I've thought long and hard about writing about this, for a couple of reasons: 1) I don't want it to be perceived as an attention getting piece (I generally do not like to draw attention to myself) and 2) It is, but shouldn't be, kind of embarrassing.
When my first child was born, I was the first one of all of my friends to have a baby, and I had no idea what to expect and what was "normal". I suffered in silence with post-partum depression, crying, agonizing, feeling guilty for not being a calm, loving, serene mother oft seen in the parenting magazines I began to read with religious fervour. What was wrong with me? After 8 months of just barely keeping it together, I made an appointment with my GP and was swiftly diagnosed with post-partum depression. I was informed that my doctor saw several women like me several times a week and that it is very common for women to feel the same way I was feeling. Huh. I guess it was also very common for women to appear to be high functioning, baby-loving momma's on the outside, and suffer in silence on the inside. After that one appointment with my GP, I vowed to talk about post-partum to everyone and anyone who would listen. As a result, over the years, I like to think that I have helped several teary new mommies in guiding them to their doctor, or just being an ear to cry to without guilt and shame.
That's a very long winded introduction to what I am writing about today. I feel so good about helping people with post partum depression by talking about it, raising awareness, and I hope I may be able to do the same thing with what I am putting out there today.
Since the birth of my second child, seven years ago, I have been suffering with what I thought, because my doctor told me it was the case, hemorrhoids (see why I might be embarrassed? But c'mon, these are as common as post partum depression). For seven years I have been suffering, with symptoms getting worse and worse, and impacting my life horribly (I won't go into details, google it if you must). Trips to my doctor, emergency rooms all resulted in a sympathetic smile and ain't childbirth a bitch kind of attitude. Not necessarily wanting to be poked and prodded, because it's embarrassing, I would accept this as my fate and carry on. My kids did have massive melons when they were born - small price to pay for craniums full of good smart brains.
I moved cities several months ago and found a lovely new GP. I told her my history, just so she would have it on file, but her reaction was one of sympathy. She said that I shouldn't have to live like this, let's get me to a specialist. When I saw the specialist, he was also so very sympathetic, and a little concerned about the history of colon cancer in my family. Oh, did I mention that yet? I certainly did to my doctors in Ottawa, but they all said I was way too young to be concerned about something so dramatic. Maybe in 10 years time they would start screening, but no need yet.
My specialist scheduled me for a full colonoscopy pronto (I love you my sweet little anaesthetist!) to take a look around and if nothing else, get rid of those nasty hemorrhoids.
When I came to at the hospital, my specialist waited for me to be fully coherent to give me the news. I didn't have hemorrhoids. No sign of them at all. Instead, he removed a massive (his words) polyp from my colon and he would be sending it in for a biopsy. Huh. What do you do with that information? He scheduled an appointment for three weeks later to go over the results. Huh. So there could be more to this? Chapter not closed?
I had my appointment on Monday. Turns out the polyp was like a mushroom, with a stem, the stem attached to my colon. The biopsy revealed abnormal (cancer) cells in the "cap" of the mushroom, and luckily hadn't reached the stem part of the mushroom, because that's when things get more difficult to remove. (This is a very layman's way of describing things, and I apologize for that. If you have a medical background you are probably cringing and cursing at me in latin).
What happens now is I go for a follow-up colonoscopy in 6 months time to make sure he removed everything and there is no more abnormal activity, and I will now have routine colonoscopies every 1-2 years. The scary thing is he said that we would be having a very different conversation if I was sitting in his office a year or two from now. I think you know what I mean. He also told me that he called his colleague in during the procedure, because of my age (sooooo young, thank you, thank you) and because of little old me they are going to change the way they approach patients who approach them with unlikely concerns.
So girls and boys, see what I mean by kind of embarrassing and personal? But it shouldn't be embarrassing, it's all body parts, that's all. Like my specialist said, that looking at my bum is like looking at my nose to him, it's what he looks at everyday - why be embarrassed?
So, with post partum, I talk to anyone pregnant or anyone with a baby about it, just in case they are suffering in silence. Now, I can't very well talk to everyone with a posterior about their bum without getting locked up, but my appeal to you is to not be shy, and push your doctors if you feel in your gut that something isn't right. You have that right. I wasn't pushy, and it took a new doctor, with a different attitude to be proactive on my part. I shudder to think about the outcome if I hadn't moved cities, had remained with my GP, too passive and embarrassed to insist on further probing (ha! couldn't resist).