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This is the one where the term “Healthy Life” takes on a new meaning. It’s been a little while since I did a Healthy Life post, but I am still committed (probably more than ever!) to my healthy lifestyle journey and making progress. You can see the previous posts here. I hit the magic number of 50 pounds lost a couple of months back, and while I have lost even more since then, and I am still eating a healthy paleo diet as often as possible and staying active, I have had to cut back temporarily on intense exercise and weight training for reasons I’m about to explain.  

The medical information is this post is provided as an opinion and personal account, and is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes. I am not a medical professional, and the information in this post should not be used as a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. ALWAYS contact your health care provider for any and all healthcare questions and/or decisions.

Let me back up a bit and give you some history. First, I do want to warn you that this post does go into “female issues”, so if that isn’t your thing, we will be back to regularly scheduled decor and travel posts shortly. I just want to explain a bit of what’s going on behind the scenes with me this summer. Maybe some of the things in this post will ring a bell with you, and the best thing that could come out of this is it leading to someone else searching for their answers!

I have always had some symptoms that are not quite the same as friends I’ve compared notes with. I’ve had painful, heavy, irregular cycles and mysterious hormonal issues that seemed to defy diagnosis. I’ve had my blood drawn more times than I can count. I have a joke that every new doctor is convinced it’s my thyroid (spoiler alert: it never is) and will run the same battery of tests. Still, my “monthly issues” have remained a topic that perplexed my various doctors and that they ultimately dismissed, due to ultimately having three successful pregnancies.

When it came to having my babies, it seemed like there was a slow but steady pattern of my fertility declining. Baby number one, Logan, was a surprise when we were very young. By the time we had settled down, finished college, bought our first home, and decided to have baby number two, it ended up being a frustrating six-month process of charts and tests before seeing a positive test.

Now I will stop here to say that I don’t mean to minimize what other people go through, as I know that we were extremely lucky to have any children at all, and six months really isn’t long. I realize that there are people out there reading this who may still be on a fertility journey and praying for their first baby after years of trying. I’m not saying this is anything like that. It just seemed like a strange twist of fate that after a surprise pregnancy that changed all of our plans, we had to put in so much effort the second time around. I had never heard of secondary infertility, and there wasn’t much information to be found online on the topic eight years ago. I had no idea what the issue could be, which was pretty isolating at the time.

There was a half-baked diagnosis of PCOS by a doctor back then due to possible cysts being spotted on an ultrasound, but then I had the positive pregnancy test, so the whole thing was dropped again. I delivered Cooper after a healthy pregnancy 9 months later.

A few years later, we decided to start trying for a third baby. Some months it was just flat out negative tests, but during the next eighteen months, I suffered two extremely early miscarriages, which my doctor called chemical pregnancies. I would have positive tests, but start bleeding even more heavily than usual a couple of days later (about 6 weeks in). My new doctor at that point was ready to run more tests and talk fertility treatments- Clomid, or even IVF. Mack was justifiably ready to call it quits and was weary of intervention. After all, we had two healthy and beautiful children, and the stress was inevitably getting to us. Maybe we were being greedy. Maybe this was our sign to be done. We gave it one more month, and sure enough, that was our month. I had a difficult pregnancy, but it was all worth it when Lyla arrived.

This is a slight digression but in line with the faith/otherworldly theme that seems to have prevailed throughout my health experiences. Even Lyla’s arrival was not without its strangeness. Cooper was born after a quick delivery. So during my third pregnancy, after I started to experience preeclampsia with kidney failure, we were scheduled for an induction that everyone expected to lead to a delivery before lunchtime. After hours of labor, and little progress although we thought my water had broken, Lyla’s heart rate was dropping and the doctor was hinting toward a c-section. I didn’t know until later, but just before midnight, the doctor discovered that there was a second (undeveloped) fluid-filled egg sack blocking Lyla’s progress. After removing that, Lyla was born a few short moments later, now into a new day, which happened to be my late grandmother’s birthday. When I was pushing and realized what day it was, it was one of the most spiritual and powerful moments of my life, and I knew my grandmother was there with me.

Three was our number. As I looked down on my newborn baby girl after such a dramatic delivery, I felt an immediate sense of peace with our family being complete. They say when you know, you know, and that was true for me. Mack made the decision permanent, and we considered ourselves set.

Over the past eighteen months or so (after I was done nursing Lyla) I resumed my monthly misery. I had long-ago accepted that it “is just not fun to be a woman” and that I should just suffer through each month, plan to stay home for the first couple of days of “that week” since I couldn’t go more than an hour, fight the urge tooth and nail to curl up in bed and rest (I wouldn’t want to seem lazy!), ignore the doubled over pain (my pain tolerance is probably just low!) and do my best to tough it out.

Even more ironically, I incorrectly thought I was doing my body a favor by taking a break from hormonal cycle management (which had been another dramatic process filled with various pills that sometimes actually made me crazy). After all, shouldn’t natural be best? My healthcare provider agreed that no intervention was probably a wise course due to my high blood pressure at the time. However, it did pave the way for the endometriosis to take root.

