endometriosis

Madcap Recap Endometriosis Fun?

Endometriosis WeekBanner2016This March 3-9, in honor of Worldwide Endometriosis Awareness Week, I’ve been doing my part to shed light on the cause.

I’ve shared my story.

There’s also some space here for fellow Endometriosis Warriors to share their stories, whether through exclusive interviews or just by commenting.

EndoStory

Then there’s the matter of this little murder mystery that deals with the very real chronic pain and long-term devastation caused by this silent disease.

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Yes, even when it feels like you’re having your innards ripped to shreds by a very small tiger shark, you can still have a rip-roaring good read that will validate your experience and encourage you to think about your treatment options.

(What’s been fun  for me was waking up not just in the middle of the Top 20 but to see my book one step behind Frank Peretti.)

NextToFrankPeretti

Today’s the last day of the sale.  Don’t you forget to get your copy of Don’t You Forget About Me at the low, low price of 99 cents for the duration of Endo Week.  Spread the word!

DYFAMmar16IG

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Endometriosis: My Story

Endometriosis WeekBanner2016As March 3-9 is Worldwide Endometriosis Awareness Week, I’m doing my part to shed light on the cause. I’m still offering Tomato Pie readers my novel Don’t You Forget About Me at the low, low price of 99 cents for the duration of Endo Week.  I also wanted to give you a chance to check out my story, which is hosted over at Franciscan Mom’s blog:


 

I sat next to my husband in yet another pleather office chair.  Yet another reproductive endocrinologist sat across from us.  A supposedly clever cartoon was framed on the wall behind her.  The bubble-letter caption read “Test Tube Babies!”  The illustration was of a giant test tube overflowing with chubby, giggling, diaper-clad (note:  100% Caucasian) babies, climbing out of some kind of bubbly fluid sloshing around at the bottom of the tube.

The results of a few blood tests were sprawled on the desk between us. The doctor had just offered three separate “treatment options.”

I sighed.  “I don’t want to do anything that won’t actually heal whatever problem I have—and you don’t even know what that is.  I want to heal my body more than I want to get pregnant.”

“Well, the Pill will force your hormones—“

“We’ve already been through this, haven’t we?  Will the Pill actually heal anything?”

She gave me a patronizing grimace.  “But I can’t prescribe the testosterone blockers unless you’re on—“

I shook my head.  “I said I’m not comfortable with that.”

It was now her turn to pause, then sigh.  “Then I’m sorry.  There’s nothing we can do for you.”

She wasn’t the first one to say that to us.  She wouldn’t be the last…


That’s not how it ends! Click here to read the rest of A Murder Mystery and a Medical Mystery!

Meanwhile, don’t you forget to get your copy of Don’t You Forget About Me at the low, low price of 99 cents for the duration of Endo Week.  Spread the word!

DYFAMmar16IG

Endometriosis Awareness: Meet Jessica Worthley

Endometriosis WeekBanner2016Welcome, readers, new and old!  The subject of endometriosis is near and dear (as in, costly and painful) to my heart… not to mention most of my abdomen.  As March 3-9 is Worldwide Endometriosis Awareness Week, I’m doing my part to shed light on the cause by featuring some women who also have faced this diagnosis.

JessicaWEndoToday, I’d like you to meet Jessica Worthley.  Besides featuring my interview with her, I’m also offering Tomato Pie readers my novel Don’t You Forget About Me at the low, low price of 99 cents for the duration of Endo Week.  But more on that in a bit.  First, let’s meet today’s guest!


Hi there, fellow endo-girl, and welcome to Will Write for Tomato Pie!  How about you take a moment to introduce yourself?   

My name is Jessica and I’m 28 years old. I was born and raised in a small town (<1500 people) in Iowa. I have been married to my husband Josh for just over two years and we recently welcomed our first child, Sebastian, in January! We live in a slightly larger town (<6200 people) within a half hour from where I grew up. I worked in the finance industry for eight years but am now enjoying my job as a stay at home mom.

When and how did you first discover that endometriosis is a part of your life?

My endometriosis went undiagnosed/misdiagnosed for many years. It wasn’t until I started charting with Creighton in 2013 that my then fiance mentioned my symptoms to my practitioner. She advised me to chart my PMS symptoms to better determine if it was in a normal range or not. At our next follow up she saw the 14+ days of symptoms and referred me to our local NaPro Medical Consultant. I worked with him for a couple of months but nothing seemed to help for a long period of time. It was then that he mentioned it sounded like I could have endometriosis and referred me to the Pope Paul VI Institute in Omaha. The referral was accepted and in July of 2014 I had a diagnostic laparoscopy. They found a ton of damage and decided that a second surgery would be needed. In August of 2014 they went in with the help of the DaVinci robot to remove all the areas.

Tell us about some of the ways endometriosis has impacted your life, health and relationships.   

