My 4th Endo Excision Surgery

"Uterus & Guts," created by Ivy Denton
@deathwindchimes ÔĽŅ

Before I get started, let me explain the image above. A talented artist by the name of Ivy Denton (@deathwindchimes) created it for me (she also created the EndoGuy and PoopChuteSnakie you’ll see below). She’s taking commissions if you’re interested in throwing ideas her way! “What is it,” you may be asking yourself. It’s a whimsical interpretation of my insides: a uterus with two cervix, no fallopian tubes (hence the band-aids and floating ovaries), and it’s accompanied by it’s new buddy: an intestine missing some pieces. I think it’s adorable! Thanks, Ivy!!


On with the good stuff! If you didn’t already know, back in July of this year Dr. Kurtulus discovered a pair of Endo lesions on my small intestine. He brought in a colo-rectal surgeon, Dr. Schultzel, to look at it and decide if we could remove it then. Unfortunately, it was deemed too deep and risky without a proper bowel prep and a future resection would take place.

On November 26, 2018, I had a tag-team surgery for my Endometriosis. Dr. Mel Kurtulus once again performed my excision surgery and Dr. Matthew Schultzel performed my bowel resection. This took place just four months after my last excision surgery. The procedure lasted about four hours and went without a hitch. I remained in the luxury resort…I mean the Prebys Cardiovascular Institute at Scripps Memorial Hospital for three nights/four days while I recovered.


The Bowel Prep

This was my very first bowel prep. Ever. And I was terrified of so many things. I’d heard horror stories about the taste of the prep, and equally horrifying tales of the aftermath.

I was prescribed Suprep, which of course my insurance refused to cover. If that ever happens to you, get a manufacturer’s coupon off of their website and bring it to your pharmacist. It certainly knocked a bit off the price for me!

Honestly, it didn’t taste that awful…kind of like a salty grape-flavored 7-up. But ugh it was still rough to get down.

35 minutes after I downed my first big dose of Suprep…and the torrential downpour had begun. Over the next 2 hours, I pooped a total of 19 times (I’m sparing you the details, but kept a detailed log; no pun intended). Most of it was liquid and sometimes I couldn’t even leave the toilet in between craziness.

My colo-rectal surgeon also had me on a regimen of ClearFast, to help not only keep me hydrated during the process but to make for a faster/easier recovery after surgery.

Then at 10pm, I took my 2nd dose of Suprep. It took about 30 minutes to take effect and over the next hour I poo’d liquid 13 times. At 11:30, I dragged myself to bed. At 4:00am, I woke up to take my prescribed ClearFast and learned that Suprep was still in command. I pooped again 5 times over the next hour. And when we got to the hospital, I poo’d liquid again twice before surgery (once in my surgery cap ‘n gown)! I was scared that the clear liquid-pooing would keep them from performing my surgery since I was obviously still voiding. Nope! The show must go on!

The Bowel Resection

After a few months of working with my insurance and getting Dr. Schultzel specially-approved for my surgery (even before he was in my insurance network), the day was here! I endured the prep and I was ready!

My Mum came with me to the hospital why my husband had to work, we met the smiling faces of hospital staff who have remembered us from previous surgeries, AND I had my favorite nurse help me during pre-op setup. Fist bumps, hugs, and cheek-kisses were exchanged all around the pre-op area as they wheeled me out of the room. Have I mentioned how much I love this hospital? They’re like family!

I digress: back to the surgery!

Previously, the endo was spotted on my terminal ileum, which is the area where the small intestine meets your large intestine ( X marks the spot on the picture below). At my request, my colo-rectal surgeon was also going to remove my appendix due to the close-proximity of Endo and the chance that it, too, may be affected. He was also going to inspect and possibly remove any portion of my large intestine that may also be Endo-laden (see the red square below). He ended up doing JUST that.

There were a total of five incisions (1 on my right side, 3 on the left, and a larger one at my bellybutton). I was given a TAP block injection while I was under anesthesia to help with my post-op pain. And in went the camera…

Dr. Schultzel spotted the Endo lesion on my terminal ileum right away, then saw more lesions on my cecum (kind of the bottom right portion of the large intestine) and near my appendix. He also saw a lot of pelvic Endometriosis, but knew Dr. Kurtulus would be handling those nasty buggers.

This is where things get exciting! When I learned I’d have my guts stapled together, I envisioned a big ol’ heavy-duty office stapler. BUT a surgical stapler, especially a robotic stapler, is waaaay cooler! It sort of cuts and seals at the same time with a row of tiny little staples. If you’re familiar with sewing, imagine a serger machine. Zip & slice! One neat little package. I have no way of knowing how many staples still reside in my guts, but I imagine a lot of little teeny ones!

If you don’t want to imagine, you don’t have to: here’s a Youtube video (not mine) of another surgeon using a robotic stapler during a surgery (fast forward to the 0:44-second mark) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wSxiTZwdUFA

So, Dr. Schultzel removed my appendix, my cecum, a portion of my large intestine, my terminal ileum, and small intestine. All in all, it was a little over 7 inches (18 cm) of my guts. The stapler system was used in all areas where my guts were removed.

My small intestine was reconnected to my newly-constructed large intestine and that connection now lives over my liver, near the right of my bellybutton. Then he wrapped that little newly-formed gut-intersection in a flap of my omentum (a fancy term for a fatty, fleshy organ that sits near the stomach and is kind of like a draped apron) – imagine a little poopchute burrito or taco near my bellybutton. ūüôā

Dr. Shultzel then passed the controls of the Da Vinci over to Dr. Kurtulus (see The Endo Excision below). Once Dr. K finished removing any Endo and adhesions, Dr. Schultzel continued to work his magic. He pulled out all of the cut-out bits through a hollow tube placed in my bellybutton incision (called an Alexis wound retractor), stitched, and glued me up.

Alexis Wound Retractor; photo courtesy of Applied Medical

My incisions are definitely larger than surgeries-past, but so much more was done. After reading about the Alexis Wound Retractor, now I understand why my bellybutton incision is roughly 2 inches long!


