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How to survive (relatively) sane during sick leave

Updated: Jun 6, 2022

It has been ages since I posted, as I was basically trying to sort out my life before I stuck my head out of the cozy nest of blankets I have created for myself in my bed.

The truth is that something major popped up in my exams while I was doing surgery for the removal of my kidney stones back in January, and it was enough to freak out the technician, who called her supervisor, who then called the attending doctor, until there were finally three doctors looking at my relatively distended belly while they rubbed the ultrasound wand over here and there, making me shiver with the cold gel.

"You do know you have something in your uterus, right?" She said, pointing at something in the screen.

"Yes, I have a myoma. It is small." I replied the same answer my gynecologist had been giving me for more than a decade, whenever I complained about my flow and horrible cramps.

"No, it is not. And it is not one. There is more than one," she put more pressure over my belly button, pushing down to the point of being uncomfortable, while she made faces to the screen. "You have to talk to your gynecologist."

"How bad is it?"

"I am not a specialist in it, but it is big enough that we can see when checking your kidney. Just go check it out."

That raised all sorts of red flags for me, because I have bad genetics. Like horrible, terrible, terrifying-chances-of-all-things-going-wrong genetics.

One cousin from my Dad's side died from a tumor in her uterus, leaving behind her young daughter to my aunt to look after. She was in her late twenties.

My aunt Batistitna died from sepsis after going to the hospital to remove myomas which made her life a living hell. She got infected with a hospital bacteria and never left the hospital. She was in her forties, my age now.

My cousin Debs is in the waiting list for a surgery to remove a 300 ml cyst hanging from her ovary. She carries around the equivalent of a soda can inside herself, and due to Covid she has not yet been able to book the elective surgery back home in Brazil.

Mom has problems, but due to her stubbornness and her unwillingness to go to the doctor, I am not aware of the full seriousness of it.

And that is not counting the cancer cases in the family. Grandma Magdalena. Grandpa Clemente, Gradma Horacia, my Dad, all gone thanks to different types of cancer.

So you can understand when I was told to get things checked, I was really concerned.

I was able to book the appointment two weeks after the kidney stone removal, and the doctor confirmed that indeed my myomas had not only grown but also multiplied.

I had two around two centimeters, now she could identify four approximately five centimeters each. That is a lot of real state in your belly, so she bluntly suggested that we remove the uterus to sort out the problem, as long as I had not wish to have children.

I might not be in a relationship, but children were always a final goal sometime in the future. And now they might be fully out of the picture.

I asked her for a second opinion, as I wanted to remove only the myomas, not the uterus. She refereed me to a specialized hospital which booked me a return a month later.

I went back home heartbroken, shattered as I had no one to share the news. My family had no interest in me other than Debs, and this is a heavy burden to share with anyone in the office. I came home and sat down crying, feeling all hopes and dreams of a family in the future sifting like sand between my fingers.

It is one thing to be alone. Another thing is to be told that you would also be in the future, painfully alone.

© Copyright. UNC Medical Illustrations and Photography.

Four weeks later I went to the specialist, and she confirmed four cysts, but gave me hope as they could remove the myomas and keep the uterus still. There could be consequences, and they might still decide to remove it during the surgery depending on the actual size and position of the myomas, but they would only be able to confirm after the surgery.

I informed my office I would be taking a long medical leave, and started to mentally prepare myself for the surgery.

This four week period waiting for the surgery gave me a better insight for the book 4 and also on my dad's mental state in his last months before he finally died of Leukemia. It is heartbreaking to do your routine with new eyes, looking at people and wondering if the worse is come to pass, if they will actually miss you.

The horrifying truth is that realization that, among the people who you interact in the day by day, you might not be really missed at all by most of them.

So I did my best, I reached out to friends. I said I-love-yous whenever I thought they were applicable, and slowly put my life in order just in case.

Finally the surgery day rolled in, and everything blurred together until I was laying on a bed with an intern holding an oxygen mask over my face. I remember counting the tiles on the ceiling, just waiting for the cold embrace of blackness.

I woke up later in the post op, and I was informed that the surgery was a success. What that entailed, I would not know until the surgery doctor came over and explained that they removed 11 (!) myomas, and that I would be expected to be another two days in the hospital before being sent home.

I returned home on shaking legs and bloated, and a friend stayed over the first weekend just to be sure I would not suddenly keel over and die (her words, not mine). Whenever a friend left, another came over even if only for some hours.

Another friend took the Monday off and came to enjoy the cold spring sun in the hammock of my balcony while I played with the format of my website.

Funny things I have learned since the surgery:

  1. the muscles that hold your uterus in place are the same ones you use to sneeze and laugh. Therefore, if you laugh, it hurts. If you sneeze, it hurts.

  2. Unless you are used to gore (a la black head removals or ear wax removals) DO NOT google Myomectomy . I found some videos doing exactly what was done in me and Lord, take the wheel, it is gross and I can't believe that I lived for years with those things inside of me.

  3. I am not in pain, but I am tired. All I want to do is sleep. And whenever I am not sleeping I have this brain fog that forces me to lean somewhere and just doze off. It is like the battery of an old iPhone that discharges way too quickly, and you have to keep reminding yourself to charge it. It is bad enough that I dozed off in the dentist chair this week, despite the noise and her poking her fingers inside my mouth.

  4. I had no idea that laying down or standing up were such a complicated operation.

  5. God bless all the pillows. The ones behind my head, behind my back, between and below my legs and the one I hug. They will inherit the Kingdom of Heaven.

Despite dreaming different scenarios and scenes for the books in my head, I have not been awake enough to write a single paragraph since the surgery. I hope next week I will be awake with a clear head for more than two hours so I can go back to typing again.

Until then, I will prepare some popcorn and bing watch Bridgerton..

Have a lovely weekend.

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