Wednesday, March 19, 2008

On Menopause, Menstruation and Other Things That Make You Go HMMMMM

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1CAUTION !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

This post contains extremely graphic descriptions of the female reproductive cycle.

It possibly contains way more information about me then you would ever want to know.

I have decided to post it anyway in the name of science, kind of like donating my body except Im not quite dead yet. If you are squeamish, stop reading now, otherwise continue at your own risk.
Ive decided to write about this because I find women dont talk about whats happening to their bodies very much. My own education about menstration and menopause was very sketchy at best. My Mother handed me a book about the sexual maturity of bodies when I was in grade three. I had had a conversation with a girl in the schoolyard who thought she was about to get her period. When I questioned her about what that meant, she told me she would bleed and have headaches and a stomachache. I went home in tears horrified and terrified. When I didnt understand any of the words in the book, Mom took it way from me and said "your too young to understand " and left me full of questions. We finally got the pablum version of sex education in school some years later, but it only described the process not the reality of going through it. Menopause to me just meant that one day I would wake up and my periods would be no more. There was no mention of the meriad of embarrasing symptoms that come with it or that the process takes YEARS!!!

In The Beginning

So now that I know Im supposed to have periods and that they will make me a "Woman", I cant wait for them to start. I spend many months checking my bedsheets each morning to see if it has come yet. When it finally does, it catches me completely unawares while I am swimming in the river with my friends. Im happy but mortified at the same time, I have no idea what to do to contain it. I finally get home and tell Mom the "Great Moment" has arrived. She takes me upstairs, hands me a tampon and tells me to use it, closing the door as she beats a hasty retreat. I have no clue how the thing works.I dont understand that your supposed to insert the tube, then push the tampon through it. I mistakenly place the tube on the outside of the vagina and try and push a huge wad of dry cotton into myself. Needless to say, it didnt get far. With most of it hanging out, I go get my Mom and tell her it hurts like hell, it that normal? Shaking her head in exasperation she takes me back upstairs, gives me a Maxi- pad and a special strappy girdle thing to attach it to ( before the days of stick-on pads) and explains how to use it. I rip out the wad of cotton along with half the lining of my vagina and after much fussing about get the pad in place. Christ , it was like walking around with a brick of cotton between my legs. I was sure everyone could see it outlined in my clothes. Id only had my period for 4 hours and I hated it already, I cant believe I had prayed for it to start.

It took about two months before the cramps started. No-one had prepared me for that.It felt like someone was scraping out my uterus with a dull rusty fork. I would writhe on the floor in absolute agony for a day or two every month. My Mother had never experienced cramps, so she thought I was making them up to get out of school. When I was much older I talked to a Doctor who told me the level of pain I experienced was close to labor....(EVERY MONTH FOLKS...think about that!) That continued from the age of thirteen until I was twenty.

At twenty, I saw a Doctor about getting an IUD for birth control as the hormones in the Pill gave me lots of unwanted side effects. Before she inserted it, she had me take two pills called Ponstan and told me to come back in a hour. When I asked what they were for, she told me they would stop the cramping and pain associated with IUD insertion. I asked her if they could do the same thing for the cramps I was experiencing with my periods. She figured they would so I got her to write me a big presciption for them. They saved my life. Two of those as soon as the first twinge hit, and I was good to go. Years later when I was renewing my presciption with a new Doctor, he said why dont you just take Advil, its the same thing and way cheaper.
( the Poston was a dollar a pill even back in the 70's, compared to a huge bottle of Advil for 3-4 dollars and no need to go to the Doctor whenever I ran out)

The downside of the IUD was that it was the old copper model and of course I got a raging infection from it that sent me to the hospital half dead. I was on morphine for ten days fighting a pain that was like a burning sword shoved into my hip and run down my leg. When I came out of that, the resulting scar tissue had completly warped my fallopian tubes, pulling them out of place, twisting them like pretzels and pinching them shut in various locations. I didnt find any of this out until seven years later when my husband and I tried to start a family.

We had been trying for over a year when we decided to see a Doctor and get some tests done. He went first and passed with flying colours. I spent the next four years undergoing eight surgeries and endless tests of every kind trying to figure out what was wrong. In the process:

- My uterus lining was scrapped and measured for appropriate thickness and consistancy to support life.
- I was diagnosed with endrometriosus ( the uterine lining had broken off and migrated to other parts of my body and was growing and bleeding there), that was surgically removed
-I was found to have a large solid cyst the size of a grapefruit on one ovary that was removed along with most of that ovary
-my convoluted tubes were filled with dye and he tried to pry the stuck areas loose
-I took my temperature every morning for 4 years to chart my ovulation cycles

After all the tests and surgeries I was told my chances of concieving were a million to one. That hurt. Its hard to accept that you will be childless when your still in your twenties. They never mentioned any of this in sex ed!

