It's no secret that over the past 2 years I've had some health issues. I've had some people ask about it, so I've decided to write Part I of my story. I say Part I because I am having surgery next week and know that there will be a Part II. I also am sharing this publicly because I think it's important for other women to hear my story and know that there is help out there.
So, here you go...
In high school, I went to my doctor complaining of extremely painful periods. (Sorry, this is going to get a little personal). She put me on the pill. At the time, I was never told that taking the pill (second generation) for 3 years or longer (which was me) increases a woman's risk by 45% of developing breast cancer. I was also not told that the pill can cause early abortion. John Smeaton, SPUC's National Director says, "Many birth control pills can prevent ovulation, and thus prevent conception. But these pills can disrupt the womb-lining too, so that if conception does occur the embryo cannot implant, and is aborted instead. It is not only the morning-after pill that does this." So, needless-to-say, after having my daughter Isabel in 2006, my husband and I sought out an alternative method of birth control. But, let me back up a little...
My husband and I married in December 2003. In November of 2004, we decided to go off the pill. We weren't going to try to get pregnant, but if it happened, then it happened. In September of 2005, almost a year later, we decided to start officially trying. It only took 5 months to get pregnant. I had no problems with this pregnancy and delivered a beautiful baby girl in December 2006. I never felt better than when I was pregnant. Now, back to what I wrote above...we decided to try to find alternative methods of birth control.
Some friends of ours were doing a natural family planning method called the, "Creighton Model Method" using "NaPro Technology". (For more information, visit: http://www.creightonmodel.com/ or http://www.naprotechnology.com/). We were about to embark on a much bigger journey than we thought!
With the Creighton Model Method, you track your cycles to determine when you are fertile as well as other things in your cycle. It can be used to achieve or avoid pregnancy. I was having difficulties charting because of some things my body was doing. At one of the meetings with my practitioner, about 6 months into charting, she ordered some blood tests to see if it was Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. The blood work came back, confirming that my FSH and LH levels were reversed, indicating that I did, indeed, have PCOS. However, she wanted to confirm it with an ultrasound. Having a sister who is an ultrasound technician has its advantages, so I asked to have her do it. Much to our surprise, my sister told me I was pregnant! (Keep in mind, my daughter was 6 months old). NOTE: It wasn't that our form of birth control failed us, but rather that we weren't working it like we were supposed to! It was an error on our part, NOT on the system. At the time, my husband was in France on business and it took me over 24 hours to reach him. I kept trying to take pregnancy tests, but they all kept coming back negative. I called my doctor and she informed me that I was going to lose the baby, which I did - a little less than a week after I found out I was pregnant. I was only about 3-4 weeks along, so it was virtually painless.
My doctor put me on medication for PCOS, as well as other vitamins and minerals. PCOS, for those that don't know, is a health problem that can affect a woman's menstrual cycle, ability to have children, hormones, heart, blood vessels, and appearance. For me, I have many small cysts on my ovaries as well as increased insulin resistance. I've also gained 25-30 lbs since my daughter has been born, despite efforts to eat right and exercise. I experience pelvic pain and it was also thought that my miscarriage was due to the PCOS, as well as the gestational diabetes I had, while pregnant with Isabel.
Despite being on the proper medication and doing everything to maintain my PCOS, I ended up back in the doctor's office, thinking I had a virus. I was having severe abdominal pain in between periods accompanied by vomiting, menstrual cramps that were getting worse with time, heavier and longer menstrual periods and extreme fatigue. After examining my charts and listening to my symptoms, it was concluded that my doctor thought I had an additional health problem called Endometriosis. Endometriosis is where the tissue that looks and acts like the lining of the uterus grows outside of the uterus in other areas and is extremely painful. She thought it was time to seek the help of Dr. Thomas Hilgers in Omaha, NE. (For more information: http://www.popepaulvi.com/about.htm#hilgers)
Dr. Thomas Hilgers and his co-workers developed the Creighton Model and he is considered the best in the nation when it comes to women's reproductive health. My doctor sent my charts to Dr. Hilgers and we waited 6 weeks to hear back from him. I was scared and decided to get a second opinion from my regular OBGYN, who confirmed, I had PCOS and would benefit from looking into surgery for endometriosis further. After reviewing my charts and history, Dr. Hilgers wrote back indicating he thought he could help us. So, the journey began...
