Does sex hurt with deep penetration?

Front side of box for Ohnut buffer (sexual aid)

I don’t know about you…but even after my surgeries and recoveries, sex can still be painful with deep vaginal penetration; mainly when my husband boinks up near my cervix.

Sometimes it’s enough to knock the wind out of my sails and we have to stop.

Why does it hurt? It could be related to Endometriosis or adhesions. But it’s more likely due to my abnormal anatomy: I have two cervix, side by side. Deep sex has always been painful to me; I only learned it was abnormal after my Endometriosis diagnosis! We’ve adjusted our sexual positions and found several that are doable without deep penetration…but…let’s be honest: I miss some of the many positions we can no longer do.

But there’s hope!

Have you heard of the Ohnut? It’s relatively new and was specifically made to help with that sort of deep-penetration pain. It’s like a sleeve/barrier that wraps around the penis (I can’t type that out without snickering….) and prevents total penetration. It’s customizable in length, too, if not 100% of the device is needed.

The OhNut
Here it is in all it’s glory!

I received ours today! It retails for about $70, but we budgeted it into our finances and hope it’s worth every penny. I’m grateful my husband is willing to give this device a try; a lot of the online reviews from men were positive. Many said they couldn’t feel a difference or didn’t feel like they were being robbed of the experience. And we both look forward to trying it out (insert sheepish grin here).

Expect a review hopefully on the coming weeks. Coming? There’s a pun in there somewhere …

Bring on the bumper-barrier action!

GIF of Homer Simpson in a bumper car colliding with police car

Free Pelvic Floor Therapy Workshop

Free pelvic floor therapy workshop flyer

Free workshop on endometriosis and pelvic floor dysfunction – how do they relate and why should you include a pelvic floor PT in your team?

Saturday, June 22, 2019, from 2:15pm – 4:15pm at the Mission Valley Library’s Community Room; 2123 Fenton Parkway in San Diego, California.

At this workshop, Jandra Mueller, DPT, of Synchronicity Physical Therapy will be discussing the role that the physical therapy plays – or should be playing – in your care. Jandra will discuss what the pelvic floor is, its functions, as well as treatments that may also benefit women suffering from endometriosis such as painful intercourse, “interstitial cystitis,” irritable bowel syndrome “IBS,” and small intestinal bacterial overgrowth “SIBO,” as well as the importance and tools to regulate the central nervous system. Jandra would also like to answer any questions you all may have regarding pelvic floor physical therapy! She has been working with women with endometriosis for the past several years and has also been one of the many women to suffer from this disease, so she understands firsthand how frustrating this condition can be! Please come join us on June 22nd for this exciting event!

Seating is limited, so please reserve your spot today.

We here at Bloomin’ Uterus are VERY excited to be able to help bring this event to San Diego. Jandra is an incredible EndoWarrior and friend.

Free tickets are available on Eventbrite. You can also feel free to RSVP on Facebook, but please secure a seat via Eventbrite. We are limited to 100 seats. If you do not wish to register via Eventbrite or Facebook, please contact me and I’ll put your name on the list of attendees.

And to those that cannot attend, we will *try* to videotape it and share the link.

My 4th Endo Excision Surgery

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

Before I get started, let me explain the image above. A talented artist by the name of Ivy Denton created it for me (they also created the EndoGuy and PoopChuteSnakie you’ll see below). They’re taking commissions if you’re interested in throwing ideas their 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 2018 during an excision surgery 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.


Toilet with toilet paper

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.

Lisa Howard making a face at the first sip of SuPrep

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!

Doodle of bowels

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 and 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.

Diagram showing the portion of bowels removed during surgery

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. 🙂

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
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!


Doodle of Endo

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.


Photo of Lisa Howard recovering in hospital

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.

Hospital chart showing I farted 3 times since 11/28/18

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:

Chart comparing bowel movements and pain between November and January

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. ❤


Dollar signs

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 paid per contract
$1,687Endo Excision Surgeon Bill Insurance paid per contract
$2,082.19Pathologist Bill Insurance paid per contract
$3,416Colo-rectal Surgeon Bill
Insurance paid per contract
$2,800AnesthesiologistInsurance paid per contract
$683Asst Surgeon: Excision BillInsurance paid per contract
$285Asst Surgeon: Colo-rectal BillInsurance paid per contract
$2,250My co-payI paid in full
$235,429.60Total(updated 4/4/19)

Camera

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 🙂

Comparison photos of July 2018 and November 2018 Endo lesions on bowel

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


Camera

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!

