Endometriosis and Me - Part 2
How are migraine and endometriosis related?
Why am I telling my story of endometriosis on a website dedicated to migraine? Well, it’s because of the correlation between endometriosis and migraine in women. Recently I wrote about having been diagnosed with endometriosis after years of suffering through painful periods, pelvic pain, and mittelschmerz (pain during ovulation). Many women who have been diagnosed with migraine have also been diagnosed with endometriosis, and vice-versa. You can read a little bit about that here in my colleague Diana Lee’s article, and you can read even more in Dr. Hutchinson’s book. Since so many women with migraine do have endometriosis and may one day need to decide whether or not to have surgery to formally diagnose and treat it, I thought I’d tell my story here.
Moving forward with laparoscopic surgery for endometriosis
After weighing the pros and cons of laproscopic surgery, I decided to move forward with it and scheduled my procedure for mid-January 2015. I was told I might need to rest anywhere from five days to two weeks, so I went ahead and took about twelve days off work, starting with the day before the surgery. I figured the day before the surgery would be mostly quiet with an hour or so of pre-op appointments.
A day of pre-op appointments
I was a little off in that assessment: the day was a pretty long one, chock full of hurry-up-and-wait. The hospital where I’d be having the surgery is just five blocks from my house, so I tried to figure out a way for the doctor to conduct her pre-op appointment at the hospital instead of at her office seven miles away, but alas—that’s not how it works. So my sister J. (loyal friend and health companion) and I first went to the gynecologist’s office and reviewed the plan for surgery again. We talked about the risks and I asked about eight thousand questions.
Were there drug options to treat my endometriosis?
Knowing how genetics play a major role in women’s health, my sister opened up and told the doctor about some issues she had in the past that were treated with medication instead of surgery—was that an option for me? No, the doctor said. Based on what they saw in my scans and on my medical history and symptoms, I didn’t have the same type of problems as J.
A supportive sister
J. asked a lot of questions that hadn’t occurred to me—almost all of them had to do with her concern for my pain and potential issues with the recovery process. That girl has always got my back, and it was sweet to see the doctor’s face as she admired what a good sister I have.
Was it too late to back out of the surgery?
Worriedly, I asked if it was too late to change my mind, and the doctor was cool as cucumber and very comforting. She assured me that I could call her office the next morning right before the surgery was scheduled and cancel it then, and there’d be no problem. The decision was mine to make, and that made me feel a lot more in control.
Preparing for surgery
We then went to the hospital, where I had to have some lab work done to make sure I was fit for surgery. They weighed me a couple of times, drew blood (after not being able to find a vein and poking me more times than I was comfortable with!), and asked a gazillion questions.
Are there complictions from an endometrial laparoscopy?
I had the uncomfortable but necessary conversation about what would happen if something went wrong and I died from complications. Complications at all are very rare for this type of surgery, but of course you legally must go over the worst-case scenarios as well as the best-case ones. I also met with the anesthesiologist to discuss what would happen the next day. With each smiling face I encountered, I got a little less nervous about the surgery.
Filling prescriptions before surgery
Hours after we’d begun this journey to doctors’ offices and the hospital, we were done. Almost. We filled a prescription for pain medication so I’d have the pills at the ready the day of the surgery.
A prescription of Dulcolax
We also picked up an over-the-counter medication called Dulcolax, which I was told to take a few of in order to empty my bowels completely. I took it a few minutes after I was supposed to and spent hours feeling anxious about my lack of poop. You see, the intestines must be as empty as possible before abdominal surgery. That way the doctor has more space to work and also decreases the risk of infection in case the bowel is nicked during the operation. By the time I went to bed, I still hadn’t had the serious bowel movement I’d been waiting for. (Ugh.)
Bowel movement anxiety or pre-surgical anxiety?
I slept fitfully, nervous about not going to be able to go to the bathroom in time and having to cancel the surgery. It seems to me now that I was probably nervous about the surgery itself and its implications and fixated on one smallish thing: my ability to poo or not to poo. That way I wouldn’t have to be as anxious about the other thoughts spinning through my head.
A successful bowel movment
Guess what, guys? I pooped. It was gross (I don’t ever recommend taking a bunch of laxatives unless you absolutely have to for medical reasons), but it was over after a bit and we were able to go to the hospital on time.
The day of surgery
Jim took me to the outpatient surgery center near our house and was sweet and loving, rubbing my back and making sure I was comfortable. By the time I was wheeled back to the operating room, things were already moving faster than I’d anticipated (that’s a good thing). I saw the smiling anesthesiologist from the day before, and she introduced me to her fellow doctor. The process went just like they said: they put a mask over my face and told me to breath normally and count back from ten. There’s no way I’ll be out cold by the time I reach one, I thought, but the last word I remember saying was “six,” so I guess it worked.
Coming to in the recovery room
Next thing I knew I was blinking my eyes awake, groggy and wondering when the surgery would happen. I was comically out of it. I was still in the recovery room so hadn’t seen Jim yet, but there was a nurse by my side who checked in with me. I kept asking her, “Did they do it yet?” She patiently told me the surgery was finished and that I was in the waiting room. I was so out of it, I can’t even tell you—I had seriously underestimated how the anesthesia would affect me. It wasn’t all together unpleasant, though. One thing was worrying me.
I remember a woman sounding upset
Somewhere in the room, a woman was sobbing dramatically. A voice told the crier it was over, once and for all—he was leaving her. The crying got louder, and the woman begged the man to stay. I got so upset about this, you guys. I beckoned the nurse over and, with tears of sympathy in my eyes, I asked, “Is she okay? That woman…she’s so sad. Is she okay? Is someone else going to be with her? Is she okay? She’s so sad. That woman.” The nurse looked at me and patted my arm and said, “Oh, honey. You’re so sweet. That’s just the TV.” Leave it to me to emerge from a drugged haze in the middle of a soap opera episode.
Next up in the series I will tell you what the recovery process was like and how things have been since.
For those of you who have been diagnosed with endometriosis, I’d love to hear from you. If you haven’t been diagnosed but also haven’t been to your gynecologist in awhile despite pain and discomfort in your abdomen, I encourage you to schedule a visit just in case!
Can you tell when a migraine attack is coming?