The Endo Excision

Awww, Endometriosis. It loves me so much it keeps coming back to visit. With it being just four months since my July wide-margin excision surgery, we weren’t expecting to find much, if any. Dr. Kurtulus was there to inspect under the hood just to be safe while I was already under the knife for my bowel resection. A wonderfully, perfect coordinated effort. Boy, were we in for a surprise.

He found newly-formed adhesions on my left side, which involved my left ovary and abdominal wall, more along my peritoneum lining, as well as new adhesions that had begun to smash my bladder back down. He also found Endometriosis lesions “all throughout the pelvis.” They had grown back on my right ovary, my right ovarian fossa (where the ovary hangs out), my Pouch of Douglas, the uterosacral ligaments, near my bladder, my left ovary, and the left adnexa. And, as is customary, an Endometrioma (the chocolate cyst) had formed again on my left ovary. Always my left ovary!!! Even after just four months…*sigh* But…”the rest of the pelvis and abdomen looked clear of endometriosis lesions.” Yay!

He removed all of my Endometriosis lesions with wide-margin excision. He also removed the Endometrioma (he saved my left ovary) and he cut away all of the adhesions that had formed. He also, as is our custom, performed a cystoscopy to look inside my bladder for any Endo or abnormalities: pink, healthy, and all normal! And for the first time in a few surgeries: no Endo on or around my ureters!

Everything that was removed: the gut-bits, the Endo lesions, the adhesions, and Endometrioma were all sent off to pathology. This was the longest pathology report I’ve ever received: a total of seven pages! And it confirmed the presence of microscopic Endometriosis on my appendix. I’m SO grateful the surgeons and insurance all agreed to preventatively remove it.


The Recovery

My Mum, husband, and friends who saw me after surgery said it appeared to be my easiest one yet, in terms of how I felt during recovery. I, on the other hand, felt it was my hardest.

Four days in the hospital: my Mum stayed with me every day while I was there (I love you, Mum!!), my husband would visit after work, both of my surgeons visited as often as the could, and the nursing staff were freakin’ amazing!

During my stay, I was given a cocktail of Tylenol, Gadapentin, and Celebrex to manage my pain. I was offered Tramadol (100mg), but didn’t want it since I already don’t like taking my 50mg Trammy at home. But the cocktail did well and pain was minimal. If memory serves me correctly, I threw up a few times the evening of my surgery (likely related to anesthesia) and became intimately familiar with the hospital-issued throw-up bags.

My surgeon and hospital staff encouraged me to get up and walk the halls as often as I could muster. Not only would this help keep me limber and young (Ha!), but it would help get my bowels workin’ and tootin’. Those long walks around the 5th Floor wing were fun: I stumbled across my surgeon on one of those walks, as well as my best friend, Rosie, and my husband escorted me down the halls a time or two!

I remained on a liquid diet until I farted…late the evening on my third day. Very long days of nothing but soup and jello. But that fart? Which was AWESOME because not only was my Mum’s face epic and unforgettable when I tooted, but all of the nurses were just as excited as we were, AND I was served a small meal of soft foods (diced chicken breast never tasted SO good!). Mum and I even had a laugh keepin’ track.

The next late-morning, I was able to poop (if you can call it that…I’ll spare you the details, but I hope my Mum is laughing when she reads this) and Iwas merrily discharged on Thursday, November 29, 2018.

There were bouts of the dreaded shoulder-gas pain, both at the hospital and at home. A few of them were scream-inducing memorable. And those are the worst moments I remember. Sneezes, coughs, and vomiting were equally unpleasant. As well as trying to get, and remain, comfortable for sleeping. When I got home, I mostly remained on my Tylenol pain management, with the exception of 1 Naproxen Sodium and Two Tramadol through the duration of 2018.

I was off of work for six weeks. And got a little better every day. I kept a running tally of milestones:

  • 11/28/18: Released from hospital and finally at home
  • 12/4/18: I can raise my arms above my head without feeling like I”m pulling my guts out of my incisions
  • 12/8/18: First sneeze since surgery: one sneeze, two sneezes, three sneezes!! SOOO PAINFUL!
  • 12/14/18: I can blow my nose without my guts hurting!
  • 12/17/18: I still can’t bend down and wash my feet, and it’s been 3 weeks since surgery…so I got a pedicure at a local salon. There was some disgusting dead skin!
  • 12/19/18: If I use the handrails, I can walk up the stairs like a normal! Slowly, but normal!
  • 12/20/18: I walked the entire mobile home park! It took over half an hour, but I did it!
  • 12/27/18: I drove!!!
  • 12/29/18: I lasted 10 days without needing to take a pain pill!
  • 1/3/19: I laid down on my side for just a few minutes! Soon: no more back-sleeping!
  • 1/7/19: I’m back to work!!!
  • 1/9/19: I can lay down on my stomach! Albeit for just a few minutes. But still!!
  • 1/17/19: as a fun note: bending or squatting or sitting for long periods still becomes very uncomfortable. So…I haven’t shaved my legs since before 11/26! Bwuahaha.

I cannot tell you how much better I feel since before my surgery. I haven’t had any of my pre-surgery pain. Not one! My bowel movements are (99.9% of the time) pain-free. The constant pain on the right and left sides of my lower abdomen are GONE. My December period was light and cramp-controlled with Ibuprofen. My back pain is gone. And I poop ALL the time.

And…I’m a pooping machine! I compared the first week of November poops to my January poops, both the frequency and the pain levels. My jaw hit the floor:

I now eat six small meals a day, instead of three large ones, to accommodate my new bowels. I also have severely restricted my alcohol intake. Where before I could enjoy 2 or 3 beers in a sitting, I can now only have one. Same goes for wine or cocktails. More than that and I’ve noticed I’m severely dehydrated and my gut’s not happy for days. So, I’ve become the ultimate cheap date: appetizer menu and one drink. And it’s been a marvelous trade-off.

