health care

Slash and Burn

enhanced-2956-1398019791-13 So, as loyal readers know, I had surgery last week.  The tl;dr version of what I had done and why is this: due to PCOS it was in my best interests to firebomb my lady bits. More info can be found at that link. Anyway, I wanted to tell you all about my experience (because documenting life is what I do, and also because it was the most positive hospital experience I've had that didn't involve a baby coming home with me.)

(As I write this, the painkillers have kicked in, so if I randomly interject "I love you", or commit egregious typos, you will no why. I'm so mellow right now, my aura is tie-dye.)

So, Wednesday morning I arrived at the Greenbaum Surgical Center in Scottsdale, Arizona. I mention the place because as you'll see it was just that damn good and I recommend it to anyone needing the services they provide. No food or water after midnight, so I was thirsty and nervous enough to not be hungry. One woman checked me in, and she was super sweet. This would set the tone for the rest of the experience. Every nurse, every doctor and every receptionist at this place was fantastic. My comfort was first and unless it was something I couldn't have (like water before surgery), they were very accommodating.

After a short wait in the waiting room where my brain cells died a slow death at the hand of the Today Show, I was escorted back into the prep area. My vitals were taken (my blood pressure rocks! Thanks, Grandpa!) and I was given a purple hospital gown. I had just been lamenting the fact that kids get superheros on their gowns and adults get crap. This gown--while it didn't have TARDISes or Loki--was pretty nice. Purple with straps that wrapped around the body rather than tying in back and leaving my lesser virtues out in the breeze. And there were slits in the sides and shoulders to accommodate the telemetry wires. Also, there was this tiny pocket on the front. I found out later that it wasn't for M&Ms or anything...

"I Love You" in circular Gallifreyan

...the nice nurse led me to my pre-surgery bed where she hooked up a hose to that small pocket. Hot air was blasting through it to keep me warm in the very chilly hospital. SCORE!

I hung out there fore a while, eschewing the television they offered because I was giggling on Twitter or with my mom. Another nurse came to take a bit of blood and test my blood sugar. She went through my name and birthdate for the 30th time that day, verifying that I am who it says I should be on the chart. She also set the IV line and told me what to expect with the upcoming procedure.

Next I met the anaesthesiologist. We talked about my history with surgery and how I typically don't wake up well from a general.

"I tend to come up swinging punches." "I'll be sure to stand far away, then," he answered.

He didn't have to. He set me up with some nice shit. But I get ahead of myself.

So, he injected a clear fluid into the line and within a minute I felt it going to my head. It was, he said, something for anxiety. As they wheeled me into the operating room, my head was spinning inexorably toward bliss and I was ready for anything...as long as it involved kitties and soft meadows and Tom Hiddleston. They were playing country music in the OR and I didn't even snarl! They spread my arms out to my sides and started putting blood pressure cuffs and other monitors on me.

Then it all fades to black. Then I'm dreaming for about 10 seconds before opening my eyes.

"How do you feel, Jamie?" a new voice asks. "Cold," I say from behind a mask.

That was it. No thrashing. No confusion. No panic. Just cold. She cranked up the heat from that hose and put a warm blanket over my bare shoulders. She checked my pain and gave me some painkillers in my IV line before removing that tube. As I woke up, we chatted and she gave me some ice, then eventually some ginger ale.

I was out of the recovery room about 15 minutes after I woke up.

I felt fabulous the rest of the day. I mean, yeah, I hurt a bit or had bouts of sleepy, but considering I'd just been laproscopically spayed, that was amazing. I've got a small incision at my bikini line and one in my bruised navel. No stitches. There's surgical glue or steri-strips.

enhanced-3585-1398019195-3Over the past few days I've been up and down as far as pain is concerned. I'm exhausted after showering, yet feel like I should be doing more. I've only got these two little incisions, right? And everything is still in there. It's not like I had pieces of me taken out.

Anyway... all in all, this has been positive. The pain I'm in is on par with the worst menstrual periods I've had in my life, but manageable. I'm taking minimal amounts of the prescribed painkillers and resting as much as I can.

So that's been me these past few days.  I go back in 2 weeks for a follow-up with my doctor.