(Updated May 17, 2019)


Pain & Poops: Then & Now

Happy poop with daisy on it's head

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.

Embrace this discovery with me! Here’s my pain journal summary for November of 2018:

Summary of November 2018 pain and symptoms

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

Summary of January 2019 pain and symptoms

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!

Table of poops for Nov 2018 vs Jan 2019

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! And if you’d like more up-to-date info on my bowel movements and pain symptoms, I’ve started blogging about them on the first of every month.

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.

(Updated April 5, 2019)

Livia: A Device That May Help Period Cramps & Period-Related Lower Back Pain

Boxed Livia unit for menstrual cramps

Some of you may be asking “What is Livia?”  It’s been hyped in the news and social media since 2016 and has recently made a comeback in my Facebook newsfeed.  Livia recently won the Gold for Women’s Wellbeing at the  Edison Awards.  Imagine a tiny device that you can wear around discreetly all day.  It retails for roughly $150 on MyLivia’s webpage and Amazon and you can purchase additional gel pads to use for future cycles.

Some have compared the Livia to a TENS unit.  TENS units can be large, bulky, cumbersome, and not to mention intimidating with all of the buttons, wires, and knobs.  Sure, I can figure it out…but then I’d also have to lug that thing to work, out shopping, etc.  The Livia is a small, discreet, and incredibly user-friendly medical device.  It supposedly works by tricking the mind by keeping it busy with a little electric pulsing that deflects or confuses the pain signals going up to your brain…I had my doubts.

A study of 163 women who suffered from severely painful periods was conducted, and 80% of them reported that Livia either “helped to either significantly or completely eliminate their use of pain medications while menstruating.”  There was a recent 2018 study conducted on the effectiveness of Livia to treat painful periods, and those results will hopefully be released by the end of the year.

As a side note regarding Endometriosis pain (which, as we know, can be far more severe than normal menstrual cramps), Livia’s manufacturer can’t recommend Livia for use in treating endometriosis until an independent clinical study among endometriosis patients is completed in 2019. However, dozens of endometriosis suffers have posted messages reviews on Amazon and other places saying that Livia is very effective in reducing or eliminating their endometriosis pain.

On June 17, 2018, I wrote Livia to inquire if I could connect with someone at the company to discuss their product and how it has helped women with Endometriosis.  I also asked if they’d be able to provide me customer testimonials by women who suffer from Endometriosis.  I explained who I was and that I suffer from Endometriosis and write a blog about the illness.

A day later, I had a response.  After answering a few questions about my blog and my intentions, Livia offered to mail me a unit in exchange for my unbiased opinion and review.

I jumped at the chance!

It arrived from Israel on June 27, 2018.  I took copious notes and wanted to share my experiences with you!

The Great Unboxing!

As of the writing of this blog (July 9, 2018), I used the Livia from June 28, 2018 through July 4, 2018.  I expected to start my period the week of June 28, 2018.  I experienced all sorts of cramping and PMS symptoms, but alas, my period never came (sometimes I skip a month).  But, my pain was elevated enough where I believe the Livia got a good test run.  And I look forward to testing it out on future painful days.  I also had another excision surgery on July 18, 2018, so it will be a few months before I will be well enough to test the Livia again.  But test I shall!  Stay tuned!

I also learned that Livia is only intended to be used for menstrual cramps and lower back pain associated with menstrual cramps.  Due to my Endometriosis and resulting scar tissue, I also experience pain on the lower edges of my pelvic region near my hip bones, and along the underside of my ribs.  The Livia is not intended for use in those areas.  In fact, any placement of the Livia gel pads near the thoracic region is strictly forbidden.  And I asked about the use of Livia for neck or shoulder pain: again, please do not use the Livia for any other area of the body except menstrual cramps and menstrual-related lower back pain.

Okay, on with the show!  Below is a summary of my experiences (unless you’d rather read my detailed notes). 