In the Middle

For the most part things settled down in my 30's and 40's. My periods were so regular you could set your clock by them. I took my Advil when needed and had finally figured out the intricacies of using a Tampon.

When I was in my second year of Massage School, I found out I was pregnant. I had been suffering with excrutiating pain for about 24 hours in my left flank. At school that day we were doing practical exams. My luck, the girl Im parterned with gets abdominal massage for her test and spends an excruciating 15 minutes poking around in my very sore guts. After the exams were over, I asked her to drop me off at the hospital instead of my house. My spidey senses were telling me , all was not well.I had been suffering from periodic cysts on my ovaries that would swell until they were very painful then burst in a blinding flash of pain, leaving a bruised tender feeling for a few days. I really thought thats all it was, but something made me go and get this one checked out, thank God I did.

While I was waiting in emergency, I started to bleed. I wasnt too worried , as I just thought it was my period which was a few days late ( I put that down to exam stress).Long story short, it turned out to be an etopic pregnancy( the egg was trapped in my clogged fallopian tube.) It had to be removed immediatly as I was hemmoraging to death. A few months later I was again pregnant but suffered a miscarriage in the second month. I was devastated by the turn of events and more than a little scared for my life. My boyfriend and I split up soon after and I lived a celibate life for almost ten years.

The End

When I hit about 45, things started going wonky again. I started getting bladder infections, about one a year. Some antibiotics would clear it up quickly, but it seemed to take longer each time. Finally I got what felt like a mild version of a bladder infection, more like an irritable bladder. I was going to the bathroom all day and having some embarrasing accidents at times. The antibiotics didnt work at all and this was going on for about 6 weeks. I finally saw a naturopath who told me that as we age our bladder loses tone and is more prone to infection as well. He gave me vitamin injections to bolster my immune systom and some herbs to strengthen the bladder.It worked great and Ive been fine since. A few kegel exercises now and again keep things tight and under control.

I got hit with a few hot flashes. They are nasty business to say the least. You feel like your being cooked alive from the inside out.I cant get to cold,fresh air fast enough. When I am at work, a feeling of being trapped comes over me as I cant very well bolt out of the treatment, but am so uncomfortable I almost feel like Im suffocating in a Sauna. Thank God , Ive only had a handful, I have friends who have many every day, I really dont know how they manage.

I suffered a good deal with the old PMS throughout the years, but menopause definately puts another twist on it. My mood swings are now more like mood tidal waves.

My periods have gone haywire in the last two years. I bleed almost all the time now.It can last for 4-6 weeks, stop for 3-4 days, start up again for another 10 days and so on. Back to the Doctor for more tests to rule out cancer and other scary things. Looks like its just my hormones sputtering out, not strong enough to turn things off and on like they used to. I had no idea this could happen, I expected the periods to slow down and stop, not just go on and on endlessly,but apparently thats quite common.

My options to make this stop, include a Hystorectomy ( complete removal of my uterus and/or ovaries). This would put me in instant menopause and require hormone treatment. As I didnt fare well at all with hormones ( the PILL) when I was younger, I dont want to start taking them now.

Another option is ballon ablation, where they insert a type of ballon into the uterus and blow it up so it touches the inside walls and somehow heat it so that it cauterizes the lining. It doesnt always work that well as there is a good chance that the balloon wont hit every little nook and cranny and you will have some bleeding anyway. I already have that, why suffer painful surgery?

My other option is to have an IUD inserted which secretes tiny bits of progesterone constantly to fool the body into thinking its pregnant and stopping the periods. Its good for five years, after which time I should be over menopause anyway. The trick with this is it has to be inserted while I am having my period. Of course as soon as I buy the thing for an exorbitant price of $385.00 my periods stop.....for 3 months. When it finally does start again, I cant get an appointment with my Gynocoligist for at least a week, by which time its too late.

I think I will just have to suffer through this menopause the old-fashioned way with lots of grit, determination and whisky.

Its not over yet, God knows what else is in store for me. I find women dont talk much about whats happening to their bodies, probably out of a sense of shame or embarrasment. My Mother passed away long before her menopause so I dont have her experience to draw on. I certainly never dreamed all those years ago, when I was praying for my periods to start, what I was letting myself in for. I dont know if this post wil be of any help to anyone, I guess I just wanted to let you know that your not alone, dont be shy, talk to your Doctor, Naturopath, Massage Therapist ect to get the answers you need to best handle things.