This weekend I'll be at LepreCon. (You can read about that here.) And until then I plan on resting up, healing and playing ungodly amounts of FIFA13 on the Wii. (Getting that game into my hands has been an odyssey.)

How are you?

Fuck Normal

1607126_10151876633442499_1306466575_nSo regular readers will know that I've been dealing with some medical stuff lately. As I've said before, I've never been one to shy away from explaining biological processes or illuminating "private" parts of my life in the name of humiliating myself keeping a blog that is full of honest reality. What follows isn't going to be all gory or anything, but it will contain some tidbits about my lady bits that some of you might not want to know. It goes like this, though... I need to rant. And as you'll soon see, part of that rant is the "keep it quiet" mentality. But I get ahead of myself.

Anyway, if you don't want to read about ultrasounds and my honest loathing for how we treat our bodies, click here and read something more fun. I won't mind, and we'll catch up next time, k?

Alright...

So...I've been having problems with my cycle for the past year and a half now. This after a lifetime of predictable periods. Sure, I had a few rogue moments here and there....the occasional reboot to my system...but otherwise, I've lived a reliable reproductive life. Then, shit started to get wonky. I'd go months without a period. I started having hot flashes and night sweats. So, last May--after about 6 months of this special hell--I went to my doctor and said, "What's up with this shit?" She did a pap and blood tests that all came back "normal" and said, "Well, Jamie, I guess this is just your new normal. Come back if it gets worse."

It didn't get worse. It just kept going. Until January of this year when it started getting worse. By February, I was just frustrated as hell. So I set up an appointment with my doctor to say, "this isn't normal". She ordered a pelvic ultrasound as well as one on my thyroid and a new round of blood tests. Both of those scans came back "normal" as did the blood work.

That pissed me off. This is what I wrote in my paper journal after that appointment with the doctor:

"No, this isn't normal. This affects my life. I am in a ton of pain that I don't have to be in. I dislike playing Russian Roulette with my pretty underwear. I've gained weight (like, 40+ pounds in a year!) and no amount of work at the gym has made a dent in that number. My brain is foggy as hell and it's getting worse. My memory used to be something uncanny, but as of late...shit, I'm lucky if I remember what I had for breakfast. My focus has gone right out the fucking window and even medicated, my depression is a factor in daily life.

Something. Is. Wrong."

So I went to see an OB/GYN rather than my primary care doc. She listened to me as I explained what everything had been like. She then looked at the ultrasound and said, "This isn't normal. Nor is what's going on with you. You're displaying textbook symptoms of PCOS."

I left with a diagnosis of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, a prescription and a new diet. That was 5 weeks ago today. I've been gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, caffeine free (alas, Chai, I hardly knew ye) and alcohol-free all whilst watching my carb/sugar intake. I've lost 10 pounds and can tell a difference in my functionality. So far so good in those regards, but still working out some kinks as my hormones begin to level into some semblance of actual normal.

So yeah, because the ultrasound showed my uterine lining was 3 times as thick as it should be, we did a biopsy. (Let me just say this: if I ever have to have another uterine biopsy, I will tell them to just take it out and look at it that way. Or get myself good and liquored up first. That was the worst experience involving my nethers. Ever.) That came back clear, which led to yesterday's discussion with my OB/GYN about "okay, now what?"

I'll be getting two surgeries on April 30th. One will burn away the uterine lining and scar it, thus ending my periods. The other surgery will burn the Fallopian tubes, disconnecting them from my uterus. This will not only (hopefully) put an end to the past 18+ months of crap, but also the pain that went along with it.

Anyway...aside from the fact that I'm dealing with the fears of these surgeries and the odd emotions that go along with chosen sterilization... I'm a little angry. Angry that things got this bad because someone said last year that this was "normal". I'm so fucking tired of "NORMAL".

I was talking to a friend on Facebook the other day. She's a nursing student and was present for an ultrasound on an ER patient. She came in with stomach pain and left with the diagnosis of "Surprise! You're pregnant with triplets!" Now, the patient was only 8 weeks along, so that's still in the window of "reasonable ignorance", but people were harping on her like she's one of these people who goes into the hospital for cramps and is told, "You're in labor!" having never known she was even pregnant.

"How can someone *not* know they're pregnant?"

Or like those stories you see about a woman finding a 10-pound cyst on her ovary.

