Pelvic Reset: A 6-week Course

Hi guys!

Maggie Flood is a good friend of mine, and an EndoWarrior in our local San Diego group. She’s also a licensed Acupuncturist, certified Sexological Bodyworker and holistic pelvic care practitioner.

She’s put together and is hosting a six-week course on resetting your pelvic floor…and so much more. It will use Zoom for weekly meetings (which will be recorded if you can’t attend live), downloadable meditations, exercises, journaling homework, and a support community of fellow participants.

A course description:

“Pelvic Reset is a 6 week long assisted journey to guide you back to your body, uterus and root. As this course is open to all women and those with vulvas who wish to reconnect with themselves, it is especially useful for those coping with pelvic pain or female-bodied sexual dysfunction. Within this 6 week program you’ll learn the basics of embodiment, nervous system self-regulation, how to use pleasure for healing, lineage mapping your womb space, as well as new and ancient medicinal techniques to manage pain and heal from surgery or trauma. This course is designed to bring you into a new experience of your sexuality and relationship to your pelvic floor. A very special reset button, indeed.”

For more information, and to register, please check out her site. There’s a registration fee, but if you’re not happy with the program within 30 days, there’s a money back guarantee.

I’ve vowed to invest in my health this year, so I’ve already signed up. I just wanted to share in case this interested some of you.

Review of the ReliefBand 2.0 for Nausea

Nicole Tamillo sportin’ her nausea ReliefBand with her cat, Meeko

Do you suffer from nausea? Did you know there’s a drug-free device that may help ease those symptoms? What??

First, an introduction: If you follow the Bloomin’ Uterus Instagram account, you’ve “met” Nicole Tamillo. She’s my friend, confidant, an Admin of our Facebook group, and fellow EndoWarrior. And she is far more tech savvy than I!

Anyway, one of Nicole’s major symptoms when she’s having an Endo-flare is nausea. Extreme nausea. I had heard about a wristband that may help with nausea, so I reached out to the company to see if it would help with Endo-induced nausea. The wonderful folks at ReliefBand offered to send her a complimentary ReliefBand Premier to try out for her Endo-nausea. HOW AMAZING!!! Nicole and I wanted to share her unbiased review, thoughts, results, and excitement with you:

Hello! My name is Nicole Tamillo. I am 27 years old. I was officially diagnosed with Endometriosis at the beginning of 2017 with laparoscopic surgery. Although I experience many different endometriosis symptoms, my two biggest complaints are pain and NAUSEA! My pain can range from uncomfortable to unbearable, but I can normally get through it with minimal complaining. Now nausea on the other hand…. nausea is the bane of my existence. I have self-diagnosed Emetophobia. What is that you ask? EXTREME fear of vomiting. I REPEAT EXTREME FEAR OF VOMITING. I am not talking about being uncomfortable with vomiting, I am talking about full-blown panic mode!! So when endometriosis causes nausea I can not function as a human being. All I can do is lay in the fetal position on my bathroom floor. And the anxiety that comes from nausea only increases my pain. It becomes a vicious vicious cycle. And I have tried so many different things to try and lessen the severity of my nausea. I have tried OTC medications, essential oils, teas, ginger chews, pressure point wristbands, and prescription medicines. But once my nausea has hit, there is no stopping it until it runs its course. That is until I tried the ReliefBand 2.0 (aka the ReliefBand Premier)! 

The ReliefBand 2.0 is a class II neuromodulation device that is cleared by the FDA for the treatment of nausea. 

How does it work?

When the device is in place on your wrist and turned on, gentle pulses stimulate the median nerve at the P6 location located on the underside of the wrist. This nerve is connected to the nerve in the brain that controls nausea. When stimulated using neuromodulation the brain signals the stomach to reduce nausea. The signals have a rebalancing effect normalizing nerve messages from the brain to the stomach reducing symptoms of nausea, retching, and vomiting.

What does it work for?

The device has been clinically tested to relieve nausea, retching and vomiting associated with motion sickness, morning sickness, chemotherapy, postoperative, and vertigo.  In addition, they’ve received FDA clearance this year to also treat nausea and vomiting associated with anxiety, physician diagnosed migraines, and hangovers!

How to use:

1. Finding the starting area (P6) on the wrist. You can use either wrist. It is approximately two fingers down from the wrist crease, between the two tendons. 

