Why you shouldn’t feel stupid for thinking something is wrong

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T wo things amaze me. How you can get used to something and put up with it as if it’s normal, when it isn’t. And how doctors can contribute to you doing this.
I put up with heavy, painful periods with horrible bloating for 12 years because I didn’t know any better, and my doctor told me it was just period pain and there wasn’t much that could be done about it.
When I say heavy and painful, I mean using two pads and a super-size tampon for at least a week every month, and still being so worried about flooding that I made frequent visits to the toilet to check and change pads. People noticed, but that was preferable to the noticeability of making a mess on my office chair. You only have do that once to be paranoid and to prevent it ever it happening again.
My twin fear was that I’d lose my job because there were so many days when the pain or the painkillers dulled my brain. This contributed to a third fear – that I was a bit stupid. This was partly because of the brain-dulling but also because I wanted to scream “This ISN’T normal” but I didn’t have the courage, and I wasn’t sure because after all, the doctor said it was normal.
Well, painful, heavy periods shouldn’t be normal in this day and age, you’d think there would be SOMETHING that could be done about it. But in fact, I eventually discovered that I had giant fibroids that were causing all this – and fibroids, too, can be considered normal by some doctors.
My diagnosis happened because I couldn’t get pregnant. There’s nothing like a series of negative pregnancy tests to drive you back to your doctor, despite feeling embarrassed about bothering them again with this boring, heavy periods thing.
I couldn’t help but think that heavy periods could be linked to the fact that I’d been trying to have a baby for more than a year without success. I’m not sure if I’d have been able to tell if I’d had a miscarriage, because of the amount of bleeding each month anyway.
The desire to have a baby gave me courage. I knew they wouldn’t look into it until we’d been trying for a year so I waited longer than that. And then I had some luck – a different doctor, who was much more sympathetic and knowledgeable.
She listened – that was a good start. I got very upset, it all came tumbling out. She assured me she’d do all the tests for infertility and also wanted to examine me. So, I got up on the table and she felt my tummy, which is more than the other doctor ever did.
She could feel a mass in my tummy, which was a worry and a relief at the same time. I wasn’t stupid, there WAS something going on…but what was it???? The first thought when anything like that is mentioned is cancer.
The doctor was very reassuring, and sent me for a scan, which came around quickly – again, a worry…was it cancer??
Now, finding a giant fibroid really WAS a relief, no cancer. But could I have a baby? Well, I was told it was possible, if they could shrink it.
Long story short, two more years of treatment with various drugs and a myomectomy, and I was in good shape. Another year, and I was pregnant!!
I now have a beautiful baby boy, and every day he reminds me to have courage, to trust myself. Part of me knew that there was something going on, but I put up with my problems because I was afraid I was being stupid, and one stupid doctor made me feel that was likely to be true.
FAR TOO MANY doctors don’t know enough about fibroids. And they are prepared to let you put up and shut up. OK, maybe that’s partly because fibroids themselves aren’t well understood, but there have been changes and doctors should be keeping up. Since I got diagnosed, I’ve read a lot about it and have been horrified by the number of women who are told their only option is a hysterectomy.
Trust me, you can trust yourself. If you think there’s something that’s not normal with your body, you’re probably right. So, if your doctor doesn’t take you seriously, make a fuss, get a different doctor, but please, please don’t give up. My son is the living proof that there is hope, and it comes through our own strength. Use your strength to speak up, not to put up.

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