In the Fall I began to feel rundown and overwhelmed. Fall is my busy time at work, with October and November accounting for almost a third of my yearly events, so I assumed that I was just busy and things would get better. In the middle of October I was driving home from an event in Peterborough (about 250kms away) and had to keep stopping to pull over and answer the phone in order to manage an event that was happening in Ottawa (the rental car did not have Bluetooth so the 2.5 hour drive as taking ages!) and my stress levels were through the roof. I felt gross – all over, but especially my chest. I drove home rubbing my chest and occasionally thumping on it. Secretly I feared the worst – that I would die at the side of the road alone, from a heart attack – but I thought I was overreacting and being paranoid, so I just kept driving. By Monday I decided to go to the hospital – they said I had an irregular heartbeat and had me wear a portable heart monitor for two days. Nothing to worry about they said. Phew, I thought.
Friday I was in the city working a conference with my colleagues. I had a pain in my calf and felt all-over crappy again. They sent me back to the hospital. I arrived at the local ER at 10:30pm, the doctors again thought it was nothing serious (I had actually pulled a muscle in my calf), but for giggles they did blood work. Then they got worried. The blood work came back positive for clots. I live in a small area, and had opted for the local hospital rather than one in the city where I had been working, and our hospital’s ultrasound techs did not work again until Monday. So for the next 3 days, every 12 hours, I had to drive myself back to the hospital (about 40kms from home) for Heparin shots.
Monday I had the ultrasound. Things weren’t good. I had a proximal blood clot (DVT) (essentially my leg was clotted from calf to vagina) and a pulmonary embolism (PE) in my right lung.
Treatment began right away.
Luckily I got into a thrombosis clinic and was treated immediately and very well. But the doctors asked a few questions that I wasn’t prepared for – was I pregnant? Had I been? Was I trying? Was I on fertility treatment? My answer to all of these was (sadly) no. But it got me thinking, so I asked the amazing medical student and she told me that fluctuations in hormone levels effect clotting.
I let this sink in for awhile.
I mean I knew at this point I’d never be pregnant, but we all hold that tiny glimmer of hope in our hearts don’t we? And here I was being told that I wouldn’t be able to ever think about IVF, or any treatment that would change my hormone levels, again, because I have a higher than average chance of reoccurrence. I knew I was lucky to be alive (for 25% of people with a pulmonary embolism the first symptom is sudden death and 10-30% of people with DVT/PE die within a month of diagnosis), but all I could hear was another doctor telling me “No babies for you!”
I was devastated.
As the months went on, life on blood thinners got old – quickly! My periods became ridiculous and I bled heavily for days with massive cramping and throwing up. I couldn’t walk the pain was so intense. My GP and my thrombosis doctor decided I needed to get an IUD. Ugh! An IUD…. birth control to help regulate and stop the excessive bleeding. Rationally I knew why, I even agreed it was the right thing to do. But the night before I was meant to have it inserted I could not bring myself to take the meds. I couldn’t do it. The emotions that came flooding up were unstoppable. I sobbed so hard tears were coming out of my mouth as I wailed. I was alone, hubby was off at work in BC 4500kms away, the dogs lay beside me at attention, looking for the cause of my agony as I cried. I cried so loudly and so hard that my body couldn’t hold itself up anymore and I curled up in a ball and shoved my fist in my mouth so that the sound of my sobs would stop. It didn’t. I kept going. I had no idea the well of my grief was so deep. Funnily, I had reconciled myself to the fact that I might die much easier than to this – to the finality of this procedure. The absolute end to my hope. Full stop. No more. Never again would I have the hope of being pregnant.
It was unbearable. It still is.
I went in to my GPs office the next day and told her I wasn’t ready. She understood, but urged me to think about it again. Reminding me that it would control the bleeding without any hormonal changes, so was my safest option. I went home and thought about it again. I cried some more. I knew I needed to do it, but it was so final. I’m already in my 40’s so by the time this comes out (usually an IUD is inserted for 5 years) I’ll be pre-menopausal and well…that is it, right? The absolute end.
I shared some of my feelings with my close friends, but not the desolation I was feeling; the sorrow and the mourning I was going through.
A month later, my husband drove me to the clinic. “Are you sure?”
“I took the pills, so I might as well.”
“You don’t have to.”
“Yeah, I do. Let’s go.” We walk in, I have the IUD in my purse. The doctor and nurse come and get me. Hubby goes for a smoke. I lie back, close my eyes and a few tears roll down my cheeks. The procedure goes well – although it hurts like no one’s business and as I am on blood thinners there are a few complications, but after all is said and done hubby comes in, lifts me off the table and carries me to the car. We get home, I lay on the couch for the rest of the day. Alternating between crying and sleeping.
Eventually, let’s be honest – 35 days later, the bleeding stops. I begin to feel like myself again. No more teenage periods. No more cramps that make walking impossible. No more “accidents” at night. Life is good.
Except on days like today, where I think about it again. And the tears roll down my cheeks, silently now. So that’s a step forward at least.
You can check out more from CeCe VanderMarks on her blog: cecevandermarks.weebly.com