2. Clean the area and apply the provided conductive gel. You only need a thin layer about the size of a large coin.

3. Put the device on and adjust to line up the contact over the gel on the P6 location. Fasten device snugly.

4. Activate the device by pressing and holding the power on button. Adjust the intensity by using the up or down buttons. You should feel a slight “tingling” sensation in the palm or middle fingers. 

After using the Reliefband 2.0 for a few months, I can honestly say that it has helped me tremendously! I can’t imagine battling a major endometriosis flare-up without it. Although, it hasn’t been clinically proven to reduce nausea associated with endometriosis, I believe that it can make a big difference for women battling nausea related to endometriosis. 

Pros: 

  • It looks like any other fitness tracker. It has a sleek look and doesn’t stand out.
  • It is rechargeable.
  • Easily kept in your purse or bag for unexpected nausea episodes.
  • The intensity is adjustable
  • FDA Cleared
  • Drug-Free!
  • Latex Free
  • Fast Acting
  • No Side Effects

Cons:

  • The price point: $224.99. It is on the steep side.
  • When not used for a while it will die. So if you have a sudden spell of nausea and haven’t used it for a while, you will have to charge it before using it.

In my opinion, the pros definitely outweigh the cons! And the company provides a 30-day money-back guarantee. 

**

If nausea is something you suffer from, have you tried the ReliefBand? They have two different models at two different prices. If you’ve tried it, we’d love to hear your experience in the comments below. Did it work? Did it not work? What else helps with your nausea? Home remedies? Pharmaceuticals? Anything? Share!

I’d like to send a HUGE thank you to ReliefBand for their interest in helping a friend. And Nicole for opening up, making herself vulnerable, and sharing her symptoms and experience! I’m so glad it has helped you!!!

My 5th Endometriosis Excision Surgery

A drawing of a uterus, ovaries, and intestines.
Commissioned artwork by Sarah Soward

What an incredible Journey leading up to my fifth surgery!  Covid-19 postponed my surgery date by a week but, just in the nick of time, California’s governor lifted some lockdown restrictions that allowed for my surgery to move back to it’s original date of May 13, 2020. Today, June 10, 2020, marks one month since my surgery! Already! I am overjoyed with the results and the skilled hands of my surgeons.

A medical folder with "Surgery # 5" written on it

The Hospital

Due to safety measures of C-19, my Mum wasn’t able to join me for this surgery and recovery.  My husband was only able to drop me off at the curb of the hospital and I had to walk in alone. I didn’t see him again until he was picking me up to take me home.  It was a surreal experience. No piano player to greet me in the lobby and two checkpoints to pass with Covid questions, but I knew I was in good hands and the time passed super-quickly.

As usual, the hospital staff were incredibly kind and compassionate.  There were even a few familiar faces from prior surgeries.  Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla really does make me feel like a part of the family.  And it made me feel far less alone while I waited.

The two-hour time window between check-in and surgery flew by. Forms, questions, answers, IVs, talks with surgeon, talks with the anesthesiologist, talks with OR nurses, talks with prep nurses. Before I knew it, it was time to roll on back.

One of my favorite questions to ask before each surgery: “What music will we listen to in the OR?”  The option for me to choose is always given, but I default to the surgeon’s choice. This time (and always?): “Chill” station.  Perfect.  So the last thing I remember before taking that surgical nap: being wheeled into the OR, introduced to the rest of the OR staff, and after a few laughs and getting positioned on the operating table, a gentle whoosh of fluid through my veins (I can’t remember for the life of me what the anesthesioligst said before injecting the magic juice), and waking up in recovery.

I always wake up freezing cold. So the nurses were wonderful and turned up the heat on my air-blanket. I’ve GOT to get one of those for home. Ha!  Then I fell back asleep, woke up later, and began the transition from naptime to going home.

The timeline?  I arrived at the hospital at 5:15am, and was wheeled to the OR around 7:20am.  Surgery began at 7:50am and the report was dictated immediately after at 9:47am. My surgeon called  my husband at 10:20am to discuss what he found.  The nurse called Jim around 11:47am to let him know I’d be ready to go home soon, and we made it home at 1:00pm.

The Surgery

Text from operation report summarized below

Get on to the nitty-gritty already! I’ll include images of my official op report, followed by my (untrained) laymen explanation. All the learning!

