“You’re carrying twins,” the ultrasound technician told me.
Ordinarily, these are words a woman will hear while she’s holding hands with her spouse, feeling giddy and planning baby names.
In my case, she was referring to two benign uterine tumors that had grown so large they were the size of four-month-old twins.
Everyone has their own cross to bear. Some people end up with crippling diseases, lose loved ones early, etc. For me it’s been horrible pain every 30 days coupled with infertility.
Turns out I never stood a chance to get pregnant, but I didn’t know that. So I hung on to every precious organ until my mid-40′s when I finally decided to give up. That’s when the pain started to get worse. No one told me the whole menopause cycle lasts 14 years on average and what exactly occurs during that time. I thought menopause means you lose estrogen, tweeze a few dark hairs that show up where they shouldn’t and move on with life. Wrong!
The Hormone Shell Game
See, we’ve all got these hormones that have different functions. Women have estrogen, progesterone and some testosterone. I have apparently been a walking estrogen factory most of my life. It’s like being pregnant all the time. It makes you do things like cry when seeing pictures of puppies and scrape chocolate off of your husband’s candy bar wrapper. “You gonna eat that?”
Estrogen makes tumors grow. When I hit my forties and my other hormones began to wane, those suckers took off like rockets. The only choice was hysterectomy. Do you know what it costs to get a hysterectomy in the U.S. when you’re self-employed with no health insurance? Not including overnight stays, prescriptions and anesthesia, count on $15-$20k. I can buy a used Mercedes for that price.
And why didn’t I have health insurance? Because the cheapest option available to us, a healthy couple, was $600 per month with a $10,000 deductible. That’s almost more than we were paying to rent a house downtown.
So I just stuck it out. I found work that I could do from home. I planned my life around lying down several days a month.
Light at the End of the Tunnel
Then we moved to Canada. I was almost 50 years old. The tumors were so large that I could feel them all the time, jockeying against my other organs for position. But again, I had to wait. It takes a year to get permanent residence status in Canada, and I couldn’t get government medical insurance without it.
Finally, I received the prized golden medical card. No costs, no waiting periods, no pre-existing conditions. That brings us back to the day of the ultrasound. I’m lying on my back and the ultrasound technician is sweeping the roller thingy across my belly, trying to see something.
“I give up,” she says. “I’m not getting anywhere with this, the tumors are too big. We’ll have to go in the other way.”
The other way? What does that mean? That’s when she starts putting a baggie over a cattle prod the size of a Louisville Slugger.
“What were you planning on doing with THAT?” I asked. This wasn’t in the brochure.
“Don’t worry, we’re only going in about an inch.”
Oh, really? What’s the rest of it for, to impress me?
It’s amazing how one can carry on a normal conversation while being trussed like a turkey. I managed, but I could see she was still struggling and furiously taking pictures. Beep. Beep. Beep.
“You doing okay, there?” I asked. Why am I asking HER this?
“It’s just that…your uterus is really long.”
“Oh. Is that what happens when you’ve never had children?” How the hell should I know?
“No. It’s what happens when you have a number of really big tumors and your uterus stretches to compensate.”
Oh. I kept quiet while she finished up. “Your doctor will receive the report in two days.”
In a future post, I’ll share what happened when I met with my doctor. In the meantime, I need help naming my twins.
What do you think of “Oompa” and “Loompa?”