When Your Period Has You
edited: Tuesday, September 30, 2008
By Macey Delena Baggett Wuesthoff
Rated "PG13" by the Author.
Posted: Friday, July 02, 2004
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Ways for a woman by a woman to combat endometriosis and/or
general problems with severe premenstrual and menstrual syndrome
I suffered from both severe dysmenorrhoea (menstrual pain) and endometriosis for ten years--without proper treatment. Had I not researched the treatment that was right for me and insisted upon receiving it, I could have died from the undetected complications. "When Your Period Has You" details my personal struggle with both endometriosis and dysmenorrhoea with special focus on endometriosis. In addition to discussing possible dangers and complications of both conditions, "When Your Period Has You" lists surgical, medicinal, and self-help treatments, as well as some rarely highlighted advantages and disadvantages of each treatment. And all of it is broken down into simple language that can be comprehended on a universal level.
(End of first half of article. Go to my Author's Den bookstore to buy a home-generated, autographed copy of the full article from me.)
You wake up on a weekday morning to go to work or school. Immediately, sharp pains shoot through your abdomen, and maybe even your back and legs. Perhaps you also feel nauseous. Minutes later, you drag yourself to the bathroom and discover that, just as you suspected, you’ve started your monthly period. And as usual, it’s very heavy. You feel like doing nothing but crawling back into bed. Yet you have a life. And today is extra important because of that big business meeting, quiz, or event. So you force yourself to get ready and try to follow your daily schedule as if you feel fine.
But you’re not fine. Just a few hours after you reach your destination, you find that your mind is wandering. You keep making mistakes in your work. Concentration is impossible because you’re distracted by your pain, which is so great that you clutch your stomach with your free hand as you sit behind your desk. You also keep feeling the urge to urinate, caused by your unusually heavy flow of blood. You repeatedly interrupt your schedule to make trips to the restroom. During your last rest stop, you find that you are now clotting as well as cramping. And despite the fact that you are wearing two pads, or a tampon plus a pad, you already need to change them again, even though you just changed both less than an hour ago. You know that you will end up embarrassing yourself by bleeding through your clothing if you don’t keep going back and forth to the restroom, which you can’t do and stick to your daily schedule. You give up, tell your boss or teacher that you must go home, and suffer the consequences of postponing or canceling the important thing(s) you have to do that day.
If you are reading this article right now, you (or someone you know) has probably been through a scenario similar to the one above. And you know exactly what this article’s title means, too. Your period is such a severe problem in one or more ways that you don’t feel that you have your period—you feel that your period has you because it dominates your life. And you are not alone. According to Healthlink USA, 40% of women in America suffer from menstrual pain, and 10% are incapacitated one-to-three days per month.
Perhaps you experience unusually severe symptoms like some of the ones previously mentioned—extremely painful cramps, heavy bleeding, nausea, muscle pain—not only during your period, but also before (during premenstrual syndrome) and maybe even afterward (during ovulation). These symptoms are more than just inconvenient. They can indicate a serious condition that may cause you permanent or even fatal problems in the future. I know this not because I am a doctor or medical practitioner (many of whom are men who have no personal experience with periods), but because I am a woman who once suffered from the same discomforts, and have many friends who still do as well.
At the age of sixteen years old, I was diagnosed with endometriosis, which is defined by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) as “a condition in which tissue that looks and acts like endometrial tissue is found in places other than the lining of the uterus.” Translation: When the lining of the uterus is shed during each monthly period, pieces of the lining break off and get stuck in other areas of the body—areas where they shouldn’t be. Endometriosis causes menstrual symptoms like the aforementioned ones to be magnified to levels that are intrusive in a woman’s everyday life. In 2002, the Oregon Health & Science University estimated that 5.5 million women in America suffer from endometriosis, making it more common than AIDS and even cancer. And there is no official cure.
My menstrual symptoms occurred one week before my cycle, all throughout it, and for three to seven days afterward, during ovulation. For me, the worst symptoms were the nausea and the excruciating cramps. Other symptoms I experienced included mood swings, severe acne, appetite increase, water retention and weight gain, constipation and diarrhea, and fatigue. (Additional symptoms experienced by other women include infertility, reduced sexual drive, and pain during intercourse). And since my menstrual cycles themselves were seven days long, that meant, best-case scenario, I experienced only one-to-two weeks each month of my life without any symptoms…without pain.