Dr. Mel Kurtulus was my surgeon and Dr. Chandra Spring-Robinson was the Assistant Surgeon. Both are from San Diego Women’s Health and I cannot speak highly enough of them, both for my surgical care and for my regular gynecological needs and Endometriosis symptom management.

If you recall, I had a bowel surgery in 2018 and have rocked a 2-inch vertical scar beneath my belly button. In order to avoid any complications with scars, my surgeon decided to open a port and take a peek under the hood through an incision beneath my left rib cage rather than his usual route (through my belly button). So he took a quick look, realized that the belly button was free and clear of any adhesions, and opened up the rest of the ports: I have incisions on the right torso, my belly button, and two on my left torso.

Once properly situated, strapped in, and stirruped to the OR table, a foley catheter was placed inside my bladder. Through the belly button incision, they pumped my abdomen full of 3 liters of CO2 gas (this helps plump up the belly so they can see clearly inside).

Text from operation report summarized below

The uterus appeared normal (please remember they suspect I have Adenomyosis, which is not visible as it hides within the uterine muscles).

My bladder was stuck to my uterus and pinned there by adhesions. In the photo, it looks very spider-webby.

The right ovary had a cyst which they assumed was a benign cyst.

The left ovary was pulled and stuck to the left side of my pelvic wall by adhesions. It also had a cyst present.

Not mentioned in the report, but is visible in the photographs and was discussed at my post-op meeting, was the yellow-tinged inflammatory fluid in my pelvis. It was at the bottom of my pelvis, just floating around as loose fluid. If you’ll recall a few months ago, my ultrasound technician found “loose fluid” in the area of my intestines. I was advised that this is “inflammatory fluid” and is normal to find in instances of leaking cysts, endometriosis, and adhesions. The fluid was removed during surgery.

Text from operation report summarized below

Endometriosis lesions were found on the outside of my bladder, as well as the right round ligament, the cul-de-sac (also called the Pouch of Douglas), the left round ligament, the left paracolic gutter, and on the sigmoid colon. All of the lesions (except for the sigmoid colon) were excised and packaged up for pathology.

Text from operation report summarized below

Due to the closeness of the left ureter to the endometriosis lesions near my left ovarian fossa (the little cavity of the pelvis where an ovary sits) and the stuck left ovary against the pelvic wall, my surgeon took great care to keep the left ureter safe from any surgical damage. The left ovary and its cyst were completely removed. We had previously agreed to remove my left ovary due to ongoing pain and it proving to be a problem-child (for lack of a better term) discovered during previous surgeries.

Text from operation report summarized below

Now, back to the guts. On my distal sigmoid colon, he found a patch of Endometriosis, which he notes as “a deep penetrating cluster of endometriosis lesion.” In my post-op appointment, he classified it as a nodule of Endometriosis, and said it looked like Deep Infiltrating Endometriosis to him. Unfortunately, due to the high risks involved in cutting that deeply into the intestine without a full bowel prep and a colo-rectal surgeon on hand, he took note (and photographs) of its positioning and opted not to remove the nodule. More on this will be addressed in “The Plan” section below.

According to an April 2003 study published in Human Reproduction, Deep Infiltrating Endometriosis (also referred to as DIE) is described as “…a particular form of endometriosis that penetrates greater than 5mm under the peritoneal surface [citation omitted]. These lesions are considered very active and are strongly associated with pelvic pain symptoms [citation omitted].” Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts says that DIE is a rare occurrence, showing up in only 1-5% of women who have Endometriosis.

Text from operation report summarized below

He then removed the cyst on my right ovary and was able to save the ovary.

He thoroughly checked the rest of my pelvic cavity and found no further Endometriosis. He freed all adhesions and restored any wonky anatomy to its rightful place.

Before closing me up, a bag was placed inside my pelvic cavity, Lefty was tossed inside the pouch, and all was pulled out of my body. YAY! Good riddance! All of the CO2 gas was expelled from my pelvic cavity. And I mean ALL of it. I had ZERO occurence of post-laparoscopy shoulder pain due to any remaining CO2 gas. NONE. Dr. Kurtulus and I refer to it as the “Lisa Special,” where extra time and care is taken to make sure it’s all out. He does it for all of his patients and one day I hope he publishes the importance of taking extra time and effort to teach other surgeons. With all the gas gone, I was sealed up.