"How could she not know?"

Well, for starters, how many of us go to the doctor at every hint of an issue? Part of that is shame, I think. If we went to the doctor for every little thing, we'd be branded as hypochondriacs, right? Paranoid. Part of it, though, is that we are good at rationalization. We have so many ways to explain away our little aches and pains. It's just the weather. It's stress. It's probably nothing. If it doesn't go away by next week I'll do something. 

Then there's the "pain scale". I fucking hate the pain scale. And let me tell you why....

Pain and I are not strangers. I've got 7 tattoos. I've had multiple clashes with ruptured ovarian cysts. I've given birth without medication. I've had sciatica multiple times and two herniated discs in my back that caused pretty righteous nerve pain and damage. I've dealt with the high end of my personal pain scale, alright? Whenever someone says, "Rate your pain", I feel like this immediately invalidates the pain that I am currently feeling. Why? Because it's not as bad as that time I laid writhing in bed, begging for someone to kill me because my left leg felt like it was on fire. (That's a 10+ right there on the pain scale, right?) I've gritted my teeth and worked through worse.

Last week I asked a friend of mine (a nurse) if I should go to the ER. She said, "If you're asking that question, yeah, you should go." She asked me why I hadn't gone already.

Part of it is that I hate ERs and the copays that come with them. (One more thing.) But THIS is why. This whole "rate your pain" thing. Because right now, on my personal scale of "sunshine daisies" and "fucking kill me!", I'm not dying. I just hate everything and want to scoop out my feminine mystique with a melon baller.

And when it comes to pelvic pain, a lot of women are told, "Well, that's just part of being a woman." We wear our birthing stories and c-section scars like badges of honor. But, getting laid low by PMS? Weak sauce.

Grr.

I can't speak to what it's like for men. I don't have their parts and that kind of life experience. But, this shit sucks.

It's kinda stupid really. We don't take care of ourselves nearly as much as we should. In the name of normal.

Grr. Just fucking grr.

Thirty-three

754148319 Don't adjust your monitor. I am alive and well. Shit has been crazy lately and I've been dealing with a lot. Thus, not much time for blogging. The biggest news, I suppose, is that I had a birthday this weekend. Saturday I celebrated 33 trips around the sun by gaming with my friends and consuming meat grilled over fire. By the end of the day we'd failed to save New York from both Magneto AND Doctor Doom and I'd inhaled enough second-hand smoke to sound like Denis Leary after a night out.  The important part, though, is that I got to see dear friends and spend my birthday surrounded by love and joy. And red velvet cupcakes.

I've been working on Book 3 in the Etudes in C# series. That's going rather well, actually. Can't tell you anything about it because major spoilers, duh, but it's good times with some of my favorite characters. And there's a scene with a trickster deity in a strip club. Fabu!  I sent Book 2 to my agent last month and am glad to hear that she enjoyed it. She sent some feedback my way that tells me I've almost got this puppy right where I want it. Fantastic! So I'll work on that when my betas are scouring Book 3 in a month or so. No rush on it. Book 1 is still waiting for its turn with editors and such at Entangled. That's about it on the writing front. OH! And I signed a contract for one of my short stories to appear in an upcoming anthology! More word on that when the publisher announces the Table of Contents.

What else what else...?

I've been dealing with some depression lately. It's not my normal brand, either. This is the "I'm going to be a snail, sit in my shell and mope all day" kinda thing. It doesn't sting like my typical bouts, it's subtle. So it kinda slipped in under my radar. I think I'm knocking its ass back out to the curb though. Part of the depression is the fact that I'm not happy in my body. I'm at my highest weight ever. Yes: I know that it's just a number on the scale. However, my clothes don't fit properly. I've got 2 weddings I'm going to be in and I'd rather not have dress shopping Hell to look forward to.  Over the past 6 months I've succeeded in uprooting a lot of the weeds in my head. Those voices that equate weight to worth, the ones that say beauty = skinny. Those voices that I've lived with since I was in first grade and first realized that I was bigger than every one else in both height and width. I've finally managed to find their roots, dig them up and get them out of my head. A whisper will creep up occasionally. It's a daily thing to make sure new seeds don't take root in my head, but I've cleaned up a lot of shit from my grey matter.