I’m super grateful to my Mum for being with me for a week while I recovered. There’s just something so special about the healing energy of a Mum. And to my friends who came to take care of me after Mum left: thank you. ‚̧


The Bills!

Nobody’s favorite part…the money!! This has been my most costly surgery to date; not only because of the two surgeons involved, but the hospital stay after surgery! And my bills are still rolling in:

$224,476.41Hospital Facility Bill Insurance Payment Pending
$1,687Gyno Surgeon Bill Insurance paid in full
$2,082.19Pathologist Bill Insurance Payment Pending
(Pending)Colo-rectal Surgeon Bill
Insurance Payment Pending
$3,000My co-pay(I’m still waiting for my bill)
$231,245.60Total(updated 1/17/19)

Surgery Photos

Before I share all of the surgery and recovery photos, I wanted to share the photo I found the most amazing.

Back in July, Dr. K took a photo of my bowel with the 2 pink & red Endo lesions. In November, those same splotches had turned BLACK. In a matter of four months, the disease altered that much. I know that lesions come in a broad range of colors…but I didn’t realize they changed color or shape once they were formed! Nor so quickly! So, we’ll start with that! Be flabbergasted with me ūüôā

But here are the rest of my surgery photos I received at my post-op appointments (click on them to enlarge):


Recovery Photos

Mum took a lot of photos while we were in the hospital (but funnily enough…none of her!). Here’s the Hospital Shenanigans:

And here’s a slideshow of my incisions from Day One to Week Seven!

If you’ve made it ALL the way to the end of today’s blog entry, you have my applause!

I’m eternally grateful to both my skilled surgeons and their staff; the insurance crew who expedited the approvals through the system; my Mum, my husband, my Seester, and my friends for not only helping me, but putting up with my grumpy-recovery BS; as well as my employers and my co-workers for allowing me to do this second surgery this year. 2018 was one hell of a ride. And this surgery could not have gone any better without each of you.

Let’s hope there’s no need for future surgeries!


Endometriosis & the Pancreas

I’m sitting here going through my very old post-surgery emails and I’ve stumbled upon one from December that made my jaw, once again, drop. A study was published in late 2018 about a woman who was discovered to have an endometrial cyst inside her pancreas…WHAT? It’s super-duper rare.

As usual, this isn’t meant to scare you. Just inform you…

As you know…I’m prone to following studies down rabbit holes and satisfy my curiosity. Today is no different! Read on, dear Reader…read on!

What & Where is the Pancreas?

I’ve often heard of the pancreas but never looked into where it was and what it does. I know it’s somewhere in my torso…but never bothered or cared to know more. But now? I’m all over it!

It’s a gland about six inches long that’s smashed in the abdominal cavity, surrounded by the liver, spleen, small intestine, stomach, and gallbladder. The pancreas aids in digestion by secreting lovely secretions affectionately called pancreatic juices. It also helps regulate blood sugar via pancreatic hormones: insulin and glucagon.

Symptoms of Pancreatic Endometriosis

From what I’ve been able to read, it appears that symptoms may include:

  • Epigastric pain (pain or discomfort below your ribs);
  • Left upper quadrant pain (the section of your torso on your left : belly button to boob and everything in between); and,
  • Unexplained weight loss.

Diagnosis & Treatment

The good news is it appears that tissue growth and/or cysts are oftentimes spotted with CT scans, MRIs, or endoscopic ultrasound. These may lead physicians to exploratory surgery. And it seems that resection (removal) of the diseased portion of the pancreas is the best option for treating pancreatic Endometriosis.

If you suffer from symptoms and want to begin steps to ensure you DON’T have pancreatic endometriosis, I do believe you’ve got quite the journey ahead. Document your symptoms, track your diet and any triggers, and begin by pursuing imaging studies (xray, CT, MRI, ultrasound, and endoscopic ultrasounds). Talk to your doctor. Do understand that it’s very rare, but there are documented cases below:

Science!

Okay, on with the studies, including the one that brought me here!

A study from 1984 was of a 36-year-old woman who had complained of epigastric pain and was being seen at a hospital in New York. Fourteen months earlier, she was hospitalized with acute pancreatitis and sonogram studies were normal. Now back in the NY hospital, she had no prior history of surgeries, no abnormal periods, her pain was not during her periods, and she didn’t have a problem with alcohol. She had right upper quadrant fullness and lower left quadrant discomfort. Palpitation of her torso was normal, as well as a rectum exam and blood tests. An x-ray showed a hiatal hernia and a distorted duodenal bulb (a portion of the small intestine that is up by the stomach). And a sonogram revealed a small buidup of calculi in her gallbladder as well as an cyst inside her pancreas. A laparatomy was performed; they couldn’t feel any stones in her gallbladder, but located the 4cm cyst in the tail of her pancreas. Piercing of the cyst showed a yellow-ish fluid. They removed part of her pancreas, as well as her gallbladder and spleen. Biopsy of the cyst proved it was lined with endometrial tissue, and hence her diagnosis of pancreatic endometriosis AND no evidence of any prior pancreatitis was found…Her symptoms subsided after her surgery. Go figure.

In 1986, a study was published of a 40-year-old woman who had recurrent left flank pain for a year and a half. When palpitated, doctors could feel a mass near her kidney, but all other physical examinations were normal. An angiography showed the upper part of her left kidney was compressed. A procedure known as an excretory urography was performed and the left side was shown to secrete less, due to a mass which had displaced her left ureter. An ultrasound led doctors to believe a cyst was present. When punctured, the cyst oozed a chocolate-colored, thick fluid. Exploratory surgery was performed and the 8cm cyst was visualized compressing the kidney. While there, her surgeons also found a cyst on her pancreas. Pathology showed the cysts were Endometriosis.

In 2000, a 47-year-old Japanese woman had complained of epigastric pain, back pain, nausea, and vomiting. A CT scan and ultrasound found a cyst on her pancreas. A surgery was performed to remove the diseased portion of her pancreas and pathology confirmed it as an endometrial cyst.

