Friday, May 04, 2012

I don't have cancer. I do have tumors. I still find myself unhappy.

    About six years ago, I was really sick. I was in and out of hospitals, suffering through terrible pain in my guts and symptoms that were, for lack of a better word, disgusting. I went through a battery of invasive tests, including two dnc's and a sonohystogram (ladies, that's where they fill your uterus with saline while you're awake). I had three blood transfusions, two ambulance rides, and passed out routinely. Throughout the whole ordeal I was told over and over again by doctors that there was probably just something wrong with my hormones, and many young women experience irregular cycles and pain.

    Nope, actually, it turned out I had a tumor in my uterus the whole time.

    Scooby Doo ending! Take off that mask female hysteria—It was a tumor, and it would have gotten away with it too if it hadn't been for the rascally woman doctor at Women and Infants who finally took me seriously.

I hate Scooby Doo.

     Benign uterine tumors are pretty common in women. Once you've had one, there's a good chance you'll have others. My first tumor was particularly difficult because of how it formed. It grew on a stalk, which meant it was drifting/bobbing around and my cervix kept confusing it for a baby bearing down and trying to “birth it”. This would lead to unbearable pain and an embarrassing mess. Yes, the human body can be a terrifying nightmare landscape with rules of its own.

    The past few months I had begun to experience symptoms similar to what I went through before. A couple of days ago an ultrasound confirmed it, I have another benign tumor. Actually, I have four. Three clustered together and then one larger one skulking by itself.

    Honestly, however lame it is, I'm just thankful they found them on the first try. The first tumor would not have made me so sick had it been found immediately. I feel pretty blessed to know what is going on this time. It's a relief to know the general sickness and pains I've been feeling the past few months have an explanation. I'm just bummed it's tumors.

    The majority of tumors aren't cancerous. Tumors don't always mean cancer (and often times cancer does not mean tumors). Yet whenever I talk about this there's always someone who points out, “Well, it's not cancer.” And it's true, it's not. I am very grateful that it's not. However, call me crazy, I'm still really upset to experiencing painful tumors. (It may have something to do with the pain). People hear “benign” and I think they immediately assume the tumors looks something like this:

   A benign tumor isn't a soft, fluffy "puff puff" gently slumbering in the human body. It's stretching apart flesh, taking the body's blood supply, and rubbing knubby parts with your organs. It hurts a lot. Sometimes, for ladies, it's in an embarrassing place. Then you tell people you have one, and they guilt you that it's not something worse. It's a weird reaction to admitting to an health problem. Even when I explain it's a benign tumor in the same statement, it's never good enough. 'I heard tumor, and I thought you had cancer'. 'But I never said I had cancer--' 'But you have a tumor' 'You know what a tumor is, right?'

  You may be thinking this now, like, "Man, she's got one of the 70% or so regular tumors? She should be turning cartwheels...I mean, once she stops feeling nauseous all the time. You know, from the tumors--" Or maybe not. Maybe something like that. It's like, all I hear is this guilt trip that my pain and upcoming operations aren't valid because they're not worse. “Yeah? Well keep it up and maybe God will REALLY give you something to cry about.” Look, I'm sorry my tumor isn't good enough for you. How about I promise I'll deal with all the pain and bleeding and we can call it squarezies?

   So why talk about it at all?

   Well, it's scary. The more I talk about scary things the less scary they seem. The more I can joke about something the less it worries me. A uterus full of tumors is embarrassing—No, it's okay, I know it is. Immediately words like “barren” come to mind. Like my uterus having problems makes me less. (I know logically it doesn't, but it can feel that way). Being as open as possible and joking about something like this takes the sting away from me. I'm not growing tumors on purpose, this is something happening to me. It's lame and terrible, and I have to deal with it. And this is the Internet; there's a chance someone is reading this because they Googled “benign tumor” and they might be feeling some of the same things I am.

   It's like dudes walk around with 50 words for their penis because it's out there for all the world to see, but I feel like women are encouraged to hide the fact that we even have reproductive systems. Guys get all upset because they might get a finger for a prostate exam, but once a year women have to a speculum inserted into their bodies and cranked open.
This is a modern speculum. This is a real thing that doctors use right now.

   It's 2012 and a lot of women won't tell you that a pap smear is one of those, followed by a cotton swab on a stick. They use a flashlight to see for f--k's sake. A flashlight. There's as far as the science has advanced for us. It can't be plastic? It can't be smooth? It can't involve a camera or anything a little more high tech and gentle? Am I the only woman this process horrifies?

  All our health problems are weird and gross. Sometimes it seems even the doctors don't understand them. I was mortified at first years ago, but as my symptoms got worse and more gross, I had no choice but to open up and opening up made it feel more like a broken arm (uterus) and less like my gender torn in half. Like, it stopped being about having kids not having kids being attractive, and it started being about an organ that is weird sometimes.

   So I talk about my uterus, because it has it coming. It's a jerk and I hate it. I'm not keeping its secrets. It's really, really bad at being a uterus. It's literally the worst uterus I know. The last tumor it was suggested to me several times to have a hysterectomy ( and I was 23, remember) but I keep it around on the off chance I will stop having these impossible female issues long enough to have a child.

   I comfort myself with the hope that maybe someday I will be able to have children after all of this. And that after I have my children, I will have my uterus stuffed and mounted on the wall over our fireplace.  


