It’s been such a long journey-and it’s still ongoing!-that I hardly know where to begin. I suppose it would be a good idea to give some of my childhood background.
I was born on May 1, 1983 and weighed in at 6lbs 7oz and short.
I was a pretty good kid, I think. I liked to be in charge. I was probably a pain in the neck, but I could get anything done if I set my mind to it.
At the age of eight I would go to early morning Mass on Monday mornings. My grandparents would pick me up at 6:30am and we’d head off for Mass at 7am. That’s probably the first time I noticed I wasn’t quite right. I would wake up about 6:20 and feel so sick and nauseated. I would complain to my grandparents or to my mother, but I didn’t get much sympathy. I think they thought I was just looking for attention . . . which was annoying because I rarely complain/ed about anything unless it was really an issue. Anyway, this sick feeling would last for hours. Sometimes I could eat and make it go away, and other times I couldn’t eat at all. One day I actually vomited in my grandmother’s car, to which she said “Well, good heavens, you really *are* sick!” Even though I felt rotten, I was quietly happy that she know knew I was really not well.
I always wondered why I felt so icky in the mornings. Blood sugar? Maybe, but then why wouldn’t I feel better when eating? About this time I also began noticing that I was constantly hot. And I mean constantly… it never went away. During the winter in the 30 degree weather I would feel as if I were suffocating, and then have panic attacks, if I were forced to wear a coat. There were so many times I would be in arguments with my grandmother (aka: Mana) and my mom about me wearing a coat. Or they wanted to know why I was wearing sandals when there was snow on the ground. “Because my feet are hot and I can’t stand to be hot!” is what I would say. I typically won the arguments. I’m not sure if that’s because they were nice and knew I was telling the truth, or if I was really just that much of a brat.
Around age 8 or 9 I was sick, so my mom took my temp…. only it was with those old glasses thermometers with the mercury inside. I somehow bit the thermometer and the mercury ended up in my mouth. My mother called poison control, and they said “no big deal.”
What the heck? It’s no big deal to swallow pure mercury?!
I think about the age of ten I began to notice I was constantly constipated. I was always thirsty. I couldn’t sleep well. And I would have headaches often. My memory began to get fuzzy. And I was quick to anger. The anger could have been just a character flaw for all I know, but it seemed to have cycles of being better and worse.
I needed glasses around this time. With glasses my left eye was 20/60 and the right was 20/40. However, I could see no difference when wearing glasses and when I didn’t wear glasses.
A few months after my 11th birthday I “became a woman”… I was so annoyed by this, I was still a kid after all! It seemed strange to me that I would be so young and have this happen. (Here’s hoping it means an early menopause!)
Soon after this time I began to experience these weird pains that would leave me feeling tired, angry, and bloated. I was told it was par for the course. Okay, fine, so I dealt with it. A month after I turned 12 my parents took us kids on a camping trip. The last day of the trip I remember lying down on a concrete bench and feeling like I might explode. My mom thought I was being overly-dramatic, gave me some Advil, and took me home. I kept complaining and was told to rest in bed and use a heating pad. So I did. Two days later my cousin asked if I would spend the night. My mom said if I hurt that much then I shouldn’t go. Me being my stubborn self said I would be fine and went to hang out with Jessica. By a few hours later I couldn’t sit up straight. I couldn’t walk upright. And I couldn’t’ really eat much. I tried laying flat on my stomach, but it made it worse. So I called my mom around 11pm and crying said “please take me to the emergency room!”
I ended up at the ER a little after midnight. The doctors embarrassed me to death by asking how many sexual partners I had had, could I be pregnant, did I know what normal menstrual pain was like…? I about died. They finally brought in an ultrasound machine, put it on my abdomen, and there they discovered an ovarian cyst the size of a grapefruit.
The doctors recommended emergency surgery given that it was growing rapidly. They talked about taking out the whole ovary… I don’t remember why. I do remember being hysterical that I was losing a body part, I was going to be sliced open, and I really didn’t even understand what a cyst was. The surgery was schedule for 8am, but for some reason, they decided I needed to go in sooner.
Turns out they left the ovary in place, because they were able to drain the cyst. Recovery was not fun. Turns out your body does not like to cut open, and it really dislikes being cut open without having adequate time to process the information.
It was after the surgery that I found my body was now a complete stranger. I have yet to find my old self. I began to gain weight. I was sad and depressed. I completely stopped growing… which is not cool considering I only made it to 5ft 1in. And in addition, the cysts kept forming. I can’t tell you how many ultrasounds/sonograms I’ve had. We had to keep a close eye on them. If another cyst grew to a large size and the burst, it could result in hemorrhages and other bad stuff. Not to mention the pain. The pain was horrible. My doctor prescribed oxycotin for the pain. It didn’t even touch it. They tried a few other meds, but nothing helped. It was torture.
