Feel Good Fridays

Bloomin' Uterus logo and mantra: I will endure, I will flourish, and I am still beautiful

I’ve never struggled to find a quote on a Friday morning before.  But today, after an hour of searching for one that clings to me, I give up.

Instead, I will simply tell you thank you.  Not only for reading what I write, but for being there for me when I need you.  And for being such a huge part of my journey and my healing.

Together, we learn, we grow, we endure.  Your stories not only bring me tears, but joy.  Our struggles (because they are OURS) bring us closer and let us know that we do not fight alone.

The knowledge that there are thousands of women who fight this illness alongside me pushes me forward every day.

The disease has not defined me.  It has given me purpose.  And has given me Family.  And it has done the same to you, dear Warriors.

May you have a wonderful weekend.  And if you need to rest, rest.  If you need to cry, cry.  If you need to shout to the heavens, do so.  And laugh when the joy bubbles up.

I love you. ~Lisa

Blogs I Updated This Week:

Endometriosis & The Appendix: added a 2018 study of a 42-year-old woman with appendiceal endometriosis.

July 2018 Surgery Recovery

Photograph of Dr. Mel Kurtulus and Lisa Howard before surgery, titled Resilience; photo taken by Brandy Sebastian
Dr. Mel Kurtulus and I before heading in. Photo courtesy of Brandy Sebastian

As you may know, I like to take extensive notes during my recovery from my Endo surgeries. This helps me better be prepared in case I have another one – just to get a sense of what was normal and what I can expect next time. And who knows – it may help you…or someone you know.

A good friend of mine, Brandie, typed up my chicken-scratch notes. (Thank you BRANDIE!) BUT, the “cliff notes” version is below:

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Feel Good Fridays

Cityscape at night time with blurred lights of cars driving by

Good morning and Happy Friday!  We made it through another week…and August is almost over! ALREADY?!?

Today’s quote is for all of my readers who are feeling that time is slipping too quickly, especially if they are bound to the bed, the heating pad, the pain pills, the struggles of having to pick and choose what they can accomplish in a moment.  The daily battle to be able to just…do. Do anything.  Do everything.

Burning that precious energy to take a shower, or to feed your children before school, or to buy groceries.  Or to just sip on some tea while curled around a heating pad.  Or maybe the day encompasses a hike, yet you have to take a lot of breaks due to pain.

It’s finding the strength to do what you can, when you can, and still finding balance.  Not mourning the things you were unable to do yesterday or today…but embracing the things you DID accomplish.

…even if it was something as simple as brushing your hair, kissing your loved ones, or resting.  Please…do not beat yourself up if you are unable to “do all the things”…you must respect and honor your limitations.  Embrace you for you, just as you are.

“It was a very ordinary day, the day I realised that my becoming is my life and my home and that I don’t have to do anything but trust the process, trust my story and enjoy the journey. It doesn’t really matter who I’ve become by the finish line, the important things are the changes from this morning to when I fall asleep again, and how they happened, and who they happened with. An hour watching the stars, a coffee in the morning with someone beautiful, intelligent conversations at 5am while sharing the last cigarette. Taking trains to nowhere, walking hand in hand through foreign cities with someone you love. Oceans and poetry.

It was all very ordinary until my identity appeared, until my body and mind became one being. The day I saw the flowers and learned how to turn my daily struggles into the most extraordinary moments. Moments worth writing about. For so long I let my life slip through my fingers, like water.
I’m holding on to it now,
and I’m not letting go.”
― Charlotte ErikssonEmpty Roads & Broken Bottles; in search for The Great Perhaps

Have a beautiful weekend.  May it be full of what you need.

Love, Lisa

Blogs I updated this week!

C-Sections & Endometriosis – added a July 2018 study of a woman with nodule in her c-section scar

Endometriosis & the Bowel – added a Jan. 2018 study of a woman who suffered from left abdominal pain and bloody stool during her periods.

My Two Cents: Sexual Abuse & Endometriosis – added a July 2018 study trying to find a relationship between early childhood abuse (physical and sexual) and a higher risk of developing Endometriosis

Ways to Better Prepare for Anesthesia

1st person view from an operating table with surgeons looking down at you with the words "Count backwards from 10, 9, 8, 7..."

My mum recently asked me to look into ways we EndoWarriors may better prepare our bodies to accept, and recover, from anesthesia of our surgeries.