The mental is working. The physical needs help.

So, I'm making a fitness routine. I'm doing the Couch To 5k training. 3 days a week, roughly 30 minutes each for 8 weeks at the end of which (theoretically) I will be able to run an entire 5k. Now, let's bear in mind that I'm the kid who never ran laps in gym class because she almost died. I'm the one who would be turned into a zombie first because I wouldn't be able to outrun the shrieking hordes of the undead. Well, I don't want that to be the case any more. I've walked 5ks and I enjoy that. However, I need to step it up. I want to run.  Honestly, I was shocked when I ran for a minute straight without a problem. So yeah, I'm loving it thus far and know it's going to get harder. But I dig it. I found something that works for me: my Kindle Fire. I take it with me to the gym loaded with the C25k app and Netflix. The app tells me when to run and when to walk while I watch my favorite shows or movies. I barely realize that I've been on the treadmill for an hour when all is said and done.

I'm also trying to eat healthier... more fruits and veggies, fewer carbs (I'm a carbivore) and cutting back on tea, chai and chocolate. I haven't had tea in ... 2 weeks now, I think. I know, right? Didn't have chai at all last week either. (Don't faint.) Chocolate... well, I had a birthday, yo. And I have an addiction. I limit myself, though, to 1 single piece of Dove dark chocolate per day. If that. 

Anyway, enough about me and my slovenly self.  Besides, I've got a book to work on.

How the hell have you been?

Things That Make You Go, "WTF?!"

Good morning, folks. I hope your weekend was better than mine. I've got some caffeine and a bit of a rant brewing.

It is, of course, an election year and therefore everyone and their mother is sticking some appendage into their mouth or talking out of their ass.

By now you've probably heard about Republican candidate Todd Akin's outrageous and egregious claim about "legitimate rape" not leading to pregnancy. If you didn't, allow me to inform you. The Missouri nominee for a senate seat said,

"From what I understand from doctors, [pregnancy as a result of rape is] really rare. If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let's assume maybe that didn't work or something. I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist."

Oh, sweethearts and dear ones, I don't know where to start with this one. Okay, that's a bit of a fib, I know exactly where I want to start, but I understand that some of you may not want to get into politics. That's fine. Those of you who do...let's get together after the jump and dive into the cesspool that is Horribly Stupid Soundbytes from Political Figures!

*Possible trigger warning. We will be talking about rape/sexual assault. 

Okay...for one moment let's forget that this is even about abortion. Okay? We're not going to talk about pro-choice/pro-life, ultrasounds, birth control or women's rights. We're going to focus solely on this gem of ignorance brought to us from Mr. Akin.

"Legitimate Rape"  What in the bloody blue blazes of Satan's scrotum constitutes "legitimate rape"? Here's how I understand it: Person A makes an unwanted sexual advance on Person B. Person B makes it known through physical cues or a simple "no" that these advances are unwanted. When Person A presses the issue and forces sexual activity to happen... this equals rape.

I know that our society likes to muddy the waters by taking pages from the Blame the Victim playbook. Rather than educate our youth that rape is wrong, we're telling our girls not to leave the house dressed like sluts. We're conditioning more women who will internalize assault as their fault and therefore be less likely to come forward. It does not help when judges let known rapists go because they feel the women were asking for it. It's true. Click the link and be prepared to calm your gag reflex.

So, is Mr. Akin saying that "legitimate rape" is one where a woman is ushered off the street into a back alley and violated by a stranger? According to Rape Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), nearly 60% of all reported rapes are committed by someone the victim knows. Does Mr. Akin feel that "date rape" is a sketchy area because clearly the woman wanted to be with this man, therefore, she can't possibly have been "legitimately raped"? I'd like to know what the would-be senator feels on this matter, but he hasn't clarified this statement. (Sure, he's walked it back and tried to weasel out of it, but he stayed away from explaining this particular phrase.)

Rape is rape. If Person A is told NO, but continues anyway? Done.