It’s funny how the next part probably wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t set my goal this year. Aren’t there are a lot of funny “coincidences” in this story?

Once I started this process of exercising and eating healthier, I first experienced a welcome reduction in symptoms. I thought I figured it all out. Unfortunately, it was short lived, soon after I noticed my always unpleasant and severe monthly cycles worsening. I was having spotting every time I exercised, and sometimes more than spotting. A few times I had pain so severe that I doubled over. I had never committed to an intense exercise program as an adult, so I half-wondered if I was just adjusting to this new body, and hoped it would fix itself. However, by the time a couple months had passed, the spotting had mutated into basically a month long period with a day off here and there. I knew deep down something was not right, and the responsible thing was to bring it up with my doctor. So that was what I did at my annual exam.

After explaining what I was going through, combined with my well-documented history of issues, an ultrasound and bloodwork was ordered. The bloodwork and my exam were normal, as always.

But then there was the ultrasound. I’ve heard stories of ultrasound technicians changing demeanor when they find something questionable, but witnessing it firsthand was unnerving. I’ve had countless ultrasounds, but this one was different. She suddenly became quiet and super focused and was no longer making or responding to small talk. She asked me if I had been diagnosed in the past with ovarian cysts or endometriosis. I explained terms had been thrown around, along with “PCOS”, during my times of trying to conceive. She asked if I’d had difficulty getting pregnant, which I confirmed, and she nodded grimly.

A nurse brought me back into an exam room while my heart raced. You can imagine how my mind jumped around during the half hour I waited to be seen. While my instincts told me that this was nothing fatal, everyone was still acting very serious.

The doctor finally came in. She showed me the ultrasound, which showed a medium (4cm) mass on my left ovary. She explained that it was most likely something that’s called an “endometrioma”, and that along with other measurements of my thicker-than-average uterine lining, it pointed to a likely diagnosis of endometriosis. She said there was also probably endometriosis in other areas that couldn’t be seen on the ultrasound. She asked me if I planned to have any more children. When I explained that no, we had made the permanent decision in our family planning, she nodded that grim nod that was so similar to the ultrasound technician.

“Good,” she said, “because this would be a much more upsetting conversation if you didn’t have children yet.”

It’s moments like this in life that just send chills up your spine. I couldn’t help but feel like there is sometimes a plan in things, and our surprise pregnancy when we were so young-which naturally we are so thankful for now since it gave us Logan, but seemed so terrifying, odd-defying, and poorly-timed back at the beginning- was actually just part of something bigger. It set in motion a course of events that cumulated in having our family complete early on so that whatever possible eventual intervention- the removal of ovaries or even a hysterectomy- is not an issue.

We decided to monitor the endometrioma over the course of a month through ultrasound. It was/is growing rapidly, and is now at risk of bursting. Apparently, in my own simplified terms: when these things burst, bad things happen. My doctor determined that the best course of action is to remove the mass and any others they may come across laparoscopically in mid-August. From there, I will see a specialist, who I will work with to manage the ongoing and sometimes debilitating symptoms of what I now know to be endometriosis and try to prevent further masses from growing.

For the first time, I have hope that this new “spin-off” health journey will address the issues I have lived with for so many years, and eventually lead to an improved quality of life. I am not sure what the next steps are, or what “stage” of the disease I am in yet. I suspect those questions will be answered by the specialist in the coming months.

So that’s a little bit about life lately! For now, I am enjoying the last little bit of summer running around with the kids before my surgery. We have been going on several fun outings, as you may have seen on my IG stories. I have been told that a laparoscopic cystectomy is a minimally invasive surgery, which I am happy about, but I’m sure I will still take some requisite down time. I may be a little (or even more) slow to answer emails and comments for the next bit, but after that, I’m looking forward to hopefully more energy as my health improves!

Update 8/31/17: I underwent surgery to remove the ovarian cyst in mid-August. The surgery went very well and the cyst turned out to be a different, rare (luckily benign!) tumor that may very likely have caused at least some of my endometriosis-like symptoms. My doctor was completely shocked.  I have already seen an improvement in the past couple of weeks in symptoms. Thank you so much to those of you who shared your stories and support, it really means so much! It can be a strange thing to be a female, but to have such a supportive community of women reaffirmed that there are answers out there! 

Other Health Posts:
There are no cells in this grid yet.

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About Nina

Nina is the owner & designer of Nina Hendrick Design Company and the Nina Hendrick blog. Along with her husband Mack, she is chronicling the journey of transforming their builder-grade 80s colonial into a modern day New England dream home. Nina and Mack live in the suburbs of Boston with their three children and golden retriever Lucy.

Comments

Wish you all the best and may the universe always be on your side! We sure need it sometimes!

Edith Weldon (Penny)

Thank you for sharing this with all of us, such transparency is wonderful!! Praying for you and your family!!. We all are sending many prayers in your direction and know that God will direct your physician and medical staff during this surgery.!! Standing with you in thoughts and assurance that God is in control of all! Please rest and take care of yourself for your healing to occur and be completed!! Sending many hugs in your direction too!!

