*Button push warning (One of my beloved aunts would tease me for worrying about offending everyone 🙂 but I use button instead of tr!gger warning because it feels less well, button pushing): Infertility, ovarian cancer
So April 16 was my cancer recurrence diagnosis anniversary. I missed the day this year, didn’t even think about it until today. Recently, I had coffee with a friend who talked about menopause and wondered what it was like for me. We compared notes, and it got me thinking about how little menopause is talked about by other people with uteri. We spoke about how much we’ve lost our connection with ourselves and with our divine ancestors with uteri if we can’t talk about this stuff. I realized then that I never shared about my experience with surgical menopause and doing chemo at the same time. It was a large part of my story that I forget about because out of sight, out of mind, you know?
On April 17, 2019 I had a total hysterectomy to remove my remaining ovary, fallopian tube, uterus, and cervix (preserved from the first time in case I wanted to birth biological children) which launched me painfully into surgical menopause. After my family explaining to me time and time again that the cancer was more extensive and we have to do chemo and more surgeries and that it’s in my leg and on my bladder. I remember looking into Malcolm’s eyes, seeing pain there after I asked for the millionth time to explain (like Izzie Stephens from Grey’s Anatomy, if you’ll allow me the cheesy reference) and had to be walked back through the bad news. He looked at my mom and she stepped in but I misunderstood and thought I was dying. I thought that’s what they told me, so I carried that around for months and months until I spoke about it with Malcolm and he said, they didn’t say you were dying, but they said you would if you don’t do more surgery. Woof.
After that, I woke up in the middle of the night so drenched and high from the anesthesia and pain killers that I thought I had sleep – peed. The nurse came in, and I apologized about 89447272 times. She said, “Oh honey, you’re having night sweats. This is surgical menopause.” One of the biggest symptoms that I noticed right away were the night sweats and hot flashes. Often in the first few days did my internal temperature rise suddenly giving me not even a second before my face flushed and I began sweating a lot. Not just that, but it felt like itchy wool shrink wrapped around my body, my face, constriction. It immediately made me RAGE. With every hot flash came a mood swing. It wasn’t horrible in the very beginning because of the pain killers, epidural, and anesthesia cocktail. After that wore off, so did my patience. My poor, sweet loved ones — I love you, by the way, have I told you recently? :D). I was enraged. I thought I was dying, and I was fucking irate. IRATE.
I can’t take hormone replacement because the chance of it causing more cancer is too great, so that made my transition more of a hard stop from full speed into a brick wall. I was the dummy in the front of the car, not buckled in, careening towards more heart-ripping stops, not a single second of time for me to pause to catch my breath. More punches to the aorta like four rounds of chemo, terrible ten days after chemo treatment ended; mouth sores; constipation that made my intestines feel like they digested broken glass; bone drenching ache, deep in the marrow; chemo brain so often, I had to let go of a reasonable timeline and just accept that my hold on reality was ephemeral; not to mention the nasty sexual side effects like my libido absolutely crashing into nothing. Everything hurt, so I disappeared inside a u shaped pregnancy pillow I found online until I started to feel like a human bean again.
Until my next dose of chemo. They don’t tell you during chemo there are cycles. The cycles are designed to allow you to heal before the next dose absolutely destroys you, your spirit. Well, mine at least.
What would I do with the time I had left? I couldn’t let myself go down that road yet because I’d light up with scarlet anger. Anger at my NP who is a cisgender woman who gaslit with me with a diagnosis of a yeast infection for three straight appointments spanning nine months. I asked if they’d do imaging, she said no. I didn’t make one appointment and they discharged me from their practice because I didn’t follow up as intended. I wanted to go sit in her office every day and let her clean up my frequent post chemo vomiting. Now I know I can request for them to add that patient requested imaging and doctor denied it. However, I found a doctor who I never have to persuade for anything. He takes what I say at face value and believes I know what’s best for my body. That’s my number one advice: don’t stop shopping until you find someone who makes you feel safe, who will buy you coffee to perk you up when your spirit rots from the inside out.
Follow for more fun stories and easy life tips *nervous laughter*. But seriously, I want to write more about menopause to help normalize it and center people with uteri instead of cisgender men. Don’t you just love drowning out people’s opinions who have no right to have them? No more, my friends. Let’s talk vaginal dryness, fatigue, and insomnia! 🙂
4 thoughts on “Surgical Menopause During Chemo: Hard Stop”
What is so amazing is how you always bounce back from these devastating life events you’ve experienced at all too young of an age. I love you!
I think you inherited some of my problems. I had my surgery after your mother was born. 3 months later I had to have my heysteromy and that is probably misspelled. Aunt Bert took care of you and Lori. Both of you were 3 months old and so cute.
I remember you telling me that. Was it because they couldn’t stop the bleeding? Remember when I had a period for three straight months when I was a teen? And my cramps were so bad I had to go to the hospital. I went to Lewisville, actually, the hospital you were just in. I know it runs in the family too.
Well, I got that resilience from the Three Marys 🙂 And therapy and anti-depressants!