In 2002, a 21-year-old Korean woman went to the hospital because of ongoing epigastric pain and she had lost 20 pounds in one year. She had no prior surgical history, her periods were normal, and her family history was normal. A physical exam and blood tests were also normal. A CT scan showed a 4cm cyst on her pancreas. She underwent a pancreatectomy to remove the infected portion of her pancreas and the biopsy showed it positive as Endometriosis. The rest of her pancreas was normal.

A study published in 2004 was of a 34-year-old woman who was admitted to the hospital due to severe abdominal pain. She had intermittent left upper quadrant pain for the past three years. Between those painful flares, she was pain-free. A CT scan showed an 8cm mass in the tail of her pancreas and a chest x-ray showed a nodule in her right lower lung lobe near her diaphragm. She underwent a CT-guided biopsy to take a sample of the cyst on her pancreas with fine needle aspiration and they collected 100ml of dark brown fluid from the cyst. A few imaging scans later, and doctors decided to do exploratory surgery. “Small plaque-like lesions” were found on her liver and diaphragm. Other lesions were found on her spleen and they found the cyst on her pancreas. A portion of her pancreas and spleen were moved, as well as the suspicious lesions. Biopsy confirmed the cyst in the pancreas was Endometriosis. The authors of the study stress that, although rare, “a cystic lesion in the pancreas must have endometriosis in the differential diagnosis.” At least consider the option…

In 2011, a 35-year-old woman had recurrent, severe pain in her upper left abdominal quadrant. The pain had persisted for three months and an examination revealed a cyst inside her pancreas. A portion of her pancreas was removed and a biopsy showed it to be an endometrial cyst.

A July 2012 study was of a 42-year-old woman who was hospitalized due to epigastric pain. A CT scan revealed tissue changes around her pancreas as well as possible cancerous growths. Her pain resolved, but later at a follow-up exam, another CT found additional tumor growth. Physical examination and bloodwork was normal. She was referred to a local university hospital’s pancreatic team. More CT scans found swelling and tissue changes around the tail of her pancreas. Pancreatitis was suspected. An MRI led the team to suspect Endometriosis. They learned that she had a history of irregular periods (but they weren’t painful), and that her sister had Endometriosis. Since the imaging studies were not conclusive, exploratory surgery was performed by a team of gynecological and gastrointestinal surgeons. Evidece of old Endometriosis activity was noted in her Pouch of Douglas, she had a chocolate cyst on her left ovary (they removed her left ovary), and cystic tissue was found on the pancreas; which came back from pathology as Endometriosis.

In 2016, a study was published of a post-menopausal, 72-year-old woman was preliminary diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and was referred out for further testing. She had increasing abdominal pain in the upper left quadrant of her torso. And her medical history included an umbilical hernia, an appendectomy, hypertension, her gallbladder was removed, a hysterectomy, and a surgical hernia repair. “There was no known history of pancreatitis or endometriosis.” Her abdomen was bloated and tender, especially in the area of her pain. Imaging studies showed a mass on her pancreas. Pathology came back as Endometriosis, and she was symptom-free five years after her surgery.

A February 2017 study is of a 43-year-old woman who had previously been admitted to the hospital for one day of severe epigastric pain and was diagnosed with acute pancreatitis. A CT scan and an endoscopic ultrasound at that time indicated a cyst on the tail-end of her pancreas. It was pierced with fine needle aspiration and brown fluid was retrieved. Fast forward to three months later and she’s at a medical clinic due to worsening abdominal pain, fatigue, diarrhea, anorexia, and having lost 15 pounds in the past three months. Although she had a previous diagnosis of Endometriosis, she did not have painful periods. Additional imaging studies confirmed the presence of the cyst and surgery found the 16cm cyst inside the tail-end of her pancreas. That section, as well as a portion of her spleen, were removed. No other evidence of Endometriosis was found. Pathological examination showed the cyst was full of “gray-green cloudy fluid” and came back as pancreatic Endometriosis.

In December of 2018, a 26-year-old woman reported abnormal periods and was hospitalized due to left abdominal pain. It hurt even when she wasn’t on her period. Her medical history only revealed that she had a prior c-section, but no history of Endometriosis or pancreatitis. A CT Scan found a 7cm cyst inside of her pancreas, which was confirmed in both an MRI and endoscopic ultrasound. A benign tumor was suspected and surgery was performed to remove part of her pancreas as well as her spleen. A biopsy was performed and it was found that she had endometrioma insider her pancreas. She underwent surgery and they removed the portion of her pancreas, as well as a bit of her spleen which was affected by the mass.

Resources:

Acta Radiologica Open (Article; Sept. 2016) – A Rare Case of Pancreatic Endometriosis in a Postmenopausal Woman and Review of the Literature

Europe PMC (Abstract; Jan. 2000) – A Case of Hemorrhagic Cyst of the Pancreas Resembling the Cystic Endometriosis.

Gastroenterology (Article; June 1984) – Endometrial Cyst of the Pancreas

HealthlineWhat’s Causing my Epigastric Pain and How Can I Find Relierf?

Journal of Minimally Invasive Gynecology (Abstract; July 2012) – Endometriosis of the Pancreas (you may access the full article here)

Korean Journal of Internal Medicine (Article; 2002) – A Case of Pancreatic Endometrial Cyst

Pancreatic Cancer Action NetworkWhat is the Pancreas?

Southern Medical Journal (Article; Oct. 2004) – Endometriosis of the Pancreas Presenting as a Cystic Pancreatic Neoplasm with Possible Metastasis

Surgery Today (Abstract; July 2011) – Pancreatic Endometrial Cyst: Report of a Case

The Japanese Society of Internal Medicine (Article; Dec. 2018) – A Rare Case of Pancreatic Endometrial Cyst and Review of Literature

The Journal of Urology (Abstract & Article; Jan. 1986) – Pancreatic Endometriosis Presenting as Hypovascular Renal Mass (you may access the full article here)

World Journal of Gastroenterology (Article; Feb. 2017) – Pancreatic Endometrial Cyst Mimics Mucinous Cystic Neoplasm of the Pancreas

~ Again, I am a layman.  I do not hold any college degrees, nor mastery of knowledge.  Please take what I say with a grain of salt.  If curious, do your own research 
Validate my writings.  Or challenge them.  And ALWAYS feel free to consult with your physician. Always.  Yours ~ Lisa

Feel Good Fridays!

