October 17, 2015

Getting My Laparoscopic Bilateral Salpingectomy

Today was surgery day! After about a year of consultations and trying to find the right doctor and not one who would do it begrudgingly, a couple years of giving surgery serious thought, and close to ten years knowing I don't want kids (and more importantly, never want to be pregnant), I am finally sterile.

Pre-op selfie

I stopped taking birth control about 10 months ago because I couldn't start another year on it. What used to work really well turned on me in my mid-twenties and I started getting side effects: mood swings, dryness, irritability, low libido. When I stopped I felt much better, but every time was a risk. And boy did we risk it... I honestly started wondering if one of us was naturally sterile. Part of my consultations was to decide which procedure to go with, and after a long time I settled on a laparoscopic bilateral salpingectomy: full removal of both fallopian tubes. I cannot wait for my 6 weeks to be up for 100% worry-free and baby-free sexy times!

Why a laparoscopic bilateral salpingectomy? 
  1. My fallopian tubes are completely removed. There is no chance I can get pregnant!
  2. There is no chance this can be reversed. I imagine this being particularly helpful for anyone who tries to tell me I can get it reversed if I change my mind.
  3. There's nothing inside me (and never will be, hey-o!). Other sterilizations like tubal ligation and essure leave things behind. A tubal is traditionally done with filshie clips, while essure is a tiny coil that is pushed through each fallopian tube and in about three months is covered in scar tissue. Essure was really appealing to me at first, but I liked the immediacy of the salpingectomy and the fact that there isn't anything left.
  4. There are early studies that show that some ovarian cancers originate in the fallopian tubes. With them gone, my chance of cancer is reduced!
  5. My hormones were not messed with at all. I'll still ovulate, still have a period, still go through menopause, and still get all those glorious hormones that make me a woman. (Yay?)
  6. No chance of an ectopic pregnancy! I'm really excited that this can physically not happen, as it's super dangerous. No fallopian tubes=no ectopic pregnancy! In fact, women who do have an ectopic pregnancy have a salpingectomy. 
  7. If I do end up getting pregnant, my doctor said she'd write a case study on me. :)

I met with a couple different doctors about being sterilized before finding the right one. I knew Planned Parenthood would perform the surgery, but since I'm a big girl with insurance I figured I should try the doctors in my network first. I found an office that primarily performed essure and made an appointment, but was wary of that doctor for several reasons (including his reluctance to do it, and his reluctance to consider a tubal). If I was going to be going under the knife or having any sort of permanent procedure performed, I wanted someone to be 100% on my side.

The doctor I settled on I found through the childfree subreddit, which has a list of doctors willing to perform these procedures on people who don't have kids. I liked everything about this doctor, especially that she seemed fully supportive, possibly even excited for me. 

She did a pap since I was due anyway and we set up a day for the surgery about 6 weeks away.

Surgery Day:

Check-in was at 8:15am. At the front desk I showed my ID and got a wrist band (so fancy) and was whisked away almost immediately for a urine sample for a preggo test. No one told me the result but I'm guessing it came up not preggo, since they didn't tell me they threw in an abortion.

In a curtained waiting area I was given a gown, hair net, and adorable purple socks with grippy paw prints that they let me keep! I'm pretty excited about those, and will always remember my surgery when I wear them. There were also these weird compression sleeves for my calves, apparently to encourage blood flow and reduce the risk of blood clots. The Boyfriend came to meet with me once I was changed and to take my pre-op photo.

During the next hour my doctor, the attending, the anesthesiologist, and a couple of the nurses came in to say hi or introduce themselves. I kind of already have a girl crush on my doctor, but I really liked the anesthesiologist, too. They asked me several times to state my name, birth date, and procedure and my doctor verified a couple of times that this is 100% what I want and that I know this is 100% irreversible. Yes and yes! 

