Article Written By: Debbie Stokes
The title is profound because it literally was my life. I had to choose. I had to choose between struggling to live or to live without struggling. I know you are saying what am I talking about? Well, let me explain.
In 2015, I went to the doctor’s office for a routine physical. A new doctor, mind you. She did my blood work, I was checked over, asked questions, and then I was out of the door. My only issue was my blood pressure was a little high. But I wasn’t surprised about that because I have “white coat syndrome,” so it is always high when I go to the doctors. Moving on, I was excited to know I had no pressing issues. Yay!
Surprisingly, in the middle of the night—3 a.m. I might add, I received a phone call. Again, it was 3 a.m. On the other end, my new doctor. She said, and I quote, “Mrs. Stokes, I need you to go to the emergency room right now.” As you can expect, “I said… what? Why?” She repeated, “Go to the emergency room right now. You need an emergency blood transfusion.” She continued, “I have already called over there to let them know you are coming.”
In response, again I asked, “What do I need it for and why the urgency?” She didn’t want to talk over the phone, she said, “I’ll explain everything to you… just go.” With such urgency in her voice, I quickly hung up the phone, and jumped out of bed telling my husband, “Get up! I have to go to the emergency room.” He looked at me and asked, “What’s wrong?” My response to him, “I don’t know. All I know is I need a blood transfusion.” He hurried to put his clothes on and we were out the door.
When I arrived to the emergency room, I said my name. They immediately took my weight and pressure, and took me to the back. The next thing I knew they were inserting an IV into my arm. My heart was pumping. I was nervous. Things were happening so fast. All my times going to the emergency room, it had never gone that quickly. I turned to my husband, “This must be really serious.” I could see a tinge of worry in his eyes, but he told me looking into my eyes, “It will be alright.” My husband was a strong man mentally and always very supportive, although, he had had his own share of health issues, so this was nothing new for him… the routine of the emergency room. He was a fighter and always looked at things from a positive perspective.
As time went on, they informed me I would be admitted and that they were waiting for a bed for me. Well, I wasn’t surprised because they did hook me up to an IV, and they went through the procedures necessary to administer the blood transfusion. One nurse came in, and checked my ID on my bracelet against the info on the pint of blood. Then two others came in and each one checked my ID on my bracelet against the information on the pint of blood. They were on point. Although, the timing of it was off; I refused to complain about it. Especially, if it was for my health. All I could do was murmur… this too shall pass. You have to remember; I was still in the dark about my condition. So, faith and my husband were all I had to keep me from stressing out.
Finally, they found me a bed and I was whisked away by the transporter to my room… blood bag intact. Still, I knew nothing. Since it was the early morning hours, I knew I had to wait for the doctors to come in. Once the morning arrived and I saw the doctor, I found out I was on the verge of losing consciousness. I had lost too much blood. I had iron deficiency anemia that derived from too much blood loss… as a result of heavy menstrual bleeding from fibroids. This condition was dreadful. Had I paid attention to the signs before I went to the doctors, I may have been able to avoid the two transfusions. That’s right, I had one unit of blood when I first went to the emergency room in the wee hours of the morning, and the other unit of blood was given to me in the morning hours.
As I laid there in the hospital bed, my mind began to wander. Looking back at my life, it all started in 2012 when I noticed these signs gradually happening, and they increased as time went on:
- No energy/fatigue
- Shortness of breath – with any activity ( walking, steps, running, dancing, sex, getting excited, etc)
- Rapid heartbeat whenever I exerted myself
- Periodic dizziness
- Sporadic headaches
- A severe ice addiction – this was real all day, everyday… I had to have it, to crunch it up in my mouth.
If you are experiencing these signs, it could be a sign of anemia. Keep in mind, these symptoms can be for other issues as well. So, be sure to get anemia ruled out by a doctor.
Moving on, never once did I question my symptoms. I would immediately rest or do deep breathing to calm down. I guess you could say, either I was out of touch with my body or I related it to just getting older and being out of shape. However, since I was a jokester around my family, they attributed my actions to me overreacting. I tried to tell them I wasn’t playing this time, but they didn’t believe me. I’m smiling now thinking back. But then it happened, one day I decided I was going to try to keep up with Beyonce… someone half my age. I started imitating her as she danced in her video “Run the World.” What was I thinking? Singing and dancing at the same time… haha!
Boy was I sorry. Yes, I made it all the way through the song, subconsciously not effectively breathing. The moment I stopped singing and dancing, I succumb to all the energy I had exerted. Moments later, I passed out on the floor and my daughter called 911. I was rushed to the hospital. What a memory my daughter and granddaughter will have to look at forever (smiling). Not to mention, my daughter filmed the whole thing.