Well here we are, my first Feel Good Friday in a loooong while! It’s good to be back and I hope you’re doing well.

Today’s quote is to bring in the new year right: on a positive note.


“Staying positive does not mean that things will turn out okay. Rather it is knowing that YOU will be okay no matter how things turn out.”¬†~Unknown

You will make it through (fill in the blank). Whatever it may be, you will push through. You will survive this. You will endure.

Try your best to find that silver lining through the difficult times. Embrace something positive. Or even just think happy thoughts. You *have* to make it through. And you will.

Love you guys. Happy Friday, and have a wonderful weekend.

Yours, Lisa

Pain & Poops: Then & Now

Well, here we are in 2019 and I’m starting my blog off talking about poop…Why? Because I’m SUPER excited to share with you how different my bowels (and pain levels) have been since my recent bowel resection and Endometriosis excision surgery.

If you weren’t aware, I underwent a bowel resection to remove deep-infiltrating Endometriosis from my small intestine. I’m waiting on a final surgery report before I blog about the specifics, so please be patient. Hopefully in a few weeks.

Until then, embrace this discovery with me! Here’s my pain journal summary for November of 2018:

And here’s my pain journal summary for January of 2019:

I went one step further and compared my bowel movements and their pain levels for the first eight days of November and of January! The difference is…staggering!

Look how numbers have completely shifted!!! I was flabbergasted when I did the comparison! I mean, I’ve obviously noticed a huge difference in my quality-of-bathroom-life, but wasn’t expecting THIS!

If I ever needed any sort of reassurance that my bowel resection and Endometriosis excision surgeries were the right call, this is it. Not that I needed that validation. And am so grateful to Dr. Mel Kurtulus and Dr. Matthew Schultzel for their expertise, compassion, and friendship.

But I was SO excited about the difference that I wanted to share it with you…And bring in the New Year with…poop-talk.

Stay tuned. I’ll be blogging full-force once again now that I can sit at a computer for longer periods of time. And I cannot wait to share with you the details of my last surgery and the findings.

Be well. I’ve missed you Readers. And I’m so pleased to be back in the saddle, so to speak.

A quick update.

Hi guys! I’m home with lots of rest and recuperating.

Here’s what I know was done during surgery (to be confirmed/edited) after my mid-December post-ops with my respective surgeons:

The Endometriosis on the exterior of my small bowel was still there. It had changed colors since July, from pink to black. A small bit of Endo was also located on my colon. So a section of small and large intestine were removed, as well as my appendix and cecum, and my new PoopChute was stapled back together. The Endometriosis and resulting scar tissue had caused a sort of twisted mass on the right side of my guts.

I also had an endometrioma (2, if I heard him correctly) on my left ovary. The Endo was removed and the ovary was saved.

Plenty of new Endometriosis growth on the left side of my pelvis, which was also cut out.

Vindication of the pain I’ve had on both the right and left side of my lower abdomen.

My surgery was robotic assisted laparoscopy, I have 5 incisions, the procedure lasted 4 hours, and I was in the hospital for 4 days. During my stay there, I received 0 narcotics to manage my pain, but a beautiful cocktail of Tylenol, Celebrex, and Gadapentin. And wonderful care from the staff.

Both Dr. Kurtulus and Dr. Schultzel visited me daily to see how I was doing, and I look forward to seeing both of these capable and talented surgeons at my respective post-op appointments. As well as reading my op reports and reviewing the photographs.

One day there will be a cure. In the meantime, we will fight on.

Purging my fears

As you know, this blog isn’t just a place for me to research and write about Endometriosis, or to share stories of other EndoWarriors…but it’s also my therapy.

And today I need to just let some stuff off of my chest:

Late yesterday afternoon, I received the final official confirmation that my bowel resection surgery is all approved by my insurance company.¬† November 26th is 10 days away. And it’s going to happen…

Prior to yesterday’s official proclamation, I was 100% purely excited.¬† “Get this damn disease out of me,” has been my honest response, followed by, “I’m not scared, I’m in good hands, I’m ready.”

Now? I feel as if I need to crawl into the depths of my nerve-wracked stomach.¬† I want to pull all the warm darkness around me and just shiver.¬† I’m scared.¬† I want to cry.¬† I want it to be over with.

All of the “What Ifs” come bubbling up.

What if they don’t find anything?¬† Even though there are photographs of big endo lesions on my small intestines…this is still my biggest What If.

What if we need to reschedule surgery because of (fill in the blank)?

What if they find more Endo and have to take MORE of my guts than originally intended?

What if I need an ileostomy bag?

What if the surgery doesn’t resolve my current pain?

What if my bowels don’t heal right, I leak, and have to go back in?

What if I suffer from future bowel blockages due to scar tissue?

What if I don’t wake up…?

I know in my heart-of-hearts that everything will be okay.¬† I’m in wonderful surgical hands.¬† I trust my surgeons completely. They’re incredible.¬†¬†I’ll receive great care at Scripps Memorial Hospital for a few days until I’m released. My Mum will also be with me while I’m there.¬† And yet I’m still fucking terrified.

I’m terrified I’ll be perceived as weak in the hospital.¬† There’s a specific shoulder pain that comes with abdominal surgeries that makes me howl in pain.¬† It’s a noise I cannot suppress…¬† And for days after my prior laparoscopies, I am unable to get in and out of bed alone.¬† I cannot sit up without help.¬† I can’t use the bathroom without someone to help me get up and down.¬† I’m sure the nurses know this and are used to it, but I’m still worried I’ll be “that patient.”

