Everybody needs a therapist. Trust me.
After I got back from Mayo Clinic, I decided I needed to start looking at this from a different angle. No gastro doctors were listening to me, and there was obviously more going on than just a stomach problem. I started paying attention to other symptoms and racking my brain for other types of doctors that may could help figure out what was going on. While at Mayo, we asked to see an Endocrynologist and were told no (shoutout to you, Dr. Number 15, you keep doing you girl). I started looking at what was happening from a hormone standpoint. There was some weird stuff going on that most definitely could have been hormone related. So, I went to see my Gynecologist and got a referral to an Endocrinologist. Of course, everything came back normal. We were all bummed.
I continued to see my therapist, Drew, after I returned from Mayo. Over the past year, with my full permission, he has consulted his wife (who is a drug rep) on several occasions. It’s safe to say she knows my case and I feel like I know her, even though I don’t. I had been to see Drew on a Monday night, discouraged because I was about to go through this invasive Physical Therapy for no reason, and I still felt like crap. The following Tuesday night, my neighborhood had an Homeowners Association meeting. I was in the Catholic Church and got a call from Drew. Sometimes we do communicate outside of our sessions, but a Tuesday was odd. So, I stepped outside and took the call. Our conversation went like this:
Hey, it’s Drew.
Hey, what’s up?
I think we found you a doctor. I really want you to make an appointment with him. My wife met him last night at a conference and told him about you. He said you should go see him. He specializes in Pelvic Floor and is super smart. I know this sounds odd, but I think it’s a God thing. Please make an appointment, he is expecting your call.
The conversation went on, and I did not call and make an appointment for a few weeks. I did not have Pelvic Floor, so why would I need to go see him? Every time I saw Drew, he would ask if I had made an appointment with Dr. Baten, and I would say no. Drew would say, “I’m proud of you for sticking to what you believe in (the Endocrine route at the time), but I find it ironic that the one thing I ask you do to, you’re not doing it.” It was true. I was being very hard headed about scheduling an appointment. I had JUST seen my Gynecologist about another issue and knew I should not just schedule another appointment with a new doctor in the same field the same week. At one point, I had been told I needed to stick to one doctor. After all, I had seen 20 at this point. Matthew was with me for one of the sessions and he pushed me to call the next day. Matt loves Drew aka “The Head Doctor,” and what Drew says, goes.
I got an appointment scheduled, and ended up getting it pushed up because I was feeling extra terrible. He came in, and did not remember Drew’s wife or her talking about me, but that did not matter. He asked me some questions, and sent me for an ultrasound around the corner. The ultrasound tech did not want to ultrasound where I asked, but after my persistence (always), she did. She kept telling me to drink Miralax, over and over. It was all I could do to not come unglued. This is not just a stomach issue, people! She told me she found my gallbladder, and I ensured her that in fact was NOT my gallbladder, because I had had that removed in September. I was really ready to wipe that gel off and leave.
Dr. Baten came back in and said the Ultrasound looked good, and that the only thing he could really offer me is a Robotic Assisted Laparoscope to check for Endometriosis. Apart from GI symptoms, I did have more symptoms that fit the diagnosis of Endometriosis, but he said the only way he could diagnosis that was if he went in with his naked eye. He encouraged me to go home and research the procedure (which was no big deal to me at this point) and Endometriosis. He told me that many people thrown into the IBS category have Endometriosis but are not diagnosed because they do not have the procedure to find it. Apparently this could grow anywhere, as in other places besides the uterus, like the bowel too. He also referred me to a doctor that implants gastric stimulators, being as I had been diagnosed with Gastroparesis at one time. I was quick to tell him, I had been diagnosed once, then told I did not have it at all. I definitely was not going to get something put in my body unless we knew 100% that that was the problem. The nurse called to set up the appointment, and I passed on that one. That seemed a little bit steep to me.
So I went home, researched it and had a good week the following week. I started thinking whether or not I really wanted to put myself through another Laparoscope. Sure, it really wasn’t a big deal, but I had gone to MAYO CLINIC. Was this Laparoscope really going to be worth it? I would really love to not be stressed out about vacation days at work, and I finally felt like I found my place there, got into a routine, and did not want to go through this. A few days into the good week, though, I started getting worse (typical), so I decided to proceed with the procedure. I did call and ask for a referral to a new GI doc, because stuff was happening that I knew wasn’t normal and I needed to be seen for. I was told to, “go to the ER,” instead, but I knew I would have been sent home. I was seen three days before the procedure by a nice fellow. He assured me I had IBS and talked to me about my options for treatment, living my best life, etc. He said the best option to deal with IBS was Amitriptyline, which is an anti-depressant. Yay, just what I needed, more drugs. He said he would proceed with the Laparoscope, if not for anything but mental clarity when nothing is found. That made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. As my aunt said, “we all need some mental clarity.”
So here I am, trying to keep this little procedure hush-hush, because I figured nothing would be found just like every other scan and test that had been done over the last year and a half. To lots of people, it probably seems slightly ridiculous to continue looking for a diagnosis that could not be found at Mayo Clinic. I am not mad about people thinking that, because I understand and I would think that from the outside looking in. But the thing is, I really don’t know if I was/am searching for a diagnosis; I was/am searching for a better quality of life the only way I know how. So on comes the panic attack Thursday, and I knew I had to tell my boss what was going on. I told her, she was understanding. I sent Matt fishing for the weekend (shoutout to he and Brandon for bringing home a check – whoop whoop!), got on my knees in prayer, and went in Friday ready to get this thing over with.
