It was 2004 and I was working as a Psychiatric Technician at U of M Fairfield Hospital. To be clear, the first part here doesn’t directly tie in with endometriosis, but it did sort of start the trail…
“Dave!” Someone shouted from across the unit.
“Your wife just had a stroke!” They followed up
What? A stroke? She’s like 22, there is no way in hell she just had a stroke.
I ran over to the main desk area and grabbed the phone.
“David?!” She sounded really scared and sort of mumbled.
“They said I had a stroke…”
Ok. They really DO think she had a stroke. Without hesitation I told work I was leaving and I sprinted out to the car for the 90 minute drive from Minneapolis to St. Cloud, MN where we lived.
Turns out, she had Bells Palsy. Since it sort of presents stroke-like in the face, the first impression was that it was a stroke.
Over the next few months her face slowly gained back movement. Through our wedding day, honeymoon, all sorts of things, the right side of her face sat motionless, unable to move.
During her recovery, I’ll never forget how mean people were to her too. I’d be playing shows and she’d come to watch and listen. Aware of her facial paralysis, she’d wear a ball cap down low on her head. Stupid asshole mean girls would still notice and make passive shots at her from across the bar.
She continued to recover and fight through it. Over the next couple of years we moved a couple more times. Once for a short stint in Indianapolis, then on to Columbus, OH.
The Dizziness Kicked In
“David?” she asked.
She’s always calling for me like that across the apartment. I’m assuming she just needs me to reach for something or rip my ass for not putting something away…
“I can’t hardly get up without wanting to vomit”
She was so dizzy she couldn’t hardly raise her head up. Probably just the Palsy acting up again, we thought.
She went and saw a doctor and he said it was her eye sight. He prescribed glasses and sent her on her way.
Aches and Pains
She’d get sick and have really weird, deep aches in her bones and other weird symptoms of things. I always just chalked it up to her being stressed out. Odd pains here and there. Shortness of breath. Really bad shortness of breath.
We’d go to see a Doc and he’d say nothing was wrong. I’d assume my wife was a hypochondriac and we’d just continue this cycle for the rest of our lives.
I’m going to jump around a bit on you in this article, but I need to say that during “that time of the month” she was unparalleled.
Dudes – you think you have it bad?
No way. I don’t care how bad you think you have it. I thought she was going to murder me some days. Again, I just chalked it up to a little bit of craziness.
Shawnda is a mega-strong lady. Loud. Sassy. It’s one of the main reasons I fell in love with her. So, “that time of the month” would be her real self times 100, right?
There was something darker looming in the distance. Growing. Taking its toll, slowly. Tearing her down.
No one saw it either. The incredible pain sometimes 2 weeks leading up to her period. That alone should’ve tipped someone off…NOPE.
Anemia, M.S., Cancer, etc.
After our son was born some of the weird sick symptoms started to come back with a vengeance. Dizziness. Aches and pains.
We saw a doc again and she said Shawnda had low blood iron, was anemic, and put Shawnda on blood iron treatments every week. I’d sit there beside her as iron pumped into her system for 3 hours. She’d fall asleep. I’d nod off and jerk forward as if I were about to wreck a car. Not sure why I do that.
Fast forward a couple years and the treatments really hadn’t helped much. Muscle aches, bone pain, shortness of breath. Incredible pain in her abdomen area. Constipation.
So – we started the Trail of Physicians again. One doc apologized and told us that she had Multiple Sclerosis.
I’ll never forget going for a run that night. Tears streaming down my face as I anticipated the rough seas ahead. Our life was about to change in the most drastic way and I didn’t know how to handle it. It was way too much for me.
Turns out that it was not M.S. though. This other doc over here said it was Cancer.
So began that little fun ride. Cancer, huh? Nothing scarier than that. I thought I was scared when we thought she had M.S…nothing compares to the scare of Cancer. We hunted that down for a month or so. Me, shitting my pants the entire time.
Nope – wasn’t cancer either.
We saw a specialist and he said she was crazy.
HE SAID SHE NEEDED TO SEE A PSYCHOLOGIST.
For what it’s worth, I’d still like to punch that guy in the mouth.
And yea, I know people make mistakes. But, you have no clue how many damn doctors we saw that had no idea what was going on. Some didn’t care, I know. Some had their own problems and were just going through the motions.
Some didn’t stay up on their training and maybe weren’t really in it for the greater good like they should be. Just wanted to make a buck and drive a nice car.
But to write her off as mentally ill?
I’ve seen that guy around a couple times since then and you have no idea how bad I want to roundhouse his ass.
I’ll admit. I did not think Shawnda was crazy, but she is a really stressed person. My theory was that her anxiety was causing stress and prolonged bouts of stress can do all kinds of crazy things to your body. It can literally make your hair fall out.
Some of that may have been true. But, one guy thought differently…
“I think you have endometriosis…” he said. I can’t remember the docs name, but he had a hunch. So, he referred us to a specialist. The specialist confirmed.
To truly confirm, Shawnda needed exploratory surgery. How flippin’ scary does that sound?
“Uh, yea…we think you have this, but to really find out, we have to cut you open and dig around in there…”
If they didn’t find anything, it was back to the drawing board. I honestly figured we’d be back to the drawing board.
But, they found something.
It was like I nailed a game winning three-pointer. I’ve never been so happy to hear a diagnosis. This meant there was light at the end of the tunnel.
The doc emerged from the middle of surgery to let me know that he had removed 22 endometrial tumors and Shawnda would be well on her way to recovery.
She got better for a couple months, but started to decline again. At first we were in denial about it. Then we came to terms with it. She really was getting worse again. Worse than before, actually.
It’s gotten so bad that she can’t get out of bed some days. She’s really tough, so she fights through it. It’s really hard to watch. When her shortness of breath gets really bad…gasping for air. It sounds like she’s drowning.
But, there’s light again. This Friday at 5 a.m. she is getting a hysterectomy. A partial one, that is. They’re supposed to keep her ovaries so that she doesn’t get thrown into menopause in her early 30s.
The catch is, she also has ovarian cysts, so if her ovaries are wrecked, they’ll have to remove those too.
Throwing her into menopause in her early 30s.
There is some light though
Either way, with that demon uterus out of her, she’ll feel better. I’m scared for the recovery, but I’m excited for the future.
Selfishly, I’m excited to have my wife back. Our son Howie is now 5 years old and has never really seen his mom at full capacity. She’s a sight to behold when she is…inspiring.
I’m really excited for that.
A few last words
I’d like to toss this one out to the healthcare professionals of the world:
Please study up on the signs and symptoms of Endometriosis. We saw WAY too many of you that never even mentioned it as a possibility.
Yes, I understand maybe early on it was too early to tell, but looking back some of these symptoms were there…Someone could have mentioned that we needed to keep our eyes peeled for it.
To the women out there, mostly in Evansville, IN – that have stepped forth to help give her advice; to the husbands and ex-husbands that have come forward to give me advice…THANK YOU.
To all the friends from Ohio making the drive to help Shawnda – you guys are the best. To the Evansville folks we’ve met along the way joining up on the meal train during her recovery…thank you, thank you, thank you.
And lastly, if you have a couple extra positive vibes, toss ’em our way this Friday at 5 a.m?