I tried several treatments, including hormone pills and injections, laser laparoscopies, and even a presacral neurectomy (all of which I will discuss in more detail later in this article). But none helped or gave me any long-term relief. My pain, which continually worsened with each passing month, was greatest during menstruation. So I began requesting a partial hysterectomy to end my monthly periods for good. The surgery would mean the removal of my uterus and its lining, thus eliminating what was causing and aggravating my endometriosis. It would also mean I could never have children. The latter didn’t concern me; I’d long ago made up my mind that being a parent was not for me. Besides, in the condition I was in, I knew my body wasn’t healthy enough to meet even the most basic demands of bearing and raising children.
But when I started making the request, I was only eighteen years old and still childless. So at first, no doctor was willing to perform the surgery. Yet they offered few feasible alternatives for treatment. Many wanted to repeatedly perform the aforementioned treatments, though we’d already determined they weren’t working and were magnifying many of my menstrual symptoms, like weight gain and mood swings. Others doctors suggested that I just wait for a cure or menopause, whichever came first. At the time, no cures were even being researched, and you can imagine what it’s like being told at eighteen to wait until menopause (age forty to sixty-five) for pain relief. One “doctor” even had the nerve to ignorantly compare what I was going through to the leg cramps he gets while jogging. He then told me that pain was a normal part of every day life and that I’d “just have to learn to live with it like him and everybody else.”
Finally, when I was 20 years old, I received my salvation when my primary gynecologist, Dr. Phillip Wakefield of OBGYN in Florence, AL, agreed to perform the surgery, with my mother’s signed consent (which she readily gave). During the surgery, Dr. Wakefield phoned my mother and obtained her permission to do an appendectomy as well. Afterwards, he explained to us both that I had recently had an appendicitis attack. Yet because my monthly pain was so great, I’d mistaken it for merely the “normal” cramping of my period. Had Dr. Wakefield not performed the hysterectomy, no one may have ever realized I had a problem with my appendix until it was too late. In other words, the hysterectomy probably saved my life.
Despite the initial soreness from the surgery, when I awoke, I immediately felt better and could tell a difference. That was nearly a decade ago. Today, I am period-free and also pain-free. While medical science states that a hysterectomy is not a cure for endometriosis, it certainly cured my pain. For me, it was a miracle.
I’m not suggesting that a hysterectomy is the ideal solution for every woman with severe menstrual pain. Nor am I suggesting that every woman who is having such pain only needs an appendectomy. What I am saying is that any woman with severe menstrual pain should see a doctor she trusts to make sure the pain is not a sign of endometriosis or some other serious menstrual problem. Additionally, regular pain during a menstrual cycle can hide the pain of a totally different physical problem. A serious, underlying condition that is indicated through pain for the average woman can fail to be noticed among women with frequent menstrual pain, who mistake the pain of their problem for their “regular” monthly cramping. For instance, in addition to obscuring the appendicitis attack, my severe monthly pain also masked two ovarian cysts, which normally stand out through pain. The cysts were detected only during the laser laparoscopies that were used for endometriosis treatment prior to my hysterectomy.
Furthermore, if you do have endometriosis, going too long without the proper treatment can cause serious complications. By the time one of my best friends, who also suffers from endometriosis, got a hysterectomy, it was ineffective because she’d gone so long without correct medical treatment. And due to having too many laser laparoscopies, she started experiencing complications from a build-up of scar tissue. Worse yet, the endometriosis had spread to her bowel, forcing her to have her entire colon removed. She is still experiencing so many complications today that she cannot maintain a job to care for herself, and her current condition has forced her to move back home with her parents and rely exclusively on disability benefits for her income.
If you suspect you have endometriosis or ovarian cysts, or you just suffer from severe menstrual symptoms in general, the following tips and suggestions might help you. As I said before, I am no doctor. I’m merely sharing with you treatment methods my personal friends and I have learned about through experience. Hopefully, some of them will be helpful to you.
Web Site: Macey Wuesthoff's House of Horror
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|Reviewed by Tami Ryan
|I, too, experienced horrendous pain due to endometriosis. The pain got so bad that I couldn't sit, stand, walk, lay down... function without pain. The difference is that we had been trying unsuccessfully for nearly two years to conceive. Fortunately, I had a doctor who recognized the symptoms. After laporoscopic surgery, subsequent medication for seven months, and still not becoming pregnant, the doctor performed a laporotomy. Suffice it to say that, internally, I was a mess. After rearranging my internal organs and removing the remaining endometriosis, the pain stopped and I was pregnant in no time.
The doctor warned me that endometriosis can be recurring. I had surgery again (laproscopic) some twenty years later. I then remained pain-free through menopause.
Thanks for posting such a thorough article.
|Reviewed by Peter Paton
Very interesting information and informative...