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  • Writer's pictureKit Richards

My Messed Up Period; or, The Story in Which I Reveal Way Too Much Personal Medical Information

My period has always been fucked. I got it for the first time 2 months before my 16th birthday. It’s never come on time, has never been consistent and I always thought that’s just the way it was. But when I had it for 3 days, then off for 2 months, then on for 9 days, then off for 3 weeks, then on for 2 days, then off for 3 months, my inner-Miss Clavelle said “something is not right”.

So now I’m lying on an examination bed with a bladder full of piss while an ultrasound technician has a look around my reproductive organs. She spends a long time on the right-hand side of my body before saying, “Have you ever had problems before?” I’m guessing that’s ultrasound technician speak for, “Oh boy, have you got something that I can’t tell you about.” “No,” I reply, panic rising in my throat.

My GP tells me I have an 8cm cyst on my ovary. Uh oh! Luckily, it looks benign, but we won’t know until it gets biopsied. Biopsy means surgery. Surgery means cool scars and being the centre of attention for a week or so. Great news!  

So, I go to multiple appointments at the Royal Women’s Hospital in Sandringham, sitting in the waiting room, which looks like a public-school portable classroom, amongst heavily pregnant women with enormous binders. I feel their eyes on me thinking, “You’re too young to be here.” I’m projecting, obviously.

I get many different tests; multiple blood tests looking for tumour markers or monitoring my white blood cell count, another pelvic ultrasound, way too many pregnancy tests. At my last appointment before the surgery, the doctor tells me that one of my tumour marker tests came back positive. He mutters very fast about how if the cyst ends up being malignant, I’ll meet with an oncologist and they’ll lay out my options. I can’t hear anything he’s telling me, mainly due to the shock, but also because I can’t understand a word he’s saying. His mouth is covered by a mask, and I never realised how much I rely on lip reading to be able to hear until now. Let’s just say, bedside manner is not this guy’s strong suit. Also, I know this is wrong of me to say, but I make a habit in my day-to-day life to only see women doctors, and I feel betrayed that I’m forced to be treated by a man at the Royal Women’s Hospital.

The day of my surgery finally arrives. When I get to the hospital, the nurse tells me I just need to pee in a cup and then they can get me onboarded. Uh oh. I peed before I got here and, having not drunk anything since 9pm the night before, I have nothing left to give. She tells me I have to try. I sit in the toilet unsuccessfully for so long, that she knocks on the door to check that I haven’t passed out. After a long time, I manage to squeeze out a few drops, which is enough to do one last pregnancy test. A pregnancy test? I haven’t had sex in over 9 months, I could’ve told them that I’m definitely not pregnant. Not that any doctor has ever believed a woman when she’s said that.

Finally, I’m all kitted out and waiting on a hospital bed to be wheeled into the operating room. A nurse walks by me with a newborn baby, the dad trailing her. She asks what he’s going to name him. “I was thinking Trump.” He pauses for a beat and then laughs at his joke. I laugh too, definitely not a part of the moment but funny is funny.

The surgeon finally appears. She has a very ‘down to business’ type of air about her. “How are you feeling?” “Nervous,” I reply. “I’ve seen too much Grey’s Anatomy.” Why do I always find a reason to bring up Grey’s? “Don’t worry,” she says, “none of the doctor’s here are that attractive.” Thank God. I trust a funny doctor. “So, we have two medical students here with us today and there’s a vaginal exam that they can only practice on real people. Would you consent to them performing the exam while you’re under anaesthetic?” She asks me. “Yeah, no worries.” I reply. I’m all for training the next generation and my vagina has been subject to much medical interference in my time, but that’s a story for another day.

Once I’m settled in the operating room, they ask me to count down from 10 and then I wake up in the recovery room. My first feeling is that I want to cry. My second feeling is that I want a biscuit. I drift in and out of sleep until the surgeon comes in to talk to me. She opens with, “You have stage 3 endometriosis.” My heart sinks to my knees when I hear “stage 3” but then jumps back up when she says “endometriosis”. “Stage 3? But I’ve never had a painful period.” I respond in shock. “You don’t have to. Some people have stage 1 and have excruciating pain. Others are stage 4 and feel nothing.”

I thank my lucky stars that I’ve been spared so far. She continues, “So the cyst you had is something called an endometrial cyst. It’s benign. Basically, every time you had a period, a little bit of blood would siphon off into the cyst, causing it to get bigger every month. With the IUD we’ve put in, you’ll hopefully stop getting your period which will likely stop the cyst from returning.” And with that, she leaves.

As I had a laparoscopy, I can go home as soon as I passed urine. Dammit. Passing urine. My mortal enemy at this point. I shuffle to and from the bathroom I don’t know how many times with no luck. Suddenly, it’s 7pm and they decide to admit me overnight. All I had to do was piss, and not only could I not, I also didn’t feel like I needed to. The anaesthetic was too good. I lay in bed imagining being stuck there forever. I then think about how weird it is that two random people had their fingers in my vagina when I was unconscious. But the desperate emotional need to go home prevails. I can worry about my vagina later. What if I never piss again? Luckily it doesn’t come to that. I do piss. Then I do it again and again, and they finally let me go home.

Since then, I haven’t had my period in 3 years and I must say: It’s so good. I can wear white pants at any time of the month. I don’t go through crazy depressive episodes. I don’t have to spend any money on menstrual products. I dread getting the IUD replaced, but all I can say is, I feel grateful for modern medicine. Because if this happened 100 years ago, I probably would’ve just not known I had the cyst, it would’ve burst and I would’ve died of sepsis at 27. What an uncool way of joining the 27 club.

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