For my July surgery, I cut out alcohol the second I knew I had my confirmed surgery date and waited another two weeks before having my first sip.  So, I went a month without any booze.  Why?  Just because I thought it would be nice to pamper my liver in the hopes that my body would handle things a bit easier…or smoothly…or whatever.  But did I do any research? Nope.  So, now here comes the research.

Medications, Vitamins, Herbs, Recreational Drugs

This is VERY important so I will begin with this statement.  Some medications (including birth control), drugs, vitamins,  and supplements may interfere with the efficacy and processes of anesthesia.  Please be sure to give a thorough list to your doctor of everything you’re taking the moment you learn you have a surgery date.  Your physician may have you stop taking some of these immediately.  Others, you may be instructed to stop taking a few weeks, days, or hours before surgery.

One study stated that oral contraceptives should be discontinued six weeks before surgery due to an increased risk of deep vein thrombosis (blood clots).

However, if you are interested in a homeopathic route after surgery to strengthen your body there are many supplements that are touted to boost the liver’s abilities and flush kidneys, etc.  Do your research! And…talk to your doctor before starting any supplements.

Smoking

If you smoke, try to stop smoking as soon you hear you have a surgery date.  This could be a month or more in advance.  Too much?  Try to cut out smoking at least two weeks before surgery.  If you can’t cut it cold turkey that far in advance, try hard to at least abstain from smoking a few days before your surgery.  It will alleviate a greater potential for breathing problems or complications while under anesthesia.

Booze

Alcohol may also interfere with anesthesia as well as lead to excessive bleeding during surgery.  Health24 recommends cutting out all alcohol at least a week before surgery, longer if you’re a “heavy drinker.”  And you want to keep the liver functioning at full-capacity after surgery, so avoid alcohol a week or two later.

Food

Omitting meat and dairy products before and immediately after a surgery may help with your body’s recovery.  Certain foods can cause inflammation and discomfort.  And, according to some studies, people who did not consume dairy prior to colo-rectal surgeries had a faster recovery than those who did.  A healthy diet of fiber can keep the blood from clotting, which may minimize the risk of clots occurring after surgery.  A high-fiber diet will also keep your innards a well-lubed & poopin’ machine.

In 1993, mice were given a high-fat diet for three weeks before surgery, some mice were not, and other mice were switched from a high-fat diet to a low-fat diet.  Fatty-tissue chemicals change during surgery.  These same chemicals “talk” to organs inside our body.  During surgery, that fatty tissue…and those chemicals…are traumatized, just like any other flesh being cut into.  The study found that the mice who had the low-fat diet had fewer changes in their fatty-tissue-chemical-balance than the fatty-diet mice.  It suggests that a low-fat diet before surgery may aid in recovery because of the potential of minimalized trauma to that tissue.

And a study in 1998 found that potatoes (and fresh eggplant) may make it harder for the body to break down and eliminate any lingering effects of anesthesia.  Potatoes and fresh eggplant may contain a chemical called solonaceous glycoalkaloids (SGAs) – ever cut up a potato and found green inside? That’s evidence of SGAs.  SGAs are usually found in the stems, leaves, and sprouts, but may make their way into the edible part through damage or light exposure.  The broken down layman version of the article?  Even a tiny amount of SGAs in your system can cause a delay in the body’s ability to recover from anesthetic compounds.

Drink Your Water!

Staying hydrated, before (not the morning of, unfortunately) and after surgery is always a healthy decision.  But it will also help your body operate at optimal capacity.  So, drink up.  Keep those liver and kidneys happy and healthy!

*

So what did I learn today? Probably the same things you did.  And when I do have future surgeries, I’ll:

  • Immediately talk to my doctor about my medications, vitamins, supplements, etc. to see if I need to stop anything – and the timeline to do so;
  • Do the same thing I did with alcohol that I did this last surgery: cut it out a few weeks before and after;
  • Try to better follow my anti-inflammatory diet (NO CHEEEEEESE!) and steer clear of delicious potatoes a few weeks before surgery;
  • Continue to drink lots of water.  Seriously, it’s the only thing I drink these days, besides wine and beer (haha).

What about you?  Do you do something to prepare your body for surgery and recovery? Share below. I’d love to hear it.