Text from operation report summarized below

Also, per tradition, he took a look inside my bladder in search of any signs of Endometriosis or Interstitial Cystitis or anything else that should not be there. Clean as a whistle and beautifully pink.

Another surgery wrapped up. All involved are skilled at what they do. And this has been THE EASIEST recovery yet.

Photographs

Since not everyone will want to look at my fascinating insides, I’ve embedded the surgery photos at the bottom of this blog entry. Scroll down if you’re curious!

But here’s a one-month progression of my belly healing up after surgery (contains some close-ups of incisions). If you don’t want to watch it, just scroll down a little further to the next section. Although this slideshow only focuses on several days (the entire first week, then once a week after that), I actually do have pictures from every day while healing. Believe it or not, they do help me when I forget if the bandaid lasted that long, or if that incision oozed, or if “this” looks normal. I go back to prior surgery photos often. And I recommend it for your personal notes.

Pathology Results

The pathologist, Dr. Kurt Mathews, found that all of the lesions were Endometriosis. Dr. Mathews also identified the right ovarian cyst as a benign cyst and the left ovarian ovary as a hemorrhagic corpus luteal cyst: both cysts were normal; neither was an an Endometrioma. Which is great news to me. Maybe my body will behave, eh?

The Bills

As of June 29, 2020, I am still waiting to receive most of the insurance Estimate of Benefits/ itemization and confirmed payments:

  • The hospital: $89,775.18
    • This includes the OR and pathology lab fees, medications, supplies, and equipment
  • The surgeon: $5,373.00
  • The assistant surgeon: $1,368.00
  • The anesthesiologist: Pending
  • The pathologist: $671.26
    • This is payment to the pathologist for the tissue examination.
  • My co-pay: $500
  • TOTAL: $97,687.44 (pending bills still need to be added as of 6/10/20)

The Plan

My post-op went very well and all of my questions and concerns were addressed. I have a follow-up consultation on September 1, 2020. At that future visit, we will discuss any remaining symptoms of pain or discomfort. As of today (June 10, 2020), I’ve had no recurrent pre-op symptoms. Any discomfort or pain that I am having is due to the healing process of surgery.

We will monitor my post-op bowel pain. When I poop I once more have the feeling of glass shards running through my guts, which wasn’t present before surgery. Most likely, the intestines are still healing and adjusting from the laparoscopy. I was told that this generally fades a few weeks to months after surgery.

Dr. Kurtulus had already had a private conversation with my colo-rectal surgeon about the Endometriosis nodule on my sigmoid colon. If I do decide to go in for another surgery to have that nodule removed, it will likely be very similar to my 2018 bowel resection. Only the small portion where the lesion is embedded would need to be removed. I’ve forwarded the surgery photos and op report to my colo-rectal surgeon, Dr. Matthew Schultzel, for review and discussion. If after the 3-month follow-up I have had any ongoing or new pain in that area, I will have to decide then what to do.

But the plan?

  • Wait and see. If any symptoms become unbearable, go in for surgery. Hopefully it never happens. But I am struggling with the mental aspects of accepting that a deep-infiltrating nodule of Endometriosis remains inside my body and is just lying in wait.
  • Continue to maintain (and better) my diet, lifestyle, and exercise.
  • I will also continue to daily track my diet, symptoms, and any needed pain medication use. And I will bring summaries of those journals to Dr. Kurtulus in September.
  • But the biggest part of the plan? Remain positive during all of this.

Comparison to Past Surgeries

Where was Endometriosis found throughout this whole journey? How much did the surgeries cost (even if covered by insurance)? I always like to go back and compare. And, unless otherwise noted, all lesions were excised:

June 30, 2014: 2 incisions; 2.5 cm Endometrioma on left ovary; 2cm hemorrhagic corpus luteum cyst on right ovary; Endometriosis lesions located on liver, diaphragm, between bladder and uterus, left ovary, cul-de-sac, and various locations throughout the pelvis; the uterus was adhered to the bladder; peritoneum adhered to the bladder and uterus; left ovary and fallopian tube obliterated and adhered to adnexa; cul-de-sac obliterated and covered in adhesions; and bowel was adhered to left side of pelvic wall. The liver and diaphragm Endometriosis was not removed. Total cost: approximately $71,000. Surgeon: Dr. Mel Kurtulus