I would be curious to hear other womens experiences as well. I have a love /hate thing going on with my reproductive organs. Im glad to be a girl, wouldnt trade the experience for anything, but if Im to be reincarnated, I think Ill try the other side next time.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Spring Update

So I finally found a shipwright to come down and take a look at my boat the other day.I got lots of good advice from him and a estimate on the cost of repairing the hull and deck. It looks like I can get most of the work done for about $5000 but knowing how things go on the water , Im bugeting for $10,000. I know once we start ripping things apart there will be unseen things that need repairing.Im hoping I can store the boat at my old house while its being worked on. I figure I can attach a tarp from the side of the house and build a lean-to to cover the boat, this would save me tons of money instead of storing it at a shipyard and buying a very expensive shelter for it.

He gave me a good suggestion for fixing the leaky fiberglass decks. Im to put a double laminated plywood deck on, cover it with epoxy 2-part resin and then cover that with canvas which then gets a heavy coat of paint on it. He recommended I paint the boat with a special lineseed paint from Sweden. This paint is very durable and lets the wood breath so it won't rot. The paint is supposed to last for 15 years or so and is maintained by rubbing a lineseed wax into it periodically. Ive noticed that where I painted the bathroom, the paint on the outside of the boat has bubbled. So this new paint should sort that out. I will have to put some more braces under the walkways as they are barely supported at all right now. None of this sounds too expensive or hard, so am hoping to start work on it in the next month or so. Just waiting for it to get a bit warmer and drier. I will get David to redo the windows at the same time and then hopefully will be able to get the tarp off in time for summer. Whoohoo, I cant wait for that.

He was quite concerned about the rot in the hull and the possibility of me sinking if i get hit with anything. For the time being he recommends I staple doorskin over the soft spots and caulk it with 5200 to seal things as best as possible. I will save money over the summer and start stockpiling the red cedar boards I need to redo the hull. He figures his work will have slowed down in the fall, so am hoping to get her hauled out and redone at that point. I am looking forward to seeing how this is all done, hopefully I can learn from this guy so that if I ever need to patch a spot in the future, I can do it myself. Sanding and painting the boat sounds like a huge physical chore which I am somewhat dreading but at the same time, I know how good I will feel when she is all done and beautiful again. Im hoping all goes according to plan and by next winter Im shipshape and dry.

My mouse problem seems to have vanished. Not sure what happened to him, I never caught him in any of my traps, so not sure if its the electrical buzzy thing that is keeping him away or if he met his doom in the jaws of a predator or something.Im just glad he is gone, he annoyed the f**k out of me.

I never figured out how to light the oven on my propane stove, so in the meantime, I invested in a convection toaster oven. It works awesome and we have had some tasty meals from it. The only downside is I lost the tiny bit of counter space that I had. Im still hoping to get the oven working but will leave that for some other time.

Daves world has been interesting of late. Your probably wondering what happened to the log salvaging we were going to do. Well a few months ago, David found an ad on craigslist for some property nearby that had a water lease attached to it. He contacted the owner and started proceedings to aquire the water lease so he can have a place to run his Marine Salvage and Construction business. Its been a lot of logistal run-around to get this done. He found a wonderful woman who believes in his vision and has joined forces with him to make this happen.

The water lease is completly out of the water at low tide so dredging will be neccesary. To get that done he had to have an enviromental survey done, deal with Fisheries, the City of Richmond,and Enviroment Canada to name a few. He may have to wait until August to start dredging , so as not to impact the fish runs. In the meantime, he has rented space at a local shipyard and bought a ton of material to build docks and floats. He met a man who is getting rid of a bunch of mobile homes for free and is getting them hauled down here so he can build floats for them and turn them into floathomes.

While waiting for the wheels of city hall to move and give him the go ahead to start, he has taken advantage of our warmer weather of late to do some more work on his his own floathome. He covered all the outside walls in heavy black plastic to seal it up better. He is planning to put metal siding over that. Originally he wanted to use cedar cutoffs, but is realizing that he has a weight issue with the house and has to keep that in mind when adding heavy material.

He finally got some decking put in around the sides of the house, and got a nice big float for the front deck in place. The temporary interior walls have come down and the floors ripped up (AGAIN!!)so he can fix some of the stringers that cracked under the weight of the wood cookstove. He has put some doorskins on a few of the walls which helps to make it look more like a home and less like a garage. He has a few days of hard work ahead of him trying to level the rest of the floor in the bathroom and workshop, then hopefully the bathroom will finally get built. Once the place has plumbing, it will look a lot more like a home. If all goes well, I think he should have the place done by fall. In the meantime it will be a good summertime place with all the space and decks to play on.

I really need to meet a good mechanic. I have 3 non-running boat motors, a van that needs repairs and my car could use some work too. I still havent been out on the speedboat, I really want it up and running this summer. Im in a quandry, Ive been working tons and just want to have lots of time off in the summer, but I need lots of money to get all the work done on the boats and vehicles. Ive been offered 4 days a week at the clinic. I want to say yes as the money is awesome there, but I wouldnt have much of a summer or time to work on anything. Whats a girl to do??