  • June 28, 2018: It tickles.  But you soon forget about the tickle and pretty much forget you’re wearing it.  For me, my ideal setting was hitting the + Button twice.  So, let’s call it Level Two.  Anything beyond a pleasant tickle is too much, according to the user manual.
  • June 28, 2018: PMS cramping pain was a 4-5 out of 10.  It dropped to a 1 out of 10 just 17 minutes later. Within an hour of turning it on, I had zero PMS cramping.  I turned off the unit, and my pain returned an hour and 15 minutes later.
  • June 28, 2018: PMS cramping pain was a 4 out of 10.  Within 45 minutes (took some time to adjust the settings), the pain had reduced to zero!  Sometimes it crept back up to a one but dropped back down quickly to zero.  Turned off the device an hour after turning it on.
  • June 28, 2018: PMS cramping pain returned within an hour of turning off the Livia.  It was a 4 out of 10, but within 15 minutes of wearing the Livia on Level 2, it had once more reduced my pain to a zero out of 10!!  Turned off the device after an hour of having it on.
  • June 28, 2018: Pain returned within 10 minutes of shutting off the device.  It was now a 5 out of 10.  Turned it back on to Level 2 and within 20 minutes, pain reduced to zero…again!  Kept it on for about an hour.
  • June 28, 2018: My biggest tip to pass on about the Livia?  When you have to use the restroom, instead of unclipping the unit from your pants or dress or shirt, simply turn the device off and unplug the gel pads cable from the unit.  Mind the dangling “tail” as you pee, then reattach it when you’re done.
  • June 29, 2018:  PMS cramping returned at a 5 out of 10 and I reached for my trusty Livia, turning it on to Level 2.  Within 15 minutes, the cramps subsided to a zero out of 10!  It turned off the Livia five minutes later.  While driving, my Livia pad felt a little squiggly on my skin, and I pulled over and looked down.  It had peeled half-way off.  Not off of my skin, but off of the flower pad.  So I peeled it all the way off and stuck it back on, smooshing real hard.  It remained on the rest of the day.
  • July 3, 2018:  I didn’t have any cramps for the past few days, but they came back at a 6 out of 10.  So I turned my Livia on to a Level 2 for 15 minutes and my cramps were reduced to a 1 out of 10.
  • July 4, 2018: Cramping was a 6 out of 10.  I grabbed my Livia, slapped on my pads, and plugged it in, turning it up to Level 2.  I couldn’t feel the usual buzzing-tickle on Level 2, so I bumped it up to Level 3.  About 20 minutes later, my cramps were back down to a wonderful 1 out of 10.

All of the pain I’ve felt since July 4th has been in areas that I was recommended not to use my Livia:  my lower pelvis near my hips, my under-ribs, and a weird spot near a cyst that I know exists.

I never tried the Livia on my lower back since that pain was been super manageable at a 1-2 out of 10.  But, when that pain exceeds a 2 or 3, I’ll be sure to try it out.

I am the most skeptical person you’ll ever meet.  Especially when it comes to products that are marketed specifically for conditions that a large population suffers from: like painful periods.  But this device was truly incredible.  I’m elated.  And flabbergasted.  And amazed.  And excited.

But was it worth it?  Of course, it was for me since I didn’t have to pay.  But would it be worth it for $150?  I’d like to say, “Yes.”  At least for me.  Livia offers a 120 Day Money Back Guarantee, although some online reviews mention that you have to pay a sometimes hefty international shipping charge to send it back to Israel.  And there’s a 2-year warranty on the product when you purchase it, so if it breaks during that time, you’re covered!

It’s small.

It’s adorable.

It’s easy to use.

It recharges on any mini-USB charger.

And, for me, it worked like a charm!

Granted, I couldn’t give it the 100% Endometriosis-period test…but it did help with a lot of my PMS pain and cramping.  And I also will be doing another full review after my surgery if my painful Endometriosis symptoms return.  Again…stay tuned!

Would I recommend it?  I’m gonna have to say Yes…but I will also highly recommend you keep your own notes and evaluate how well it works (or doesn’t) for you.  And take advantage of that money back guarantee if it doesn’t.  There is no shame in returning something.

what others thought:

A few of our blog readers have also started using the Livia unit with mixed results. Everyone’s bodies are different and, of course, not everyone will have the results that I did. So I wanted to share their experiences here:

  • 4/24/19: A fellow EndoWarrior, Kitty, purchased a new Livia unit and calendared the date she had to return it in order to get her refund, if needed. Here’s her short report: My pain was not too bad this month, but uncomfortable enough that I had to take Advil. There are times when Advil doesn’t work. I used Livia a few days straight and a few hours at a time. I can no conclude that Livia or TENS does not work for me. Not even slightly. I am returning the device and I am glad that I am able to ship it back to Atlanta and not Israel.