And to top it all off?¬† I may very well be on my period during my surgery…

When friends, co-workers, and family members ask me, “Will this surgery fix you?” – I have to take a breath.¬† Then I have to tell myself I’m not broken.¬† THEN I¬†explain (again) that this is an incurable disease.¬† That I hope it fixes it for a long while.¬† That I hope this specific surgery removes the source of my current pain.¬†¬†

One co-worker even said, “I feel so bad for you because you’ve had so many health problems over the past few years.”¬†¬†I wanted to smack her and yell, “I don’t have health problems.¬† I have Endometriosis.”¬† Such a knee-jerk reaction.¬† ¬†But I felt like she never really listened as I explained the illness, what it can do, why it can require so much surgery.¬† ¬†And it just hurt.

But having to explain it over and over again gets exhausting.

I pooped today.¬† The third time since 6:30 this morning.¬† And I cannot adequately express the agony of it.¬† First the right side (where my constant pain is) screamed.¬† Then the broken glass and barbed wire scooted across my lower abdomen…where it met up with the burning side of my left lower abdomen (which burns every time I have to shit) and finally killed me on the way out with a piercing pain.¬† Sitting on the toilet at work, trying hard to breathe through it and not cry out while tears escape the eyes…No good. No good at all.

Ten more days of nerves, and wondering, and playing this damn game in my head.  Ten more days of constant pain.  Ten more days of just really wanting it to be over with already.

I AM scared and nervous.¬† I’m in good hands.¬† I’m ready.¬† And I’m excited.

9 days, 18 hours, 59minutes, and 15 seconds to go…

And for some reason, as always, acknowledging and writing out what the heck is upsetting me always does help…at least a little bit.¬† So, thank you for being here to read this.¬† ¬†

Feel Good Fridays!

my Jack Dagger throwing knives by Cold Steel

FRIDAY!!!  Already? 

Where has the year gone??

Today’s quote is inspired by the strong Warriors around me, whether physically or through the magic of the internet.¬† There are so many inspiring people I know who struggle, yet continue to fight.¬† Who don’t quit.¬† Who ask for help.¬† Who push for the medical care they know they deserve.¬† And who accept what they cannot change.

‚ÄúI brought a knife to the gunfight. 
I am the knife. 
I am all blade.‚ÄĚ 

Clementine von Radics

Keep fightin’.  Whatever it may be you face…never stop.

And have an incredible weekend!   

Love, Lisa

Interstitial Cystitis

Today I’d like to talk about something that a lot of my EndoSisters suffer from: Interstitial Cystitis, also known as IC.

Interstitial what? That’s what I thought the first time I heard of it a few years ago.¬† Heck, my doctor even suspected I had it (we check every time I go in for surgery, and so far: no tell-tale signs).¬† I’ve been telling myself for a few years now that I needed to research and write about it…so today I am!

What is it?

Let’s start off with:¬† it’s been around for quite a while.¬† The first written description of IC was back in 1836 by Philadelphia surgeon, Joseph Parrish.

It is a chronic, often painful,¬† incurable bladder condition that both men and women can suffer from.¬† In a nutshell, the signals that are usually sent from the bladder to the brain are a bit mixed up. And this mix-up can cause a whole host of symptoms, which I”ll describe below.¬† ¬†Although incurable…symptoms may regress or completely go away after time.

This condition goes by many names: Interstitial Cystitis (IC), Painful Bladder Syndrome (PBS), Bladder Painful Syndrome (BPS), and oftentimes is just labeled as chronic pelvic pain.

And, like Endometriosis, doctors are unsure as to what causes IC, although they theorize that it may be hereditary, an autoimmune reaction, inflammatory cell growth, an allergy, or a defect in the bladder tissue.

It is unclear how many people suffer from Interstitial Cystitis worldwide, but it is estimated 3-8 million women in the US have it; roughly 12% of women show early symptoms of Interstitial Cystitis; and it’s estimated that of the sufferers of IC, 80% are women.

Symptoms?

Symptoms can vary from person to person, may come and go, may be constant, or may flare-up due to certain triggers.  Some people mistakenly think they simply have a bladder infection.  Common symptoms include:

  • Pelvic pain (it can range from mild to severe)
  • Pain between the vagina and anus (in women) or from the scrotum to the anus (in men)
  • Pain, pressure, or discomfort near the bladder, sometimes relieved after urinating
  • Frequently going pee (some people pee as much as 60 times a day!)
  • Feeling a strong urge to pee
  • Peeing only small amounts
  • Painful sex

Many women report symptoms are worse when they’re on their periods, have a urinary tract infection, after sitting for a long period of time, or even (noooooo!) after having sex.¬† And the lower quality of life, pain, and other symptoms may also have an effect on emotional well-being.

Types: there’s more than one?!

As of today, there are two types of IC: non-ulcerative and ulcerative. What does that mean?

Non-ulcerative interstitial cystitis is what 90% of IC patients are believed to have.¬† Little spots or blotches are seen inside the bladder and are called¬†glomerulations.¬† There’s a caveat (isn’t there always?) – these blotches can be caused by any inflammation, so it’s not a 100% positive diagnostis of IC to just visualize the glomerulations.¬†

Ulcerative interstitial cystitis is what a lucky 5-10% of IC sufferers have. The red blotches found inside the bladder wall actually bleed.¬† They’re known as Hunner’s Ulcers.

But wait, there’s more!¬† A small percentage of IC suffers continue to have symptoms for longer than two years.¬† Their bladders may be very hard, have a small capacity for holding urine, and are constantly in pain.¬† This is known as End Stage IC (or Severe IC).¬† End Stage IC sufferers oftentimes also have Hunner’s Ulcers.

Diagnosis

Just how do you know if you have Interstitial Cystitis? There’s no ONE test to tell you if you do, or don’t have it.