Resources:

American Society of Anesthesiologists Preparing for Surgery Checklist

Australian Society of Anaesthetists – Preparing for Your Anaesthetic

BBC NewsGas, Injection or Potato?

California Society of AnesthesiologistsFive Tips to Help Your Patients Prepare for Anesthesia and Surgery

California Society of AnesthesiologistsTen Questions to Ask Before Anesthesiology

Health 24Diet Preparations Before Surgery

Health24Prepare Yourself Mentally and Physically Before Surgery

Hippokratia Quarterly Medical Journal – (Article; Jan. 2007) – Preoperative Evaluation and Preparation for Anesthesia and Surgery

Juicing for HealthAnesthesia Side Effects and How to Flush Out Toxins Post-Surgery

Mayo ClinicGeneral Anesthesia

Mind Body Green Health5 Ways to Bounce Back Quickly After Anesthesia

Science DailyWhat You Eat Before Surgery May Affect Your Recovery

University of Chicago MedicinePotatoes Prolong Anesthetic Reaction

~ 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

A Party In My Pants – menstrual pads review!

Reusable, fabric menstrual pads

I’ve never been one to want to try those new period-soaking panties or reusable pads.  I thought the idea of running around in wet panties or stained, soaked pads was gross.  For some reason, the disposable idea sat much better with me.  I felt like the “ick” was further away from my womanly-bits.

But I was also intrigued by all of the adorable fabric pads available on sites like Etsy, etc.  They were just…too cute for words.  But my terror won the battle and I strayed back to my store-bought (organic or not, bleached or unbleached, etc.) pads.  And I’ve tried A LOT of them.  I’ve steered away from tampons (for personal reasons) and only use them when the necessity arises (like swimming!).

Out of the blue, I was contacted by a gal at Party In My Pants, a company that makes fabric, reusable pads (and a few other adorable things).  One of her co-workers had heavy periods due to Endometriosis and only found great coverage (and comfort) by using their gigantic overnight pad, called the Queen.  She thought I may want to try out their wares.

I didn’t see the email for about a month due to my surgery, recovery, and it got lost in the fray.  BUT, I eventually stumbled upon it and wrote her back all of my trepidations of using a fabric pad: the nastiness factor, the wetness, carrying around a stinky wet pad all day in my purse if I had to change during the day, having to wash them, and the fear of them just not being absorbent enough for my over-active period-blood-pushing uterus.

Liz took the time to calm my fears, explained the wide assortment of pads available, and threw together a gift package for me.  I let her know I’d have fun taking notes and share my opinions on the blog.  Ya know, just in case any of my readers were having the same fears of fabric pads.  BUT…I also let her know that if these bad boys failed me, the world would know. Ha!

Queue Aunty Flow:  I started period the afternoon of August 17, 2018.  I had a spare Always pad in my purse and donned it.  The following afternoon, the postman dropped off a package from Party In My Pants (We’ll just call them PiMP from here on out).  I excitedly tore into it and loved the assortment of fun things Liz chose for me.

I have the:

Medium: to me it feels like I would wear this on my light to medium days.  It’s thin, but enough coverage to make me feel safe from front to back.  My medium is an adorable fox pattern. OMG. Too cute.

Organic Super: can we say soooooft?  And it’s got cute little sheepies on it (including the black sheep!).  Larger than the medium, and a smidge thicker.

Super Overnight: GRUMPY CAT!  It’s large enough where I won’t be afraid of leaking at all during the night.

Queen:  The Mother of all pads! This thing is MASSIVE.  Full coverage … and I mean FULLLL coverage!  According to the description, it’s meant for super-duper heavy flows, or post-pardum bleeding, etc.  The big stuff.  (I wore this my first night)

Reusable pad on panties
Testing out the Queen (literally the front tip of my panties to the full backside!)

That night I wore the Queen to bed.  I was skeptical.  I had a heavy-bleed day, but I figured I could wash the sheets if I made a mess.  I woke up Sunday morning surprised: no leaks.  I thought that my bleeding would just ooze and sit on top of the pad’s adorable panda material: nope.  I was bone dry when I woke up.  Usually my nights are heavy, especially on Day 1 or Day 2.  The only evidence that I was on my period?  A few stains on the pandas.  I must admit: it was kind of satisfying to have bloodied up a few panda bears!  I got ready to shower, unsnapped my Queen, folded it up, resnapped it, and set it aside near my dirty clothes hamper for later.  And, ’cause let’s be honest here…I sniffed it (curiosity killed the cat and all that jazz…).  It didn’t really smell like anything!  When I change a regular pad, I reek to high heaven.  Like, I drop my undies and the scent just wafts right on up to my nose.  But these cloth pads?  NOPE! What the heck?!?