If YOU would like to share your review of the Livia unit on our blog to help others make their own decisions to try it out, please contact me.

(Updated April 24, 2019)

Resources:

Clinicaltrials.gov The Effectiveness and Safety of LIVIA Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) in Women Suffering from Primary Dysmenorrhea.

HealthcareDive.com – (Press Release) Livia – Drug Free Solution for Menstrual Pain Now HAS FDA, CE, and Health Canada

MyLivia.com – FAQs on the manufacturer’s page

~ 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

Heating Pads & Endometriosis

Various heating pads

Recently, someone brought it to my attention that they’d heard that heating pads are bad for Endo. Now…I live with my heating pad literally attached to my body almost every first few days of my period.  So, I was taken aback by the suggestion as I find the heat soothing.  And I vowed to do some research on the theory that heat is bad for Endo…and, as usual, formulate my own opinion and share it with you.

Endometriosis News ran an article in August of 2017 highlighting the opinions of Melissa of EndoEmpowered and Aubree Deimler of Peace with Endo, and both discussed how heat may cause fascia to manipulate (or soften) and harden after it cools down once the heat is removed.  Aubree tried the heat elimination process to see how she felt, and felt a difference with her pain.  If you’d like to try, please follow her example.  Melissa interviewed Chris Toal of Azolla Health, who shared a downloadable brochure on the theories behind heat and fascia. Not only does Toal discourage the use of heating pads, but also the use of hot showers or baths.  Aubree directly linked back to Melissa’s article and interview.

What is fascia?  It’s a thin, fibrous tissue made up mostly of collagen that covers and supports tissue, such as muscles or organs.

From what I gather, the underlying theory expressed in the views of Endometriosis News, Melissa, and Aubree of why heat is bad for Endometriosis pain is that the heat, for lack of a better term, softens or melts the fascia tissue.  Once the heating pad is removed, the fascia rehardens and can make the pain worse.  This may cause adhesions to shift, form, and harden.  Aubree cites to Ida Rolf‘s theory regarding fascia and displacement with energy/heat/manipulation.

Visualize a brand new, unlit candle.  Once lit, the wax begins to melt.  Blow out the flame and the wax cools and rehardens, oftentimes in a new shape.  Or think of making gelatin: the mixture is liquid while hot and solidifies once it’s in the fridge and cooled off.

The fascia-altering theory is the only argument I have been able to find against using heating pads if you have Endometriosis…so:

Let’s find some proof to all of this…because, like I said, sometimes I live on my heating pad.

Ida’s theory that fascia tissue degrades with manipulation or energy is frowned upon by some.  It’s called the thixotropic effect, where the tissues degrade with heat or pressure, then reform upon settling.  Paul Ingraham wrote about his opinions in Feb. of 2013 and again Jan. of 2018 on thixotropic effect on PainScience.com and opines that fascia is simply “too tough” to manipulate in such a manner and states that Ms. Rolf found her theory to be “nonsense” as well.  Mr. Ingraham cited many studies and professionals to support his opinions.  You’re welcome to read both pieces (linked above and in the Resources section below).

But what if it’s not nonsense?  According to the Science of Slow Cooking (mmmmm…crock pot food…), collagen begins to break down and liquify into a gelatin at 160 degrees Fahrenheit.  Now, I’m no expert on the human body versus a meat-animal, but…how hot do heating pads get?!?

A study published in Safety Brief in 2015 ran a few experiments on heating pad created by Kaz (Model HP-110).  After running the heating pad for 120 minutes, it never exceeded 151 degrees Fahrenheit, uncovered.

Sunbeam offers a FAQ on their webpage about the temperature range of their heating pads: the low setting 110 degrees F and the high setting can get up to 160 degrees F.

Sew4Home conducted their own little science experiment with homemade microwaveable heating pads.  They compared rice, corn, and flaxseed.  After 30 seconds of heating, the rice was 140 degrees Fahrenheit, the corn was 158 degrees, and the flaxseed was 144 degrees.  Five minutes later, each had cooled:  136 (rice), 142 (corn), and 142 (flaxseed).