Finally, closer to 10am, I was taken to the surgery room. It was so intimidating! I've never seen a surgery room before and it was both exactly like what they show in movies and the exact opposite. First of all, it was huge and felt domed. It was full of incredibly white light and lots of it, and so many machines and tubes all over the place. The entire crew was already in there, in scrubs and hair nets and shoe covers and face masks. The nurse asked me one last time to state my name and procedure to the surgeons, so I said, "I'm Lindsay, and I'm getting my tubes removed!" I figured they weren't backing out then.

The nurse helped me onto the table, loosened my gown, and got me comfortable. The nurse wrapped me in a warm blanket – the anesthesiologist told me this is because keeping bodies warm before and throughout surgery leads to a better recovery. The anesthesiologist then started the IV in my wrist. He warned me that the drug causes pain at the injection site. I could feel it working almost immediately – I was fuzzy and knew I'd be out within seconds. But I asked him why the medicine hurt, and he definitely started to answer, buuut I was already asleep.

Some time later I woke up in a recovery room with a nurse by my side. She talked me awake(ish), asked me how I was, and helped me sit up a little bit. I was really out of it but responsive and felt fine, though I know I had a whole bunch of drugs in me still. She offered me water or apple juice, and I said both. That was some good apple juice. The Boyfriend was brought back to see me and take my post-op photo.

Someone took out the IV and wrapped it so I look like I survived a suicide attempt. The nurse helped me get dressed and complimented my choice in comfy clothes. She said I wouldn't believe how some women want to walk out in heels after surgery! I picked my superman shirt on purpose: not only did it make me feel a little stronger and braver, but it's super comfortable and loose. Then she told me about my dressings and wheelchaired me out!

The Boyfriend dropped me off at home and went to the pharmacy and grocery store (and had to deal with madness from a home football game). The first thing I did was pee and OW. Catheter. What a bitch.

I had soup ready for me for lunch and also tried to eat some crackers. But that was a bad choice... my throat was sore from the breathing tube. The cat jumped directly on my stomach while I was napping, not cool, and then threw up a massive hairball (on the rug I just washed), and I had to clean it up. Cats are the best. I spent the rest of the day napping, Netflixing, watching the Chargers almost win, and took the dog on a very slow walk with The Boyfriend.

Sweet dog follows me around

My belly button was plugged up with cotton and a very good tape all the way around it. The two incisions on either side were covered in some sort of body glue, and I was told to keep all three dry overnight. I feel pretty huge right now.

Day 1:
Slept on my back all night. It wasn't uncomfortable, but the dog loves is most adorable in the morning (when he's at peak cuddly) so I had to keep him off my belly. I wasn't in pain, just bloated. My big morning disappointment was no poo. My whole day is off if I don't have my morning poo. :(

I worked from home (in our new home office) and made soup. I threw in all the fiber I could think of, and it was actually really good. I took a 600mg ibuprofen just because, even though I wasn't really in pain, but then I was eating just because, even though I wasn't really hungry. Surgery is weird. 

The cat tried to jump in my lap while I was at my desk, and I pushed her and she hit her head. Poor lady cat. 

I experienced a little bit of shock over having had surgery yesterday. I think I should feel worse. Bending is uncomfortable, but that's all. I also have the realization that I am sterile. This is something I wanted for a long time but sort of never thought I'd do. When I was a kid I wished there was a pill to get you pregnant so you wouldn't have to have sex with your husband (because gross). Now I've taken out parts of my body so I can have sex without getting pregnant. Super weird. I wonder if this is the part where some women start to regret it.

I pooped! The soup worked! Tip for pooping after surgery: elevate your feet. This is a good tip for any pooping where you don't want to strain too much. Put your feet on a roll of toilet paper and sit up straight. Seriously, just try it. I might do this every time from now on. Even princes and unicorns agree this is good for your sphincter. 

I showered! And took off my belly button bandage – there's a staple* there! It looks really weird. I'm glad I have a belly button ring to hide it a bit, though it's not like people see my belly button very often.

The surgery center called but I missed it walking the dog. They were just checking in, reminding me to call if I need anything. My doctor also called for the same reasons, which was nice.