September 21, 2016: 4 incisions; 2cm hemorrhagic corpus luteum cyst on right ovary; Endometriosis lesions located on diaphragm, sigmoid colon serosa, right ureter, left side of uterus, various locations throughout the pelvis; adhesions were found throughout the pelvic compartment; uterus was adhered to bowels in several areas; both ovaries and fallopian tubes were clustered and stuck together; right ovary was adhered to backside of uterus; uterus adhered to right side of pelvic wall; and extensive scar tissue on bowel and backside of uterus. The liver Endometriosis lesion had disappeared and the diaphragm Endometriosis was not removed. Total cost: $93,472. Surgeon: Dr. Mel Kurtulus

July 18, 2018: 4 incisions; 2cm hemorrhagic corpus luteum cyst on right ovary; Endometriosis lesions located in cul-de-sac, small intestine, near the sigmoid colon, left ovary, fallopian tubes; the tubes were inflamed and covered in disease and were both fallopian tubes were surgically removed; adhesions were found on and near the sigmoid colon, fallopian tubes, and bladder; the sigmoid colon was adhered to left pelvic wall and the bladder was stuck to my uterus. The diaphragm Endometriosis had disappeared. The small intestine Endometriosis was not removed. Total cost: $121,669.50. Surgeon: Dr. Mel Kurtulus

November 26, 2018: 5 incisions; 2cm Endometrioma on left ovary; Endometriosis lesions located on terminal ileum (small/large intestine), cecum, appendix, cul-de-sac, both uterosacral ligaments, near the bladder, and on both ovaries; adhesions had formed on the left side of my pelvic wall, my left ovary was stuck to the left side of my pelvic wall, and my bladder was adhered to uterus; a portion of my small intestine, large intestine, cecum and appendix were all removed, totaling approximately 7 inches during the bowel resection portion of this tag-team surgery; microscopic Endometriosis was found on appendix and cecum, as well as large intestine. Total cost: $235,429.60. Surgeons: Dr. Matthew Schultzel and Dr. Mel Kurtulus

May 13, 2020: 4 incisions; 3cm hemorrhagic corpus luteum cyst on left ovary; 1.2cm benign cyst on right ovary; Endometriosis lesions were found on the outside of my bladder, right round ligament, the cul-de-sac, left round ligament, left paracolic gutter, and deeply-embedded on my sigmoid colon; my bladder was adhered to my uterus, the left ovary was adhered to the left pelvic wall; and my left ovary and adnexa were removed completely. The sigmoid colon Endometriosis nodule was not removed. Total cost: Pending. Surgeons: Dr. Mel Kurtulus and Dr. Chandra Spring-Robinson

The Recovery

Let me start by saying this has been the easiest recovery yet! In a future post, I’ll share my itemized recovery day-by-day journal (I write down EVERYTHING from the second I’m home to four weeks out). And my husband has offered to help so we can compare it to previous surgery recoveries…as well as identify factors that may have made a difference in this time. So, please stay tuned for that separate blog entry.

During the four-weeks following surgery, I had ZERO shoulder pain from CO2 gas (thanks to Dr. Kurtulus and the “Lisa Special”!). And I took ZERO opiates and only two NSAIDs! TWO! I’m so amazed!!! Every day was an experience and journey. So, please stay tuned for the day-by-day breakdown, triumphs, pitfalls, setbacks, and “Today I could do this” entries which I’ll publish as soon as I’ve transcribed it. If I typed those here, this blog would go on FOREVER (and it’s already sooo long)!

Update 7/4/20: it’s been nearly 8 weeks since surgery. I have VERY little surgery pain. If I do, it’s mostly discomfort of low levels. If I overdo things, the discomfort can become pain, but it fades quickly. I DO HOWEVER still have pain when I poop: gut-splitting pain. And I’m curious how my July period will be. June’s period had 2 days of intense pre-op pain on the lower left side. We’ll see!

Surgical Photographs

As promised here are the surgery photographs! Please be aware that the scans are low quality; the Endo on the colon is MUCH more visible, almost a dark purple blotch on the hard printouts. If I get higher-quality scans, I’ll be sure to update these. You can click on them for a larger image.