When I was a teenager I remember having terrible periods. There were times I would lay on the ground in the fetal position crying because the ibuprofen/Tylenol/Midol was not alleviating the cramps. I would ask my mom if we could have the doctors remove my ovaries so I wouldn’t have to deal with the pain each month. After all, I could adopt if I wanted kids later on in life. I would constantly soak through pads in a short amount of time. When I was in junior high we went on a field trip to an amusement park. I brought supplies but apparently not enough as I ended up in my last pad and I soaked through it. A classmate asked what I sat in as I had a red patch on my jeans. She saw my embarrassed look and gave me her coat to wrap around my waist for the rest of the day to prevent others from pointing it out. In high school, I would get extremely light headed and the nurse would always comment how pale looking I was and would tell me to go home for the day. It got to the point where I ended up staying home every month for the first one or two days of my cycle. After high school, it started to affect my job. I would have to call in sick on some cycles still and then I started to have pains in my abdomen mid cycle. It was at this point that I started a multi month journey of doctors visits that eventually led to a colonoscopy and a misdiagnosis of irritable bowel syndrome when the colonoscopy didn’t find anything wrong.

What have been some of the treatments you’ve used, and how effective were they?  

The first treatment I was prescribed while in college was the birth control pill. Though because of a genetic mutation that increases my chance of blood clots I also had to start taking a baby aspirin to counter the increase associated with the pill. I was on this for a couple of months when I realized it wasn’t helping and in fact was making me feel worse. I figured this was just normal for me and decided to stop the pill and deal with it. Fast forward five years and my practitioner saying it wasn’t normal, my medical consultant started me on HCG injections post peak as I had low progesterone levels. It seemed to help a little but I was still experiencing painful cramps though the amount of days had decreased with the HCG. he then put me on a tranexamic acid for my heavy cycles. I was on this for a couple months but I was getting debilitating cramps at work as I was passing half dollar size clots. It was at this point he referred me to have the surgeries.

A murder mystery about… endometriosis? For real? For real!  And it’s only 99 cents through March 9, 2016!

 

Has your faith impacted what treatments you would accept?  In what ways?

My faith has impacted what treatments I would accept. When I was put on the pill, I knew it was OK since I wasn’t sexually active and it was for medical purposes and not contraconception purposes. However, when the first pill was not successful I would have been more prone to take the doctors suggestion and get the IUD placed had it not been for my faith. I knew eventually I would get married and wouldn’t want to be using birth control so, I didn’t want to choose a more permanent option like the IUD.

Have you found your Catholic faith to be a help or a hindrance in your relationship with your endometriosis treatment team?  How so?  

Had you asked me this year’s ago, I would have said hindrance since many doctors like to say birth control is your only option. However, now I see that my Catholic faith actually helped. If it wasn’t for my faith I would have settled with a treatment plan that just masked my symptoms and didn’t actually treat the underlying problems. If it wasn’t for my faith, I would have not felt the need to learn NFP which ultimately led me to my NaPro journey.

Imagine that a friend of yours has just been diagnosed with endometriosis and asks for your advice.  What would you tell her?  

I would recommend she see a NaPro doctor over a regular doctor as the techniques they use in surgery are far superior at removing the endometriosis as well as reducing the chances of it coming back in the same areas. They also listen to you and will keep trying to find the underlying cause and not just write a prescription to get you out of their office.


 

Thank you, Jessica, for sharing your story with us. I especially like how you said, “If it wasn’t for my faith I would have settled with a treatment plan that just masked my symptoms and didn’t actually treat the underlying problems.” I’ve found it to be true in my own life, and I’ve seen how true it seems to be across the board.

Readers, please comment to thank today’s guest!  Meanwhile, don’t you forget to get your copy of Don’t You Forget About Me at the low, low price of 99 cents for the duration of Endo Week.  Spread the word!

DYFAMmar16IG

Endometriosis Awareness: Meet Silver Pyanov

Endometriosis WeekBanner2016Welcome, readers, new and old!  The subject of endometriosis is near and dear (as in, costly and painful) to my heart… not to mention most of my abdomen.  As March 3-9 is Worldwide Endometriosis Awareness Week, I’m doing my part to shed light on the cause by featuring some women who also have faced this diagnosis.

SilverPyanovToday, I’d like you to meet Silver Pyanov.  Not only is Silver a fellow endomazing lady, her first name is so awesome that Echo & the Bunnymen wrote one of my favorite songs about her.  Not really, but that’s still a beautiful name.  She’s also an editor and contributor at BellyBelly and a doula and childbirth educator.

Besides featuring my interview with her, I’m also offering Tomato Pie readers my novel Don’t You Forget About Me at the low, low price of 99 cents for the duration of Endo Week.  But more on that in a bit.  First, let’s meet today’s guest!


 

Hi there, fellow endo-girl, and welcome to Will Write for Tomato Pie!  How about you take a moment to introduce yourself?   

I’m a wife and mother with four rambunctious boys.  I’ve been married to my wonderful husband for almost ten years. Our faith and ministry have always been important to us.

After having my oldest I fell into the birth world, and just supporting women in general. I started as a volunteer at a local crisis pregnancy center and over the years turned my love of supporting women into a career. I’ve been able to continue ministering to women as a volunteer in several ways while also supporting my family as a postpartum doula and writer.

When and how did you first discover that endometriosis is a part of your life?

I began having symptoms in Jr high and with each cycle my symptoms became worse. By 9th grade I began missing school monthly due to vomiting from pain every 10-20 minutes for 12-24 hours each cycle.