Hot water bottles should never be filled with boiling water (water typically boils at 212 degrees Fahrenheit), due to leakage and safety concerns.  Many manufacturers of hot water bottles suggest a nice, easy-to-touch temperature; not scalding.

So, I’m not sure that heating pads (electrical, microwaveable, or hot water bottles) will get hot enough to do any liquifying damage to facia.  But, then again, I’m no expert.  And several webpages promote the use of heating pads (sometimes combined with castor oil packs) to help with adhesion, Endometriosis, pelvic, or lower back pain.

So, then I was curious: why do heating pads make my pain feel better?  Once more, I hit the internet.  And, once more, ran into a lot of Mr. Paul Ingraham’s writings and voluminous cited resources, along with other webpages.

Heat may be very soothing, it increases blood circulation to the area, it may relax tense muscles, and a 2006 study found that internal heat receptors may actually block pain signals.  So, once more, heat may be good for dealing with certain types of pain.

Again, I’m not a scientist and this is just my opinion after bouncing around the internet for several hours doing research and reading.  My conclusion?

My heating pads make me feel better…and I will not stop using them.  Am I knocking Endometriosis News, Melissa, Aubree, or Chris? Nope.  Everyone is entitled to their opinion and I value a broad perspective on things.  But, for me?  I also value the comfort that a good ol’ heating pad delivers.

What about you?  My advice? Do whatever makes you feel better.  Hot, cold, or neither.  It’s your body and you know it better than anyone.

(Updated March 27, 2019)

Resources:

Earth Clinic (Dec. 2017): Natural Remedies for Abdominal Adhesions

EndoEmpowered (Nov. 2016): Stop Using Hot Water Bottles for Endo Pain

Endometriosis News (August 2017): Should You Use Heat for Endometriosis Pain Relief?

Functional Fascia: Fascia Facts

Healthline: Treating Pain with Heat and Cold

LiveScience: (July 2006) Study: How Heating Pads Relieve Internal Pain

Merriam-Webster Dictionary: definition of fascia

My Health Alberta Ca Network: Adhesions Care Instructions

PainScience.com (Jan. 2018): Does Fascia Matter?

PainScience.com (Aug. 2016): Heat for Pain.  When and how to apply heat for therapy…and when not to!

PainScience.com (April 2017): The Great Ice vs. Heat Confusion Debacle

PainScience.com (Feb. 2013): Thixotropy is Nifty, but It’s Not Therapy

Peace with Endo: (Jan. 2017) Why I Stopped Using My Heating Pad for Endometriosis Pain

Safety Brief: (Jan. 2015) On the Safety of Heating Pads

Science of Slow Cooking: The Science of Slow Cooking

Sew4Home (Sept. 2014): Organic Fillers for Warming Pads: We Compare Rice, Corn and Flaxseed

Sunbeam: FAQ – How Hot do the Heating Pads Get?

Taber’s Medical Dictionary: definition of fascia

The Hot Water Bottle Shop: FAQS

University of Illinois at Urbana-ChampaignDepartment of Physics: Q&A Water Temperatures

 

~ 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

Pelvic Pain Solutions: Limited Time Discount!

PPS_-_Blue2BW_800x_7cfdacde-7288-4d27-bf87-cae804f0f704_1800x
http://www.pelvicpainsolutions.com

Our friends at Pelvic Pain Solutions are offering a deal for our Readers. ❤

If you’re in the market for pelvic seat cushions or pelvic therapy pads, you’ll receive 15% off by using the discount code, LW15!  But hurry…the coupon expires on November 1, 2017.

If you haven’t heard of Pelvic Pain Solution’s pelvic therapy pads, they offer hands-free hot or cold compresses: the EndoFEMM Pad, the Endo-lite Travel Pad, the  Pelvic Floor pad (which extends from pelvic bone to tailbone), and the Multi-Comfort Pad (which sounds divine: coverage of the tummy, pelvic area, lower back, and tailbone!)  I have my EndoFEMM and freakin’ LOVE it!  I wrote a little review of my experience here.  I own the full size and the travel size versions.