My mom and I really like St. Dominics. Even though I was young, I remember my grandmother having really good experiences there and I was excited to be there instead of Mayo (can I get an AMEN) (seriously, AMEN). I was already prepared to ask for someone to come pray over me, but a nun came in before I could even ask. The nurse I had prep me was really professional, but we talked about recipes and I began to wonder what it would be like if I could actually eat all this I was talking about instead of just talk about them.
Dr. Baten came in a little late to talk to me and mom. I had missed him the day before for pre-op because he had an emergency delivery, but I went ahead and left because I was not planning to be gone from work for FOUR hours, even though that is what it turned into. His cell phone rang. I told him to go ahead and take it, and he said it was the hospital calling him. He told the person on the back line, “Well yeah, I’m talking to the patient right now. I’m ready to do this! Let’s rock and roll!” I told him I already had someone come pray over me, I was ready, and begged him to please look at every little detail inside me. He said he would do his best. He left and my mom started to cry. I smiled at her, and she said, “now THAT is a nice man.” Y’all, it has been a REALLY long time coming. There have been some not so nice men come in and out of hospital rooms. He was a total breath of fresh air. They came in and gave me the “happy juice” and had extra for when I woke up because I had already made sure they knew I was probably going to wake up in panic mode yelling, “I swear I’m not crazy! Please don’t take me back to GI Associates! I swear I’m not crazy!” I literally have no shame. I do not care. I will go to my grave proving to people my mental health is not what is causing these problems. I feel like there should be an appropriate hashtag for the way I feel about this.
I’m being rolled back to the operating room, loopy as ever, when another nurse informs me she grew up coming to Palo Alto Plantation in Minter City, and her best friend Caroline Townes Falls, was my neighbor. I’m pretty sure I started yelling because that’s where I grew up. Point of that story is I was glad to have a Delta girl in there with me. I had already told her, also, to look EXTRA hard inside me – ha!
I remember waking up feeling really sore, I mean a different kind of sore than I expected to feel. I knew before I even asked that something had been found, I could feel it inside of me (literally). I did ask, “did they find anything?” I heard rumblings of something about a cyst, something about my colon, and a wall. I remember saying, “he found something. What did he find?” I kept going in and out, and asking each time I woke up. Finally one of the recovery nurses was like, “why don’t you let your mom tell you?” And she said something else about a cyst.
I get back to the room and wake up. I remember asking Mom to repeat over and over what she had kept telling me, “He said your colon was adhered to your abdominal wall in a weird shape. He fixed it.” “He said your tissue was beautiful, he said you were so thin and he could see the blood flow and everything was perfect. Then he saw a part of your colon in the wrong place, on your abdominal wall. He said it was adhered there, but it looked physiological. He put it where it was supposed to be.” I could not process it, so I asked her to text me the message she had been sending to people.
I stayed in the hospital for four more hours because I could not pee (how else am I supposed to make that sound more ladylike?). Oh, the irony. I was moved back into recovery because the floor I was on closed. One of the nurses moved a rocker and mom just sat there until I finally could use the restroom. I remember cussing like a freight train in the recovery area (I was the only one in there) because I was so MAD this had not been caught before now. I mean seriously, what the heck. I remember pulling out pictures I had saved on my phone of Mayo X-Rays being like (below), “Can you see the colon here on the wall (as if I had ANY clue what wall I was talking about LOL)?” “Why the heck did they not catch this when I had my gallbladder out?” Pretty sure I dropped a few unladylike bombs but obviously I felt they were necessary.
So I was finally able to use the restroom, and I was wheeled outside. When I get outside and waited with a nurse for Mom to pull around, I sat there looking out of the hospital with so much clarity. I felt accomplished, I felt wounded and healed all at the same time, I felt wise, and at peace.
I asked the nurse to please take a picture of me, and told her I know it sounded weird, but I thought I needed it. Then I asked Mom to get out of the car and take one with me. As she wrapped her arms around me, I began to cry. We got in the car, she looked at me and said, “when was the last time you cried happy tears?” I thought about it and responded, “I guess when I got engaged.” And then we went home back my house, to see my sweet dog Lucy and evil kitty Rue.
Hopefully, this journey is coming to an end and this will be the last blog post I will need to therapeutically write. Mom nor I could sleep Friday night; we were both too excited. I’m on day three and I still feel much mental clarity, but physically I have not improved. I am beginning to feel the fullness feeling again, and I do feel the bloating seeking in, but it’s in a different place now. When I put my hands on my stomach, it’s not at my rib cage. I ate lots of soup today thanks to my Aunt Nancy; hopefully tomorrow I will begin to see improvement.
This has been an exhausting, expensive, and overwhelming journey. I have learned how to advocate for myself and not put up with those who don’t. I have been taken advantage of. I have stopped believing in the medical field in its’ entirety. I have been let down so many times, judged so hard, and belittled to the point of crying like a toddler in my mother’s arms. But I have also experienced more love and have been coveted in more peoples’ prayers than I ever knew possible. I have fallen in love while being sick, and am planning a wedding while healing (hopefully!). I am ready for this financial burden to cease, mental barrier to subside, emotional roller coaster to halt, and physical pain to dwindle away. I want to come home and cook dinner for my future husband, walk my dog, and be able to perform to the best of my ability on a daily basis.
I wish I could guarantee that the procedure I had done Friday would fix me, but unfortunately only time will tell. I have never been as hopeful as I am now that all these things are about to start happening, all because one man took the time to look not at my past, but at my present problem. God bless you, Dr. Baten, and may you enjoy all the pound cakes my mother bakes for you, now and always. You will always be my favorite #22.