“I was diagnosed with endometriosis by accident. For a decade or so, my OB-GYN had been telling me I had uterine fibroids. I spent countless time and money [sic] having ultrasounds and other tests to constantly monitor the progress, not to mention the pain and discomfort I endured throughout. I constantly felt like I had menstrual cramps, especially as I'd lie in bed at night trying to fall asleep.
As I reached my mid-50s I was told after one of the tests that I had ‘something’ growing around one of my ovaries that looked suspiciously like cancer. Since I was well past the optimal time for having children, they suggested that the best way — the only way, actually — for them to figure out exactly what this was and to treat me was to have a complete hysterectomy followed by (depending on what they found) chemo and/or radiation. And this was not to be a laparoscopic hysterectomy — it would be the ‘old fashioned’ type where I'd be sliced open from hip to hip and kept in the hospital for a week or more afterward.
I got that ‘diagnosis’ around Christmas, so between Christmas and New Year's I visited a few more doctors around Chicago — including one who was listed as the ‘best gynecological surgeon’ by Chicago Magazine. Each doctor took a look at my charts and test results and agreed with my original doctor: that a hysterectomy was the way to go. On the day before New Year's Eve, when I asked the ‘best gyno surgeon’ about doing a laparoscopic hysterectomy (which I'd heard about), he said he didn't feel comfortable doing it given how my charts looked. I was disappointed, but appreciated his honesty.
Luckily, I knew a surgeon in Phoenix who I'd worked with years before when I'd volunteered at a Planned Parenthood there. I knew he specialized in laparoscopic surgeries and, lucky for me, he took my call and offered to help. I faxed him my records and test results. He called me right back: ‘I don't think you have cancer; I'm pretty sure it's endometriosis.’
He then referred me to a Chicago-area physician who specializes in laparoscopic gynecological surgery. In fact, they'd written a textbook together on the subject. Long story short, I saw that doctor, who agreed with my doctor/friend in Phoenix. He agreed to do the surgery laparoscopically, but not do a complete hysterectomy unless it was necessary once they opened me up. I had my surgery on a Wednesday morning, went home later that day. The following day, I did a conference call with a client. On Friday, I took my regular Friday night yoga class, and on Saturday I did half of a spin-class at my gym. Within a week, I was back to my old self.
What they found, after all these years of being watched and tested: no cancer, no fibroids — only endometriosis which had leaked out of my uterus and wrapped around my fallopian tube, ovary, and parts of my bowel. They removed the offending tissue as well as one fallopian tube and corresponding ovary.
This was 2006, and I've had no problems since then, and even continued to menstruate for another six months. I had an inch-long scar on each hip and one around my navel, but all faded long ago. As you can imagine, I ditched my Chicago gynecologist (who was insisting on the hysterectomy) and have told my story to any woman who suspects she has a similar issue.
To me, the moral is to get multiple opinions and not immediately agree to what your doctor is telling you. Also, not to assume if you're over 40 or so that you need a hysterectomy (old fashioned thinking).”