If I said there was never a dull moment, that would be an understatement.
I have a “baby bump” but there is NO BABY. (Sorry Mom.) Yet, I’m the equivalent of 20 weeks pregnant. That’s 5 months. I have (at least) 4 separate uterine fibroids that range in size from lemon to grapefruit. I don’t know exactly when they started, because anywhere from 50-80% of all childbearing-age women have them and only about 25% have any symptoms at all; the rest don’t even know they have them.
I do know that just after I started this blog, I gained weight. Lots. Fast. Easily. I went from 132 to 151 in 4 short months without changing a thing. In fact, shortly thereafter, I started exercising more. No dice.
When you look around you at all the people leading crappy lifestyles and you notice they all have muffin tops, fanny packs, puffy butts, and baby bumps, there’s little wonder. You don’t have to think too hard to hypothesize how they might’ve ended up that way.
But what if you’re doing everything right? It’s totally not fair. I restrict my carbs, eat fruits and veggies, and walk around the block. I know all about xenoestrogens. I avoid tap water, microwaved food, heated plastic, conventional cleaners, artificial scents, birth control pills, harsh solvents, industrial chemicals, non-stick cookware, and soy products.
After creeping down slightly last fall, my weight shot back up, even past the record I had set before. This is not a record you want to keep breaking.
Mind you, I had never had a weight problem before. Even when I was eating all kinds of crap and lots of it, my face suffered (acne) and my periods were heavy, but at no point did I ever have a big tummy.
Then I got into school. Then I got into clinic. And then? Horror of horrors, we graduated and launched our own practice and Holy God. I stopped sleeping, started sneezing, and my belly swelled further.
Three months ago, my period came 2 weeks late. (You could practically set your watch by it before.) Then, I recently noticed I had to pee more and more often. I realized something was wrong when I had to pee a third time within 30 minutes. I kept trying to tally my trips to the little girl’s room but by the end of the day I had gone so many times I had lost count. Yesterday was a bit milder than usual, clocking in at 8 restroom visits.
And the other day? I realized my stream was narrowing. Yes, I had to try pushing Valsalva-style just to get all of it out in a timely manner. (When you’re already infinitely en route back and forth between the bathroom and whatever it is you’re trying to do otherwise, you want each trip to take as little time as possible.)
This might be TMI but I don’t care, because it may help someone: when you’re peeing and you push to try to pee harder/faster and nothing changes, Houston, you have a problem.
So I had an ultrasound done this morning. It’s a lot like when you’re pregnant, or so I’ve been told. You hop up on the table, tuck the towel in your pants, and loosen them. They rub the jelly on you and away you go. You get to see a black-and-white Doppler effect-like version of the inside of your abdomen in real time. Running the head across my skin, I saw shapes that didn’t make sense (I wasn’t trained on reading ultrasounds), but with just a little coaching, I could see them.
The biggest one is almost perfectly round. The others are more oblong. My left ovary is fine. The radiologist and his staff couldn’t even see my right one.
Be prepared: If you have uterine fibroids or the symptoms thereof, they’re going in, too. It’s nothing like having a gyno exam, though – trust me, once you get the vaginal ultrasound head inserted, it’s no big deal. Even when they start moving the head around. At first I thought, no way, no how, but I went with the flow and it was as close to a piece of cake as one can get with an ultrasond head shoved up inside. Pretty painless procedure, considering.
So I came out with answers. It’s not my fault. It’s nothing I did or didn’t do. While it makes me feel better that I couldn’t really have done anything different (I’m already doing almost all of what’s on those “avoid estrogen dominance” lists), it also drives me crazy that even though I’ve been doing everything right, it still wasn’t enough. It’d be easier if I was screwing up big-time; by making a few simple changes, I’d probably improve substantially. If you’ve already made those changes and are still having massive problems, you don’t have many options left and the investigation gets considerably more complicated.
The question becomes, where is it coming from? Is it a hidden source of estrogen? Off-gassing of car seats or other furniture/material in the heat? Secret line of hormones in my organic milk? Bug sprays around the apartment complex I have no control over? An adrenal gland response so intense as to proliferate such big masses in such a short time? My low thyroid? Something in the office? It’s literally a needle in a haystack.
I went in with a fanny pack; I came out with an oversized uterus and 4 large fibroids. They’ve been there a while.
I have options, none of which are simple.
On paper, the least complicated option is a hysterectomy – it kills a lot of birds with one stone and it’s quite the permanent solution. But I’m hissing and kicking against surgery. I don’t want to have kids but I don’t want to remove body parts, either. I’ve got to use them for 20 more years of proper hormone balance until my adrenal glands take over estrogen level maintenance (horrors!) and given my adrenal shape, I most certainly want to keep my female parts as long as possible.
I can do supplements, but that’s not as easy as it looks. They don’t work overnight, and several types could make the problem worse. Just because it doesn’t need a prescription doesn’t mean you don’t have to exercise caution. Uterine artery embolization may sound like the best of all worlds but the procedure scares the pants off me. Cold laser would be uncharted territory but hey – I have nothing to lose except the fibroids themselves.
In case you’re wondering which one Stewie is, it’s the biggest one. (And I have to pee.)