Saturday, March 6, 2010

Pocket Review of Two of the Multitude of Feminine Woes

WOE I- All Things Gynecological:

For the last month or so, I have been feeling unlike myself. Symptoms include, EXTREME fatigue, nausea (especially when I first get out of bed), occasional vomiting and other tummy troubles, intermittent sharp pain in my lower abdomen on my right side, and this weird sensation that my eyes are shrinking in their sockets accompanied by a scalp-spreading heat.  In addition (and most upsetting) I have gained 10 pounds (in my stomach, only) in less than two months. It's an odd ten pounds, too - that doesn't respond when I work out or suck in my gut. I mean, it is normal for me to carry weight in my midsection, but I have yet to make a single recipe from my new Julia Child cookbook; and I normally have just the one stomach instead of three.  Very strange.

Also, there's this (Let's see, should I put this the delicate, Southern way, or go for the jokes?  Maybe a little from Column A and a little from Column B): Last week, I visited my "female" doctor for the annual exam of "my parts," and while she was waving what I can only describe as a "twat wand" (some kind of camera/ultra sound deal that is LONG and, well... wandy) around my uterus, she placed her other hand firmly on my abdomen (for traction, no doubt), and I said, "Ow!  Right there, where your hand is, is SO tender."

She replied, "That's because you have a cyst on your right ovary, and it's pretty large, too."  "Hmmmm," I thought, focusing on relaxing myself while she poked and prodded me like I was a pinata at a toddler's birthday party (I don't know about you, but having foreign objects inside me causes thoughtus interruptus) before finally processing what she had said and blurting, "A what?"

She went on to explain that the cyst could be functional or non-functional, but she didn't have enough information to accurately diagnose me. Apparently, the twat wand is the JCPenney version of that kind of device, so she referred me to the hospital to be examined by the Bergdorf Goodman version. That test is scheduled for next week (since I work every day until Wednesday), but in the meantime, my pap smear showed some "atypical" cells ("Which don't automatically mean cancer," she assured me) in an unusual part of my cervix.  Also, if my "relations" aren't of the gentle variety, there is a chance that the cyst can flip around ("What? Like a tether ball?" my beau asked), thus twisting my fallopian tube, which will require surgery to rectify.  Color me pleased.

Following the Bergdorfogram, I have to return to my doctor (whom I love, thankfully) for another round of scraping and examinations. The good news is, I have no STD's, no thyroid problems, no anemia, and normal blood counts.  I really don't believe I have cancer, but obviously, something is amiss (or amass, as the case may be).

 More than anything, it is just an inconvenience.  I don't like being poked and prodded (not in a doctor's office, anyway), and I have to give up three of my precious off days for all these tests.  I truly loathe going to the doctor, but would really like to know what's wrong.  Mostly, I would like the fatigue to abate.  It is very difficult to get through my six day, 60 hour week this tired.  The pain is no bueno, either.

Ovarian cysts are pretty common (especially in African American women, as my friend, Niambi, informed me. She said something along the lines of: "We black girls get those all the time. See, I KNEW you were one of us!  You need to research your kinfolk and see where you REALLY come from.") as are "atypical" or "abnormal" pap smears, but they aren't common for me, 
and the symptoms make me feel so distracted and crappy.

My dear, psychic friend, to whom I jokingly refer as "Madame Eli," did a Tarot reading for me recently, and the question I asked while shuffling the cards was simply, "Hey, Guardian Angels, why am I so bloody TIRED all the time?"   The answer was that I am "burning off karma from a pregnancy in a past life."  I looked at Eli, and said, "So... what? I'm carrying a ghost baby?"  She shrugged, and we laughed, though in truth, I had started to worry that I might really be pregnant. That's the problem with my particular set of symptoms. When I researched them, I discovered they could indicate any one of the following: pregnancy, ovarian or cervical cancer, a ruptured functional cyst, too much copper in my diet, or none of the above. Sadly, ghost babies were not mentioned.  However, as my friend, Josh, pointed out, delivering a ghost baby is BOUND to be easier than a real baby.

Other than recovering my normal level of energy and zippity doo dah, I want to divest myself of these ten pounds, STAT.  So, at this point, I'm kind of hoping that this cyst is not a baby, but is baby-sized, and that its removal will result in the immediate loss of one to two stone.  Admittedly, looking to potentially-cancerous- tumor-removal is going a bit far, even for me, who has tried every fad diet in the American oeuvre.