A physician will likely take a detailed medical history, making note of any IC symptoms.  Then steps will be taken to rule out other causes of those symptoms.  A physical examination will likely ensue, and possibly a neurological exam.   And a urine test may be ordered, to also rule out a bladder infection. 

A cystoscopy can be performed, which is when a camera is smooshed up your hoo-haw to look at the condition of the urethras and bladder. The internal examination of the bladder will help look for those blotches we discussed previously.

Another test that may help doctors come to an IC diagnosis is called hydrodistention.  It means they insert a catheter, fill your bladder with water, and measure the pressure as the bladder fills and empties.  It may even give them a first-hand encounter as to your pain responses when the bladder does its fill & pee thing.

Treatment Options

Talk to your doctor before doing ANY of this!¬†I’ve found references to the following treatment options (and this is by no means complete):

Lifestyle changes

Stress may be a big factor in triggering symptoms…so being able to either eliminate or alleviate stress may help ease IC symptoms.

Diet changes

Although there is no official “IC Diet,” many people report that gluten and dairy trigger their symptoms.¬† ¬†A balanced plate of fresh fruits and veggies, grains, and proteins seems to be the overwhelming advice.¬† Also, avoiding processed foods and keeping a food journal are also popular suggestions.¬† Many people have found that their symptoms are worse after eating chocolate, tomatoes, spicy foods, carbonated beverages, high-acid food or drink (like cranberry juice), drinking alcohol, or caffeine.¬† Learn your body and what does, or doesn’t influence your IC symptoms.

Bladder training

literally retraining your bladder; learning to pee on a set schedule, rather than when your bladder screams at you (although, if it is painful…by all means, go!) Bladder training can take anywhere from 2-12 weeks to see results and may help with frequent urination complaints.¬† Keep a diary of bladder activity to keep track of how you’re doing!

Physical therapy or pelvic floor therapy

A pelvic floor therapist can help stretch and strengthen the muscles of the pelvic floor, which may help with ease symptoms…BUT BEWARE – some studies have shown that it¬† may also worsen symptoms.¬† This includes kegel exercises!

MedicATIONs

Over-the-counter pain medications (such as Ibuprofen and aspirin) may alleviate some bladder pain and discomfort.  

A prescription drug known as Elmiron has been shown to relieve IC bladder pain and discomfort.¬† It was approved by the FDA in 1996.¬† The manufacturer’s webpage states it is a weak anticoagulant and “[i]t is not known exactly how Elmiron works.”¬† It may adhere to the mucous lining of the bladder, subduing irritation.¬† Elmiron also comes with a whole slew of possible side effects that may not be worth it, but decide for yourself and talk to your doctor.

Low-dose tricyclic anti-depressants may relax the bladder, ease pain and improve sleep.  Most commonly prescribed is Amitriptyline.

Antihistamines may also help with inflammation and pain.  If you go this route, though, beware of drowsiness.

There are also several prescription medications used to relax the bladder walls to reduce instances of incontinence.¬† Think of that “gotta go, gotta go, gotta go right now” jingle on TV.

Gabapentin is an anti-seizure medication and also treats nerve-related pain.  Some studies have shown Gabapentin-use to improve some symptoms in IC sufferers. 

Cyclosporine is an immunosuppressant drug given to patients who receive organ transplants; it’s taken so the new organ doesn’t get rejected by the host body.¬† A 3-month clinical trial of 26 participants in 2017 found that 30% of them showed improvement in their IC symptoms.¬† Supposedly, it suppresses immunological responses, aka inflammation, which is an autoimmune response.¬† Cyclosporine is not yet FDA approved to treat IC.

As always, please talk to your doctor before starting any over-the-counter or prescription regimen.

Distending the bladder

The aforementioned procedure (hydrodistention)  to fill the bladder to test for pressure thresholds, etc. also has been found in some women to relieve their IC symptoms, for a time.

Electrical nerve stimulation

Neuromodulation therapy uses electrical stimulation to alter the way our nerves work.¬† It’s painless, and sometimes (if the settings are too high) feels like a pinch.

Many people have reported good results with controlling pain using a TENS unit.  

Another option is an implantable device known as the InterSim, which stimulates the sacral nerve to control bladder issues.

Bladder instillation

Going back to the catheter in the bladder method, but this time instead of water or a saline solution, it’s a liquid drug.¬† The fluid is held in the bladder for up to 20 minutes, then released (aka just let it go…pee it out!). It may cause immediate relief…or a flare-up, but with continued treatments, it may temporarily ease symptoms.

Dimethyl sulfoxide (aka DMSO) is a bladder instillation that is administered weekly, for usually six to eight weeks.    It was approved by the FDA for human use in 2002.  Cystistat and Hyacyst are also bladder instillation drugs, but are not approved for use in the United States.  You can, however, get these treatments in Canada and Europe.

Other bladder instillations may use a combination of different liquid medications and treatments may take place three times a week.

Botox

Just like people get Botox injections to help with facial wrinkles and migraines, you can also get a Botox injection for your bladder!¬† It’s temporary and may require multiple treatments but may help with overactive bladder muscles.¬† If you receive Botox injections for your IC, please be sure to tell your doctor if you develop difficulty peeing.

Surgery

In some cases, surgery is the last resort to dealing with pain.¬† ¬†You may be asking how the heck any type of surgery can help with IC issues.¬† Well…read on:

Under anesthesia, some ulcers inside the bladder may be cauterized.  

A bladder augmentation surgery can make the bladder larger.  

In a cystectomy, they take out your bladder and give you a “new” one using intestinal tissue.¬† And having this new, non-bladder bladder usually means you’ll need to use a catheter whenever you want to pee.

Other

People have also reported good results with warm baths, stress reduction, exercise, and biofeedback.  It truly is about finding what works best for you and your IC.

If you’re interested in any of these treatment options, please address them with your healthcare provider.¬†

Know You’re Not Alone

If you suffer from IC, I mean it: you’re not alone.¬†

The Interstitial Cystitis Association has put together an extensive video library on Youtube with expert interviews, IC advocates, and sufferers.¬† If you’re curious, you can check it out here.¬†

The ICA has also created an online support community for people who suffer from Interstitial Cystitis.  Please feel free to sign up here. 