The Boyfriend and I went to a restaurant for a friend's birthday and I had like 2 ounces of beer before giving it to The Boyfriend. I wore my skinny jeans because they are the most stretchy around the belly, but after 2 hours I was done. It might have been the pizza, might have been not being able to fart, but I had to unbutton my jeans in the car on the way home (and then immediately stunk the place up). The Boyfriend remarked that this is as close to being pregnant as I'll ever feel. I'm grateful for that, and that my giant bloaty belly will soon go down, and that The Boyfriend doesn't even bat an eyelash at my gassiness (both post-surgery and normally).

At home we shared a slice of pumpkin cheesecake (it was treat yo' self day) in comfy pants. Glorious, glorious comfy pants.

*I learn on Day 8 that it's not a staple, it's sutures. Makes more sense, though I swear it feels like a staple.


The only belly photos I'll ever take.

Day 2:
Feeling a lot more normal today, but I'm really tired. Probably just didn't get enough sleep, but I look exhausted. My dark circles are out in force today and it's a struggle to keep my eyelids open. It doesn't help that I'm working from home again and it's horribly hot and muggy. I'm pretty sure my minor bloody nose is from surgery, not the heat.

I'm fascinated by my cuts. There's a staple* in my belly button and some weird body glue on the incisions on my sides. They look so weird, and I just look at them sometimes.

I get wine with my lady friend and tell her about the surgery. She had known I was talking about it but was still shocked and had a bunch of questions. I like that she lets me talk about this sort of thing, not everyone is into seeing cuts and hearing stories like that. We then talk about how some of the people in our lives are baby crazy and we don't understand why. Gonna hang on to her.

*Still not a staple.

 Quality photos are not taken with a phone in front of a mirror.

How am I bigger?!? Oh yeah, wine.

Day 3:
Back to work! I wore a skirt because fuck pants. I took the rest of my soup for lunch, though I was still eating far less than I usually do. 

Dinner was pho because The Boyfriend is lovely and puts up with my need for all the pho when I'm feeling even a little bad. It's bad, the lady who owns the place knows my phone order.

While I'm not in pain, I definitely like relying on the heavy duty ibuprofen. I get this pain like I've had a tampon in too long and it sort of resonates through that whole area. Surprisingly almost no spotting, though.

 Dog <3 comment-3--="">

Surgery + soup = giant

Day 4:
Office again, and Friday! Skirt again, but it rained so I was that person wearing a skirt and flip flops in the rain. It was muggy and warm so I wasn't the only one not dressed for the weather, but inside the office was freezing. All I want is for this heat to be over so I can wear jeans and shoes and sweatshirts, and when it's sort of cool I'm stuck in a stupid skirt.

I go to a happy hour after work and don't finish my beer. I don't need bloaty beer on top of my bloaty self.  

At home we order Thai foods, because it's Friday. I'm feeling rather back to normal, outside of the bloat, but not 100% yet.

Shhhh... they're on the bed together.

Day 5:
More skirt. I'm pretty sick of skirts and want to wear jeans again but I volunteered at a workshop for a women's hackathon and didn't want to commit to pants just in case. I'm super in love with these culottes I have for housewear (see Day 2 and 3 photos). They're so comfy and stretchy.

I realized the reason my appetite hasn't been as big all week is because there's still gas that's probably pressing against my stomach and making me seem full all the time. I'm starting to get hunger pangs again, but I've been relying on when I need to take a pill for my meals. I like feeling hungry. On the other hand, I've been eating so well all week that my poops have been fantastic. It's been a great experiment!

Day 6:
The Boyfriend and I went to Pour It Black, a dark beer festival at Stone Brewery. Stouts and porters are my fave and I've been wanting to go to this for a couple years. We arrived a little late (because drinking a whole bunch of really strong beer at 10am just really isn't my thing) and didn't make it through all 15 of our tasters (3oz each x 15 = 45 ounces of beer, or almost 4 full beers). But we had a really good time, got some great food, ran into a friend, and I got pretty drunk. I took an ibuprofen in the afternoon and that held me all day.

In the evening we went to some friends' for the night football game and I got some work done. For dinner I had my first post-op burrito (potato, egg and cheese!), though I saved half for breakfast. Soon I will have my full burrito.

