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100, 99... 9011... 98....

Hey. If you're reading this, there's a good chance you may not know that I did something pretty big and pretty scary a couple of weeks ago. I had surgery for the very first time (or at least in my collective memory. My mom says I had my very first surgery when I was three years old to correct my hearing.). If you're wondering, I'm doing okay! In fact, I'm doing a lot better than I was a couple of weeks ago. I'm relieved that it's all over, but I'm also relieved that the very thing that was giving me problems is out of my body and hopefully won't recur again in my lifetime. But I'm especially grateful that I was in good hands - from the doctors, the anesthesiologist and the assistants, the interns, my mom, my furries... Yes, I brought a LOT of my stuffed animals with me to the surgery. You got a problem with that? Anyway, I was grateful to be in such good hands from everyone, but here's the thing I'm a little ashamed to admit... I didn't believe that. You see, this was my first surgery that I've ever had (or at least I can recall), and I was scared out of my wits. My anxiety and stress went through the roof - no sleep for days on end, especially when I mixed up my days when I was supposed to work, the anticipation was too much for me to bear, and I needed constant reassurance that it will all be okay. And my biggest mistake throughout this whole process? Looking at Google to find out all of the answers to my questions. If I hadn't looked at Google and just trusted the resources my doctor gave me, I probably wouldn't have been as stressed and anxious as I was. Heck, I probably would've even kept my work schedule straight and gotten more sleep! But seriously, I think we can all agree that surgery is scary, no matter how major or minor it is. The idea of going under anesthesia, the possibilities of the surgery not going well, and the lengthy recovery period... It's a lot to process and think about. And this week's blog is just about that: Processing and reflecting on my surgery from two weeks ago. But more importantly, sharing what happened before and after my surgery (because when you're under anesthesia, you don't know what happens during the surgery, and in my case, that's a good thing!) so that anyone else who may be going through the exact same thing, or a reasonable facsimile won't feel so alone. No one should ever go through things like this alone. So, here's the thing about surgeries: You have to be specific about what type of procedure is being done, and in my case, it's pretty specific to my condition. (To all of the men out there reading this, you have my sympathies on what you're about to read.) And my condition... Let's just say, it's a girl, er WOMAN, thing. Back in 2022, I was diagnosed with uterine fibroids, which are benign (non-cancerous) tumors in my uterus that cause some major problems during my time of month: heavy bleeding, painful cramps, blood clots that are the size of a dime to a quarter, anemia, unexplained weight gain in the abdomen, constipation, bloating, the whole nine yards. I usually don't look forward to my period, but in this case, I absolutely dreaded this time of month. And that's due to having my life revolve around making sure I do everything in my power to make sure I don't have accidents - packing more pads than I normally would, having an extra pair of panties on hand, carrying Aleve with me, having ginger ale and saltines on hand... ladies, if you know, you know. Unfortunately, it seemed like I would bleed through 4-5 pads a day, have leaks and accidents, and I was miserable. I was put on an iron supplement, I worked out like crazy, and tried to do everything in my power to see if there was a way I could naturally get rid of these fibroids without having to do anything remotely related to surgery. Well, that didn't seem to work because I just seemed to get worse, and that drove me crazy with the time of month driving me more and more to the edge. Finally, I decided that after my most recent period with the killer cramps and bleeding and accidents and bloating and weight gain in July 2023, I've had enough. I initially thought that a birth control option would be enough, with a prescription medication being given to help. But, as I've come to discover, birth control pills has it's own set of problems... Especially if it's prolonged bleeding. So, I decided to look at another approach, one that I had hoped to avoid... And that's actually removing the fibroid that was causing such a nightmare. I Initially opted to the uterine fibroid embolization (UFE), which was a non-invasive procedure to cut off blood circulation to the fibroids without much problems. But after getting an MRI done (be sure to go out for a LONG walk after this. Trust me, you will thank me for that suggestion!), I soon discovered that an UFE was not going to work. Especially if the biggest fibroid was 5 cm. Especially if an UFE would take three times to get rid of the 5 cm fibroid (yup, you read that right). Especially if I didn't want to go back three times to get rid of the 5 cm fibroid (the size of a plum, if you need any details). So, what was my other option? Well, it was another surgical procedure, this one called a laparoscopic myomectomy.

