“Hysterectomy While Active Duty”
At the age of nineteen, I was at a job interview when out of nowhere I began to sweat, go pale and get nauseous. I tried to play it off to avoid an awkward moment as long as I could. Finally, the interviewer asked, “are you alright?” My reply was, “I do not know.” She asked me if I wanted to reschedule the interview. Needless to say, I took her up on the offer.
My boyfriend at the time drove me home. I was laying in the back seat in the fetal position crying, sweating and scared. Upon arriving at my mother’s house, he carried me to the couch and called out to my mother. She saw me and told him it was just my period. I did not believe her because I had not experienced any of these symptoms before. Later that day my period began. This continued until I had my hysterectomy at the age of 35.
I joined the United States Air Force not knowing if I would be able to complete all the physical
requirements. Fortunately, exercises seemed to help reduce the nausea, vomiting, cramping, heavy bleeding, night sweats and sharp pains that ran down my legs. Fast forward 4 years, I gave birth to my son. After giving birth my symptoms returned. When I spoke with my primary care provider, he referred me back to the OB/GYN who delivered my son.
My obstetrician felt that because I was a single mother, I probably tried to do too much too soon. His suggestion was to drink water and watch my weight. As time passed my pain became excruciating. As, the symptoms became more intense, my concern increased. It was actually worse than my labor pains. The first and last day of my cycle was a constant flow. I had to use both pads and tampons and change every 1-2 hours and wear biker shorts under all my clothes to avoid accidents. I continued to go to the doctor but was not able to find relief. Each deployment, outdoor training, mandatory physical fitness or long meetings that occurred during my period brought dread.
After nine years of not being able to find support, treatment, or a doctor who took my issues seriously I found one. He was willing to stop and listen to my concerns. He sent me to get an ultrasound. This is where they found one mass half the size of my uterus. It was growing in the tissue wall. It was located at the top of my uterus. I was sent to get test to ensure that it was not cancerous. From there I went to see a surgeon.
The first surgeon I met with walked in the room, looked at me and said, “do you want to have more kids?”. When I replied “no”, she immediately said, “fine, let’s plan for a hysterectomy.” I responded, “where is my mass, what type was it and how many did I have?” I already knew the answers. I was trying to see how much time she spent reviewing my case. She responded, “I am not sure, I would have to look at your file.” Astonished I replied “so, you are willing to perform the most evasive treatment, with out fully understanding my case? We’re done here.” I gathered my composure and belongings and left.
I scheduled with another doctor who I was not comfortable with either. Her opinion was that I was too young to make such a big decision. I was thirty-five. She believed that I should wait it out until menopause. I thought, MENOPAUSE…NO way. I am passing out, using my vacation days when I can’t walk, unable to stand long enough to cook dinner, and be evaluated to see if I am going to get discharged and she wanted me to wait. I decided she too was not for me and left.
I joined a friend to her OB/GYN appointment for moral support. Her doctor was amazing! I went back to the receptionist and schedule an appointment with him. We went over all the options available, he answered ALL my questions and gave me his plan of attack. The doctor wanted to try a less evasive surgery to see if he can remove the mass. If that did not work, we would schedule the hysterectomy.
Unfortunately, the surgery did not work. I ended up having the surgery. While in my abdomen the doctor checked on the cysts on my ovaries. I was informed that if the cysts had calcified, they would have to remove my ovaries too. Fortunately, the cysts were only filled will a liquid. This prevented them from having to remove my ovaries. During the surgery they found five more masses at the base of my uterus. They ended up only removing my fallopian tubes, uterus, and cervix.