Maybe I have been working on that pun all day as this post has simmered in my brain. The puntastic nature of this post should not be overlooked. Because it’s true. Health issues? I’m over them. And because these matters mainly seem to be connected to my decreasingly functional reproductive system, I get to make puns.
(As a warning, if you do not like to hear about reproductive issues or generally women’s issues, you can stop reading here. If you haven’t already.)
So. Four years ago, I wrote a little post called “The Death of Me (Or What to Expect When You Won’t Ever Be Expecting)“. I also wrote a post almost five years ago titled, “The One That Is Normal and Pain-Free.” (Please excuse me while I go have a good laugh.)
Admittedly between August of 2012 (aka the giant blow up that was my reproductive system going to total pot) and March of 2017, things have been pretty great. (Two torn ligaments and a fractured left ankle notwithstanding.) As many of you know, I quit my full-time job and launched out on my own a little more than two years ago. I work full-time down at my church. Jesus has so faithfully opened and closed doors in my life. The learning curve at times has been steep, but it has been good. Better than good. It’s been amazing.
But the health issues have lingered. Hormones are nasty and awful and weird. (And all the women said, “AMEN!”) Trying to regulate those suckers is like… I don’t even know what kind of simile to put here. It’s that bizarre. Worse than herding cats. Maybe it’s like trying to herd cats in space. Close enough. Hormones have tampered with my allergies, my ability to stomach food, and generally life. But for the most part, I felt they were under good control.
Until two months ago. I started getting funny pain in my lower left abdomen. It didn’t go away over time, it only persisted and grew. There were times I thought I could feel something pressing against my skin, making wearing pants even worse than it already is. Discouraged, I finally admitted what it was: a cyst on my ovary. All the symptoms were there. The pain, mainly. Stabbing and sharp some days. Achy and weird on others. My hormones seemed to be fluctuating again out of menopause and into something else. My doctor warned me it could happen – sometimes organs do weird things when they’ve been traumatized. Maybe my ovaries were like Rip VanWinkle – waking up after a long, really satisfying nap.
Making the call to my gynecologist was difficult. For years, the thought of going back to see them after the trauma of my hysterectomy sent me into full-fledged panic attacks. But again, Jesus is so gracious and kind. Knowing that this issue had to be dealt with, I made the call, and nary a sign of panic waited in the wings. With an appointment three weeks away and my name on the give-me-an-appointment-if-someone-cancels-list, I went into pain-control mode. Heating pad. Ibuprofen. Cut sugar. Consume tons of water. Cut back on caffeine. (So this last one was a total joke. I can’t live without coffee. But I tried. Really.)
However, last Sunday, the pain moved from minor annoyance to chronic dehabilitator. Standing, sitting, laying down – it didn’t matter. Pain radiated through my body. Frustration and misery were pain’s bosom buddies. Later Sunday night, I was alone in my room, literally crying out to Jesus to intervene.
“Hear the voice of my pleas for mercy, when I cry to you for help, when I lift up my hands toward your most holy sanctuary.” Psalm 28:2
In my rollercoaster of a health journey, I know that there are times when Jesus waits to respond. To move. That is not to say that His comfort is not present. That His Spirit is not with us. But the answers we want aren’t always quick in coming in the midst of suffering.
I am grateful that this time, He moved swiftly on my behalf. My doctor’s office called Monday morning with a cancellation for Tuesday in the afternoon. What followed that visit was a flurry of activity. The wonderful Dr. Stringfellow not only listened to me but after my exam noted several things happening which shouldn’t happen when one has had a hysterectomy.
In the span of 24 hours, I had two ultrasounds that were the most painful experiences I’ve ever had, a CT scan where I had to drink the world’s most disgusting lemonade and get an IV contrast, blood tests, and finally a surgery scheduled for that Thursday.
In the midst of all of this, the war began. Spiritually, the battle was thick and intense. Fighting for my sanity and to be led by Jesus when life is relatively calm is no easy task. When the enemy comes and throws down in the middle of pain, uncertainty and no answers, it seems impossible to overcome. Mentally, I fought the thought that it was all in my head. That this wasn’t actually happening to me. I’d read stories of women who had phantom pain after a hysterectomy and almost convinced myself that’s what all this was.
I nearly called off the surgery after the ultrasounds and CT scans showed negative results.
But thank Jesus I didn’t.
Dr. Stringfellow performed an exploratory laparoscopic surgery on my abdomen and found:
- my left ovary and fallopian tube had attached itself to my pelvic wall
- scar tissue that was pulling part of my colon, bowel and urethra tubes back against my pelvis
- scads and scads of endometriosis (my old nemesis)
He removed my left ovary, both of my fallopian tubes and as much scar tissue and endometriosis as he could find. When I got home that night, I told my parents that I could tell whatever was hurting me had been removed. It felt empty. Painless. And I felt only relief.
My body is taking its sweet time to heal. I’m not as young as I used to be and my body has suffered a lot of trauma in (almost) 35 years. Taking it easy is not always easy for me, but I sense I have to be careful as I heal.
As another chapter in my health journey closes, I want to encourage any woman reading this. On every level – your reproductive health is so crucial. No matter how small the issue seems, get it checked out. Don’t ignore your body when it tells you something is wrong. Make that appointment. Be proactive in care for your body. That is always the right choice.
This time around, these health issues took me by surprise. And while Jesus has revealed a small sliver of why I am going through this, I struggle with the emotions that fight to win over faithfulness and trust.
Right now, I don’t have a deep spiritual thought to pass along. Nor do I feel like I am being taught some esoteric lesson. In the midst of tears and pain, the one thing that remains is that Jesus is faithful. No matter what how we lie to ourselves or give in to the battle – He remains faithful. While we should strive and search for the “deep things of God,” there is nothing deeper than the love of Jesus and the love we must have for Jesus.
That is the deepest well we can and must draw from when the trials and tribulations of life overwhelm. Because Jesus may not answer our questions as to why things happen, but He will always, always lead us as to how we can walk through them when they do.