Like most young girls, I looked forward to starting my period. However, from my very first one, I was surprised at how painful it could be. Cramping, fainting, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea would suddenly occur before, during and sometimes right after periods. I remember lying on the cold bathroom floor, my mom and my dad sitting beside me as I cried, vomited and curled up in the fetal position with cramps. What a disappointing welcome into womanhood. Fast forward that common occurrence through Junior High School, High School, College and then being a new bride. Five weeks after our wedding I was in the hospital and had my first of 5 laparoscopic surgeries for endometriosis. I was placed on Lupron in hopes of controlling my symptoms and hopefully having a family someday. I found that medication to be very unpleasant and to be frank; I hated it. Nothing like being thrown into full blown menopause as a 22-year-old bride. However, the Lord blessed us and we were able to conceive and I gave birth to three full term babies. They are the joys of my heart. Over the years, I would encounter more diagnoses that included chronic pain; migraines, fibromyalgia, and irritable bowel syndrome.
Christmas of 2012, I found myself in a different kind of fight. My oldest daughter, who was 14 years old at the time, and I were thrown from the buggy of a run-away horse. We were both emergently transferred to the nearest Trauma Center. She was significantly injured, but thankfully, the extent of her injuries were not as severe as mine. I had a skull fracture, two brain bleeds, and a torn spleen. I needed major emergency abdominal surgery. During the surgery, my spleen was repaired and my intestines were removed for careful inspection for damage and then replaced intact back into my body. This resulted in a large vertical abdominal incision. Over the next few weeks, I would encounter complications that literally threatened my life and resulted in numerous ICU and hospital admissions. At the most critical point, I said ‘Goodbye’ to my family as it appeared that was a very likely outcome.
This added additional health challenges to what I already had and I was in some degree of pain every day. I didn’t want the pain to define me and I was trying so desperately to lead a life that didn’t revolve around managing chronic pain. Two years after this accident I had another surgery for endometriosis. It was discovered that not only did I have extensive endometriosis, but my intestines were adhered to the underside of my large surgical scar as well as to my left pelvic wall. There were many adhesions and scar tissue that held my organs in unnatural positions. My spleen had scar tissue as well.
Even knowing that removing my uterus, tubes, ovaries, and surrounding tissue would be the best treatment, I opted to postpone that. I had had enough of surgeries and resulting complications and was reluctant to have this done. I tentatively consented to the administration of Lupron, along with add-back hormone therapy, once again. It remained a difficult treatment for me and I was becoming so weary of being in some kind of pain. It would range from mild to intense enough that I would once again be on the floor with all the symptoms I experienced first as a young teen. It scared my children enough that on more than one occasion they wanted to call 911. I was on a river where pain was always a dull roar, but would increase to moments of white-water rapids. Needless to say, my constant weariness and ‘motion sickness’ from being on the hypothetical river, resulted in being admitted to a Psychiatric Hospital on a mental health hold for 3 days and 6 weeks of outpatient therapy. My newly added diagnoses were depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety.
At this time, I was desperately trying to keep my family and myself afloat and realized a hysterectomy would indeed be in my best interest. I was referred to a Gynecological Oncologist who specialized in complicated gynecological surgeries. I was a high risk for a bowel perforation and bleeding from my spleen. Fortunately, this surgery was successful and while my pain has been reduced, it is not fully resolved. I still have times where the spleen and abdominal pain will literally bring me to my knees. The best way to describe it is; “it feels just like those horrible menstrual cramps that are now in my spleen as well as my entire pelvic area,” even though I no longer have my gynecological organs. I have come to know physical pain intimately and thoroughly in my body, soul, and spirit.
So, yes, I do fight like a girl. My fight is against a continuous, strong, unrelenting opponent I would never have chosen, yet God’s grace continually meets me there every day. Yes, I do fight like a girl. A girl and now middle aged woman who has learned that with His strength, a girl can be reinforced and develop into a strong woman - a woman whose essence of her femininity and girlhood/womanhood tried to destroy her, but she persevered, survived and continues to fight daily. I’m learning to embrace this new girl I have had to become.
I once saw a picture of Snoopy, the dog from the Peanuts cartoon strip. He is jumping for joy and the caption says, “If you can’t dance, at least you should be able to Happy Hop”. I’d like to dance uninhibited through my life that is full of both blessings and struggles; but if all I can realistically do are happy hops, then I will hop with passion and give those happy hops my all.