  1. Oh geez, I am so, so sorry you've been going through this for years. I agree that it's right to talk about it and that it does help emotionally and psychologically. And you're so right-- why should we be ashamed, again? A uterus is just as much a part of a woman's body as her kidneys or appendix, and yet we can't talk about the former without being made to feel like we're earning the "Most Inappropriate Conversationalist of the Year" award. Quite honestly, these prejudiced attitudes (what else can it be?) aggravate me to no end. I'm not saying that I talk about my vagina absolutely anywhere and at anytime, but when you're shunned for expressing concerns or feelings or don't even feel comfortable asking health "professionals" for help? Um, there's something wrong culturally and socially. I really hope you get to feeling better and get this new situation resolved quickly and as pain-free as possible. I'm thinking about you! :)

  2. My dear girl - I am so sorry for this chaos of femaleness you are goibg thru.
    I know a bit about dysfunctional uteruses. They do suck. And I am glad u put it out there for the world to acknowledge. We as females are under some weird silence to not share the horror. Like if I tel u how terrible my experiences are that it will stop you from being fruitful & multiplying.
    Your right its bull. I was 19 when I was told I had pre cancer. Yes pre. The things I had to go along with were horrendous. At one point I actually decided "real" cancer has to be better. Frozen cervixes, burning out the disease & endles pain was swayying my vote..
    But I hung in for the same reason we all do - promise of a child. As u know I hung inn & was blessed with Gracie but it was many years of wondering & sufering silently. Our society says we should be strong - so when I finally had no choice but to get the dreaded hysterectomy - no one mentioned its female castration. How I would feel less than - how I woould feel like I got thrown out of the "club" - how menopausal symptoms would haunt me for decades!!!!
    Bottomline beautiful girl is I love you. You are not alone EVER & you will make it threw with dignity & selfworth because you have broke thru the silence. I am here for you whenever you ask. Again proud of what an incredible woman you are.

  3. As a member of the 'oh good, it's not cancer' camp, I feel like I should explain the sentiment. At least, when it's coming from me. I have known 3 people who have been diagnosed with cancer, and I lost 2 of them. For one out of the 2 I got front row seats to the entire wasting, gasping, horror show. Now (and probably for the rest of my life) whenever anyone I know goes to the doctor for anything from a persistent cough to an embarrassing rash, and it turns out they have anything that isn't cancer, I breathe a small sigh of relief.

    I don't know anything about having a tumor, but it sounds like having something foreign and hostile in your uterus is pretty fucking horrible. And the idea of having an illness that may require an invasive or surgical procedure would terrify me. Especially when they can't even guarantee it won't happen again. What's happening to you now sounds awful, I'm hoping you have a speedy and uncomplicated recovery.

    That said, I'm also really glad you don't have cancer.

  4. Thank you so much ladies! Mary Beth I'm glad you share my sentiments about talking about our bodies openly. They're just bodies! We only live in them, we don't control the insides.

    Lisa I saw a lot of what you went through firsthand, and it is some of what inspired me to be so open about these medical problems. Especially how uncomfortable a lot of female medicine really is. I mean really, I get novocaine/topical numbers for the dentist and that's just my mouth.

    Amanda, I am happy you're glad I don't have cancer. That's not quite the reaction I meant, I get that one a bunch too and I don't feel any coldness from it. The reaction that I meant specifically is this dismissive "Well--it's not cancer/you should just be glad it's not cancer/we should be discussing that you don't have cancer" when cancer was never the issue, it's not the problem I'm facing. It's more "let's make what's actually happening to you about this much more horrific thing that's entirely unrelated." I get the impression they feel I'm hysterical or looking for attention when I explain what's happening to me. "Oh, well, it's not cancer--get a load of Georgia."

    I pray I never have cancer, I pray cancer stops invading our lives. You've seen it (I am so sorry how often you have seen it, that's terrible :(). I lost my grandfather to it this year, and he was old but very strong. It took a terrible toll on him, and I'm still furious at the cosmic powers that be (I know I shouldn't be, I just am) that it's how he spent his final days. Ryan lost his mother to it when he was a teenager. It's a nightmare. It's one of the worst things that can happen to a person.

    I get upset by the dismissive reaction because my problem is still there even though it isn't related to cancer. It doesn't have anything to do with cancer. Most tumors are just tumors, and they come with their own issues. When I'm sick and facing operations and questions about whether or not Ryan and I will be able to have children, I don't want to talk about cancer on top of it.

    I understand that people have had their own bad experiences and that when someone around them is sick it brings those feelings up for them--but the sick person is still dealing with being sick. They don't need to be reminded of something way worse. And in my case something that could happen with any of the next tumors, since I have an organ that keeps spawning tumors? That also is part of my terror in this? Like how when someone plans a picnic for a Tuesday and everyone keeps saying 'Oh, it's supposed to be great weather on Tuesday!' and they shush people because they don't want to jinx it and bring rain--That's about how excited I am every time someone reminds the universe that it didn't throw in a side of cancer with the tumors it ordered. Everyone reading this, remember that: When your friend is sick, the second to last word they want to hear from you is "cancer". (The last word is "dying").

    I am really glad I don't have cancer, but then I feel guilty and apologetic on top of being sick because I also don't want to be dealing with any of this. I want to have a normal uterus. Instead of making children, mine makes tumors. I can't begin to explain the bitternes I feel because of this. The emotion is actually painful--that could be its own blog post, but it would borderline on hysteria and I would have to title it "I can't put these feelings into words and remain a positive person". There are other symptoms which are gross I also don't want to be going through. And I don't want to know that there are four things growing inside my body that should not be there. It's a really weird, bad mix of emotions--made almost funny by the fact that these tumors are thought to thrive/grow from hormonal imbalances.

  5. After you have a child, you can go all Office Space-style on your uterus!

  6. HAHA! Yes!! With the music and everything :)


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