The Uterus Chronicles, Episode 2

If you’re just joining the conversation, Episode 1 is here – “Does My Uterus Make Me Look Fat?”

Episode 2: Help! I Need a Good Doctor!

So, I really liked the OB/GYN I had gone to. I felt cared for, and listened to, and the next day I even wrote her a thank you note. I felt like I’d found my medical home, female-wise at any rate. The biopsy came back about a week later and it was negative for cancer, always good news. My new doctor and I talked for about twenty minutes about my options -one of which included Uterine Artery Embolization. She gave me the name of a place near her office that does this type of work, and suggested I talk to an Interventional Radiologist before I make a final decision. And, whatever I do, if I could let her know she’d really appreciate it.

I made the call. I got transferred to three different people before the office manager came on the line to tell me that, no, not only do they not do UAEs, but they have NEVER done UAEs. So I call the doctor’s office back, get the office manager, and she tells me that well, maybe this other place has one, and UCLA has one. But she’s not giving me any kind of referral (the bane of having a PPO instead of an HMO. I guess the Motion Picture HMO spoiled me, sigh).

So I back away from the phone and think some more. People make mistakes, I’m aware of that. But this mistake is kind of a big one. And do I want a doctor that makes mistakes because they didn’t do their homework? What if they make a mistake while in surgery? Or while prescribing hormones or something for me?

I’m not in any kind of an emergency situation, so time passes as I dither think about my options, and suddenly it’s time to see my GI doc.

This is the same doctor that did my colonoscopy two years ago – and when he comes into the patient room, I remember that I really like him. He’s got a big smile and a hearty handshake, and he listens to my entire tale before telling me not to worry. That the bleeding in my stool is most likely from the hemerroids (sp) caused by the fibroids (the trigger that started this whole drama). Unless things change down the road, he doesn’t want to see me for another three years and I’m happy to oblige, lol. He also told me to take a fiber supplement -one dose a day for the rest of my life. He says its like a miracle drug for all Gastro-Intestinal docs, and he’s been doing it for 20 years. So I’m now taking the generic equivalent of Benefiber each day.

So then, I started poking around on the internet. Found a highly respected doctor, fairly local (but then, anything within 50 miles is local in the Los Angeles area), with major expertise in removing fibroids without removing the uterus. Even big fibroids. Bingo! I checked him out thoroughly and made the call to get a consultation.

The pleasant person who answered the call barely heard me describe my symptoms before she told me, in a firm voice, that the doctor doesn’t take any insurance and it’s $250 to $450 to walk in his office door and talk to him. (After checking the website again, I see that you have to put up 20% of the cost of surgery prior to having it.) I put the phone down, once again confounded by doctors.

I wasted time did some more careful thinking about my options. I still hate the way I look and feel. More friends talked to me about how great they felt after their hysterectomy (after they healed, that is).

Finally I hit up the internet one more time, searched out several doctors, and found one closer than the other one. I filled out an online “consultation form”; and two days later, at ten o’clock on a Friday night, that surgeon emailed me back. He assured me that his office takes my insurance, and encouraged me to set up an appointment, which I did.

I took my husband to this appointment, and I’m really glad I did. This doctor specializes in minimally-invasive gynecology surgery as well as urinary tract surgery. He doesn’t deliver babies or see women on a yearly basis, and he’s done thousands of these surgeries. He talked a bit to both of us about options, and did an exam, and told me my uterus is 18cm and the fibroids are calcified, which means they can’t come out laparoscopically – as a calcified fibroid is basically rock-like, and they can actually break blades. (I know. Weird, huh?)

He also said they didn’t calcify overnight – I’ve probably had fibroids for years (most women do), they grew slowly, and over the past five years or so calcified. He couldn’t give me a reason why other doctors missed it so I’m doing my best to let that part of this whole thing go. (Change happens, and we’re not always aware of it. Got it.)

He drew pictures, gave me and my husband a straightforward view of how it all happens, as well as possible complications. He was warm, intelligent, caring, and spent quite a long time with us going over other options but in the end, I chose to have a TAH – Total Abdominal Hysterectomy – leaving in the ovaries.

This is a man I trust. This is a man who cares, who answers email from a stranger at ten pm on a Friday night, who spent time talking to my husband as well as to me.

On a high note, when I asked my nurse neighbors about this doctor, they both gave him a two-thumbs up (they work at my local hospital, and this doctor sometimes does surgeries there as well). Gee…I really should have asked them for doctor referrals earlier in my doctor search, but I didn’t think of it. Who better than nurses to give referrals to doctors?

Surgery is scheduled for August 7, 2012. I want to be as healthy as possible going into surgery, so I’m walking, eating healthy, and giving myself ballet classes (well I was until I sprained my ankle); I’m taking iron supplements (patients tend to lose 2 points in iron during abdominal surgery – I’m at an 11, over 12 is normal, he wants me at a 13); I’m also taking calcium and fish oil, but I have to stop the fish oil ten days prior to surgery (it’s a blood thinner, did you know?). 

So that’s the story. The takeaways? 1. ALWAYS see the proper doctor for the proper thing. 2. DO YOUR HOMEWORK when searching for doctors – ask friends, neighbors, nurses for referrals. 3. TAKE YOUR TIME if you can before deciding on any procedures. and 4. TAKE A FRIEND/LOVER with you to any important doctor appointments. They will often be thinking clearer than you and will both ask important questions, and remember the answers afterwards.

