When What You Least Expect, Happens

An alternate title might be Taking the road less traveled, even if you really don’t want to, because that’s what it feels like my hubby and I are doing.

We started this journey to have a family over six years ago. In that time, I’ve had a highly invasive abdominal myomectomy, two miscarriages and one rough c-section resulting, finally, in a healthy baby boy. Truly, we are blessed with our little Sammy, but we’ve longed for so very much more.


Nancy and I (part 2)

Three months passed quickly with not much changed and we found ourselves back in the doctor’s office discussing the state of my fibroid. We arranged to have tests done on my husband to ensure that he wasn’t “shooting blanks” as so many like to folks say. I had a bunch of blood work done and another ultrasound. The ultra sound indicated that the fibroid had now grown to the size of a cantaloupe, which was about a two-inch increase. This started to worry me more. Waiting around for me to get pregnant was giving Nancy, the fibroid, time to grow and further complicate things. My symptoms had been getting worse. Heavy bleeding two weeks of the month is not fun. Missing work because of heavy bleeding and painfully crippling cramps is not fun. Having to pee every half hour to hour is just plain annoying. And being able to feel and see a strange lump on your lower abdomen, that you know is not a fetus, is very disconcerting.

This is when Plan B was formed. We would go ahead with surgery to remove the fibroid and hope and pray that all the worse-case scenarios of hysterectomy and infertility would be avoided. My surgical date was set for August, a mere four month wait. It had already been a year since it was first discovered, and at first the thought of waiting four months to have the surgery didn’t bother me much. We had a lot of family events to fit in during that time (my brother was getting married in Poland and we would be travelling there for it), but as the months went by and I was in increasing discomfort, I got anxious to get the whole thing over with. Two months before the surgery, I was actually starting to look pregnant. In fact, I was mistaken as such a couple of times on our trip to Europe. It was pretty devastating and frustrating to think that all I was growing in there was a big ugly tumor. The fact that I looked so much bigger, had me quite worried about how much it was actually growing. Oh, how I started to really hate Nancy.

By August 4th 2010, my surgical date, I was nervous and simply exhausted. Heavy bleeding, constant soreness, worrying, bloating, all of it, was taking its toll. Not to mention the extreme emotional rollercoaster that had been our lives since June. We had managed to fit in the marriage of my middle brother, the death of my father-in-law, the marriage of my husband’s niece, and the near death of my oldest brother. I was ready to check into the hospital and focus on myself for a time. I can’t say I wasn’t nervous, because I truly was. I’d never had to stay in the hospital as a patient and as they rolled me through the doors to surgery and away from my husband, I started to tear-up.

The procedure was very invasive. The size of the fibroid required an abdominal myomectomy, which is open surgery with a large incision and a long recovery period. I found out later that the surgery itself went quite a bit longer than anticipated because they were having difficulty removing the entire fibroid through the horizontal incision that was made. A vertical incision would have given the doctors more room, but would have been even more difficult to heal. In then end, the fibroid turned out to measure about 12x12x10 inches, close to double the size since the last ultrasound. It weighed just shy of 5 pounds! I had almost forgotten what my mostly flat tummy looked like!

I will save you the details of my “fun” at the hospital. I stayed there for four days and was then able to go home. My hubby worked from home the first week, so that he could be on hand if I needed any help with food and such. I had already arranged with work to be off for the seven weeks that my doctor and surgeon had determined I would need to recover. It was slow going. Sleeping was incredibly difficult. It was weeks before I could even lay down flat without the support of every pillow in the house. I slept a lot. The first two weeks were literally just getting up to take pills, eat, shuffle a little loop around the house and then back to bed. Repeat several times a day. My constant companion was our cat Chloe. She loved the hours spent dozing in bed, but became frustrated when she found out that she couldn’t sleep on my tummy or crawl on me. I had to resort to keeping a pillow on my lower abdomen to keep her from causing a painful shock as I slept. Oh, but I wouldn’t have dared denied her companionship during the many weeks at home. There really isn’t too much photo-wise to share in regards to my journey with Nancy, the fibroid, so here is a photo of Miss Chloe instead.

Chloe in the sun

Nancy and I (part 1)

In April 2009, my doctor discovered that I had fibroid growing on my uterus. At the time, the ultrasound indicated that it was about the size of a grapefruit (oh, yes, doctors do seem to love equating growth sizes with types of fruit). I was definitely a bit shocked and nervous when I first found out. What the heck was a fibroid? Why was it growing on my uterus? And how would this impact my ability to have children? My head filled with questions, which my family physician didn’t seem too keen to answer her self. Instead she referred me to a specialist. In Alberta, that process sadly means that you wait about a month before finding out if you’ve gotten an appointment somewhere, and then wait another 6-12 months for the actual appointment. I was so severely disappointed by all of this. My family physician assured me that the fibroid, which is a type of tumor, is very, very, rarely cancerous and that was supposed to comfort me during my 6-12 month wait to see someone who could tell me what was going on and what my options were.

Of course, the worry about cancer still clung in the back of my brain, but what I was most concerned about was how this would affect my chances of having children. Would the fibroid continue to grow during the long wait to see a specialist? And if so, would that put my fertility at greater risk? My husband and I had finally reached the stage where we were excited to start trying for children. We’d spent the six months before my diagnosis moving back to Calgary to be closer to our families, getting good jobs, buying our first house, all in preparation for starting a family. Beyond all these things, we were both finally truly looking forward to having children and having them soon. It had never occurred to me that we might run into obstacles with that. Of all the things we’d struggled through, surely getting pregnant would be the least difficult. This strange fibroid discovery de-railed all my preconceived notions of easy or straightforward childbearing.

During the anxious wait to talk to a specialist, I hit-up Wikipedia for information and took out books from the public library about fibroids. I learned about all the various types, the symptoms, and treatments. I tried to educate myself as much as possible and kept a list of questions to ask the specialist when I finally had my appointment. Without getting into too much complex stuff, basically, a uterine fibroid is a type of tumor that grows from the tissue of the uterus. They are not sure why they start growing in the first place, but they do rely on the presence of estrogen and progesterone and often grow rapidly during high estrogen states (like pregnancy). They can be quite small or quite big. You might have just one at a time, or you may have several. They can be completely asymptomatic, causing no problems, or they can cause a whole assortment of problems (pain, heavy bleeding, extreme bloating, miscarriages, etc.). Through the course of all of this learning and trying to adjust, I decided that my fibroid needed a name and so for what ever reason (I can’t even recall) I began referring to it as Nancy. Nancy and I didn’t get along all that well, but I was stuck with her and she with me for the time-being.

Eventually, my appointment date arrived (sooner rather than later with persistent calling). Accompanied by my loving hubby, we sat and discussed the issues, the options, and the worse- and best-case scenarios. The main concern the specialist had was that the fibroid was a fairly large for someone my age (28 at the time) and also I hadn’t had children yet, which we did want to do. So we formed Plan A, which was to start trying for children. With luck, I’d get pregnant and we’d just have to monitor the fibroid throughout the pregnancy. However, if I didn’t become pregnant within a few months, we would start doing some testing to ensure that everything else health-wise was good with both my husband and myself.