In late July, 2010, I was knocked breathless to the floor in the second worst pain of my life. (The worst pain was a scratched cornea, if you must know.) I couldn’t speak and so had to summon my mother by banging my fist on the bathtub. I also passed an unusually high amount of blood, but we won’t get into that here. If you don’t have a Stephen King novel to read and learn the gory details of my attack, it’s in Of Severe Menstrual Pain, Cancer and Peter Gabriel.
Now, I am not a wimp. I don’t write with any degree of pride, but fact’s a fact. I grew up with cat scratches, ice balls to the head and being laughed at by teachers. I’m a survivor of car accidents, domestic violence and international airplane flights. I also happen to have migraines. But this pain took me to an entirely different universe of pain.
The gynecologist said “endometriosis” and then said the dreaded C-word. (“Cancer”, of course. Why, what other C-word did you think my gynecologist would say?) So, I have to get a transvaginal ultrasound in my Hairy Happy Highway. So, I did.
I was taken into an official-looking office straight from central casting. The interpreter of the ultrasound just happened to be the same exact guy that interpreted the ultrasound on my own mother in 1987. Mom wound up having ovarian cancer and had an immediate ovo-hysterectomy.
Since nothing was known then about the first stages of ovarian cancer, mom’s ovaries and uterus were packed in ice and shipped off to Johns Hopkins University. Mom was pleased. At least something from her womb wound up in medical school.
In other words, I was braced to go through the same thing Mom did. It cured Mom of cancer and her periods (she wasn’t sure which was worse) so I was raring to go. I looked across the desk at the white coated doctor with a white Gumby cap on his head (you know – the kind they wore in Monty Python’s Flying Circus?) An official-looking white-coated woman came in and sat down, too.
He looked at me and pronounced, “You’re normal. There’s absolutely nothing wrong here. It must have just been a fluke.”
I think I fell over sideways. I can’t remember. What I do remember was the puzzled expression on his face. “What?” he complained, “You WANTED something to be wrong?”
“At least that pain would have a name!” I tried to explain. “Doc, I can’t go through that pain again. Now I have to face that month after month for the rest of my fertile life???”
“It was probably just a fluke. It’ll probably never happen again.”
I wanted to explain further, but I started stuttering about migraines. Oh, I also have a stutter which really kicks in when I’m stressed, so if you ever wonder “Why did this broad ever decide to be a writer”, now you know.
What I should’ve said was, “Hey, Doc, how about if one morning you wake up, are minding your own business and suddenly begin bleeding out of both eyes? You go to your doctor and he says, ‘It will probably never happen again’. How would YOU feel?”
The doctor and the white-coated woman did that sideways look that medical personnel do whenever they are thinking, “Great. Another hypochondriac.”
It was then I realized that I couldn’t get through to this guy, so I got up, thanked him, paid the bill and split.
I have less than a week to go before my period is due. It may not be that bad. But then again, it may be worst than last month. And then after dodging that bullet (or not) I get to look forward to going through the same Pain Anticipation Game the next month. And the month after that. And the month after that. Etc.
And everyone tells me I’m lucky that I don’t have cancer.
Funny — I don’t feel lucky.