Good Riddance, 2011.

The events that I woke up to this morning could not have brought into sharper focus what a massive pile of shit this year has been and how ready I am for it to be OVER...

In a way, I'd kind of forgotten how long I have been "sick".  See, the symptoms that should have been major red flags that something was drastically wrong with my body began just about a year ago.  Most of you reading this probably don't know that last December, I started having some super-weird irregular bleeding.  It scared the hell out of me, cause it wasn't just like having a period.  It was redder.  Thicker.  Often with blood clots the size of grapes.  I'd forgotten the exact timeline of it all until I busted out my old phone last night and looked through the app in which I'd been recording all of the symptoms starting last December.

On December 21st of last year, the bleeding began.  On New Year's Eve last year, I was calmly getting ready for Ryan's Boys from County Hell show at The Harp.  I went to pull my tights on, and I ended up on the floor in unbelievable pain.  My lower back hurt so badly, all I could do was crawl.  I was freaked out by this in and of itself, but with added weirdness of the bleeding in the same general area, I was terrified.  We decided the emergency room was our next step.  Ryan drove me to Fairview, and they got me all checked in.  After telling them about the pain and the bleeding, they did a pee test and left me to lie there.  When that came back normal, without any pelvic exam at all, I was told the two were "probably unrelated," that my back pain was most likely a sprain, was given pain pills and muscle relaxers and sent home.  Ryan made it to his gig before midnight and I rang in 2011 in massive pain, alone in my bed.

Looking back at the details I recorded in this app on my old phone, I am amazed at what I put up with and for how long.  And I'm appalled that none of the doctors I went to and none of the tests that were done indicated that anything was at all wrong, considering the following:

I was diagnosed on November 2, from tests done on November 1.  The year leading up to that looked like this for me:

January:  9 of 31 days
February: 20 of 28 days
March: 16 of 31 days
April: 11 of 30 days
May: 25 of 31 days
June: 25 of 30 days
July: 25 of 31 days
August: 30 of 31 days
September: 28 of 30 days
October: 31 of 31 days

That is how many days I was bleeding each month.  220 of 304 days.  72% of the time.

So, first, nothing was wrong with me according to the ER doctor last New Year's Eve.  Then, in March, my family doctor could not get a decent PAP smear due to all of the bleeding, so she sent me to a gynecologist - supposedly THE most coveted gynecologist in Lakewood.  3 month waiting list.  Yadda yadda.  But my doc got me an appointment with her the next day.  My doc also told me that she though she "saw something on my cervix".  I remember driving home from that appointment and calling my mum in tears - certain that I was going to die from some sort of gynecological cancer.  After she calmed me down, I had to go to another appointment my family doc set up for me - to have both external and internal ultrasounds done.  Again, neither of these procedures showed anything wrong.

The next day, I went to see Northeast Ohio's most beloved gyno, and she also told me I was fine.  I told her what my family doc said about seeing something on my cervix and she assured me there was nothing there - what my doctor saw was probably just a blood clot.  She told me that my heavy bleeding was a common thing among women my age - that like 10% have it.  Called it menorrhagia.  She put me on a low dose birth control pill for 3 months, which she said SHOULD regulate my bleeding.  And then she told me if it didn't help, I could have a procedure done called an "endometrial ablation" in which they basically cook the lining of your uterus to stop you from bleeding.  But this procedure means never being able to reproduce.  And even though I never had the desire, something about the permanence of that decision turned me off.  SO, when (of course) the pills did nothing to help after 3 months, I sought the help of a naturopathic physician.

Since Ohio does not recognize naturopathic physicians as "real" doctors, I had to pony up the cash to visit this woman myself.  But I immediately liked her.  There was no bullshit with her.  She was not all "woo woo" like one might expect a natural doctor to be.  No incense.  No peasant skirt with bells along the hem.  She went to real schools and got real medical degrees.  I felt good about seeing her.  With everything she could get from my regular doctor, all of the tests showing nothing wrong, she put the bleeding down to a hormone imbalance.  We worked out some diet changes and supplements to try to combat what she figured was a case of too much estrogen, and I went on my way.  I saw her a couple more times, and while I was still bleeding, I seemed to be bleeding LESS, so I finally kinda believed I was headed in the right direction.

And then in October, I had all this back pain again, and assumed it was a kidney infection or UTI or something.  So I headed back to my family doctor.  And once AGAIN, everything was "normal" but she did yell at me for not going back to the gynecologist for a 6 month follow-up PAP.  Which is when I called to try to make the appointment with the popular lady and was told I'd have to wait 2 months, and instead opted for the doctor who, a week later, saw the tumor and sent me to the oncologist.

10 months.  1 ER doctor.  1 famliy doctor.  2 gynecologists. 1 ultrasound tech. 1 naturopathic physician.  At least 5 pregnancy tests.  More than a dozen pee tests.  2 ultrasounds.  1 thyroid test.  Various antibiotics, birth control pills, pain killers and muscle relaxers.