In layman's terms, this is a minimally invasive procedure where the surgeon makes four small incisions to use tools the remove the fibroid from the uterus. Minimally invasive procedure sounds a lot better than going back to the hospital three times to remove a 5 cm fibroid, so I decided that it would be the best option. For the time being, I was at peace with my decision. But then the anxiety started to creep up when the date and time were scheduled. And then it creeped up some more when the instructions were emailed to me. And then it really creeped up some more when I looked on Google for more information about the possibility of getting sick from anesthesia. Then, I got really scared. Take it from me, don't EVER look on Google for anything related to medical problems or procedures. It's a never-ending black hole of vast information from different (and sometimes not up-to-date or relevant) resources that can cause more stress and anxiety than you've ever imagined. Please, save yourself the trouble and don't do it!!!!!!!!!! I should've just relied on the information my doctor gave me, but I just wanted to have all of the information within my reach just so I can be assured that I will be safe and all will go well. Us Virgos tend to want to be in control of our lives and want to be assured that we will be okay, even when things aren't in our control. This surgery was something I've never experienced before to my recollection, and I was thinking of all of the possibilities of it going wrong and how I've made a big mistake. And I was especially scared of going under anesthesia. I didn't know what it was like and I was terrified of not waking up from the surgery once I went under. And that fear and anxiety really messed up with my life in the weeks leading up to surgery. The anticipation is a real killer, let me tell you. But I just wanted it to be over and to be okay and to be safe. And also not constantly drive people crazy from my over-worrying and anxiety, especially my mother. But I had one thing at my disposal that helped me breathe a little easier... And that's asking questions. Seriously, if I didn't ask questions at my pre-op or ask my mom who was a medical professional for a number of years, I probably would've been in a worst state on the day of my surgery than I was. It's okay to ask questions. Nobody will chastise you or shame you for wanting to have more information at your disposal. Especially if it's from a reliable source that isn't Google. One of the biggest questions I asked my mom was this: "What is it like being under anesthesia?" It's like a quick nap, with no dreams. That helped me feel a little better. What also helped me feel better was talking about these feelings with others, and on one occasion, write down every single thing that I was anxious about to get it out of my body (and I did this at work before I went on medical leave) and just feel somewhat better. Do whatever is necessary to get the anxiety and fear out of your system: writing, going outside, listening to music, and more. It may not help get all of the fears and anxiety out of your body, but it will help in the smallest, biggest of ways. Here's something I've discovered in the week leading up to the surgery: you ARE what you eat. If you eat foods that are high in fiber and other nutrients, you will have a much better and faster recovery than if you've eaten nothing but junk food. So, it was plenty of oatmeal, bananas, salads, dishes loaded with spinach and corn, you get the idea. And don't forget plenty of water, too! And don't forget to keep moving - walking, workouts, weight lifting, the whole nine yards! Believe me, it will make a big difference in your recovery. The day before the surgery was a bit of a challenge because you not only have to drink a TON of water, you also have to eat bland foods that day to lessen your chances of getting sick after coming off of the anesthesia. Let me explain: I had a simple breakfast of whole wheat bread toast with butter, and I drank only water that day. For lunch, I ordered shrimp pho, but I had to remove all of the cilantro, spices, bean sprouts, and more in order to just have the noodles, shrimp, and broth. And for dinner, I made chicken soup with orzo and plenty of veggies, but I had to strain out all of the veggies and the chicken, and just have the orzo and the broth. For someone who cares about having veggies in her meals, this was quite a challenge! (Did I mention that I had an in-person audition the day before my surgery? Yup, and I kicked butt at it, despite not having any sleep the night before.) And before I knew it, it was time for me to get to bed by 8:30-9:00 p.m. I had a big day ahead of me, and it was an especially early start for my mom and I. I had to get up at 4:00 a.m. to head to the hospital for a 5:30 a.m. check-in. But before I headed down there with my mom, I had to take a special shower with something called Hibiclens, a disinfectant you use before you head into surgery. I also used this the night before, too. We arrived at the hospital about five minutes before I was called in. I had planned on putting on some music to help calm me down, but I was called back to the pre-op room right away, so I didn't get much chance to do that. My mom got to come with me to the pre-op room, which was a nice comfort. I got out of my comfy clothes and into a hospital gown and socks, and my vitals got checked, with questions like "when I last had a bowel movement," "when I last took my medicine," and "when my last meal was." I was already anxious leading up to this procedure, but I was starting to get a little scared. So, my mom pulled out my stuffed Dumbo to have me hold and stroke as it was getting closer. Then, about 15 minutes before the surgery, all of the doctors and specialists came in - my primary doctor, the anesthesiologist, the anesthesiologist's assistant, some of the interns - and they checked in on me to make sure I was doing okay. I admitted that I was pretty nervous, and one of the assistants said this to me: "Better you than me!" Somehow, that helped me feel a lot better. Then, the anesthesiologist noticed I was holding Dumbo and asked if it was alright to have him wait for me in the recovery room once the surgery was over. I, of course, said yes. It would be nice to have a friendly face waiting for me once the surgery was over. Then, it was time for the surgery, and my mom went to the waiting room, but not before telling me that it will all be okay. And then, one of the assistants gave me some medication to calm me down... And then, the next thing I knew... I woke up to find Dumbo on my bed and I was slightly in pain. I guess that medication really did wonders because I don't remember being wheeled into the surgery room at all. Just like that, the surgery was over. I could breathe easier finally (if I tried, but I was too busy drinking ginger ale and being comfortable as much as I can, as well as hold onto Dumbo.)