Love, prayers and hugs are coming your way. All will be well. xx

Tina Hollingsworth

Nina, thank you for sharing. Good for you, taking care of all of this now. I had a 12 cm endometrioma removed about five years ago, but only found out about it after it had started to rupture. I can tell you it was extremely painful and scary. I can also tell you that I felt like a completely new person after I healed from surgery. Good luck to you and enjoy the rest of your summer. I know you will be feeling better soon.

Nina, I’ll be thinking of you and your family. Saying a prayer! Best of luck, everything will go great for you! You are too kind to even be thinking of your planner – you know how much we all love it! But, YOU and YOUR family are the number one priority! xox

My thoughts and best wishes are with you.

Blessings to you and your family in the coming weeks. Looking forward to your return after thoroughly rested : )

Prayers lifted for you. I went through similar with major pain every other month. My OB/GYN kept telling me nothing was wrong, it was all in my head. When I told him I could not take the pain any more, he agreed to ‘look’ laproscopically and IF anything was there he would take care of it, but again, he would find nothing. When I awoke in my room he was telling my husband I had endometriosis and it was totally wrapped around one ovary and pulling it down (every other month pain) and had started on the other one. He did a total hysterectomy. He also apologized! I am glad you have found an answer. Again, prayers lifted.

Prayer is the most we can all do for you. Your courage shines through & gives many of your followers hope. Thank you for sharing.

Thanks so much for sharing your health journey. I think it’s so brave of you to open up about things like this and share publicly on your blog! We had the opposite struggle as you – having to struggle to get pg with our first child, then finally successful from a frozen transfer after IVF and several miscarriages. Then we got pg naturally very quickly with our 2 other children. Our initial infertility was undiagnosed – no one could really explain why we were having trouble. But I had a history of “abnormal” Pap smears. So then when my next pap came back even more “abnormal” showing signs of pre-cancerous cells, my dr. thought it best to have a hysterectomy (I was 34). We were done have kids (thankfully) so it was a somewhat easy decision. The surgery went very smoothly and recovering wasn’t bad at all. Fast forward 8 years and I am now 42 and sooo thankful to not have to deal with periods any more! I would definitely encourage you to research your options for hysterectomy. Good luck!

Praying for God’s love and strength for you and your family.

Nina,
You’ll be fine. I had the same procedure 15 years ago. In my case what both my doctor and I thought was a simple ovarian cyst appeared on the ultrasound as a dark mass, making surgery the only option because he couldn’t be sure it wasn’t malignant. I went into surgery scared to death. My daughter was only 3 and I wanted to live to see her grow up (did I mention I’m a drama queen?) The surgery was a breeze, and thankfully the biopsy confirmed the mass was a benign hemorrhagic cyst. Recovery time was 2 weeks, during which I was advised not to lift heavy objects and avoid exercise. I felt ready for both in a week but followed my doctor’s orders. The three tiny scars (one in my navel, the other two low on my belly) have faded over time.

Wishing you a successful surgery and a full and complete recovery.

Wishing you all the best and may y ou have a speedyy recovery. 😊

Stephanie Sheridan

Nina, Your surgery will be fine. I have three through the bellbutton and did great. I am so glad you were able to have 3 wonderful children, but they say the psin of menstrual cycle can be horrible. I was not born with ovaries and even at 54 I still miss not having children. I even have an extra chromosome which I think gives me crazy hormonal days.
But all said and done that this step will help alot. Prayers are with you.

I was miserable, much like you with awful periods, etc. Got pregnant unexpectedly at 27 and had my only child. At 44, finally, it was discovered I had endometriosis! Hysterectomy and fine since. Can’t believe I spent 30 years in misery. The hysterectomy was the best thing that happened to me!

I’m sorry you’ve had to deal with this for so long.. I suffered similar issues and ended up with a hysterectomy at only 35 years old but to be honest I have my three kids and it is the best thing now that it’s done. No more suffering or embarrassment over *accidents* every month & unexpectedly. Sometimes surgery IS the way to go but of course be super sure about your doctors and specialists. Best of luck and for Heaven sake – feel better soon!

Wishing you all the best on your health journey! In my younger years, I suffered thru monthly difficulties (that’s putting it so mildly) like you have. At age 21, the first ob/gyn dr I ever saw, told me I would probably never have children. Luckily I had 2. But I had difficulty getting pregnant the 2nd time. Years ago, many women were written off by their mothers! and doctors! as not accepting the fact that they were born to suffer as a woman. What a pile of crock!!! If a person, man or woman is suffering, there is something wrong! Nowadays, doctors are more aware and better educated in women’s issues. I’m so glad you are getting the help you need. And I’m also very glad you are sharing your health journey as you are probably helping 100’s if not 1000’s of younger women who have a difficult time every month or difficulty in conceiving. They now know, there is help and there are doctors who can help them. If any woman feels written off by a doctor, keep looking, you will find one who will listen and believe you! Thanks again for sharing! All the best!

Good luck to you and may God keep you in his hands and heal you completely.

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