Unfortunately an ill informed doctor did an ultrasound and said all was normal so I assumed I didn’t have endometriosis. After having my oldest son I developed chronic pelvic pain. We assumed it was due to pregnancy and birth (despite having a completely unmedicated, problem-free vaginal birth). After a couple years of physical therapy, steroid injections, another baby and then a miscarriage, my pelvic specialist said I had to have endometriosis. She said they treated me for every other possible cause of pelvic pain, added in my miscarriage and difficulty conceiving following that loss and she was certain.

I was referred to a reproductive endocrinologist and had a diagnostic laparoscopy. He removed unidentifiable scar tissue from my intestines and burned a few endometriosis adhesions.

Tell us about some of the ways endometriosis has impacted your life, health and relationships.   

I definitely entered womanhood hating my body and not understanding the pain. I thought I was a whimp. Vicodin and antinausea medication and I was still too sick to function during my period. I worried I’d never be able to handle childbirth. Just to give an idea of how bad endometriosis cramps can be, I’ve had four unmedicated, out of hospital births that were less painful than my menstrual cramps. I was pleasantly surprised in my first labor though there was pain, when I had myt first real contraction I thought, “I can TOTALLY do this! I’ve done this for years.”

My overall health has suffered mostly due to fatigue. Breastfeeding suppressed my cycles and no one could understand how I had TONS of energy as a sleep deprived mother of a three month. Then months later cycles returned and I had days I could barely function due to the fatigue. My constant use of NSAIDs in high school also caused an esophageal ulcer. If I get heartburn I can still feel the exact spot, though it’s been pretty much healed. I can’t know for sure, but I do believe it’s played a role in my two miscarriages.

It has without a doubt impacted my marriage. I’m incredibly fortunate to be married to a very patient, loving and genuinely Christ-like man, but he’s still human. We’ve had months in our marriage where I was unable to keep up with the home, errands, cooking, etc and so it’s fallen on him. We’ve also had stretches where intercourse just wasn’t physically possible. No matter how solid your marriage, it’s a definite struggle.

Even socializing in general, there are times I’m just too tired to hang out.

What have been some of the treatments you’ve used, and how effective were they?  

The first thing I was told was to try NSAIDs. It provided little relief and after a couple years I had severe GERD and would vomit blood. Then it was vicodin and anti nausea meds. They didn’t offer relief where I could function. They essentially knocked me out. I ended up sleeping 20 hours straight one cycle.

By 17, the same doctors that told me it was normal pain, also said they could no longer offer pain medication and my only option was the pill. I was hesitant, but took it. It helped a lot, but it doesn’t actually treat endometriosis. By its very function it’s an endocrine disruptor. So while it temporarily relieves symptoms it doesn’t solve the issue and can potentially cause more hormonal or fertility issues in the future.

After the birth of my oldest I developed chronic pelvic pain. After all of my births I had incredibly heavy postpartum bleeding and horrific cramping. My last, the cramps were worse than labor itself and lasted days. I was treated with steroid injections and pelvic physical therapy. Both worked extremely well, but were more maintenance solutions helping you to cope rather than healing.

I had a traditional laparoscopy and that helped a lot. My chronic pelvic pain is now intermittent and bearable. But, I’ve also been pregnant or breastfeeding since the procedure and both suppress endometriosis symptoms. To be honest, breastfeeding has been my absolute best “treatment.” Interestingly, I’ve only had fertility issues upon weaning while I conceived easily and without miscarriage while nursing frequently.

I’m set to start more NaPro treatment, hcg or progesterone first and then if needed another laparoscopy. I’ve heard great things and am looking forward to seeing how it helps.

A murder mystery about… endometriosis? For real? For real!  And it’s only 99 cents through March 9, 2016!

Has your faith impacted what treatments you would accept?  In what ways?

Definitely. I have a lot of hesitation using hormonal contraception, especially progesterone only as it can act as an abortifacient. I’m not 100% sure how I feel about it, I just know it makes me uncomfortable so I haven’t used it since I’ve been married.

Have you found your faith to be a help or a hindrance in your relationship with your endometriosis treatment team?  How so?  

Well I’m not Catholic, I’m nondenominational Christian, but I can align with Catholicism when it comes to certain areas of contraception. I don’t feel right using the Pill, though I wish I did because the temporary relief is appealing.

Imagine that a friend of yours has just been diagnosed with endometriosis and asks for your advice.  What would you tell her?  

Find a doctor that actually understands endometriosis. There’s SO much misinformation surrounding it, even among medical professionals. It’s also probably a safe bet to stick with a NaPro provider, as the basis of NaPro seems to have a better understanding of endo than most other schools of thought.

Also, understand that endometriosis can be treated, and quite well, but for many women it is something you’ll have to chronically treat and be aware of. Be kind to yourself and know that NONE of your symptoms, physical or emotional, are in your head. You have a real medical condition and you deserve treatment.


Thank you, Silver, for sharing your experience, courage and honesty with us.  Readers, please comment to thank today’s guest!  Meanwhile, don’t you forget to get your copy of Don’t You Forget About Me at the low, low price of 99 cents for the duration of Endo Week.  Spread the word!