! Once I was wheeled back into the post-op room, my mom came in and stayed by my side as I was recovering from the anesthesia. Here's something important about post-surgery, especially if it's outpatient surgery: You have to be able to go to the bathroom before you can be discharged. It took me three tries before I can be discharged. I had a catheter placed in me to drain the fluids during surgery, but it had also drained all of the liquids from my body, which made it hard to go to the bathroom. On the final attempt, I drank a LOT of fluids and my IV bag was replaced. Of course, I would get sick from drinking too much fluids all at once. But it worked. And it only took about 2.5-3 hours! After all was said and done, my mom helped me out of my hospital gown and into my clothes, and one of the interns put me in a wheelchair to wheel me down to the parking garage to head home. I had to use a pillow for the car ride home to help with the bumps I would feel so sharply on my abdomen. I didn't experience much bumps, per se... But I did experience a TON of nausea on the ride home. Good grief! And then, I had the unfortunate pleasure of going to CVS and waiting in a long line that was near the door to get my medication for about a half-hour. The plan was to head home by noon, but I ended up getting back closer to 7 p.m. I couldn't eat much when I got back home, but I was just grateful to be back home in my own bed, with a heating pad and my medicine for the pain. And thinking "Nessa, you did it. And you're going to feel much better day by day." You know what? I am getting better... Day by day. (This is one of those blog posts that's pretty graphic and close to borderline TMI, but I believe it should be share because someone out there might be going through the same thing as I am, and may need some observations and thoughts to help ease their minds. And that's just it - even though this really happened to me two weeks ago, these are still my thoughts and observations. Never do anything like this without consulting your doctor, OB-GYN, or medical professional. And here's something else I'd like to remind you: no hate speech, no offensive language, no disrespect towards each other. If you can't even follow those rules, I will block you.)

So... It's been two and a half weeks since the surgery, and you're probably wondering how I'm doing. Honestly? I'm doing a lot better than I was doing two and a half weeks ago. I'm still not 100% myself yet. I still can't eat some of my favorite things like cheeseburgers, fries, chicken biryani, spring rolls, shrimp po'boys, samosas, onion rings, nachos, Cubano sandwiches, buffalo chicken, chicken souvlaki, chili, hush puppies, burritos, sweet potato fries, and supreme pizzas (considering I've given a lot of these foods up for Lent, that's probably a good thing). I still can't walk fast or long distances. I still can't walk up and down escalators (especially the really long ones at the Metro!). I still can't enjoy a good belly laugh without being in some form of pain. I still can't lift anything 10 pounds or more for a while. I still can't sleep on my side without being in some form of pain. I still can't sleep all through the night. My digestive system still hasn't returned to normal yet. But at least I can get up and walk around again. I even got to walk around the block for the first time in two weeks. I'm enjoying lighter foods and ginger ale and a lot of water. I'm pretty much off of my pain medication. I can walk up and down stairs very slowly. My bruises have just about gone away. I can sit in a chair without any pain or discomfort. I got to go back to work for the first time in two weeks without any problems. Even though I'm not 100% yet, I'm slowly and steadily getting there. And to me, that's a lot better than not going anywhere at all, or even experiencing setbacks. Here's one more thing to think about: No one treatment plan will work for everyone. I didn't think I would ever get to this point when I believed that everyone took birth control to make things better. But here's a word I want you to remember from here on out. ADVOCATE. You have a voice, and you don't have to keep suffering like this. Nobody should. And if you have to switch doctors or medication in order to advocate for yourself, that's okay, too. Do what you have to do to live your best life and not suffer. But more importantly, talk about the things that's considered taboo for a woman to talk about, like periods, uterine fibroids, endometriosis, infertility, C-sections, miscarriages, menopause, and other things that's considered shameful and unladylike. How can we know how to heal or get help or let others know about this if we don't speak up? It may be gross, even borderline TMI, but hey, we're women and we can handle things like this. Especially if we're lifting each other up and not tearing one another down. I hope all of you ladies out there found this week's blog helpful, and may inspire you to take some important steps to get the right treatment for you. And to all of the men out there... Sorry if I grossed you out, but hey, it's like you always say... MAN UP! So why not "man up" and support the women who go through these things that gross you out? Just a thought.

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