Day 7:
It's been a full week! A week ago I was having surgery. Kind of weird to think about. 

Other than that, regular day, back at work, nothing too exciting. Still only taking 1 ibuprofen, and this one I didn't need until after lunch.

I was able to take closeups of the incisions, with the glue still on. The first two are the incisions over where my fallopian tubes were, and the last is my belly button. I found out during my post-op appointment that at least one of my fallopian tubes were larger than average, and had to be re-routed through my belly button, which explains why my belly button incision felt worse than the others.

Day 8: 
I WORE PANTS. Holy shit did that feel good. I haven't missed jeans so much in my life. 

Still only taking one ibuprofen (and at like 2pm, too), but today I feel like I did a lot of sit-ups. It's like that weird good pain you get, only it's not good because it's surgery, only it is good because it's surgery. I don't know. It wasn't bad. Now I'm wondering when I can start working out again. After an ankle sprain a couple months ago I've been out of commission for way too long. Feeling the flab.

I called the doctor's office and learned that it's stitches in my belly button, not a staple like I thought. They should dissolve on their own, or might come out. I dunno, feels a lot harder than thread... But I have orders to not pull them out. 

I can also take the glue off my side incisions. Maybe tomorrow.

Day 9:
I peeled off the body glue after showering. I'm healing! They're going to be almost invisible! I'm so excited! 

I wonder if anyone else that gets surgery like this is as fascinated with the human body as I am. It just fixes itself. I was cut open and soon you won't be able to tell at all. Amazing. The surgeons did such a good job making the incisions as small as possible so they'd heal, for which I'm very grateful. 

Except now my belly button is itchy. But it's itchy on the inside and scratching doesn't do anything. The nurse said I could take Benadryl if the itchy is too much but that would just put me to sleep. Fortunately it's not so bad and working gets my mind off it. Really looking forward to this being done.

Shitty cell phone pictures are shitty.

I also didn't take an ibuprofen today. :)

Day 10:
Honestly, there's not much to talk about. I wanted to update this to 10 days (then my six week update) but things are pretty much normal. I'm feeling a lot less bloated and almost like I could begin light jogging again. But then whenever I move too quickly I'm very aware of my belly.

Overall, this was a lot easier and less painful than I was anticipating. Pretty surprising, but I'm happy about it, obviously. Check my update for more, and I'll do one about dealing with insurance once that's settled.

October 1, 2015

Turning On The Light

"Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light." Albus Dumbledore
Last year was not an easy year. It was weird though, a lot of really good things happened last year, but I still ended up feeling… not happy. There was a distinct turn in the second half which I can see looking back, but it wasn't obvious at the time. After a while, I was worn.

The year started off great, and I did a lot of really great things: I travelled a bunch, had my first speaking gig at a conference, moving in with The Boyfriend, and read almost a book a month for the whole year. But it definitely came with some trials, including sharing our brand new home with a friend in need for a lot longer than we thought, the speaking gig turning into a bucket of stress, and shitty things happening at work leading to working all the time. In one month, I was preparing for the conference, studying for a work-related exam, and looking for a new place to live since our landladies were planning to move back into their condo. I basically stopped running, stopped cooking, and was anxious and sad for weeks straight. It did wonders for my relationship.

I went into 2015 swearing this would be a much better year. Some friends came up with #makingithappen as a motto, and I latched on. This year would be different. And other than some major hurdles immediately after the new year, so far it's been better: I got a way better job, travelled, I'm still reading (though not as much), still running (though not now because I sprained my ankle like an idiot), returned to yoga, and we got a bunny!

But it's still not great. I've been feeling mediocre when I want to be great. Reading all of Harry Potter was a wonderful experience as an adult, as it inspired me to be a little different. The last time I felt accepted and among like-minded people was as a caravan driver at the Wild Animal Park; again, it's been too long since I haven't felt weird and I needed that reminder that people like me exist. I just have to find them.

So, as I look forward to a new decade, I'm looking for my light so I can turn it on and find the happiness I know exists.