The H Word

October 2010

As time marches on, and I drift closer my use-by date, I think about when I will call it a day. What day will it be when I will say, “That’s it, the time has come to move on”? I have moved that date a couple of times already, and have thought that it would be so much easier if the decision was taken out of my hands.

Be careful what you wish for.

I headed into the city to see my friendly surgeon – driving 40mins, taking a half hour train trip, then walking further than I needed to, only to find myself sitting in the waiting room for over an hour. It’s good to be able to take the time to relax and catch up on 12 month old magazines. I stumbled upon a story about being a mother in today’s world. Some of those interviewed were high profile women and some were everyday, you-and-me type women. One that grabbed my attention was Deborah Hutton. She is, according to her own website, one of Australia’s most acknowledged and respected media personalities. Apparently, Australians look to Deborah Hutton as a barometer of good taste, style and professional achievement. So, of course, I read on. She married late…even later than I, and had a baby at 47. My heart leaped. This article gave me hope. It put a smile on my face and a spring in my step as I sauntered into the surgeon’s office.

I explained to him about the pain I had experienced in the last month and showed him the scans that had discovered 5 sneaky fibroids. “Well, that is very disappointing”, he sighed. I felt like a naughty schoolgirl being reprimanded for not doing an assignment.

He then started writing down my options on his pad.
1. Laproscopic Myomectomy – the same surgery I had last year. Just go in through the belly button and whip the biggest fibroid out. 6 weeks recovery, then try getting pregnant again.
2. Myomectomy – no lap dance this time. Open up the uterus and send in the troops to hunt and kill every fibroid it can find. Give the place a good vacuum and a lick of paint while you’re there. 3 months recovery, then see if you still care about ever having sex again in order to fall pregnant.
3. Hysterectomy.

Hyster-what? Feeling a little hyster-ical. Did I just hear you right?

I wasn’t expecting that. I was still high from the Deborah-Hutton-Did-It-You-Can-Too pep talk I gave myself in the waiting room. I was expecting words of reassurance. This is no big deal. There’s still plenty of time. Not the H word!

A hysterectomy is very final. Try getting pregnant after that one, and you’ll be right up there in the miracle stakes with Saint Mary MacKillop.

I burst into tears. Dr Friendly-Mustache went quiet and uncomfortable for a few moments and started doodling on his note pad while he waited for me to make the next move. My head swam with the overwhelming thought of having a hysterectomy at 42-ish. This is it. This is the decision being taken out of my hands. “I’m not ready to go there” was all I could muster in reply.  He suggested we (meaning I) don’t rush the decision until he has another look to see exactly where the fibroids are located. I booked in for another scan at which he will be present.

He also suggested the same trial drug Dr Baby-Maker suggested, which has had good results in stimulating ovaries into action. It takes 3 months to work. I could start that, have the 2nd option surgery, then perhaps have another IVF cycle. Damn that carrot! I thought I had made that decision already. No more drugs. No more invasive procedures. I told him I’d give it some thought, but I really don’t think I could handle it. Mentally and physically, I am spent. I am drained. While the rest of my life is beautiful and relaxing and generally stress-free, I think I would crack if I went through that again and failed.

I pulled myself together and left the office, walked to the station, caught the train to my car and drove to my gig, put on some lipstick and a smile and dazzled a group of high schooler’s at music camp. As a musician, as with any job, you leave your personal dramas at the door, and do what you have to do. My husband, also on the gig, was bursting to hear what had happened, but I made him wait until I was safely home.

After talking it through, I rang my IVF buddy. She’s the one who explains all the big words I don’t understand because I didn’t listen properly or read any of the manuals. And then I made a big mistake. I rang my mother.

My mother means well. You’ve heard that before, right? I’m sure yours does too. A few weeks before I had the surgery to remove the fibroid last year, she had one too. Obviously I must have inherited looks, charm, big boobs, lack of tact, and fibroids from her. When they removed her fibroid, they took the lot. She had a hysterectomy. So when I explained what the latest news was, she became the expert on what was the best thing to do. “Oh just have it all out. It’s no big deal”. My mother is almost 80. She had 5, mostly ungrateful, children, of which I am one. I am one of the nice ones, so should be treated with care and affection, as I could turn at any moment. I often have conversations with my dear mother that, once in the middle of them, I regret bitterly. This was one of those conversations. I tried to explain that there’s a big difference between having a hysterectomy at 80 with 5 children under your belt, compared to 42 and batting zero. “Perhaps it’s time to give up all that stuff.” Yes, “that stuff” is trying to have a baby. She just doesn’t get it, and I should stop expecting her too. It only ends in frustration and a call for legalised euthanasia. Instead of getting angry or upset, I just changed the subject.

What I did realise out of that conversation, is that it’s not so much that I’m not ready to have a hysterectomy, but that I haven’t dealt with the probable reality that I have missed my baby-making time.