The IC Network also has a list of support groups around the United States.  Click here to find one near you!

Just a little note if you’ve made it through my blog entry today and you haveIC…if I’ve misunderstood any of my research or if you would like me to add something, please let me know!

Resources:

Bladder Pain Syndrome (Abstract; Aug. 2017) – Botulinum Toxin in Treatment of Bladder Pain Syndrome/Interstitial Cystitis

Centers for Disease Control & Prevention – What is Interstitial Cystitis?

Cleveland Clinic – Interstitial Cystitis (Painful Bladder Syndrome)

Clinical Trials – Cyclosporine in Interstitial Cystitis: Efficacy, Safety and Mechanism of Action (CIC)

Elmiron manufacturer webpage

Expert Review of Clinical Pharmacology – (Abstract; April 2018) – Pharmacological Management of Interstitial Cystitis/Bladder Pain Syndrome and the Role Cyclosporine and Other Immunomodulating Drugs Play

Harvard Health Publishing – Treating Interstitial Cystitis

Interstitial Cystitis Association – Bladder Retraining

Interstitial Cystitis Association – Interstitial Cystitis and Diet

Interstitial Cystitis Association – IC Plate

Interstitial Cystitis Association – Other Medicines

Interstitial Cystitis Association РWhat is Interstitial Cystitis?

Mayo Clinic – Overview of Interstitial Cystitis

MedLine Plus – Interstitial Cystitis

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases – Cystoscopy & Ureteroscopy

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases – Interstitial Cystitis (Painful Bladder Syndrome)

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases – Treatment for Interstitial Cystitis

Office on Women’s Health – Bladder Pain

The Journal of Urology – (Abstract; Jan. 2004) – The Historical Origins of Interstitial Cystitis

UpToDate – Patient Education: Treatment of Interstitial Cystitis/Bladder Pain Syndrome(Beyond Basics)

Urology Care Foundation – First Phase: Lifestyle Changes

Urology Care Foundation – Fourth Phase: Cyclosporine

Urology Care Foundation – Interstitial Cystitis

Urology Care Foundation – Third Phase: Neuromodulation, Ulcer Cauterization and Injections

US Food & Drug Administration – Dimethyl Sulfoxide

US Food & Drug Administration – Elmiron

Womens Health Matters – Interstitial Cystitis

~ Again, I am a layman.  I do not hold any college degrees, nor mastery of knowledge.  Please take what I say with a grain of salt.  If curious, do your own research 
Validate my writings.  Or challenge them.  And ALWAYS feel free to consult with your physician. Always.  Yours ~ Lisa

Share Your Story: Mummy

mummy

“Mummy” was 29 when she was diagnosed with Endometriosis.¬† Now 32, she shares her journey with us.¬† Mummy lives on the island of Antigua, and faces the struggles of limited options when it comes to healthcare.

Mummy’s Journey:¬†I started getting horrible pains when I was around 25 years old and I did not realize what it was because I always took Advil painkillers.¬† They¬†did help but I realize after my period was finished I was still feeling pain and my legs, I couldn’t walk, and just feel too tired.

You can say I visited all the Doctors mentioned in your blog. Dr. Roberts was the one who told me I might have endo. I did not know anything about the disease she said to do some research; I did. I felt like she was not helping me just putting me on contraceptives and I have to spend a lot of money every time I visited her. She would perform ultrasounds every time I visit which was pretty often and said she had not seen any cyst or fibroid at the time. I decided to stop seeing her because I felt that she was not understanding to my pain and so I traveled overseas to another Caribbean island where I saw a Doc.

He examined me and I did a few tests. I had a cyst on my left ovary. I could not stay on the island as I lived and work in Antigua. The Doc told me they had to monitor it (cyst) for three months.¬† Of course, I couldn’t stay so I came back to Antigua.

I saw Dr. Wynter and Dr. Mansoor I felt that they could not help me.

One day a friend of mine told me that Dr. Dean Martin was on ABS talking about the Endo.¬† I decided I was going to make an appointment to see him, in which I did and he told me after examining me with the pains I had, a laparoscopy was the best option to see what’s happening.

I did the surgery (four hours) of course he told me I have stage four endometriosis and a cyst that had ruptured.

I was placed on sick leave after recovery the pain definitely did not go away I had longer periods and worst pain the only good the surgery did for me is that I could have sex without feeling so much pain during or after sex. I felt like I paid a lot of money and was still in so much pain.  My job wrote me a letter to say I am always sick and they would reconsider my employment with them because I would always call sick. I was working with this prominent Security Firm and even though I worked there for 8 years and informed my boss personally about my condition it did not matter to him.

I would overdose on the painkillers so that I would not have to deal with the pain by falling asleep. My doctor told me I should not wait to have children because of the endo, I just felt so lost and I would just stay in my house and I did not want to come out to socialize with people or anyone. I would lay on my bathroom cold floor just to get relief. Somedays I feel like ending my life until I met this wonderful herbal doctor, Dr. Elra, right here in Antigua. I was feeling so much pain I end up at ER and my friend told me about him and I went and visited him he is amazing.¬† God is truly awesome.¬† Diet, plus colon cleanse and medicine healed me less than a month. I do not feel the pain, I am totally pain-free. It’s expensive, but Dr. Elra is the best.

**

I want to send a special Thank You out to Mummy for being brave enough to share her personal story, struggle, and victories with us today.¬† And I am so grateful you were able to find Dr. Elra and relief!¬† We hope it continues for you! ‚̧ And your quote, “I had to lay on the bathroom floor just to get relief,” struck me so hard – I think each one of us reading your story today have been there. Thank you for sharing.

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And if YOU would like to share your story, you can do so by clicking here.  The best part about this disease is the strong network of love and support from our fellow EndoSisters, and our friends and family, too.

Yours, Lisa.