I suffered for 3 years with those symptoms as my menstrual cycle started increasing. Looking back, what was I thinking? I guess I wasn’t.
Fast-forward to the doctor’s appointment in 2015, my cycle was now… out-of-control. Haywire. Manic. Something had to be done because I was losing the battle against my fibroids. And the worst part, I was over 50, at the age when I should have been at menopause or at least slowing down… mine was increasing. My cycle was on steroids. I had gone from 3 days a week all my life to now 5 days. I had gone from what I will call a regular cycle at 3 days to a raging cycle at 5 days. “What now?” I asked myself. “When is it going to stop?” I was getting older mind you… 53 years old at my doctor’s appointment, to be precise. When was my menopause or even pre-menopause supposed to start?
It’s no wonder I had to have a blood transfusion. Thank God I went to the doctors when I did. And thanks to Obamacare, I was able to go to the doctors because for so long I didn’t have any insurance. My husband and I were self-employed and it was too expensive. We flat out could not afford it. It was going to cost us $800 – $1000 a month. Luckily, when my husband’s kidneys failed and he went on dialysis, he qualified for disability. So to this day, I always tell everyone Obamacare saved my life. Had I not gone to the doctor’s office when I did, I may not be here to tell you my story.
After my blood transfusion, I went on with my life going back and forth to the GYN doctor about my fibroids. What I found out is they had grown, one to the size of a lemon lime. Wow! I had transvaginal ultrasounds, pelvic exams, hysteroscopic examinations, and a biopsy to find this out. The doctor told me my options. I could do one of these 5 things:
Meanwhile, my life was falling apart as I chose to wait a little longer and think about my choices. By this time, I literally became disabled because of my menstrual cycle. For a whole year, it had gotten to the point where I couldn’t stand. I missed out on family events, going outside, and normal activities most people enjoy everyday. I had no social life and my sex life was shot. I was on my period just about every day and I had to lay down on my side constantly. My husband felt so bad for me. He would go buy my women products all the time and never complained. If and whenever I did get the nerve to go out of my house, I was strapped, wrapped and padded. What a nightmare! Still, every time I stood; it would burst out like I had nothing on. I found myself going to the bathroom every 5-10 minutes literally… to change. So frustrating and embarrassing. I ran through those pads and tampons like they were nonexistent. That’s why I eventually chose to stay home. After months and months of torture and seclusion, I decided I wanted this over. I wanted my life back.
I had to choose, was it going to be the death of fibroids or the death of me?
I mean I didn’t want to go through more blood transfusions or risk further complicated conditions, and I didn’t want to risk almost dying again because of so much blood loss. I was tired of being a prisoner to my condition… to my fibroids, and to my heavy menstrual bleeding. So, I made the decision to kill the fibroids.
I decided to get a total hysterectomy with the uterus and cervix removed. After all, I didn’t plan on having any more kids and I didn’t want the chance of fibroids coming back as with other procedures, so I decided to go for a robotic laparoscopic hysterectomy. I just wanted my life back. I wanted to stop being miserable.
After my breakthrough decision, I called the doctor and made an appointment to have a hysterectomy. In November 2016, I had my procedure. THANK GOD I DID! My life has been so much happier since then. I have never regretted my decision. My only side effect was one week after the surgery, I developed an abscess at the surgery site, which caused me to suffer with severe pain during urination, so I had to go back into the hospital to have it surgically drained and was given antibiotics. After the infection was cured, I was all good.
As I shared with you my story, I know there are a lot of women who suffer with some of those same issues I suffered with, and you have a decision to make about what your choice will be. My suggestions to you are to:
- Do research about your condition
- Ask the doctor about all your options and what you should expect, the side effects of each procedure, and the recovery time.
- Research the doctor to find out what their experience is with your condition. Ask how many procedures they have performed? Any complications they’ve had? Ask plenty of questions.
- Ask about what you can expect in the future for each procedure.
- Be sure you thoroughly understand the procedure you choose.
- Be sure you trust your doctor performing the procedure.
- Ask people you know who have had these procedures their thoughts.
- After all these things are considered, choose what’s best for you.
In my experience, having a hysterectomy has been the best decision for me. I got my life back in 2016, and have been living menstrual free ever since. It has brought me nothing but joy and peace. Thank God I chose to LIVE and not be a prisoner to my condition any longer, but to be free.
If you are faced with the dilemma of choosing what to do, I wish you the best with whatever choice or decision you make.
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