DYFAMmar16IG

Endometriosis Awareness Week: Meet Rhonda Ortiz

Endometriosis WeekBanner2016Welcome, readers, new and old! The subject of endometriosis is near and dear (as in, costly and painful) to my heart… not to mention most of my abdomen. As March 3-9 is Worldwide Endometriosis Awareness Week, I’m doing my part to shed light on the cause by featuring some women who also have faced this diagnosis.

Today, I’d like to revisit an interview from NFP Week 2015 with Rhonda Ortiz.  Rhonda also has lived with endometriosis and has a powerful story to share.

Besides featuring my interview with her, I’m also offering Tomato Pie readers my novel Don’t You Forget About Me at the low, low price of 99 cents for the duration of Endo Week. But more on that in a bit.

Here’s an excerpt from Rhonda’s NFP Week Interview:
RhondaOrtizHey there! I’m Rhonda Ortiz. I’m a 34-year-old Catholic convert, wife, and mother of three. Other than chasing after kids, I spend my days writing and working as a freelance graphic designer. …

I spent five frustrated years wondering, if I wasn’t destined to be a mom, what the heck was I going to do with my life. My thoughts ran wild through the rat nest that was my head, making this and that set of plans, seeking…something. Anything!…

I finally agreed to see a doctor and learned that I had endometriosis. I had my first laparoscopic surgery to remove endometrium in June 2007.

We assumed I would be pregnant right away, but that also didn’t happen…

 

For the rest of Rhonda’s courageous story, please visit the original interview at this link.

Thank you, Rhonda, for sharing your story with us not once but twice. Readers, please comment to thank today’s guest! Meanwhile, don’t you forget to get your copy of Don’t You Forget About Me at the low, low price of 99 cents for the duration of Endo Week. Spread the word!

DYFAMmar16IG

Endometriosis Awareness: Meet Barb S.

Endometriosis WeekBanner2016Welcome, readers, new and old!  The subject of endometriosis is near and dear (as in, costly and painful) to my heart… not to mention most of my abdomen.  As March 3-9 is Worldwide Endometriosis Awareness Week, I’m doing my part to shed light on the cause by featuring some women who also have faced this diagnosis.

Today, I’d like to revisit an interview from NFP Week 2015 with Barb S., aka Franciscan Mom.  Barb also has lived with endometriosis and has a powerful story to share.

Besides featuring my interview with her, I’m also offering Tomato Pie readers my novel Don’t You Forget About Me at the low, low price of 99 cents for the duration of Endo Week.  But more on that in a bit.

Here’s an excerpt from Barb’s NFP Week Interview:

Barb aka Franciscan Mom talks about being Catholic and subfertile as part of NFP Awareness Week.I’m Barb from Franciscanmom.com and Cook and Count. I’m editorial consultant at Catholicmom.com, a musician at my parish, a Secular Franciscan and a school-library volunteer…

It’s actually NFP (and all those years of carefully-recorded information about my own body’s patterns and in-depth knowledge of what was “normal for me”) that came to my rescue in getting the fourth GYN in as many years to finally listen to me and send me to yet another doctor for treatment, which wound up being a DaVinci (robotic) hysterectomy and the discovery during surgery that I had endometriosis. Suddenly everything made sense, and I felt vindicated in my decision to walk away from Doctor #3, who told me that what was happening to me was “normal, even if it is the sucky end of normal” (how’s that for a lovely exam-room manner?) Apparently the endometriosis invasion was extensive; one of my Fallopian tubes was attached to my intestines by scar tissue….

For the rest of Barb’s story, please visit the original interview at this link.  

Thank you, Barb, for sharing your story with us not once but twice.  Readers, please comment to thank today’s guest!  Meanwhile, don’t you forget to get your copy of Don’t You Forget About Me at the low, low price of 99 cents for the duration of Endo Week.  Spread the word!

DYFAMmar16IG

Endometriosis Awareness Week: Meet Brittany Schmidt

Endometriosis WeekBanner2016Welcome, readers, new and old!  The subject of endometriosis is near and dear (as in, costly and painful) to my heart… not to mention most of my abdomen.  As March 3-9 is Worldwide Endometriosis Awareness Week, I’m doing my part to shed light on the cause by featuring some women who also have faced this diagnosis.

Today, I’d like you to meet Brittany Schmidt, who also blogs over at Sapphire Blue Soul.  Besides featuring my interview with her, I’m also offering Tomato Pie readers my novel Don’t You Forget About Me at the low, low price of 99 cents for the duration of Endo Week.  But more on that in a bit.  First, let’s meet today’s guest!

Endometriosis Awareness Week: Meet Brittany Schmidt

Brittany Schmidt

EMC: Hi there, fellow endo-girl, and welcome to Will Write for Tomato Pie!  How about you take a moment to introduce yourself?   

Brittany: Hello, my name is Brittany Schmidt and I am a 23-year-old living in the frozen tundra of Minnesota. I am a devout Catholic dedicated to seeking holiness and learning about my incredible Catholic faith that astounds me every moment of every day. My husband and I have been married for almost two years and I feel so blessed to have such a supportive best friend and companion by my side. I am currently working towards my Doctorate in Chiropractic, I have two years left of school and I cannot wait to graduate and be a physician that is dedicated to optimal health and natural wellness.

