When you go out into the world on your own for the first time, there’s all kinds of scary stuff that you’re apparently supposed to handle on your own. I handled most of it like a champ, but was a total flake when it came to doctor appointments.
I hemmed and hawed, reasoned that there was nothing really wrong with me anyway, so what was the big deal if I skipped this year’s check-up? The first year rolled into a second year, and then into a third when something finally pushed me into going to see a general practitioner for at least a quick set of blood tests to make sure I wasn’t a secret carrier of some kind of alien plague.
It wasn’t anything out of the norm. The doctor asked all the basic questions, and when you’re a vagina-having person one of those questions is always, “When did you have your last period?” And my answer was actually the reason why I’d allowed myself to be talked into going to the doctor in the first place.
“Three years or so.”
Now, being significantly older and both more knowledgable and more in touch with my body, this would raise major red flags. But I was young, ignored my body as much as possible since I hated very nearly everything about it, and was only vaguely aware that this might be a problem.
So you can imagine my surprise - and relief - when the doctor didn’t do more than raise her eyebrows a little. She asked me a few probing questions, like when was the last time I’d had sex with a man (never) and if I was trying to get pregnant (nope). She said that there were some consequences to me not having a proper period, and they mostly had to do with infertility and vanity. My testosterone was already slightly elevated, and she explained to me that this was likely to increase. I could expect body hair to grow in places men usually had it, which wasn’t news to me considering the fact that I was already having to shave my face once a week and sporting a pretty masculine-looking happy trail down from my belly button. So long as I wasn’t feeling any discomfort, I was doing fine. No worries. If I wanted to have babies I should get that shit looked at but in the meantime I was good as gravy.
A lot of you are probably cringing right now, or even yelling at me through your monitors. And that’s fair and fine. I’m yelling at me a little too. But this was a doctor, guys! And more importantly, a doctor telling me exactly what I wanted to hear. Everything is fine, no worries, go about your life. And I did for another six months with no additional complications.
It started with some seriously intense lower back pain. Like when you sleep all twisted up and wake up with a kink just above your butt that you just can’t quite work out. It spread gradually, and when the cramping around my uterus level started kicking into overdrive even I couldn’t rationalize the pain away.
I made an appointment with a proper OB/GYN for the first time in my adult life. And boy, did I ever horrify that woman. She literally dropped her pen when I told her it’d been three and a half years since my last flow. I had her full attention. Very seriously and quietly she asked me if anyone in my family had a history of any kind of cancers of the uterus, ovaries, that kind of thing. I mentioned my mother had PCOS and I wasn’t sure about anyone else; I don’t know a lot of women in my family, to be honest, and the ones I know definitely wouldn’t have told me about their lady complications.
Things got pretty scary after that. After a quick exam, I got a call a week later saying that I could potentially be in serious trouble. See, all those years I’d actually been ovulating, just not expelling anything. You know how your uterus sheds that thickened lining during your period? That part was happening, it just wasn’t going anywhere. So basically I had three and a half years of crap just floating around in there, and that’s likely what was causing me problems. Not only did we need to figure out a treatment for this, but they actually needed to go in and cut out a sample of my uterine lining to make sure I didn’t have cancer.
Cancer. Holy crap. As much as I hate doctors, and even as I was sitting there nodding in horror while simultaneously trying to figure out how to get out of this procedure that sounded like the opposite of fun, the second she dropped the “c” word, I was all in. In the infamous words of Miss Rosa, no one fucks with cancer.
I’d never had any kind of surgical procedure before so I had no idea what to expect. I don’t remember a lot of it, so I’m guessing the drugs they gave me were first rate. I remember them having a hard time getting the needle in me for my IV, and I remember waking up before they wheeled me in and the nurses laughing at me for helpfully answering a question they’d asked someone else about my intake sheet. I was later told that apparently I’d still had my hymen, so they had to go out and ask my parents for permission to remove it. That’s called a hymendectomy in case you were curious. You’re welcome.
It’s afterwards that I remember with an unfortunate clarity, because it’s afterwards that everything was basically a waking nightmare. I’d been asleep for a few hours before I came groggily to in a side room with a privacy curtain around it, my mother sitting there reading a book. I felt like I was wearing a diaper, and for good reason. I basically was. Apparently the procedure had opened the floodgates in a really horrifically literal way. I was having three and a half years worth of periods all at once and there was absolutely no damming this flow.
Waddling to the bathroom was unavoidable. It was outside of my curtain and down the hall, past several other occupied curtains. The only saving grace going for me here was that I was so incredibly drugged that I plain didn’t care that I was dripping blood from my crotch with every step down, coating my legs and those crappy hospital slippers they give you.
By the time I was done with it the bathroom looked like Carrie’d thrown her own private prom in there, it was that bad. Blood all over the floor, blood on the toilet seat, wads of bloody paper in the bins from where I’d tried to wash myself up. I did my best to try to tidy it, but there was only so much I could do since I was drugged to the gills and bending over at the waist was like squeezing a tube of toothpaste for my uterus.
I have no memory of getting dressed or getting home, though I know it must’ve happened. I didn’t have access to any hardcore drugs, something about blood thinning and me needing to do the opposite of that. I spent several days curled into a fetal position wearing like six pads at once and doing my best not to leak on the bedsheets of my parents' guest room.
But I did get better. I was on medication for a bit, but now years later I have a regular period like everyone else without the need of medication to help regulate my hormones. I didn’t have cancer either, or any other discernable issues with my bits and bobs.
The whole experience taught me two things, though. The first is to always listen to your body. If something wonky is going on, get it checked and get a second opinion. Listen to your guts because they know what’s up. And the second is to always, always be nice to nurses. You have no idea what they may have just cleaned up.