Today is my 43rd Birthday and I can honestly say I feel like I’m finally me again. If you asked anyone who met me prior to 2007 they would tell you I’m the same fun loving, happy, slightly crazy person I’ve always been. If you ask anyone who met me after 2007 they would tell you I seem to be a totally different person, I’m no longer edgy/restless, anxious, grumpy, irrational irritable and unfocused.
Why can I so neatly divide my life to before and after my 33rd birthday in 2007?
On 19th February 2007 I had what at the time seemed like a minor accident. I was running around the backyard with the ducks and I trod on a lamb chop bone my Grandfather had tossed into the backyard both to let his magpies pick clean the bone but also to irritate my dad who had repeatedly asked him not to do this. When the chop bone went through my foot I toppled sideways slamming the edge of my pelvis into a very solid wooden garden seat. The force of the blow dislodged my IUD and on the way out it sliced open a vein in my womb creating a slow leak.
Normally you’d get a couple of days of heavy pelvic bleeding while the blood clotted over the sliced open vein and then the bleeding would slow and stop as the body went to work on repairing the damage. This didn’t happen with me and I continued to slowly internally bleed. I didn’t have a regular doctor at that point in time and was dividing my time between working in Brisbane and helping out caring for my demented Grandfather as well as grieving for my Grandmother who’d passed away just before Christmas 2006. So the fact I was constantly tired, not hungry so losing weight rapidly and my blood pressure was dropping was put down to stress and grief.
Then on the Monday, Wednesday and finally Friday of the same week I landed in the local hospitals Accident & Emergency Ward because I had uncontrollable extremely painful heavy pelvic bleeding and I kept fainting. Luckily for me the guy who at that time was the Patient Case Manager for A&E twigged that something was seriously wrong and ordered a full blood count, heart monitoring and 15 min checks. Till they got the blood results back there was some grumbling from the male doctors and Ambulance guys that the Patient Case Manager was being ridiculous after all it was evidently just a heavy period and I was being overly dramatic.
My blood work came back with a serious problem my haemoglobin level was 49g/L and dropping. Normal haemoglobin for a female should be about 120g/L to 160g/L and in anyone if your haemoglobin drops to below 50g/L your heart will stop.
And that is precisely what happened – I suddenly didn’t feel to crash hot and said something about feeling funny and suddenly bells and whistles where going off all over the place and my heart stopped. I remember right before it stopped everything seem to get really fuzzy and the pain I’d been in vanished and I actually thought “Oh finally they’ve given me some morphine”.
OMG let me tell you THE most painful thing in the world is getting zapped back to life, it’s like getting hit by lighting. Just to make the night really fun when they started to give me blood transfusions I had an anaphylactic allergic reaction to the first one and the minute the blood hit my vein I blow up like a puffer fish, came out in hives head to toe, airways closed up and my heart stopped beating for the second time in 45 minutes. This time round my thought process was “oh fuck this is going to hurt” and sure enough I got zapped back and it hurt just as bad as the first time.
Once they finally got me stable and got enough blood into me to make sure I wouldn’t die on the operating table they did investigative surgery to figure out what the hell had happened to create this issue and try and fix it.
I woke up from surgery to a room full of specialists and my family who’d been called in to discuss treatment options. The specialists informed me they had some bad news to tell me. Apparently they couldn’t fix the damaged vein it was by that stage unrepeatable but that’s not the bad news.
The bad news is you have a tumour the size of a double baseball in your womb, and pathology test show you have first stage endometrial cancer for which the only effective treatment is a full hysterectomy. Oh and you apparently have Von Willerbrand Disorder, which is why you bleed to death (Von Willerbrand Disorder is a type of haemophilia which prevents blood clotting correctly). Considering I had died twice in one night and was now being told I had cancer of the womb and to fix it required radical surgery which would deprive me of the ability to every have children, I was remarkably calm probably due to the high levels of pain killers in my system.
My mother bless her insisted on a second opinion and she had enough contacts with enough clout to get me an emergency appointment with the top Gynaecological Specialist on the Coast (he’s now retired). He’s the one that explained to me how serious my situation really was. Basically I could have a hysterectomy immediately or go home and plan my funeral as the type of cancer cells identified in my pathology reports are highly aggressive and I’d be lucky to survive the year. Oh and just to make things fun thanks to the heart failure from blood loss there was a possibility my heart had been damaged so it should have dropped my odds of surviving surgery to between 70% and 80%. However my Von Willerbrands diagnosis dropped those odds to between 30% and 50% because in all likely hood I’d bleed out on the operating table. Despite the crappy odds I opted for surgery and when he said immediately he meant it, I saw him at 16:00 on Wednesday afternoon and had surgery at 08:30 on Friday morning.
I have never asked if my heart stopped on the operating table but I do know I was injected with Factory 8 (clotting agent) before and after surgery and had several blood transfusion on the operating table as it was itemised on my hospitalisation bill (I have no idea why they sent a copy to me and to my health insurer but they did).
By the end of the year when I’d got my post surgery all clear pathology and my 3 monthly all clear pathology results I started to fall apart because I now had to process all the emotions I had from dieing, losing my ability to have kids and discovering Von Willerbrands effectively killed the career path I’d been about to gleefully step into. By mid 2008 I had spiralled into a massive depressive episode and it’s taken till now to feel like I’ve got my brain back and my equilibrium on an even keel.