EMC: Sounds like a good thing! When and how did you first discover that endometriosis is a part of your life?

Brittany: Shortly after starting my doctorate in the Fall of 2014 I began to have a persistent pain in my lower right side, I also noticed my monthly cycles became heavier and more painful. I sought help and advice from an OB-GYN who did nothing, I am still very angry about this. The pain continued and got increasingly worse until one day in May (2015) while I was at school I experienced an intense and sudden pain. I went to the ER where they told me I had an ovarian cyst rupture and that I had another one growing and should follow up with my OB-GYN. I decided to go see a different OB-GYN who was wonderful and finally listened to me. She suspected endometriosis. We set a date for laparoscopic surgery at the end of July 2015; on that date she removed an ovarian cyst the size of a tennis ball and confirmed it was an endometrioma and that I did in fact have endometriosis.

EMC: A tennis ball! Yikes! Tell us about some of the ways endometriosis has impacted your life, health and relationships.   

Brittany: Endometriosis has impacted my life in many ways. I’ve always considered myself strong and able to overcome any sort of pain or illness and I never expected to experience such a debilitating condition. Endometriosis has interrupted my hobbies such as running and exercising, endometriosis has brought on many painful periods that have caused me to miss days at school or social outings, endometriosis has sent me to the ER several times because the pain hasn’t been manageable, endometriosis has caused me to have two surgeries in the past 6 months, endometriosis has made sex with my husband almost unbearable, and endometriosis has had a major impact on my emotional capacity.

I don’t look sick and I feel like I am battling something terrible. When I realize I will have this disease forever and that I will have a future of recurring surgeries, endless pain, and possible infertility I feel my heart shatter. I’ve never been so devastated over something in my entire life and it has affected my relationships because I don’t think anyone can truly understand what I am going through. No one feels my pain, no one knows my fear of not being able to conceive, and no one knows how much it hurts both physically and emotionally to be intimate with my husband. I don’t like talking to others much about it because not only are they incapable of understanding my feelings but I am afraid they will tire of having the same conversation over and over again and lose sympathy for me. Because that’s what endometriosis is, it’s the same conversation over and over again, a conversation consisting of abnormal cell growth, pain, recurrence after surgery, infertility, and the emotional heartbreak that comes with having an invisible illness.

On the positive side, it has taught me to be more aware of my body and my needs and limitations, I do take better care of myself both emotionally and physically since my diagnosis. Endometriosis has shown me how fragile my human flesh is and that there is a need for a healing and compassionate God, endometriosis has strengthened my faith so much and shown me the power of redemptive suffering. I am a better Christian because of my endometriosis and that is a huge gift and blessing. I also believe that all of these experiences will make me a better doctor and more compassionate to those who have chronic pain.

A murder mystery about… endometriosis? For real? For real!  And it’s only 99 cents through March 9, 2016!

EMC: What have been some of the treatments you’ve used, and how effective were they?  

Brittany: It is hard to say what was effective and what was not, I may think that because I had recurrence of endometriosis after surgery all of the treatments I tried were not effective, however, what if the recurrence would have been faster or more extensive if I hadn’t been using the therapies I was? I don’t know, there is no way of knowing, but I think it’s important to keep in mind when discussing what is a valuable or effective treatment and what is not. After my first surgery in July I changed my diet by cutting out dairy, limiting gluten, switching to all organic meat, and only consuming 30 g of sugar (that included sugar from fruit). The diet was harder than I expected but I will say that I felt better while doing it, mostly because it was something I could control and I felt like I was actively contributing to preventing my illness. I also had weekly acupuncture sessions which I LOVED, it was so relaxing and the quiet time that it brought was emotionally healing. I also felt the acupuncture helped the healing of my scars and reduced my pain that continued after surgery. Again, attending weekly acupuncture sessions made me feel like there was a component of control in the midst of an uncontrollable disease. A few months after surgery my pain unfortunately returned and I had the presence of more cysts confirmed by ultrasound, I decided to yet again switch OB-GYNs and see an endometriosis specialist. The specialist explained that removal of endometrial adhesions by surgical ablation (burning or cauterizing) was not very effective and that there was a high recurrence rate. I was angry when I heard this, why did I have an ineffective surgery? Or why didn’t the OB-GYN who did my first surgery fail to tell me that there was a better surgery out there? Is it possible that she didn’t know? This is unacceptable to me. The specialist told me that he uses excision to fully resect all endometrial adhesions and that there is much less of a chance of recurrence with this type of laparoscopic surgery. I am now two weeks post-op from having excision by laser to remove more endometriosis. I am hoping that my outcome this time is much better and longer lasting than my last surgery.

EMC: I hope so, too!  Has your faith impacted what treatments you would accept?  In what ways?

Brittany: My faith has most definitely impacted what treatments I would accept. Since getting my diagnosis every doctor I’ve seen has recommended the birth control pill. This was really hard for me because the pill is something I have been so publicly against for so long for both ethical and medical reasons. I could not imagine taking the pill; the very idea of it nauseates me. I decided to seek guidance from our parish priest who was also apprehensive about granting permission to use the pill. He told us that the pill works in different ways and one of those ways is as an abortifacient in case there is breakthrough ovulation, of course as a devout Catholic I was not okay with this. Our priest granted us permission to use the pill only if we could detect if there was breakthrough ovulation and then abstain during that time, if we were not able to detect ovulation then we had to abstain during the course of taking the pill. What a burden, huh? Hubby and I finally decided to reject the pill, it was a decision that came with much prayer and many long conversations, but at the end of the day we were dedicated to our faith and to protecting life.