Did you actually read all the way to the end? OMG. You’re amazing!! Not only is this blog meant as a tool to help others with their surgeries, recoveries, etc., but it’s absolutely a tool for myself: If I need to have another surgery, I can come back to these notes and refresh on what I may need or expect. So, thank you for enduring an incredibly lengthy blog entry!

And if you have your own upcoming surgery, I hope it provides long-lasting relief, that it is a easy recovery, and please feel free to reach out to me if you ever need anything.

*Updated 7/4/20*

Today is my one-year resectionversary!

One year ago today, I had my bowel resection surgery to remove to visible lesions of Endometriosis off of my small intestine. A section of my right intestine, as well as appendix and cecum were also removed. All biopsies came back as Endometriosis, including microscopic Endo on my appendix, and cecum.

I documented my healing process with photos! If you follow my personal page on Facebook, you already knew that. BUT I made a one-year anniversary video of my healing process!

How has my quality of life been since my surgery? Once my body recovered from the trauma of the surgery, it’s been pretty awesome. I mean, I’ve had to make some adjustments to diet, monitor my alcohol intake, stumble along the way.

BUT…I haven’t endured a single painful poop since my surgery! In the past, it’s felt like I poo’d glass and razor blades and barbed wire. The guts felt like they were packed with the sharp objects and just cutting along the interior as I poo’d.

That is long gone. Good riddance. Never come back.

I cannot say it enough: Thank you Dr. Schultzel and Dr. Kurtulus for your expertise, professionalism, and genuine desire to help your patience!

And my words of advice to you? Always track your symptoms. Write them down. Voice them to your doctor. Bring in copies of your pain journal. Find a doctor knowledgeable in Endometriosis and excision. Pursue answers and proper treatment!

Here’s to hoping the rest of my body stays Endo-free, too…

My First Colonoscopy

If you’re in the Southern California area and need a colonscopy, may I recommend The Endoscopy Center in Encinitas with Dr. Seeger? Everyone there was incredible and super friendly! What I was afraid would be a painful experience wasn’t painful at all. And it was sooo easy. Truly the hardest thing is drinkin’ the bowel prep and enduring a few hours on the toilet.

Why did I need a colonoscopy at 40 years old? My colo-rectal surgeon sprung it on me: one is needed a year after a bowel resection; just to make sure everything is okay inside.

Okay, on with the findings: a small polyp was discovered inside my sigmoid colon and removed for biopsy. The rest of my guts looked great! Wanna see?

Colonoscopy photos of my guts

My favorite thing I learned from your colonoscopy? I still have my ileocecal valve! I thought that bad boy was removed during my bowel resection. Seems like I still have it, according to the photos! I’ll ask my colo-rectal surgeon when I see him. Yay! And I like that they could see, and photograph, the section where my guts were stapled together!

Drinkin’ my Suprep

Thursday night’s bowel prep was…a lot. I thought I poo’d a lot for my November 2018 bowel resection? Oh my god…I poo’d 32 times. Thirty-two!

And more Suprep Friday morning

And Friday morning’s prep? I crapped 41 times! Including 20 minutes before the camera went up my bum! Apparently my rectum is competitive and had to beat the record from the night before. One day I’ll log the times, etc., but not today.

The plan? Wait for the biopsy results, discuss with my physician, and have another colonoscopy in five years!

A huge thanks to The Endoscopy Center crew for making my first colonoscopy wonderful: the receptionist, Tanya, the nurses (Elaine, Allison, and Lia), and Dr. Seeger. I wasn’t gassy or sore or bloated or anything I feared afterward. It was truly a pleasant experience (well, except for the prep ha!).

PS – if you’re ever afraid that you’ve still got some liquid-poo inside your guts and you’re going to just poo all over the staff during your colonoscopy, rest assured: they’ve got suction at the end of that li’l camera! It was my one big fear; and they alleviated it by explaining the suction! YAY!

Stronger Than Endo : Merritt, An Endo Warrior Interview

Words that read Stronger Than Endo

Over a year ago, you may remember we shared a sneak peek of a project we were involved in: Stronger than Endo. We interviewed a few women with Endometriosis, as well as my excision surgeon.

Well, my friend Exxes has completed and released the first of the three full-length videos. This one is an interview with my beautiful friend, Merritt.