"A Really Rare Thing" Mr. Akin seems to be focusing on the idea that getting pregnant as a result of sexual assault is akin to finding a four-leaf clover. (We'll get to his reasoning why shortly, believe me.) But, there is some factual basis to this part. The US Department of Justice estimates that 5% of one-time unprotected sexual encounters will end in pregnancy. That's rather low, to be sure. There are many factors that may contribute to or skew this figure--particularly when trying to apply it to incidences of rape or incest--however, RAINN estimates that in one year, 3,204 assaults (out of the nationally reported 64,080) will end in pregnancy.

The frightening thing about RAINN's statistics, however, is that a woman is more likely to get pregnant from an assault than her attacker is to spend a single day in jail.

"...ways to shut that down..."

This is where Mr. Akin's statement takes a turn for the wacky and truly terrifying. While yes, we women are graced with a body that does amazing things in the nether regions, I think Mr. Akin gives a little too much credit to the feminine mystique. According to his statement, I've got a vagina rigged with trip wire, laser sensors and high explosives that James Bond couldn't get into with all the help from Q. And if he did manage to Mission: Impossible his way in there with his secret agent sperm, I'd have my uterus on lockdown faster than you could say Pussy Galore.

Look, it doesn't work that way. You see, a woman has no natural failsafe. Any college co-ed will tell you that we cannot will ourselves to Please God Don't Let Me Be Pregnant any more than a man can make one big boob by smooshing both of them together. We are not so in touch with our strange and mystical ovaries that we can make them stop the presses.

Funny thing: we all learned this in school. Biology class is nifty. Granted that Mr. Akin comes from the generation of "put an aspirin between your knees" birth control, but I'm pretty sure he went to school before No Child Left Behind started to dumb down the masses.

Akin says that he got this information from doctors. Unless those doctors are the same high school girls who think that you won't get pregnant if you have sex in a pool, spin around 3 times and bark like a dog after he comes... I'm dubious of Mr. Akin's sources. I'm betting they look like that guy up there.

At least he finishes off with a bang, that cooky Mr. Akin. He says that if our wily vaginas don't manage to purge the invader semen, the rapist should be punished. That's fantastic. I'm glad he's on our side. (See above reporting statistics and the average that 97% of rapists walk free.)

There Should Be Some Punishment Here's the thing: Would-Be-Lawmaker Todd Akin is right. There should be some punishment. Rapists should be held accountable, women should feel they can report these attacks without the blame-the-victim bullshit that inevitably ensues and we should live in a world where a football stadium full of people are not assaulted every year. However, there are these roadblocks standing in the way of that utopia. They're called "politicians". Redefining rape, trying to package rape and abortion, using them as wedge issues and ammunition in an onslaught against women's rights... Yeah, to put it bluntly, they suck. And there should be a punishment for that level of stupidity. It's fine to be that ignorant in the privacy of your own home, but when it affects my uterus, you're done.

It reminds me of John Waters (filmmaker of such cult classics as Hairspray, Cry-Baby and Pecker). He once said that if you go home with someone and you can't see any books, don't fuck them. I think we need to impose a similar rule in politics.

So, here's what I want you to do.

If you think that Akin and other such people seeking office on a platform that spews ignorance and outright lies.... Don't vote for them. Period. Don't let this shit into a position of power. If he doesn't have a grasp of 4th grade biology, he doesn't get to play with your rights or money. Savvy?

If you aren't sure, you're still on the fence and want to see what's what? Pick up a book. Educate yourself. Scour Google for hours and use reputable sources, not just Wikipedia. Feed your head with knowledge, then, once you've done that... Don't vote for this shit.

If you agree with Mr. Akin and think he speaks gold-plated gospel... DON'T VOTE. Period. It's your civil right to vote, sure, but if you're completely off reality and scientific fact in the process, you've ceased to live in our country and now inhabit the same plane as unicorns, snozwankers and vermicious knids. Feel free to blow bubbles into your chocolate milk and fuck some electric sheep, but please, don't screw up my reality because you've abandoned it.

Nerdmaste, my friends.

