My name is Jessica, and I'm not going to shut up anymore.

Friday, December 21, 2012


For almost a year, you suffer from chronic pain. And then you have surgery. You heal. You feel better. You aren’t in pain every day. So…what now?

It might seem like a strange question to ask: what do after the pain subsides, the constant nausea goes away and you don’t wake up 6 times to pee in a night? About three months after surgery, I realized that my life had significantly changed—again. This time, however, the change was for the better. But I had to transition into a healing phase, and that was also somewhat challenging. For example, over quite a few months, I had all but isolated myself from socializing outside of my nuclear family or work. I have to admit that it was kind of weird to start making social plans again, to have an alcoholic beverage or stay up later than 10 p.m.! I thought: “Shit, I wasn’t just sick. I’ve aged about 10 years!” While I was elated to be able to have more flexibility in my life, more mobility, my body had to adjust to being active again. This, however, is a great problem to have.

I still wonder, too, if my pain will return. Most recently, after months of feeling pretty great, I had forgotten to change over my Nuva Ring. Without getting into too many details, I began menstruating again—something my doctor recommended that I try my best to avoid. I thought: Oh well. No big deal.  I mean, I’d felt great for so long that I’d forgotten what it meant to have abdominal pain.

Big mistake. Almost immediately, the pain returned. I caught myself clutching my lower abdomen again—a habit I had acquired pre-surgery. It. Fucking. Hurt. Suddenly the fear had returned: What if I need to go to the Emergency Room! I don’t want to see that bitchy nurse! Yes, these are the exact concerns that ran through my head. They’re gonna think I’m crazy again! No—you’re not crazy. You’re just lazy.

Luckily, this bout of pain only lasted a few days. At some points—mainly when I was stressing out—I felt the sudden, sharp pangs shoot through my insides. And then there were moments after I’d eaten something I shouldn’t eat (like Wege Party Sticks—like nectar of the gods), I’d start to get the creeping, burning sensation in my lower abdomen. And finally, I noticed that my bathroom habits were way off. Cue the small bladder syndrome. Cue the need for Miralax in my life.

Over the past few months, I’ve been trying to pay attention to my “triggers.” Your triggers are things that do two, basic things: 1) facilitate inflammation and 2) activate pain. This is why it’s very important not only to follow the habitude of constant and consistent birth control, but also to forego certain foods or beverages. Your doctor should be recommending that you take birth control without skipping the week or taking the placebo pills—just go right into the next packet. Or, like me, change Nuva Rings after 3-4 weeks before menstruation. I didn’t know that being amenorrheic was such a crucial part of decreasing the likelihood of endometrial tissue growth. Basically, amenorrhea prevents uterine lining from shedding, re-growing, and shedding again. The growth cycle is stunted, thus, less chances that the endometrial tissue is growing in the abdominal cavity. Additionally, menorrhea causes the lower abdominal cavity to become inflamed. So whatever is growing in there that shouldn’t be will also cause pain and discomfort in your abdomen, as well as interrupt your normal bowel or urinary functions. Again, to echo Dr. Harkins, “it’s all connected.”

For women who are thinking about looking into the “endo diet,” which, I’ve found, is basically like eating a gluten-free diet which also limits fried foods and cheese (foods with high fat content), I strongly recommend trying it out. I admit that I don’t follow it to a “T.” I have drastically limited my intake of grains, mainly processed grains like white bread and pastas. Sure there are times when I indulge—I’m human! But knowing what I should eat helps me understand my body’s reaction to when I eat what I shouldn’t eat. In other words, if I make a solid effort to eat only the foods which I know will help decrease inflammation (like leafy greens, melon, or anti-oxidant rich berries and other fresh foods), I can actually feel the difference. So when I make a choice to eat that slice of cake or munch on those ever-so-delicious pretzel sticks, I can actually feel my body reacting (negatively) to these foods. I feel a twinge of pain in my side. I sense a bit of nausea. Almost like my body is rejecting those foods! *Shakes her head* Of course, that doesn’t prevent me from resisting desserts. Or Wege Party Sticks. So instead of denying myself foods that I love, I simply limit my intake.

In addition to certain foods, I’ve noticed that alcohol induces pain—especially beer. I know! No beer?! Yes, folks. I have pretty much given up beer. And I’m actually ok with it. I guess after you give up a certain beverage for a while, it’s not so bad. Also, I can’t really hold my liquor any more (another reason why it’s challenging to socialize with folks my age because we want to meet up in bars “for a drink!”), so I’ve found myself drinking much less.

Finally, I will simply say that if you feel as though you might be suffering the pains of endometriosis or have already been diagnosed, lifestyle changes are inevitable. Changing your diet is effective, as well as hormone therapy. While not everyone’s body is the same, sometimes it helps to know that small remedies make a big difference no matter who you are.

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