It’s about 50 minutes of her Journey with Endometriosis. Her spouse, Jess, pops on and offers the perspective of a partner with endo. It was a long, rough, but beautiful morning for all of us, including Exxes. We also discussed what we, as individuals and a community, can do to help others. Raise awareness. Be there for one another. And don’t be afraid to share your story with others.

Thank you Merritt, Jess, and Exxes, for making yourselves available, vulnerable, and for allowing this to happen. I love you guys.

Here’s the video! For some reason, it starts close to the 2-minute mark; you may want to rewind it a bit when you watch it. Enjoy and share!

And, please stay tuned. As soon as they’re available, we’ll be releasing the videos of another EndoWarrior, Heidi, and my surgeon, Dr. Mel Kurtulus.

We’ve got a big announcement to make!

Breaking news announcement

It’s with great pleasure that I’d like to announce that Bloomin’ Uterus has partnered with the local San Diego-based non-profit, Gifts 2 Help, for 2020’s Endometriosis Awareness Walk.

Not only is Gifts 2 Help a local organization, but it’s run by a fellow EndoWarrior! Amy started Gifts 2 Help in honor of her mother who passed away in 2007 as a way to continue her legacy: helping those in need however she could.  Ongoing projects include an annual CHP Appreciation Day, EveryDay Heroes Appreciation Day, and Christmas Miracles.  There are many more projects that Amy would like to take on through Gifts 2 Help, and I was thrilled when she suggested helping with our annual walk.

Donations toward the costs of the walk (and expenses of any future events) will be tax-deductible!  All donations that Gifts 2 Help receives on behalf of Bloomin’ Uterus will go into a separate account, the funds to be exclusively used for our future walks, events, workshops, and projects!

Together, we’ve recently secured the City of San Diego permit for our March 28, 2020, Endometriosis Awareness Walk at NTC Park at Liberty Station!  So, it’s official!! Expect a registration page and details soon!  But please do mark the date on your calendars!

Thank you, Amy, for your passion to help others, even as you have your own battle to win.

Blood and Poop and Headlamps … OH MY!

Proctoscope, gloves, and a blob lube
That’s gonna go…where?!?

So, over the past two months, I’ve been experiencing some bleeding when I poo. I’ve taken several first aid and civilian medical classes, so I knew it wasn’t anything to worry about: the color and texture was well within the “don’t freak out” range.

I noted these incidents on my food & symptom journal and booked an appointment with my PCP to discuss and get a possible referral to my PoopChute doctor.

Although I blog about poo and guts and all kinds of other lovely and taboo things, going into the doctor’s office to actually have them examine my bunghole is not my idea of good time. It’s even more horrific than having to buy pads or tampons when there’s only male cashiers…although I finally grew out of that trauma in my 30s.

Butt, I mean but, sometimes you just have to go to a professional and have them stick their finger in your but, I mean butt.

After a lengthy discussion of my symptoms, my diet, my fiber and water intake, and (lack of) exercise, there was the dreaded visual inspection and internal exam. Nothing abnormal was seen or felt, and I received the referral to my colo-rectal surgeon with the suspicion of tiny hemorrhoids or a possible recurrent fissure. And my PCP, Lauren Campagna, is freakin’ amazing and always makes me feel at ease.

A few weeks later (aka this past Wednesday), I repeated the process with my colo-rectal surgeon, Dr. Matthew Schultzel. I feared I was wasting his time. He did major surgeries, like my bowel resection. And here I was asking him to examine my bleeding arse. He assured me that this was a huge part of his practice and that I wasn’t wasting his time.

We talked about my symptoms and diet, he examined my incisions and pushed on my guts to check on my post-op healing, and then we got down to the real nitty-gritty.

He slipped on a headlamp, I assumed the position, and it truly wasn’t as uncomfortable as I’d imagined. First was the finger exam, followed by the clear duck-bill lookin’ device that taunted me from the exam room table (I later learned it’s called a proctoscope!). Again, it wasn’t too uncomfortable. It was awkward, but there wasn’t any pain. And Dr. Schultzel’s constant reassurances and jokes made the awkwardness far less than it could have been.

Lo and behold, I’m an overachiever: I have three various-sized hemorrhoids inside my guts. THREE! And a tiny skin tag, likely the remnants of a prior hemorrhoid.