I’m workin’ the fitting the pelvic seat cushion into my budget, but Pelvic Pain Solutions (and other people who have purchased them) say they’re helpful for pelvic discomfort and relieving pain and tension.  I’ve recently discovered the life-changing benefits of having a lumbar pillow on the back of my chair at work at in my Jeep and have high expectations for a pelvic cushion!

Thanks, Babette, and everyone at Pelvic Pain Solutions for all that you do. ❤

 

Review: EndoFEMM Heating Pad

EFP_Slide
Photo courtesy of Pelvic Pain Solutions

Oh man.  If you know me, you know I love my heating pads.  I have an electric one by my bed, a microwaveable one for when I’m watching TV, another microwaveable one for work, and even those ones you stick on your clothes for discreet heat.

Well, in April I received an email from Babette, the President of Pelvic Pain Solutions (and fellow EndoSister), offering me a free sample of their EndoFEMM heating pads (you can see them here).  If I liked it, I agreed I’d share about my experiences.  First off, I thought “free sample” meant I’d be getting like a 3″x3″ square of it so I can take it for a test drive; nope – it was the entire EndoFEMM heating pad in all it’s “Paris Girl” glory!  So, here I am today…which means I obviously liked it.

It’s a strap-on kind of heating pad that I can wear around the house, hands-free, and have a lovely, heavy weight and pleasant pressure on my pelvis, as well as constant heat!  I microwave it for a minute or two, but ALSO have the option of cold therapy (brrrrrrr, I hate the cold).

First impressions?  My husband said I looked like a sumo wrestler, so in good humor I stomped around the house in my best sumo pose.  BUT I cannot sing the praises of the EndoFEMM enough – it’s large enough to cover ALL of my painful pelvic area, even my mons!  I absolutely looove the heat and pressure on my hips.  And if my lower back is giving trouble, I just shift it around so the heat is on my backside.  A word of warning, though: it’s HOT – and when you fasten something HOT to your body…you get HOT!  So you may want to wait a minute before strapping this bad boy to your belly, or check to see if the heat is okay…

I love it.  It’s now my favorite heating pad and I absolutely want to buy the travel size one to keep at work.

So, on April 22, 2017, I started my period.  My EndoFEMM arrived juuuuuust in the nick of time.  Granted it doesn’t take away my pain and Endo symptoms…but it does ease them.  Heat has always been a comfort.  And now I have hands-free heat, comfort, weight, and pressure.  Like a purring cat on my lap.

Next, on May 20, 2017, I started my period again.  And happily reached for my EndoFEMM.  Again, I was met with warm, heavy, comforting goodness.  And HANDS-FREE! I think that’s my favorite part.  I just wear my heating pad around the house and can still do things like…pet the cat, reach for the remote, carry a glass of wine from the kitchen to the couch…ha.  I love it.  The heat lasts for about a half an hour before I nuke it again for 60 seconds. And I never realized just how much I needed the heat on my hips and mons…it’s incredible.  An all-encompassing gigantic heating pad.

Anyway, I blab!  I ramble!!  Just know that this girl loves this heating pad!  And thank you to Babette for turning me on to them!  Now if my crazy review has led you to their webpage, clicking that little “Buy Now” button, I absolutely insist you update me on your thoughts in my Comments section below.  Do you love it as much as I do?

Endometriosis: Excision vs Ablation

Graphic depicting excision vs ablation
Detail,”The Endo-Graphic” by Sarah Soward.

So, you may be reading this because you have a surgery pending, or you’ve had surgery and want to know if it was the “right” one.  Well, when it comes to Endometriosis, there are typically two ways of dealing with the lesions that I’ve read of. If there’s more, share with me, please!  Whichever way your surgeon opens you up : laparotomy or laparoscopy, robotic-assisted or not – your surgeon will still need to decide how best to handle the lesions he or she finds within your body.

  1.  Excision – removing the entire lesion by cutting a margin of healthy flesh around the lesion – see the graphic above, scooping the healthy soil around the flower to get the roots, and then some.
  2. Ablation – destroying the lesion by burning the surface away.  Like freezing off a mole or wart, but burning away the Endo.  The graphic above with the flamethrower may leave the roots of the lesion, and unhealthy Endometriosis tissue, behind…

Is one better than the other?  That’s purely a matter of opinion, but the popular opinion is, “yes!”  There are countless studies that agree.  But why?

