I didn’t want to write this. I didn’t want to talk about this. Because things are not good right now, and for a woman who likes to see herself as tough, strong and always in control, that’s extremely hard to admit.
I’m turning 50 this June, a fact that had me wanting to blow out all the stops with a big celebration. I don’t care much for conventional holidays, but I love decade birthdays! Besides, I’ve never been cagey about my age, I’m proud of it. I’m a grown ass woman with fewer fucks to give for every year I’ve been alive. I earned every line on my face. I don’t need men to consider me fuckable to feel valuable, I create my own value. I decide who I want to fuck. Or not. Because I’ve got shit to do.
I’ve been somewhat trepidatious about facing down The Change. But all my amazing peri and post menopausal gal pals have been super supportive, funny and informative about surviving the wild hormone opera, so I felt like I was armed and ready. Ready as I could be.
Then, something different happened.
I’d been having these astoundingly painful, heavy, axe murder periods for more than a year. I’m talking splatter movie periods that feel like being kicked repeatedly in the stomach, but hey, that’s just how it goes. You live with it. You adjust. You tough it out and don’t complain, because you’re a Strong Woman.
I knew I had this one little fibroid that I’d been keeping an eye on for about 8 years. No big deal. Fibroids are super common and benign and pretty much everybody with a uterus gets them. They usually cease to be a problem after menopause anyway so as long as they are few and small, like mine, no medical intervention is required.
Well, in December of last year, things took a turn for the worse. The period pain was getting so intense it was hard to ignore. The flow was so heavy, I was afraid to leave the house for more than a half hour even with a super-plus tampon and a pad for back up. I finally had decent health insurance after decades on the broke-ass-writer plan of planning not to get sick, so figured I’d better get my shit checked out.
Long story short, my previously little fibroid had become Fibroid-zilla. In just two months it went from a fig to a grapefruit and in addition, my whole uterus was abnormally and unevenly enlarged. Paging Doctor Cronenberg!
There was some calm and carefully measured talk about possible malignancy. Tests needed to be done to make sure. I didn’t complain. I didn’t say anything about it. I just endured the tests, toughed it out, and waited.
Meanwhile, everything was going to hell Down There. I had my period for 45 days straight, and I’m not talking about light spotting, I’m talking full on firehose. I passed out in the shower and wound up in the hospital. I gave birth to this weighty, ten inch long (!!!) manta ray shaped chunk of bloody nightmare fuel that made me swear I was in a Gabino Iglesias novel. That was the most viscerally horrifying thing that I’ve ever experienced.
I toughed it out. I waited.
Test results came back good. No cancer. I was relived but still wanting answers. I got one.
So this is the culprit. The two in the one-two punch that went along with the massive fibroid that was swiftly taking over my lower abdomen. The first thing that happened was I got put on birth control pills to stop the never ending period. Which is funny considering I had my tubes tied twenty years ago and neither have nor want kids. (Note to conservative lawmakers: not everyone who needs birth control pills needs them just so they can have slutty, consequence-free sex. Some of us are already having tons of slutty slut sex but also need those pills to control excruciating lady-problems. Deal with it.)
The pills regulated the worst of the heavy bleeding between official periods, but not the pain, which is now a constant drumbeat that lasts all month every month. The only option left for me is a hysterectomy.
Here’s the funny thing about considering a hysterectomy. Once you start asking around, you realize how many other women have had it too. Women you’ve known for ages but somehow you never talked about it before. It’s like the first rule of hysterectomy club, only I do want to talk about it. I feel like so much of what we go through as older women is hushed up and kept to ourselves as shameful secrets. Fuck that. Women of all ages need to hear this. Men, too.
So now, on the cusp of my 50th birthday, I’m stuck waiting for a date to get my treasonous uterus removed. I’m told it should be in August or September at the latest, but I’m on a waiting list to get in sooner just in case somebody else decides to cancel. I can’t really travel anywhere in case a date becomes available and don’t feel up to it even if I could. I’m not really in a party kinda mood. Meanwhile I keep joking that with the amount of time I spend at the vet with my dog Django, I should just be able to pop in the back and get spayed real quick. No such luck. So I tough it out. I wait.
For the record, this bad uterus business isn’t my only serious heath problem. I also suffer from Meniere’s disease, which causes dizziness, vertigo and bad balance, as well as an insidious difficulty with concentration and focus. There is no cure. I had surgery on my ear to lessen the frequency of the most severe vertigo attacks, but I still suffer from all the symptoms to varying degrees. I am able to work through these symptoms, but I’m not as prolific as I used to be and everything takes twice as long to get done. This is the thing I hate to admit more than anything else. The thing that makes me feel broken in ways that feel deeply personal and weirdly shameful. Like who even am I if I can’t write fast anymore?
In addition, I’ve also been battling an unfortunate recent tendency to catch pneumonia at the drop of a hat. Annual flus hit me harder and take more out of me every year, even with a flu shot.
All my weaknesses and health problems seem to have converged on me at once in the past six months and I’m really struggling with my own physical frailty and mortality. As a Domme and a Strong Woman, I hate even the slightest hint that maybe I’m not an immortal cast iron bitch after all. That maybe I’m not always in control of every fucking thing. See, I have this really bad habit of being the world’s worst boss to my own body. I feel like I’m in charge up here in my head and the rest of my body should just shut the fuck up and do its job without any back talk. I would never be even half as hard on a friend who came to me for advice and support as I always am on myself.
Here’s the thing. Being strong isn’t the same as being pig-headedly stubborn and refusing to admit anything is wrong. Being genuinely strong means being flexible. Resilient. So while I’m stuck here on my bed of pain waiting for the chop, I’ve been thinking a lot about strong female characters. In fiction and in life, and what that really even means. I reject the idea that the only way a female character can be strong is by physically kicking ass in a stoic, masculine fashion so why do I struggle with this need to handle my real life problems in a stoic, masculine fashion? I don’t have an answer to that, but I’m trying to be better. This post is the first step.