And then finally - an answer.  A shitty answer, but an answer all the same.  Which is all I really wanted this whole time.  And here, I've been so busy the past couple months just doing everything we needed to do to fight this, I barely had the chance to celebrate the fact that I stopped bleeding like a week into treatment!  After almost a year.  And yeah, these treatments will most likely render me incapable of having children just like the endometrial ablation I was so against would have done.  And something about that, no matter how certain I have always been that I had no interest - something about it stings.  Just having the option taken away is so... final.  So sad.

But it's been a sad year.  Aside from ringing 2011 in alone after an evening in the ER, the first thing I truly remember about this year is the death of one of the dearest friends I have ever had - one of the best people I have ever known.  It was unexpected, yet not entirely shocking.  But it hurt.  And it still hurts.

Over the last 12 months, some pretty shitty things have happened to more than just a few of the people I love the most in this world.  And while, yes, there was  lot of good in 2011, the bad parts were just SO bad.  It's hard, at times, to remember the good parts.

I'm just ready for it to be the fuck over with.  Horrible year.  Stupid, sad, horrible year.  The remaining 7 hours and 23 minutes cannot go by fast enough.

I'm not sure how I will spend the rest of this crappy last day or this crappy past year.  I'm not sure if I'm feeling up to going to Ryan's show tonight, but I also don't want to ring in another new year completely alone.  Hopefully I will sort something out, and with the changing of the clock/calendar/whatever - so will start the changes that will begin the newer and better life we are ready to begin.

Fuck you, 2011.  Fuck you cancer.  Fuck you drugs and alcohol and disease and pain and assholes and everything that has hurt anyone I love this year.

I'm ready for a new year.  A better year.  A healthier year.  A happier year.  With good friends and wonderful family and the most amazing husband in the world by my side ready to kick the ass of any stupid crap that tries to mess with our 2012.

Happy New Year to you all.
Love, Phoebe


erin said…
i love you phoebe, you're one of the bravest people i know. i can't wait to have an awesome 2012 with you.
Daniela said…
I love you more than you can fathom. Truth.
r'n'r-RN said…
were things a bit different, and i had known you were in this much misery, boy...would i have gone to bat for you. i am appalled that so many healthcare providers lead you in the wrong direction. and of course, i worry that you spent the year feeling crappy AND anemic! don't these idiots know that bleeding that much for that long can lower your blood count to the point of death? felt my own blood boiling just reading about what you had to endure.
sucks to be so far, but i know you know you are loved by TONS of people, near and far.

the other day it rained just like that one know, the one we danced in. it was a very cleansing rain.
let's wash the bad stuff of 2011 away.
cheers to your health and a happier new year. you are kicking ass in so many ways!
Michelle Auer said…
I'm so happy you wrote this. It is so important for people to be advocates for themselves. I went through a similar thing with my PCOS. 8 docs over 3 years telling me everything from "it is normal for someone your age" because I had just turned 30 to a doc sending me to a nutritionist convinced I was a secret eater. Finally got online, got a pretty good idea of what it could be and then found a webpage who referred me to someone in Seattle who could diagnose it.
I was lucky that it turned out to be something easy to deal with, and not something worse.
You have been so inspiring with how honest you have been while going through all of this. I am certain you have/will help other women out there in the world googling around who have the same symptoms. You will probably save a life.
Happy New Year! Lots of love to you!
Anonymous said…
oh phoebe... sending more hugs,so many people sending hugs, but i hope you are grabbing all the real ones you can, every day! they are healing. also, so are dogs! they've proven there is something in their skin/hair that actually lowers human stress hormone levels! I sure miss having a dog; you are so lucky to have three of them! hug them a lot!
Gale said…
>>"Fuck you, 2011. Fuck you cancer. Fuck you drugs and alcohol and disease and pain and assholes and everything that has hurt anyone I love this year.

I'm ready for a new year. A better year. A healthier year. A happier year. With good friends and wonderful family and the most amazing husband in the world by my side ready to kick the ass of any stupid crap that tries to mess with our 2012."<<<

Phoebe, I do not know how the totality of the shitstorm of 2011 could be better described, for so many other people I know, as well.

r'n'r-RN articulated it quite perfectly. As nurses, at least those of us who were educated and inculcated with the ethic of patient advocacy, she and I would have bared our teeth, SNARLED AND SNAPPED, and never would have let you endure that shit. So, I apologize. All I can offer going forward, is that you have all my contact information, so please do not be shy. We live in perilous and completely fucked up medical/surgical times. You have to not only be your own informed advocate, but you have to play the favor bank, you have to call on your friends and contacts, you have to stomp your feet, go up the chain of command and circumvent that process, if it doesn't work! It sucks, because while you try to do all of that, you are genuinely ill. so, you need advocates... Like us.

In fact, one of these times I'll tell you how I came to possess Dr. Cosgrove's lab coat! LOLOLOL!
jim nelson said…
Well said! Here's to a wonderful, healthy, and serene 2012. Love you...daddy jim
r'n'r-RN said…
right on, Gale!
keep rockin' this Phoebe, and always know you've got an army of rarrrr RN's at your virtual side.

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