at each other, and I said, what's wrong? And they wouldn't tell me anything. They said we'll have someone call you in a few days. So of course, and I had to wait three or four days to find out what the hell was going on. Nurse called me, said, you have another cyst on your ovary and it's huge and it's about to rupture. And I thought, well, what am I supposed to do about this? She said, you know, you need to get a referral from a gynecologist to talk about options that you can do. And the gynecologist I talked to said, you know, we can take out just that one ovary or we can take out both your ovaries. He said, I see in your chart you have been experiencing some very, very heavy bleeding and anemia with your periods. And he said, I recommend a full hysterectomy, and I really didn't want to do that. But I felt like I had no choice because things were getting really bad. And it was supposed to be like a risk.

Well, they had to open me up because they found a tumor the size of a grapefruit hiding behind my uterus. And it turned out that I had very severe endometriosis scarring, including this mass, which they did a biopsy on. And they determined it wasn't cancer, thank God. But he had to open me up and take everything out. Of course, there was a longer recovery time, a lot more pain, a lot more discomfort, and they immediately were pushing me to go on HRT - hormone replacement therapy. They wanted me to take these pills or whatever and and I said, no, I don't want to do that. I don't want to be going on some synthetic hormone. They said, well, you're only 42 you know, you're just in premature menopause, and that's not real healthy for you. And I said, I have heard too many bad things about increased cancer risk. And they did that landmark study. My mom had been on that. She went off it because it was very scary. And I said to the doctor, I'm not going to do that. I'm going to pursue other options to deal with this. And he said, well, you'll be back. I thought, wow, the arrogance was unbelievable. You know, they just assumed right away that I would want to go on synthetic hormone primary and I was like, no, I'm not doing that. I had been on birth control pills when I was younger, and I had some of the most severe migraines I ever had. So to me, going on hormones was not an option. Now, being in premature menopause at 42 was a little scary, and I had some pretty wicked hot flashes night sweats that started right away, and they were pretty bad at first.

So I started looking at how I could do some natural things to help me out without having to pop a bunch of pills or one pill, for that matter, because I'm not going on hormones. It took me a little bit of time, but I started reading some books and articles and some things on the internet - studies they did on women who did not choose to go on HRT because they try to scare you. They're like, well, you're gonna be miserable. I was like, no, I'm not gonna allow that for myself. So I got a membership to my local YMCA. I started working out more. I started walking. A lot of the things were just practical things I did. I tried to eat a little better. Not perfectly, but I tried to eat a little more healthy, drink more water, made sure I was drinking milk and eating cheese to get calcium. Because I know the risk for women from bone loss, but I wasn't gonna let some doctor tell me to go on hormones. That's just, that's ridiculous, you know? I did these things. I took a look at my life and my health and what I wanted to do, what I wanted to accomplish. And one of the things was to advocate for my own health, because for years I had people telling me It's normal to bleed like that. It's normal to be in all kinds of horrendous pain and just bleeding like that. That's perfectly normal for a woman your age. And it turned out it wasn't so. The doctors don't know everything. I mean, doctors are great. Don't get me wrong, but they're not God. They don't know everything. And for a doctor to tell me right off after my surgery, after having removed a humongous tumor that could have been cancer, which they never found despite all the exams they did before that, even when they did the MRI or ultrasound. They were insisting they never saw that tumor. The doctor literally opened, you know? I mean, they really went and nearly put a camera in there to remove the uterus. And for this tumor, he had no choice but to open me up. So they don't know everything. And I know my own body and I knew something was very wrong. But people have been telling me, oh, you're fine, You're fine. No, no, I said, I'm gonna start taking control of my own life. I don't have to go on hormones and risk getting breast cancer and everything else. I said, I'm going to do what I feel is a good idea to do. And I kind of looked at my life as to handle things a little more natural and holistically. Don't get me wrong. I mean, it's good to have doctors and some things. You have to go on meds for certain things. I get that. But to me, that wasn't one of them. So because I was able to do that, the hot flashes, the night sweats, all that stuff went away. I felt better than I had felt in a long time.

Having a full hysterectomy, I wouldn't recommend it for most women at a younger age, but in my case, I was a mess, and by the time they found out, he said, If we would have waited much longer to do this hysterectomy, that mass could have turned cancerous. You could have wound up with cancer all over your body, you know? And for years they've been telling me I was fine. There was nothing wrong. You know that people like to tell women, it's on you. It's all in your head. You're just imagining it. I have a pretty high tolerance for pain and I have been getting migraines for a long time. So it wasn't like I just made crap up when it came to pain. If I was in pain, I was in pain. I knew it, and it wasn't something I whined or complained about a lot and, you know, expected everybody to drop everything they were doing for me. I had to figure it out by myself. My migraines, I barely get them anymore. I think it was maybe a fringe benefit of taking better care of my health. Sort of like killing two birds with one stone, not wanting to have to take this medication for migraines, a lot of them have a lot of side effects. And I really can't take that stuff anyway because I have high blood pressure. So I have to be really careful, and I monitor my health a lot. I watch my health a lot. I'm very proactive. If I know something is wrong, I'll go see my doctor. I mean that for every little thing. But if I start noticing stuff I'll advocate for myself which I really didn't do before that. I was always kind of quiet. Whatever they told me, I just took it as gospel and left it at that. I don't do that anymore and I would recommend every woman advocate for themselves because nobody, nobody is gonna do it except for you.

I'm not saying doctors are evil or anything, but they're certainly not Gods either. They're fallible, and they're not gonna see everything that's going on with you and your health. I would say, Listen to your body, you know your body. If, you know, if you feel something is wrong, go get it checked out. So what if they call you a hypochondriac? You know people. A lot of doctors like to call a lot of women hypochondriacs. And I've never been a hypochondriac. I had to be pretty much dragged kicking and screaming to see a doctor. And of course, I let it get so bad for years because I thought, while they're telling me everything's okay, I'll just take that as gospel. And it wasn't. That's pretty much my health story. And I hope maybe it inspires someone else who might be going through something similar. A woman in her forties who's gotten off her horrendous periods that's messing up her work and home life and being told, you're fine, you're fine. It's all in your head. I would just urge them to speak up. The squeaky wheel gets the greese. And that's my story.