The summer of July 2005, a couple of months before my 39th birthday, large ovarian cysts were detected in my abdomen via ultrasound; one cyst was the size of a raquetball and the other odd-shaped cyst was the size of a Snickers bar. By October, it became clear that I would have to have surgery to have the cysts removed because they didn't shrink using hormone therapy (they actually increased in size). So surgery was scheduled for the morning of Halloween 2005. In my last pre-op appointment I asked my doc if it wouldn't be best just to remove my ovaries completely because of the history of ovarian cancer in my family. She said that if I chose that route, I should have a full hysterectomy so I wouldn't be at risk for uterian cancer (which increases when the progesterone levels drop after ovary removal). I felt strongly that a full hysterectomy was the right way to go, so my doc scheduled the operating room to be prepped for that surgery. Interestingly, when the surgery happened only a couple of days later it was fortuitous that the OR had been set up for a full hysterectomy, because once inside me, my doctor discovered that my reproductive organs were encased in endometrial scar tissue (endometriosis cannot be detected via ultrasound). She discovered about 20 years worth of damage from endometriosis that had never been diagnosed despite my pleas to 3 other doctors that I knew something was wrong with my uterus. The mass that had been my uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries had adhered to my colon with scar tissue, scar tissue encased my ureters leading from my kidneys to my bladder, and the ovarian cysts that were detected via ultrasound were endometrial as well. Needless to say, surgery went twice as long as initially anticipated in order for my doc to remove as much scar tissue as possible. Although I came out of surgery anemic and pale from loss of blood, I did very well. I was finally free from the painful and debilitating endometriosis that had plagued me during my late teens and my entire adulthood. Self-dubbed as my "Halloween Hysterectomy", this surgery started my personal journey to wellness, rediscovering what life was supposed to be like, and feeling myself coming alive for the first time.
Not Eating CAN Make You Fat
As my body healed from major surgery, I realized that I never wanted to go back to that place that I had been in for 20+ years. I also knew that my obesity would increase my chances of having my endometriosis return. My doctor told me that I wouldn't be able to go on hormone replacement therapy because estrogen feeds endometriosis. If there were any endometrial cells left in my abdomen, they would continue to feed off any estrogen in my body and go through the process that the tissue of the uterine lining does, except they would be outside my uterus (which is what endometrosis really is) and the scarring would come back along with the pain. I knew from my research that there were two ways a woman's body produces estrogen: with the ovaries and with body fat. My excess body fat was going to produce far more estrogen than I wanted in my body. I HAD to find a way to lose weight, but I hadn't been able to lose weight for YEARS. I thought I'd done irrepairable damage to my metabolism after years of starvation dieting during childhood, adolescence, and then an all-protein diet in my 20's when I dropped 75 pounds in only 4 1/2 months just to have it and 25 more pounds come back over the next 10 years. I really thought that I had destroyed any hope of living a normal life at a normal weight. Additionally, I had trained myself to dislike food and had no natural hunger sensations. I would forget to eat until sometimes 5 pm [YES, it is possible to not eat and be obese]. I was desperate for an answer so I wouldn't go back to Endometriosis Hell!
July 4th, 2006--MY Independence Day
Almost a year since the diagnosis that had changed my life, our healthcare changed because my husband was hired on at Kaiser HealthConnect's IT group in No. California. As a new member, I started hunting around their website looking for answers. They touted having a large health library with all sorts of resources. So I was going to put them to the test. I also set up an appointment with a new general practitioner (couldn't hurt, right?). The day before my doctor's appointment, I found Kaiser's link to Weight Watchers. They offered a discounted membership fee for Kaiser members. Okay... great... but I don't want to go to any meetings... been there, done that... flashbacks of my teens going to a place called "Venus de Milo Weight Loss Center" and in my 20's going to some bariatric clinic that made us pee on a stick to make sure "we were in ketosis". No way was I going to anything resembling something from my past and trigger my unhealthy dieting patterns! But then I noticed that they had an online-only option. I could use their online tools, track my own progress, and not have to go to any meetings. Cool! I headed off to the doc with the resolve to discuss my options with her and then I'd decide about Weight Watchers. Well, the discussion with the doc went poorly. All she could suggest was getting on the track for gastric bypass surgery. I KNEW that wasn't the answer! I was already not eating right and I refuse to change around my digestive tract and take those risks. So I came home with the resolve that I would do it on my own. I HAD TO! The next day, July 4th 2006, I became a member of Weight Watchers. I'd need to lose a lot in order to have a normal body but I was embarking on discovering a whole new life. I'd be turning 40 in September. It only seemed fitting that my life would "begin" as I was on the crest of the wave that would crash into 40.