365 days ago, I had no idea what POI was.
Now, 365 long and sweaty nights later, living through surgical induced POI (Premature Ovarian Insufficiency) is my new living nightmare.
In August 2017, after years and years of horrific periods, I finally decided (along with my family) that it was time for me to have a hysterectomy, with preservation of my ovaries. It had gotten to the point where my periods were coming every three weeks and lasting for two. I’d always had bad periods, but after the birth of my youngest (now 9) they just got progressively worse, deteriorating to a point where I would still flood and leak through two maxi strength sanitary towels.
The decision to have a hysterectomy wasn’t taken lightly, but seemed to be the lesser of two evils compared with the life that I was now living. Along with my surgeon, we scheduled a laparoscopic hysterectomy for the 4th December 2016, leaving me a nice long recovery period over Christmas and a quick return to work in the new year. December quickly rolled around and I arrived for my planned surgery. Three hours later, I awoke in my room to be told that everything had gone well and that I was to rest and would be discharged 48-72 hours later. In fact, everything had not gone well, and unknown to anyone, my bowel had been perforated during surgery, leaving the contents of my bowel to slowly leak into my abdomen and poison my insides.
I spent a month in hospital (missing Christmas at home), not realising that I was at the start of a very long year of surgeries.
Four days later, I was nearly 24 hours from death, and transferred for emergency surgery at the local trauma centre. I had Sepsis (I also had no idea what this was either), a 7-inch hole in my large intestines, and major organs that were shutting down. I woke up in High dependency with a Colostomy and half of my bowel missing fighting for my life. I spent a month in hospital (missing Christmas at home), not realising that I was at the start of a very long year of surgeries. In 12 months, I had 5 major abdominal surgeries in the hope that the rest of my intestines and internal organs could be saved. My last surgery was scheduled September 2017, I was to have my colostomy reversed and that would be the end of the battle.
I woke up after nearly 6 hours in surgery, one look at the clock and the surgeons face told me that things hadn’t gone according to plan. It seemed that the infection hasn’t quite finished with my insides and the surgeon explained that he’d had to form an ileostomy and had to remove my ovaries. I was absolutely destroyed by the thought of another bag, but at the time not that concerned about my ovaries, who cared, I’d got two beautiful children and I didn’t need them anyway, right? WRONG!
My friends don’t understand, at the age of 35, people are thinking about babies, not the menopause.
I hit a massive brick wall, physically and mentally within weeks of the surgery. I consider myself to be an intelligent lady, but Christ, I couldn’t even form a sentence. You name the symptom, and at some point in the last year, I’ve had it! Don’t get me wrong, my local menopause clinic have been great, I’ve had bone density scans, and I’m being given HRT. But the lack of understanding about what it truly feels like to go from being all singing and dancing (on the hormone front) to absolute zero, is horrific. My friends don’t understand, at the age of 35, people are thinking about babies, not the menopause.
But it’s not depression, it’s a lack of understanding in some of the medical profession …
Of all the symptoms that you can suffer from, I find memory loss the worse to deal with. It’s complete and total loss as well, not just the forgetfulness of older age. My GP thinks that a way to solve this is to give me anti-depressants, surely after the last 12 months I MUST be depressed (his words, not mine). But it’s not depression, it’s a lack of understanding in some of the medical profession that women with POI need more than the recommended 2 mg of estrogen each day, but trying to get my GP to understand that is the next battle that I seem to be waging at the moment!
Anyway, I suppose my point is that this will not define me, POI will not be who I am, I’m determined that it won’t. But on those days where I just can’t handle another hot flush, or the presentation that I’m giving to over 200 people seems impossible to remember, even though I’ve practiced for weeks, it’s a warm safe blanket that I can log onto Twitter and know that I’m not alone, and there are women out there that have been through a hell of a lot worse than I have and they have come out fighting!