EMC: Have you found your faith to be a help or a hindrance in your relationship with your endometriosis treatment team?  How so?  

Brittany: My endometriosis treatment teams have been very considerate and open to the fact that our faith comes first and that we reject birth control of any kind, however, I don’t think that they truly understand where we are coming from. I’ve never felt pressured or judged by my health care team because of my faith and subsequent choices but I do think that it has created a bit of a hindrance because they don’t know how else to treat me. The only other option I’ve been given is to conceive a child. Ironic, my options are either the birth control pill or to conceive a child, neither of these options are ideal right now so it kind of leaves me in a place where no one can really help me or offer me any sort of advice.

EMC: Imagine that a friend of yours has just been diagnosed with endometriosis and asks for your advice.  What would you tell her?  

Brittany: I would say first of all, if they are going to have surgery to make sure the surgeon is going to remove all endometrial adhesions by excision and NOT ablation. I feel like my first surgery with ablation was a waste and was very upset when it all grew back right away. Women need to know that there is a more advanced and successful surgical method of removing endometriosis and shouldn’t have to have undergo the effects and dangers of anesthesia and surgery just for it to be ineffective. I would also tell her that she is more than a diagnosis, that although endometriosis is devastating, that positive things can always come from terrible situations if they are open to it. Embrace suffering, keep moving forward, find support by joining an online support group (there are many on Facebook), and remember that we are never alone in Christ who is bigger than all things—even endometriosis.

Excellent point, that last one, and one that is really easy to forget on those days when we’re just underwater with the pain, be it physical, emotional, or spiritual.  Brittany, thank you so much for sharing your story with us.  

Readers, please comment to thank today’s guest!  Better yet, go visit Brittany at her blog.  Meanwhile, don’t you forget to get your copy of Don’t You Forget About Me at the low, low price of 99 cents for the duration of Endo Week.  Spread the word!

DYFAMmar16IG

Worldwide Endometriosis Awareness Week

Endometriosis WeekBanner2016

A murder mystery about… endometriosis? For real? For real!  And it’s only 99 cents through March 9, 2016!

Endometriosis is a large part of the reason I wrote Don’t You Forget About Me , and this mysterious disease factors largely in the plot. I know, I know.  It’s counterintuitive to read a novel–not even a non-fiction users manual about a women’s health disorder but a novel–about a disease that affects an estimated 176 million women worldwide.

Why would we need a novel about endometriosis?  Because…

It’s a disease that’s diminished…

Everybody gets cramps.

It’s victims are plagued by myths…

Just take this Pill and it will go away.  

Just get pregnant and it will go away.

A hysterectomy will solve all of your problems.  

It’s a disease that works to crush us around the clock and around the calendar.

It’s just once a month.  Can’t you just power through? 

Yes, there are websites and books and even personal blogs on the subject, but to the best of my knowledge, Don’t You Forget About Me is the only novel out there that deals with this women’s health issue.

We need a novel about endometriosis because we need to see our stories told.  

DYFAMmar16IG

This week I will be running a series of interviews with endometriosis warriors telling their own stories.  I’m also offering Tomato Pie readers my novel Don’t You Forget About Me at the low, low price of 99 cents for the duration of Endo Week.  

 

EndoStory

Has your life (including the guys here) been impacted by this misunderstood, myth-plagued disease?  Leave a comment and tell us YOUR story.  

Captive Panda Club at erinmccolecupp.com

NFP Week: Meet Barb S., Franciscan Mom and Captive Panda

Don’t forget the Catholic Marketing Network Trade Show Selfie Scavenger Hunt!

Not only is this week the Catholic Marketing Network Trade Show and Catholic Writers Conference Live, but it’s also National Natural Family Planning Awareness Week.  I’ll be away at the show/conference, but I’m hosting postings from a few fellow members of the Captive Panda Club: those of us follow Church teaching on fertility but who nevertheless bust that super-fertile Catholic stereotype and get and stay pregnant as often as your average captive panda. The Captive Panda Club: Subfertile Catholics talk Natural Family Planning During NFP Week

Today’s guest blogger is Barb S, aka Franciscan Mom.

Barb aka Franciscan Mom talks about being Catholic and subfertile as part of NFP Awareness Week.

Let’s hear from her about her journey as a Catholic living with subfertility.

I’m Barb from Franciscanmom.com and Cook and Count. I’m editorial consultant at Catholicmom.com, a musician at my parish, a Secular Franciscan and a school-library volunteer.

My husband and I took NFP classes through our diocese during our engagement. We’ve been married 24+ years. We learned, used and taught the sympto-thermal method of NFP. We have 3 children, ages 23, 19 and 13.

The wide gaps in our children’s ages are part of the reason Erin asked me to share our story. We always wanted several children and did use NFP to space pregnancies—but despite careful charting, our pregnancies were spaced much farther apart than we’d expected they would be.