WOE II-All Things Weight-Loss Related:

Sidebar: My mother made sure to start whittling away at my self-esteem before I even hit puberty, and she was very successful.  Example: At the age of 14, while shopping in the "Still-N-Style," a second-hand shop in my hometown, I tried on a seersucker dress.  As I emerged from the dressing room, and gave a little twirl, the salesgirl complimented my figure.  My mother (who is not the slimmest reed in the pond) bellowed across the store, "ACTUALLY, SHE'S THE BIGGEST SHE'S EVER BEEN!"  Thus began my life-long quest to lose ten pounds.

Regularly scheduled essay: In college, I did the Cabbage Soup Diet, followed by several years of low-fat eating, while keeping up a steady regimen of quad-walking and Cindy Crawford "Shape Your Body" workouts (still my fave, if you do it correctly, i.e. more slowly than she).

While living in L.A. with a beautiful roommate who is still rocking her birth weight (though she is well into her 30's) hiking and yoga were my workouts of choice (and I still LOVE them when there is time).  Spurred on by my mother's voice in my head, Birthweight's tiny clothing, and my desire to work in TV, dieting became my hobby.

I started with "Eat Right For Your Type," (eating based on one's blood type, which actually has merit), stopped in at "The Zone" (pretty sensible, really, if you're the kind of girl who likes to count one ounce of cheese and a half a glass of wine as a meal, which I, am not), lived a little "Body For Life" (works better for men than women), tried the "Abs Diet" (again, better for men), went to Weight Watchers meetings (felt like an A-hole when they would announce, "Brooke has lost five pounds, only five more to go!" and the extremely obese women around me would clap bitterly, if such a thing is possible), did an infomercial for "Core Secrets" (actually a very respectable workout, I just popped my balance ball), and finally arrived at the "Atkins Diet."

Atkins was all the carbohydrate-deprived rage about seven years ago, and naturally, I fell right into line like a lemming.  After I found a store specializing in sugar-free items, (only in L.A.) and realized I wouldn't have to give up chocolate, I thought I was all set.  To my chagrin, I discovered very quickly that sugar-free products (especially the chocolate ones) give me what I can only describe as shooting diarrhea.

As if that little side effect weren't enough, I gave up caffeine when starting Atkins, because it is an appetite stimulant. So, not only was my body in shock from eating nothing but meat and cheese, it was in total withdrawal from not receiving the pot of coffee my boyfriend and I would customarily imbibe every day. I experienced severe leg cramps due to lack of nutrients (in spite of the millions of supplements I was taking), migraine headaches, and mood swings, occasionally all at the same time.

As when my boyfriend was leaving for an out-of-town gig (a regular occurrence), and when he came to tell me goodbye at three in the afternoon, he found me in our bed with all the lights out and a damp cloth over my eyes. One corner of the bed sheet twitched discreetly, as a result of the muscle cramps in my left leg, and when he leaned over to kiss me, I burst into tears.

"What's wrong?" he asked.
No answer.
Then, trying again, he said, "I'm just going to Vegas."

 I said, "I know, but I don't want you to leave, and my head hurts, and, and, and... (voice breaks) I want a doughnuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuut!"(long, Lucy-like wail) He left me sobbing into the pillow, and backed out of the room.

The next day, alone in our house, I was standing at the bathroom counter when I started to feel very odd indeed. The wave of weird started in my toes, and worked it's way up, culminating in a rushing roar in my ears. The next thing I remember is coming to on the tile floor with a cat on either side of me, alternately meowing frantically, and licking my hands. I could just hear their internal monologues,:

Oscar: "Mom, mom, wake up!"
Felix: "Who's gonna FEED us?!"

Plus side: I lost 13 pounds in two weeks. Minus column: that remains the only time I have ever passed out in my life (and since I did so in a tile and granite bathroom, I could've cracked my skull).  As a result, I decided to eschew not just Atkins, but diets in general, and love myself just as I am, sweet Jesus.

I have good days and bad with that task, and veritable instant weight-gain, doesn't help.  However, after all these years of actively trying to change my perception of myself,  I am startled at how quickly one little potential health difficulty has me responding with my same old neuroses.  Physically, I don't feel much like me, but emotionally, I recognize me all too well.  And, I am in no way motivated to have sex with that.  Or that twat wand.