Reusable pad and panties
Time for the Organic Super

Before my shower, I grabbed a clean pair of undies and the Organic Super – awww, the sweet sheep were next for my period onslaught!  Snapped it onto my undies, showered, and pulled up the incredibly soft fabric ready for my day!  I bled moderate to heavy throughout the day. The instructions say to change the PiMP pads when you feel wet.  Well, I never did.  I literally wore that one pad the ENTIRE day…and night.  I had a bit too much champagne and rather than change into my Grumpy Cat Super Overnight pad, I just fell into bed while still wearing my pad from the morning.  So, of course, I expected to wake up an overflowing sticky mess.  I woke up Monday morning completely dry.  There was barely even a stain on the pad…on my adorable fleecy sheeps.  No leaks!  NOT A ONE!  Again: I unsnapped my dirty pad, folded it, snapped it shut, and placed it next to the dirty Queen by the hamper.

Reusable pad and panties
The Medium (squee, sooo cute!)

I donned the cute foxy Medium pad for Monday morning, ready to leave the house and get to work.  The Medium felt far less noticeable than the Super or the Queen.  I walked around all day barely realizing I had it on.  By now, my flow was non-existent to low.  I don’t think I even stained the pad all day.

So, when I got home, I decided my period was going to be a short one (Friday through Monday; four days) and I thought I’d wash the dirty ones for my next period.  I expected them to be stinky: nope.  Not at all!  Although Liz did instruct me later to keep them unsnapped dirty so they don’t get musty.  I’ll snap them for transport (if I’m in public) and unsnap them when I’m home.  I was sad that the Grumpy Cat lay sad, forgotten…and grumpy…in my drawer.  Next time, Grumpy Cat, next time…

Reusable pads in washing machine

So I set the settings on the washing machine as instructed: cold water and a low tumble dry.  My husband was so grossed out by the thought of period blood in the laundry (as was I) that I made them their own tiny wash load.  They came out great! My sheep & fox look good as new, but a panda or two are still stained.  Which is fine.  I expected it.  And it’s not gross or anything because the pad is laundry-soap fresh and clean.

As a precaution, I wore my Always pad to bed last night, just to catch any residual bleeding I may have.  Want to hear a funny story?  Apparently, I wasn’t as close to being done as I thought…and woke up this morning with a leaky mess all over my undies.  Way to go “super absorbent 10x” non-reusable pad.  Way. To. Go.  So am I wearing my fabric pads right now?!? All clean and shiny?  Nope…I have a water aerobics class to attend tonight and I have opted for tampons…

I thought I was going to wait until my next period to publish this review…but I’ve decided to publish it now and update it as the months progress.  Just so you can all get an up-to-date Lisa’s Opinion on how these fabric, washable pads are holding up cycle after cycle.

I loved them, though.  They never leaked.  They were adorable and made me smile every time I used the bathroom.  They were easy to clean and not as disgusting as I thought it would be.  I’ll buy a few more to add to my collection (right now I only have 4…and my periods like to last 5-8 days…) and we’ll see how it goes.

And I must add:  it felt REALLY good not having to peel a sticky pad out of a noisy wrapper and make a bunch of trash.  I didn’t think I’d really care that much about the “environmental factor” of fabric pads…but last night when I opened up my plastic pad and threw away the wrapper…it kind of hit me a little bit.  That it was the first time in days I had to do that.  And it really made me think about all the crap I have thrown away in the past.

For September’s period, I’m going to also buy their adorable (and inexpensive) little zipper “tote” bag that fits a few pads in it and I can carry them discreetly in my purse (clean or dirty…).  And next month I’ll actually give it the “out in a public bathroom” test.

Wanna try them yourself?

The people at Party In My Pants want YOU to try these out for free, too (well, the sample is free, but you pay a small shipping fee):  All first-time customers can order a free sample pantyliner on PiMP’s website for the cost of shipping ($3.99 US, $7.99 Canada). And Party In My Pants let me know that domestic orders over $50 get free shipping.