I had some complications following the birth of our oldest child, and I can honestly say that fear of more (and possibly worse) complications made me a little hesitant to sign on for rounds 2 and 3 of pregnancy, but ultimately I got past that and then discovered that it wasn’t as easy to conceive a child the next time around.

I guess subfertility is different from infertility because we knew that we had the ability to conceive (and carry a child to term). It’s frustrating. We knew we had been able to conceive once—why couldn’t it happen again? I worried, before we conceived our second child, that those birth complications with our oldest had somehow impaired my fertility. I was also experiencing some uncomfortable menstrual symptoms, which my GYN offered to “treat” with hormones; I refused that treatment (for the first time) in 1994 and subsequently spent more than 15 years trying to convince doctors that something was definitely wrong.

It’s actually NFP (and all those years of carefully-recorded information about my own body’s patterns and in-depth knowledge of what was “normal for me”) that came to my rescue in getting the fourth GYN in as many years to finally listen to me and send me to yet another doctor for treatment, which wound up being a DaVinci (robotic) hysterectomy and the discovery during surgery that I had endometriosis. Suddenly everything made sense, and I felt vindicated in my decision to walk away from Doctor #3, who told me that what was happening to me was “normal, even if it is the sucky end of normal” (how’s that for a lovely exam-room manner?) Apparently the endometriosis invasion was extensive; one of my Fallopian tubes was attached to my intestines by scar tissue.

For some stupid reason, though, that first surgeon left me both ovaries and one tube, which meant I had a fully-functioning estrogen supply to reboot all that endometriosis. I might not have even noticed a problem—except I was still using NFP.

Why would I do that? I wanted to be able to let my daughter know when I’d gone through menopause. I know that’s on all the medical-history questionnaires, and it became important to me to be able to do that for her. I figure she’s genetically predisposed to wind up with endometriosis as well, so the more knowledge, the better. So I kept using the sympto-thermal method, taking my temperature and charting daily, and following my ovulation pattern. Within 4 months of surgery, I began having episodes of spotting that were timed just right to be menstrual periods.

My doctor listened, because I had data to present to her. We did a little bit of “wait-and-see” along with regular pelvic ultrasounds (which can find cysts and “fluid collections” but not endometriosis), and over the next year I had one very painful burst ovarian cyst and another very large cyst that was surgically drained. Finally, a little over 2 years after my first surgery, I had my ovaries removed, along with as much remaining endometriosis as a surgeon at a cancer center could find. I didn’t have cancer but I was sent there because of the surgeon’s expertise in removing all of what we didn’t want left behind.

That’s the long story of how NFP helped me with my health. I think ultimately, the knowledge I had—of what was and was not normal for me—gave me the courage I needed to see yet more doctors, undergo yet more examinations and ultrasounds and a D&C and 2 endometrial biopsies, and stand up for myself as I refused offer after offer of yet more hormones that would, at best, mask the problem and—since the problem was undiagnosed endometriosis—possibly even make it work.

How has NFP made life less-than-easy? Well, the easy way out of my situation would have been to accept hormonal birth control, and just put off dealing with the problem until later. I’d have saved myself a lot of physical pain and a lot of money spent on Advil (I was taking 4 every 6 hours, setting alarms in the middle of the night so I wouldn’t go a minute longer than that without replenishing the Advil supply).

NFP was less than easy when we were able to achieve pregnancy; people (yes, Catholic people and yes, family members) just assumed that we were “done” after the first child and definitely after the second, especially given that extra-large age gap there. So we got a lot of rude and unwelcome comments about NFP “not working” when we finally were able to announce that welcomed, wanted, and (in our minds) overdue pregnancy. If people only knew!

Although we’re faithfully Catholic and strong proponents of NFP, we’ve never run into the “you’re sinning if you don’t have a huge family” crowd. Our challenge was the opposite. We always felt alone in using NFP. No one we knew practiced it. No one in our families or circle of friends supported us in it. We only had each other for support. So our challenge as a subfertile Catholic couple was less of an issue as our challenge as an NFP-using Catholic couple. We lived with the hurts of countless snide and snarky remarks about how NFP “doesn’t work” on top of our own private burdens of subfertility. I’ve had people ask me if all 3 of my children (all of whom share the same last name, all of whom look alike, none of whom look like me) are from the same marriage. I guess no matter what your level of fertility is, people will find a way to say inappropriate and rude things (in front of your kids).

I hope that sharing our story will help someone else feel not so alone. I encourage you: if you have data about what’s normal for you, and something is happening that is not normal for you, see a doctor. If all you get are pat, easy answers about hormones, find another doctor. Don’t waste all the time I did. Don’t feel all the pain I had. Find a doctor who will listen and who will respect your knowledge and your data.

Thank you so much for sharing your story with us, Barb.  Reader, do you have an experience with subfertility to share? Do you feel like you’re the only Captive Panda out there?  Did you go from infertile to subfertile, experience secondary infertility, or experience a different path all together? What’s the hardest part of being a Captive Panda Club member?  What keeps you going in faith?  How has God sustained you through it all?  What have been some unexpected blessings you’ve found as a result of trusting in Church teaching on fertility?  Talk to us in the comments below!

PS: Don’t forget the Catholic Marketing Network Trade Show Selfie Scavenger Hunt!

