For the SurgeXperience Carnaval: My Medblog Ho post was about my recent addiction to medblogs. In this one I’ll try to explain the start of my fascination with medical procedures. Or, to be more accurate, my fascination with medical procedures performed on other people!
Last fall, during a routine gyn exam, it became apparent that I had some things growing where they shouldn’t have been. (Sorry, providing a complete description would require not only a gown-open-2-the-back, but everything-off-below-waist, and this is not that kind of blog! ) My trusted GYN takes a conservative approach to my healthcare because my mother died from ovarian cancer at 59, only two years older than I am now. So when 4 separate, unrelated issues showed up at the same time he suggested that I consider an elective, preventative hysterectomy. I was not happy. It’s not that I wanted to take chances with my health but I’d managed to go 57 years without any hospitalizations, broken bones, incisions, or scars. Except for 4 useless, impacted wisdom teeth which were chiseled out in the 1970’s, I still had all my body parts and wanted to keep it that way for as long as possible. So the walls of resistance starting building even as we scheduled an office visit for further discussion, and kept on building during the drive home and evening.
Like most responsible patients, I consulted 3 very credible sources for 2nd, 3rd, and 4th opinions: 1) the internet, 2) my friends, and 3) my sibling, who happens to be a newly graduated nurse working in labor & delivery. The internet sources informed me that most hysterectomies in the US are unnecessary procedures inflicted upon women by uncaring, money-hungry, techno-reliant male physicians. That was helpful. Five friends informed me that“it was the best thing I ever did and my only regret is that I didn’t go in sooner.” Obviously, they’d been brainwashed. My younger sister, The Nurse, recommended, “Listen to your doctor, it sounds like he knows what he’s doing. And besides, at your age, it’s not like you need any of those parts.” Gee, thanks, that made me feel better.
Of course my sister was right – physically I didn’t need those parts. The ovaries have only been working part time for awhile now, and they may have even taken full retirement - which means the uterus no longer has to stay on call. And the cervix is just holding the other parts in, so yes, the whole apparatus could come out and not be physically missed. But emotionally – that was a different story! We weren’t talking about removing a gall bladder or appendix or some neutral organ, whose function I might not really understand. We were talking about removing the very organs which make me female, which distinguish me from the other half of the population, which once had the miraculous ability to create and nurture life itself and whose cycles have dominated my life for the past 45 years. I found myself wondering, irrationally, how they would be disposed of….would my womb just be plopped in with all the other surgical debris from the day, mixed with appendices(had to look up the plural), stinky kidneys and broken-down bowels? That was disturbing, as if it were a mixing of the sacred and profane. I wanted a ceremony or blessing or at least a tiny prayer of forgiveness as the tissues were carried away, saying “I’m sorry, I didn’t let you do your job and now it’s too late. Thank you for the potential, rest in peace.”
I tried imagining having that conversation with my rational, western science educated, male doctor. He’s worked with women and their screwball bodies (my words, not his!) for 20+ years, and has probably heard just about everything. But not from me. I was suddenly thinking like a crystal wearing, sage burning, lavender inhaling, new age earth mother and not my pragmatic, stoical self. This whole experience was taking me by surprise.
OK, it's obvious this post has taken on a life of its' own and will have to be written in 2 parts. I'll post this, and write the 2nd half a bit later. To be continued.......