I contacted Dr. Hilger’s office to start the process. It was a 1-month waiting period just to make the surgery appointment! So, after a month, I made my surgery date for 6 months out...October 17th, 2008 (yes, it takes 6-8 months to get in with Dr. Hilger's, being he's the best in the nation, and all).
In January, we thought we were going to have to push the surgery back even more, because once again, we were pregnant. This time, knowing all the health issues I had, I started going in 2-3 times a week to have progesterone shots given to me, so if my progesterone levels dropped, I wouldn't lose the baby. Week 8 came and I was so excited that I went to my sister for an ultrasound. However, despite the progesterone shots, the ultrasound didn't look good and once again, I lost the baby…on my birthday, March 31. However, because I was so far along this time, I experienced extreme pain and bleeding that wouldn't stop for 10 days. They finally took my blood count and realized my levels were low...I needed a same-day D&C. This was one of the most emotionally painful experiences of my life. No woman should ever have to go through such a horrific thing. The good news in all of this was that I could still have my surgery in October.
In the meantime, Dr. Hilger's ordered a complete and thorough workup on me.
• I continue charting to help in the overall evaluation of health.
• In August, I had a series of blood draws to determine my hormone levels. The draws were all done locally and then mailed to Omaha.
• Also in August, I underwent a colonoscopy. This wasn’t part of Dr. Hilger’s workup, but I was experiencing intestinal pain, painful bowel movements and extreme diarrhea. The colonoscopy came back normal, but the Dr. who performed it thought my symptoms sounded like I had endometriosis.
• In September, I read Dr. Hilger’s book, “Women Healed”, which was a compilation of stories written by his patients. The book truly made me feel that I was in good hands. I read testimonies of women with previous miscarriage and pre-term births or stillborns, having full-term healthy babies. Women, who were told they could never have children, have had full-term healthy babies. Women with PMS and depression symptoms (I’ve experienced both of those as well) were healed, too! Women’s general health improved.
• Ben will be undergoing a seminal fluid analysis this week.
• I am currently being tested for Thyroid System Dysfunction based on some of my hormonal blood work results.
We will arrive in Omaha on Monday, October 13th and will return home Wednesday, October 22nd. While there, I will:
• Have a daily ultrasound series to determine if I am ovulating and if the ovulation is normal.
• On Friday, October 17th I will have a Laparoscopy and Hysteroscopy with a Selective Hysterosalpingogram.
o Laparoscopy: a small instrument will be inserted through a small incision made just inside my navel and another incision will be made slightly above my pubic bone. This will allow Dr. Hilgers to directly view my ovaries, the outside of my fallopian tubes and my uterus. This is done under general anesthetic on an outpatient basis and I’m suspected to feel back to normal after the 2nd day of surgery.
o Hysteroscopy: an instrument is inserted through my cervix to allow Dr. Hilgers to directly view the inside of my uterus in order to examine its shape & determine the presence of any abnormalities. This is done at the same time as the Laparoscopy and the entire procedure takes about 1 hour.
o Selective Hysterosalpingogram: Blue dye will be injected into my fallopian tubes and using x-ray Dr. Hilgers will be able to visualize the dye inside the uterus and as it flows down my fallopian tubes. Each fallopian tube will be assessed separately and Dr. Hilgers will also use a pressure-measuring device to measure the intratubal pressure.
On Tuesday, October 21st, we will be meeting with Dr. Hilgers for a post-op review. He will show us a video of my surgery and will review the results of all the testing that has been done and will present a treatment plan.
We are very excited for this, as it’s been a long time coming. And the thought of actually feeling good again is relieving to me, after 2 years of pain. I can’t wait to write Part II of my story!!!
Things to be praying for:
• No complications with surgery.
• If Dr. Hilgers find endometriosis during surgery, he will have a laser available to remove it with. However, if I have extensive issues, I would be required to return for a laparotomy which is a major abdominal surgery which would require an in-patient hospital stay and a 6-week recovery period. Pray that the additional surgery would not be needed.
• Our insurance company will not cover our expenses for any of the testing or surgeries. (They will cover 90% hospital costs and 70% out-of-network costs). We have estimated that this will all cost us $6,000 out of our own pockets. Pray that the finances would not be an issue and that the Lord will provide it for us somehow.