Ablation only affects the surface of the lesion by destroying the tissue.  It may leave unseen portions of the disease beneath the surface, which may allow for speedy recurrence of Endometriosis growth and symptoms.  Ablation may also cause further scar tissue to develop – you are literally burning or melting the lesion away.  Other names for ablation may include cauterization, vaporization, and fulgeration.  Terms for some of the tools that may be used during ablation can be electrosurgical devices, thermocoagulation devices, lasers, a harmonic scalpel, helium or argon plasma therapy, and the cavitron ultrasonic surgical aspirator (CUSA).

Excision (sometimes called resection) removes the entire lesion, as well as a healthy bit of flesh around the lesion.  The surgeon hopes to remove all traces of that particular lesion, in the attempt to make recurrence more difficult.  The more lesions that can be excised, the better chances you may have at a longer symptom-free life.  Tools can be cold, hard cutting tools such as scissors or even lasers (but…but…heat energy – burning!?!) – nope, lasers are often used for excision surgeries to cut around the lesions and harvest it out whole.

You may be interested to go back, grab a copy of your operation report, and compare these tools and techniques.  What exactly DID your surgeon do?  Or you can use this information to better ask questions of your doctor prior to a pending surgery.

Avocados demonstrating excision v ablation for endometriosis

Imagine an avocado (mmmmm avocadoooo) – you slice that bad boy open, remove the pit, and discover a bit of browning on the surface.  Nasty bruises and icky…But, there’s plenty of good avocado still to be enjoyed.  If you only scraped off the surface of that brown spot, you’d likely still have MORE brown spot beneath it – that rotten little bruise extends deeper into the avocado flesh (delicious green flesh).  You’d want to take a spoon and scoop out the brown spot in it’s entirety, and enjoy the fresh avocado that you have remaining.

Icebergs demonstrating surface Endometriosis vs deep Endometriosis

Also, think of an iceberg.  The tip is only visible above the surface of the water, but the iceberg can extend for quite a long while beneath the waves.  Endometriosis lesions do the same.  Who knows what’s lurking beneath the surface.  And if the entire iceberg – um, Endometriosis lesion – isn’t removed, it may resurface.

Studies have shown that women who undergo excision surgery of Endometriosis lesions have less painful periods, less painful bowel movements, and chronic pelvic pain than women who underwent ablation.  Studies also indicate that painful sex levels remain about the same for both excision and ablation surgeries.

Women who undergo ablation surgery for Endometriosis have a 40-60% chance of recurrence, sometimes within months of surgery.  In contrast, 75-85% of women who undergo excision surgery claim long-term relief.    I personally have undergone two excision surgeries, within two years of each other.  Some of my Endometriosis was in similar areas of my body as my first surgery, but some was found in new locations…My surgeon opted instead of excising (or even ablating) a lesion on my diaphragm, to leave it there for safety’s sake – nobody wants a perforated diaphragm! Excision surgery may not be ideal in every situation – and a skilled surgeon will be able to know when, and when not, to cut.   Even then, it may not work and you still may be slated for a future surgery.  The only guarantee with this illness: there is no guarantee.

In the end, it’s not all about the type of surgery or the tools used – it boils down to the skill level of the surgeon and their method of dealing with Endometriosis.  How competent are they? Do they do excision or ablation?  How often do they perform excision surgeries?  What’s their recurrence rate among patients?  Ask questions! Get answers!  Be comfortable and confident with your surgeon’s skills.

And, as always – there is no cure for Endometriosis.  We may get relief from medication, supplements, lifestyle changes, or even surgeries, but there is always, always, the chance for recurrence.  Listen to your body.  And don’t be afraid to head back in for another consultation…

I’d like to extend a special Thank You to Sarah Soward, a local artist and EndoSister who granted me permission to use a detail of her Endo-Graphic as our cover photo for today.  To view the entire image and all of the information contained there, please visit her site.

(Updated March 27, 2019)

Resources:

Center for Endometriosis Care

Diamond Women’s Center

Endometriosis Australia

Endometriosis Foundation of America

EndoSupport.com

Eric Daiter, M.D.

Nezhat.org

Sarah Soward

The Journal of Minimally Invasive Gynecology – (Unedited Manuscript; April 2017) Laparoscopic Excision Versus Ablation for Endometriosis-Associated Pain – Updated Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

Vital Health Institute

~ 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