EDIT 8pm, 8/20 - Two things have been brought to my attention since I posted this this morning and I wanted to give them a place here. 1) A dear friend of mine made the comment, "No doesn't mean no. No is implied until removed." This is an excellent point. She went on to explain that the burden of consent should not be on the victim, yet that is where we place it. She finishes off her statement saying that if there is already a blanket consent--for example, in a pre-existing relationship--it is up to the "victim" to communicate when sex is off limits. I think she's got an amazing point when it comes to where we place the burden of consent. It's something to think on.  And 2) Someone shared this open letter to Todd Akin by renowned feminist and writer Eve Ensler. Read it. Have kleenex handy. --jw

Sluts and Sports

So there's a lot going on in the news to talk about, and anyone who's read my blog for any amount of time knows that I have a plethora of opinions. Rather than rant at length about All The Things, though, I'm just going to condense things down a bit. Join me. Let's chat.Sports: I'm an Indy girl, born and raised, and I hate to see what's going on with my Colts. Last week, owner Irsay decided it would be in the club's best interests to cut Peyton Manning. Alright, after last season and a nebulous future and your new golden boy Andrew Luck waiting in the wings, I can see where that might make sense in someone's mind. I'm sad that Peyton is leaving the team, but hope he finds a new home where he can play out his remaining years and thrive. (If that place happened to be Phoenix, Arizona, I would be ecstatic. Just sayin', love. Come to the desert. You'd look spectacular in red.) I'll still cheer on my Colts and I'll still root for my #18 every week wherever he lands. I'm grateful to him for all he did for Indy as a player and as a member of our community. And even with all the cash he gets for breaking those records, the man has class. Love love love my Peyton.But could someone please tell me what Irsay was smoking when he thought it would be brilliant to pack up pretty much the whole damn starting offensive line and send them off in a Mayflower truck? I mean, has Irsay discovered some new tropical hallucinagen? I have heard the argument that "well, when you're rebuilding a team you need to cut the old players who won't be around much longer to afford new players who can grow together". Bollocks! What about having veterans to coach your young blood and temper fresh talent with wisdom?

The mood around Indy this week has been like a funeral and it's not hard to understand why. I remember the 80s and 90s. I remember the days of Jeff George. (*shudder*) I remember when every week Indy watched the Colts suck monkey taint while other teams stomped our defensive line into the end zone to use as fertilizer. Back then, a local musician named Duke Tumatoe penned a song. Every Friday the song would be played as a kind of rain dance hoping that the gods would deliver touchdowns to our dehydrated Colts. I haven't heard that song in an age because it hasn't been needed with Peyton around. Now, though, it seems it's time to dust it off and start crooning. Lord, help our Colts.

Women's Health: Every day I get an email from someone wanting to make my dick bigger, harder, stronger to give her great stony pleasure. Usually this is in the form of a cock-enhancing drug. And I don't even have a penis. Junk mail at its worst. I mean, I at least have a roof or a carpet, so those ads for carpet cleaners could be useful, but without a penis, Viagra is just entirely out. One thing I've never gotten, though, is an email offering me contraceptives or an abortion. At least those would be anatomically correct. But, it seems that once again my vagina is getting me into trouble simply by being. You all know what I'm talking about and if you don't you must live in a media-free vacuous hole that even the Amish look upon with awe and wonder. Santorum, Rush, state legislatures ... riddle me this...
What the fuck is going on with the political war on women's health?
Look, I get it that there are people who have objections to birth control. I also understand that some people see abortion as murder. I'm willing to have civil discourse over this. Me? I'm pro-choice, plain and simple. I have a daughter, so obviously you know what my personal choice was, but I respect your right to make whatever decision you and yours feel is best for your situation. Done. Period. I won't begrudge you your opinions.
However, when you start trying to make and enforce laws that would violate another human being's body, laws that are specifically designed to humiliate and remove a person's choice of how and when to reproduce? That's when I get a little bit miffed. These same people who say that a woman who uses the Pill is a slut are the ones who see no problem with floods of emails busking for Viagra.
Are we really having this conversation now? A woman who is being responsible for herself and her partner is suddenly a prostitute and should have no problem shaming herself YouTube for all to see. Do I have that right? A woman's body is to be used by men specifically for pro-creative sex (sometimes with the help of Four-Hour Boner Juice) and the only choice she's allowed to make is whether or not she opens her legs. Do I understand?
Bullshit.
Put your probes away. Educate yourselves on what a woman's body does, how and why it does it and how contraception helps those actions run smoothly. Quit your male posturing and sit the fuck down with your happy blue pills, a bottle of Lubriderm and a box of Kleenex.