NFP Week: Meet Rhonda Ortiz, Captive Panda

Don’t forget the Catholic Marketing Network Trade Show Selfie Scavenger Hunt!

Not only is this week the Catholic Marketing Network Trade Show and Catholic Writers Conference Live, but it’s also National Natural Family Planning Awareness Week.  I’ll be away at the show/conference, but I’m hosting postings from a few fellow members of the Captive Panda Club: those of us follow Church teaching on fertility but who nevertheless bust that super-fertile Catholic stereotype and get and stay pregnant as often as your average captive panda. The Captive Panda Club: Subfertile Catholics talk Natural Family Planning During NFP Week

Today’s guest blogger is Rhonda Ortiz.

RhondaOrtiz

Let’s hear from her about her journey as a Catholic living with subfertility.

Hey there! I’m Rhonda Ortiz. I’m a 34-year-old Catholic convert, wife, and mother of three. Other than chasing after kids, I spend my days writing and working as a freelance graphic designer. I’m also the founding editor of Real Housekeeping, an online magazine with over twenty contributors (and counting!).

Life in the Captive Panda Club…

When Jared and I were first married, we assumed we’d be Good Catholics and beget enough kids to field a football team. I had just graduated college and had no firm career plans—I was just waiting for the blessed arrival of a bundle of joy to keep me busy and happy.

That didn’t happen. At first, we assumed it was just a matter of time. After a year, Jared suggested that I see a doctor. That was a last thing I wanted to do. Like the proverbial ostrich, I stuck my head in the sand. If I didn’t learn what was wrong, nothing would be wrong. Right?

I spent five frustrated years wondering, if I wasn’t destined to be a mom, what the heck was I going to do with my life. My thoughts ran wild through the rat nest that was my head, making this and that set of plans, seeking…something. Anything!

Compounding my quest for daily purpose was the fact that my job at the time—teaching math at a Catholic school—wasn’t the best fit for me. And yet I couldn’t see myself doing anything except teach.

I finally agreed to see a doctor and learned that I had endometriosis. I had my first laparoscopic surgery to remove endometrium in June 2007.

We assumed I would be pregnant right away, but that also didn’t happen.

Fast forward to December 2009. My husband was studying for his doctoral comprehensive exams. I was in the middle of (a yet-undiagnosed) major bipolar mood swing which not only impeded my work but made me unbearable to live with. Yet somewhere in there was time and impetus for intimacy.

And then the miracle happened. On Christmas Eve, I discovered I was pregnant.

We learned after the fact that four different people, in four different states and with no communication between them, had felt inspired by the Holy Spirit to pray for us at Mass on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception.

Those of you who are good with NFP can do the math yourselves: this was my peak day.

Our first son, Benedict, was born the following September. Our second, Miriam, was conceived a few months after my second surgery and was born in October 2013. And in May we welcomed our third, Joseph, who is our first “Surprise!” baby. Given our previous subfertility, we were shocked, to say the least.

Regarding how the experience of subfertility is different from infertility…

They are both difficult to deal with and accept. I suppose one difference I see between the two is that, with subfertility, we have to discern how much medical intervention we’re going to allow in order to conceive again. We know now that I can have children; the question of,  “Am I going to have yet another surgery?” is compounded with our prudential discernment about having more kids.

On NFP and health, marriage, and life…

NFP has taught me the truth of the phrase, “Knowledge is Power.” Facing my fears and going to the doctor has taught me that it’s better to know, because in knowing I can do something about it. Now I have options. Now I can make decisions.

This lesson has impacted all areas of my health. After a major cross-country move I started experiencing more crippling mood swings and anxiety attacks. Thanks to the knowledge of a family member’s recent bipolar diagnosis, I was able to put a word on what I was experiencing and seek professional help.

Having proper medical care has made a world of difference to my daily life and especially my marriage. Knowledge really is power.

I haven’t experienced the “tough” side of NFP yet, but given that we now know we can have “unplanned” children, I think we’re about to experience it!

On being subfertile and Catholic…

Before Benedict was born, I felt like I had to explain our childless state to everyone. It wasn’t as if others were prying into our intimate concerns, but living in a vibrant Catholic community as we did at the time, we were surrounded by large families. I was afraid of being seen by others as unfaithful.

Those fears were unfounded. No one thought ill of us. In fact, those who knew had sympathy. They prayed for us.  They befriended us and welcomed us into their families.  We happily conversed about their kids, of course, but they also understood that we didn’t have kids to talk about and therefore talked about other things as well.

This is the best thing others can do for subfertile Catholics. We needed friends who could meet us where we were. Thank the Lord, we were blessed to have them.

Thank you so much for sharing your story with us, Rhonda.  Reader, do you have an experience with subfertility to share with your fellow Captive Pandas?  Did you go from infertile to subfertile, experience secondary infertility, or experience a different path all together? What’s the hardest part of being a Captive Panda Club member?  What keeps you going in faith?  How has God sustained you through it all?  What have been some unexpected blessings you’ve found as a result of trusting in Church teaching on fertility?  Talk to us in the comments below!

PS: Don’t forget the Catholic Marketing Network Trade Show Selfie Scavenger Hunt!