The plan? There’s an in-office technique known as band ligation.

“Like rubber bands on a pig’s balls?” I asked.

“Exactly,” he laughed, and said he usually reserves that example for his Texan patients. Score one for growin’ up in Arizona!

So, I go in on July 31st for the fist of my three banding procedures. He’ll be slipping a tiny rubber band around the base of one of my three stowaways..and in several days it will just fall off. I’ll bleed or spot for a bit. Then 4-6 weeks later, repeat the process. Then repeat it once more! BUT his office is currently checking on the latex-content of the bands since I have an allergy…hopefully there’s an alternative if one is needed.

I most certainly don’t strain when I poo. Everything just kind of falls out easily since my surgery. And I drink A LOT of water all day, as well as take a fiber supplement every morning. So why do I have hemorrhoids? And three?? He let me know that it’s not uncommon for the body to go through weird changes after a bowel resection. I’ll take that theory!

So if you ever find yourself poo’ing and finding blood on your toilet paper: please contact your doctor. There are MANY different causes for bloody stool. And it should never be taken lightly.

That being said: it’s poop. And poop is embarrassing. And nobody wants to talk about it. But, as a friend of mine said to put my mind at ease, “Remember that your doctor purposely spent years and years and many thousands of dollars for the honor of looking up your bunghole. Whatever happens, it’s his privilege to experience!” So, talk to your doctor!!

I’d love to hear about your experiences! Feel like giving me a little insight into your poopchute? Have you had fissures or hemorrhoids before? How’d it go? Do you use something like the Squatty Potty? Or what’s your favorite fiber or stools softener? Share with the class 🙂

Saying Farewell to an EndoSister

Kristen Cavanaugh
Kristen Cavanaugh; Oct. 3, 1985 – June 27, 2019

Written by Heidi Baurmann, Speaking on behalf of all of our Bloomin’ Uterus sisters.

It is with a heavy heart that I announce one of our own has lost their battle with Endometriosis. Kristen Lynn Cavanaugh will always be a part of our Bloomin’ Uterus Sisterhood.

Kristen found me on Facebook in March during Endometriosis Awareness month. In the little time I knew her, it was obvious what a strong advocate she was for us all, sharing her story openly with the community & supporting chronic illness sufferers.

On Wednesday, June 27th, I was devastated to hear the news that Kristen had lost her life due to medication complications (the medications are listed at the end of this blog entry). It feels so unjust to loose a sister this way. Kristen’s friends and family are focusing their energy on spreading awareness in hopes to help others who are suffering in pain.

In loving words, her mother writes, “Kristen had a passion for helping those with chronic illnesses, and through her small business of health care products, she reached many women who suffer with endometriosis and fibromyalgia.“ Here is the link to her obituary. https://horancares.com/obits/kristen-cavanaugh/

Her dear friend opened up to me about her great sense of humor & expressed that what she “loved about her was how selfless she was. She quit a 6 figure job at DISNEY, to make boxes for each endosister. She carefully thought of each item while adding them to the boxes. She had such a big heart.”

Her family is asking for donations to the Endometriosis Foundation in her name. (There is a section where you can state who you are donating for.)
http://www.endofound.org

Here are the links to her Instagram endo page as well as her personal page, if you would like to say some words on her behalf.
@witsendocornerapothecary
@forkristenforeverago

Kristen will always be remembered in our hearts as a woman who fought hard & gave back. I hope you are looking down at all of this love and smiling. We send love to her family & all those who are feeling her loss.

**

Update: July 9, 2019: Suzie, Kristen’s mother, has given us permission to share the medications that Kristen was prescribed, which may have contributed to her death. We are sharing this information with you to implore you to verify with your physicians (and do your own research) regarding any potential drug side effects or interactions.

On June 24, 2019, Kristen was prescribed Dilaudid, Valium, Xanax, and Ambien. Suzie wants to stress to you that these medications, if taken together, can cause respiratory distress. Kristen and her family were not made aware of this danger. She would like to remind each of us that, “combining those meds is very dangerous.”

If you’re worried about your multiple over-the-counter drugs, prescription drugs, and/or herbal supplements having potential risks (or even death) when taken together, please talk to your doctor. And you can check out drug interactions on this amazing database.