My Diagnosis, Part Two: just take out my uterus while you're in there...

1:47 PM

If you're just joining me here, it might be helpful to read part one of my diagnosis first.

After Dr. Carl suggested a laparoscopy, I spent some time weighing my options and talking things over with my mom and Andrew. More than anything, I was worried that this surgery - my first ever - would be all for nothing. I would spend an absurd amount of money on an invasive procedure, only to find out that no, I didn't have endometriosis. Instead, I just kind of suck at life and can't handle my pain. But my desire for peace of mind finally outweighed my fear of anesthesia and spending money, and I scheduled the laparoscopy.

For those not familiar with the procedure, during a laparoscopy, a small incision is made near your belly button so that a camera can be inserted into your abdomen and pelvic area. Dr. Carl would go in to look for endometriosis in my uterus and, if necessary, zap away any problem areas with electricity. So it's a minimally invasive procedure, but that didn't mean I wasn't scared out of my mind (Seriously, I had a mini panic attack at my desk when the nurse called me to talk over my surgery. This was not a good day for my anxiety disorder...)

No stranger to hospitals, the needles, being cut open and overall surgery part didn't concern me. It was the anesthesia. When I was a freshman in college, I had a pretty awful wisdom teeth experience. I only had local anesthesia during that procedure, so I was in a haze for the whole ordeal. But partway through the surgery, I had the sensation that I was choking, so I started coughing and hacking and woke up. My dentist sat me up and asked me if I was okay, and I said, "Yeah, yeah. I'm fine." "We're going to give you some more anesthesia." "Okay... How many of my teeth are out?" "Oh, none." "Oh..."

Anyway, so the anesthesia was the main cause of my anxiety. My mom - a cancer patient - reassured me that this would be an easy surgery and that I would have the "best sleep of my life" on anesthesia. Also, the thought of being wrapped up in heated blankets and hospital socks for a day sounded pretty awesome. So I put on a brave face and slowly got over my surgery anxiety. The fact that my pain was getting worse also kind of helped things a bit...

The week before Christmas, Andrew and I sat in the hospital waiting room while I crushed his hand in my own. After some time, my nurse arrived and told Andrew that they'd call him back in about a half hour. I got settled in my hospital gown, cap and socks (whoop whoop!) and was immediately met by two more nurses who stuck me with an IV (after two tries), took my vitals and asked me a million questions.

A photo texted to my mom. My hospital visits seem to have a theme...
The combination of "Holy crap, someone is going to cut me open in a couple minutes" and not having eaten or drank anything in 12 hours began to set in. The nurses must have noticed the color drain out of my face because one of them asked, "Honey, do you want us to go get your husband?" Wordlessly and with eyes the size of dinner plates, I nodded, and in a few seconds, Andrew appeared. My husband has a gift for being a calming presence at all times, which balances out my tendency to blow situations out of proportion and expect the worst to happen. Thank God I married someone level-headed and sane...

Andrew sat with me while I got some much-needed fluids and stared at the ceiling. I was trying to sort out my thoughts and calm my nerves by talking, but I don't think I was making much sense. At one point, I said in high-pitched voice and with my eyes closed, "It's nice to have short hair because you can fit your head under this little hat..." Andrew gave up on being supportive at that point and just laughed at me.

Dr. Carl came in to talk to me about my surgery, reiterating information I had already heard. Yeah, yeah, anesthesia, I get stabbed, you take some pictures of me, and we're done. Andrew asked my doctor if endometriosis would give any answers to the intense stomach cramps and indigestion I'd been experiencing since my ER visit, and Dr. Carl shook his head. He said, "No, it wouldn't. You'll have to go to a gastroenterologist for that, probably." After he left, Andrew and I looked at each other. So pretty much, my own doctor isn't sure I have endo? Why am I here? What am I doing? Is this a waste of money and time?

After that, the anesthesiologist came in to walk me through my biggest fear, and before I knew it, they were ready to wheel me out to surgery. I waved goodbye to Andrew - clearly, for the last time - and was rolled out of the room, which is actually one of the few fun things about being in a hospital.

I distinctly remember Matt Nathanson's "Come On Get Higher" was playing on the radio in my operating room (In retrospect, this is hilarious, considering that I was about to receive anesthesia...), and I made damn sure I didn't look at any of the needles and instruments around me. My surgeons waved and smiled at me behind face masks and marveled at my ability to get through 24 years of life without a surgery. I didn't really think that was an accomplishment, but it was nice of them to try to calm my nerves.

Right before I was going to be put under, my anesthesiologist ran his hand across my hospital cap and said, "I have my velvet hammer ready for you...." Despite the utter weirdness of that remark, my surgeons and I had to laugh. "Is that what you say to every woman?" Dr. Carl asked. Prior to the "velvet hammer" being unleashed, my anesthesiologist gave me some medicine "to calm me down," and the last thing I remember hearing was "Is she asleep?" "No, not yet."

After what seemed like only two minutes, but was actually about an hour and a half, I woke up in recovery, struggling to lift my head. My throat was sore from the breathing tube inserted during surgery, and I knew I could barely talk. Surprisingly, I didn't feel nearly as crappy as I thought I did, even with having two cuts in my pelvis. Most of my pain was concentrated in my shoulder and upper back, which is apparently where the carbon dioxide from anesthesia gets trapped in your body. In my post-surgery haziness, I remember Dr. Carl kneeling beside me and saying, "You definitely have endometriosis." In my mind, I said, "Told you. I'll take my MD now, please."

Dr. Carl burned off the endometriosis he could get to, which was concentrated around my left ovary and left side of my uterus. This made perfect sense to me since that was where most of my pain had been located. After a very brief summary of my laparoscopy - I was still slowly waking up - Dr. Carl let the nurses wheel me back to Andrew. Happy to finally have the answers to our questions, Andrew and I drove home (ever-so gently...) and prepared to figure out a treatment plan in two weeks.

Click here for part three.

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