Right now PiMP is selling their organic pads for NO EXTRA CHARGE! (the same price as the non-organic fabric).

Choices, choices, adorable choices!!

There are over 75 patterns at any given time, and customers can choose from lots of different fabric materials: cotton, flannel, double-gauze (which is a looser weave that allows blood to absorb faster), and organic cotton, organic flannel, and organic double-gauze.  And there are 13 different sizes you can choose from, along with a handy-dandy “sizing guide” to help pick the best fits for your periods!

How do I clean this thing?

The easiest way to wash & dry: after using the pad, just put it in the laundry hamper in such a way that it can dry out (you don’t want it to sit wet too long, or it will get musty, especially in warm/humid climates), then when you’re ready to do laundry just machine-wash it with cold water, then air-dry in the sun or tumble dry on low. No need to rinse or soak beforehand!

Can’t decide which patterns to pick?

I’m told PiMP always has great sales (under the “Steals & Deals” tab on the website), including “Surprise Party” and “Organic Surprise Party”, which allows customers to order pads at a discounted price- you choose the size and material, and PiMP staff choose from a random assortment of patterns! It sounds like a pretty fun surprise! I can’t wait to do this!

Bookface contests!

And PiMP has lots of fun contests on their Facebook page, including opportunities to help name new patterns.

My photos.

Yes, I’m gross. I take photos of things I shouldn’t.  But I wanted you to SEE!  And none of these are truly gross…

Thanks to the crew at Party In My Pants for helping me jump off the diving board and embrace reusable menstrual products!

PS ~ there are no affiliate links in this review. I don’t wanna make money off of you guys!!!! ❤

(Updated March 27, 2019)

Feel Good Fridays

Elephants helping a baby elephant across a river
(and yes, I’m still stuck on the elephants thing…)

Friday already???  The week flew by for me – mostly because I was under the weather and resting for three days thanks to a stomach bug. Ugh.

So here I am hunting down a quote that speaks to me, flipping through the pages of a large book of quotations my Mum gifted me a few years ago.

And here we have it. The one that stood out to me immediately:

In 1992, Barbara Bush said,

“To us, family means putting your arms around each other and being there.”

My immediate thought when I read this? I melted and thought of all of the people who have come together because of our shared illness.  Not just the EndoSisters, but our support systems, too.

Recently, we had a BBQ for our support. Our friends, our family, our loved ones.  A way of honoring them.  And it was beautiful to sit back, sip on a glass of sangria, and just watch everyone get to know each other, share stories, hug, cry.  Strangers…all woven together in this large family.

We may not be blood, but we are absolutely family.

I love you, guys and gals.  Have a wonderful weekend.  ~Lisa

Endometriosis Excision Surgery 3.0

Pre-surgery photograph of Dr. Mel Kurtulus and Lisa Howard taken by Brandy Sebastian, titled Resilience.
Dr. Mel Kurtulus and I before heading in. Photo courtesy of Brandy Sebastian; used with her permission

On July 18, 2018, I underwent my third robotic-assisted laparoscopic excision of Endometriosis by Dr. Mel Kurtulus ( of San Diego Womens Health).  As always, I love to share my experiences with you – not only to create awareness of this illness, but in the hopes that the process of my surgery (and later recovery) may help you, or others.

Before I go on, I just want to take a moment to express my joy in the above-photograph.  I am a detached head, floating beneath a fluffy warm-air blanket in the pre-op area, enjoying a wonderful moment with an incredible surgeon and man.  Thank you, Brandy, for capturing this.  And thank you, Dr. Kurtulus, for being so marvelous!

Okay, on with the nitty-gritty!

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Free Webinar: Dr. Robbins of the New England Center for Endometriosis

Flyer for Endometriosis Family Support Group August 17 2018 webinar with Dr. Martin Robbins

The Endometriosis Family Support Group is hosting a free webinar on Friday, August 17, 2018, at 3:00pm (PST) featuring a discussion with Dr. Martin Robbins from the New England Center for Endometriosis.  If interested, please e-mail Megan to register.  If you cannot attend on August 17th, we will share the recording once we receive the link.

Be well.

Update: if you weren’t able to attend, the EFSG has shared the recording on their Youtube channel

(Updated April 7, 2021)