Finally my mother took me to another doctor who tried to talk me into taking Birth Control Pills. Uhhhh… no, thanks. He said I really should take them since it would regulate my hormones, get rid of my pain, and “you could go have fun with the boys!” Real funny. I really didn’t want to take the pills, mostly because I was a good Catholic girl and birth control is strictly forbidden. Once I spoke to my priest, who said it was fine to take for medical issues, unless I were married, but I wasn’t so I could take it with a clear conscience. I was still uneasy. I just felt like it was a bad idea. My mom was sympathetic, but said “we can’t afford more surgeries, and you don’t want to go through that again anyway.” Well, that was true, so… I took the pills.
Worst. Mistake. Ever.
For three months I gained weight like crazy, which was odd given that I spent my days with my head in the toilet. I was very depressed. I couldn’t focus. And I am fairly certain I was one big ball of emotions. I hated it. The doctor said my body would take three months to get used to the pills, and to keep at it. Once I hit the three month mark and saw no improvement, I announced very matter-of-factly to my mother that I would no longer be taking the pills. She didn’t contest it. She did take me back to the doctor though.
He agreed that the pills weren’t working, but that I did need to be on something. He really tried hard to get me to take a shot: Depo-vera. He explained that I would just come in a few times a year and get a shot. The shot would harden the uterine lining and would prevent estrogen from function correctly so that I could not longer ovulate. I said that didn’t sound like a good idea. He laughed, and said “maybe not, but it will work.” I don’t remember what my mom thought about that idea, but I was almost 13 and had the attitude to go with it. I absolutely refused to take this shot. . . or any other form of “birth control”. I remember looking up depo-vera and reading the risks and thinking “I absolutely hate this doctor. He could have made me sterile!” It’s awful, vile stuff.
I am certain that being on The Pill at that young of an age was the first step in ruining my metabolism. I don’t have any hard facts on this. Call it a gut-feeling.
At the age of 14 I decided I was tired of being fat, so I ate very little, often went to bed hungry, and walked a lot. Within six weeks I lost 40 lbs. I got down to 105 and would have kept falling—which was scary—but I then added some extra calories and seemed to stabilize at 120.
By the age of 16 I was constantly tired, as in “I have to pray to get through this day” kind of tired. I couldn’t remember a thing. I could hold a phone in one hand, a paper with a number in the other hand, and still I couldn’t remember the number long enough to punch it in. I’d have to look at the paper the entire time. I had a difficult time reading because words would just melt into each other. I would re-read the passage knowing that I misread it, and I still couldn’t read it correctly. It was as if my brain just couldn’t comprehend it, which was weird since I had/have always been a great reader.
I couldn’t sleep at night either. I’d lie awake for hours. I had constant headaches. I had bouts of inexplicable anger. I mean, I did have some rough stuff happen as a kid/teen, so that may have been half the explanation, but sometimes it was just like I couldn’t control it. I never did anything other than yell, but being the eldest daughter, you can’t really do that when you are in charge of setting good examples.
Ages 17-18-19 I worked 50-60 hour weeks being the most awesome hostess ever. I remember standing at the door, waiting on customers, and wanting to cry because I was so tired. And I was a teenager… how is that normal?! I was never hungry, but constantly drank Coke. I gained 20 lbs but stayed there no matter what I ate or what I drank (primarily Coke and sometimes water). I was definitely addicted to sugar. (As a side note: this was not my parents’ fault. They rarely ever allowed us to have soda. I picked up that habit all on my own.)
Anyway, after a year (about 13 months) of odd symptoms, I finally found out that I what I had was a bad yeast infection. I am pretty sure that suffering through that for over a year should put me on the fast track for sainthood. Of course it makes total sense I would have a yeast infection given that most my diet consisted of sugar. I didn’t know anything about sugar and yeast and all that back then, unfortunately, so I just took meds.
I also suffered from bronchitis and terrible sinus infections nearly all the time. It seems like I would get bronchitis twice a year, and sinus infections 4 or 5 times a year. I wasn’t a big complainer so I typically just dealt with it. Most sinus infections took about six weeks to clear up… but then a month later, I’d have another one it seemed.
We didn’t ever really go to the doctor as children. We didn’t have the money for it. We basically went in if we had a serious infection or broken bones. My mom was an RN and could usually diagnose all the small stuff. She was also very hesitant about antibiotics and vaccines. We did have some vaccines, but not all.
My mom wasn’t into nutrition and clean foods and all that jazz, at least, not while I was growing up, but she was one of the reasons I learned to think for myself and not always believe what doctors tell me. Also, to say away from overuse of antibiotics and vaccines might do more harm than good at times would probably be a good idea as well.
(to be continued)