My next book, DEMON HUNT, comes out either July 15 or August 1st, so I have promo to do for that.

I’ll also be hitting up RWA’s Annual Conference in Anaheim at the end of July, then back to work for a week of getting Important Stuff Done; then I’ll go out on disability and have surgery. During recovery, I’m going to be a writing fiend, as I won’t really feel like moving much. Middle of September? Back to work. Middle of October? Start giving myself ballet classes again to get into shape. A busy summer/fall!

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Thanks so much for stopping by! There’s a Midsummer Blog Hop tomorrow, and on Friday I return with a Wine Blog – sorry about the absence of that feature! Cheers all, and remember to Drink Responsibly!

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23 Responses to The Uterus Chronicles, Episode 2

  1. Robena Grant says:

    Sorry you got the run-around but glad you did find someone you can talk with and who comes highly recommended from friends. That’s always a plus in my book. Sounds like you are in for a busy few months but I’m sure you’ll feel a ton better after this is taken care of.

  2. Tanya Hanson says:

    Christine, I had this same surgery and was on my feet in days, sitting up the next morning. Just take a ton of short walks all day long. I really think you’ll have a successful operation and a quick return to normality. Love ya!

  3. Sarah Vance says:

    I am so sorry you are going through all of this…it totally sucks, but I can’t thank you enough for honestly sharing your tale of dealing with doctors as a woman about women’s stuff. I have a tale of woe about the lump on my left ovary that wasn’t there when my doctor performed unnecessary surgery. I wish I had been as diligent as you. I’m looking forward to see you in Anaheim. And let me know what I can do for you during your recovery. I’m standing by with a casserole close at hand…

    • Christine says:

      Sarah, most doctors are wonderful. Well, most of my doctors have been wonderful. But like in any profession, there’s a range of knowledge/experience/manner from doctor to doctor that must be taken into account.

      And I’ll bet you’ll be more health-diligent in the future!

  4. If you really like your gyno, I wouldn’t hold that mistake against her too much. Between medical practices changing what they do, and insurance companies and practices ending their various contracts – now this one DOES take Aetna, but not Blue Cross, or vice versa – keeping up with who does what is a nightmare.

    When I had my own colonscopy a few years back, I got the referral from my primary care, verified with the insurance co. that the doctor I was going to see was covered. Then it turned out that HE was covered, but the facility next door where he performed the procedure wasn’t. Had to fight with ’em on that one, but they eventually covered it.

    It sounds like you are on the right track, for you. Will look forward to lifting a glass to your speedy recovery.

  5. Lindsey says:

    Oh, Christine! I bet you feel so relieved to have made the best decision for yourself, and to have found a super doctor. I will be sending you loads of positive thoughts and wishes for a speedy recovery!

  6. Roz Lee says:

    So sorry you have had such a rough time. The stress alone would put me out of commission. Your strength and determination to find the best treatment amazes me. If I’m ever sick, I want you by my side because I know you would tell me to keep my chin up and to keep on going when I’d rather hide in a closet. Can’t wait to see you at National’s. BTW – How’s the ankle??

  7. Sounds like a nightmare of a journey to get to the right answers. I’m so glad you finely found the right doctor who will give you the treatment you’re comfortable with. That is oh-so important.

    I will also be in Anaheim and hoping we get a chance to connect while we’re there!

  8. Traci Bell says:

    Hi Christine,

    I’m so glad you found a doctor that gave you time, information, and made you feel good. Best of luck on your surgery, and I hoope you’ll feel so much better!

  9. Lorie says:

    Sorry that you’ll have to go the abdominal route but glad that you’re finally on track to getting it all taken care of. Boy your early 50’s are starting to sound pretty much like my early 40’s – two major surgeries in 18 months – but it really was so much better after it was all over.
    Now you just have to stop falling down!
    So you don’t feel all alone there too, I took a major forward momentum fall at my niece’s wedding earlier this month taking out my 80 year old mother too. Both of us pretty bruised and battered still but at least neither of us broke anything. Ain’t getting old fun?
    Let me know if you need anything.

  10. Diana Layne says:

    Finding doctors can be so frustrating! You simply have to persist, and you did. I had a complete hysterectomy in 2010, chose to take out ovaries too, b/c there is ovarian cancer in the family, and I have been so happy with my decision. Except for a stubborn 15 pounds that’s hanging on, but that’s probably because I write more than I exercise. 🙂 Working on that now. Good luck!

    • Oh Diana, I hear you on that stubborn 15 pounds. Right now, I’ve convinced myself those pounds are all in my uterus, lol! I’m sure after surgery I’ll be quite disappointed that I’m not 50 pounds lighter. Oh well…that’s why I’m working slowly to get back in shape now. So it theoretically should be easier to recover.

      Theoretically. !

  11. Brinda says:

    I read your earlier post about your health and was wondering about you. Wow. This is great advice at the end. I will definitely ask nurse friends the next time I need a referral. As an aside, I had no idea that there are some doctors who would not take insurance. I wish you a speedy recovery. 🙂

    • Thanks, Brinda, you’re a peach! Yeah, I was shocked – apparently some doctors are so “Big” that they take only the people who can afford them. Pffft. Whatever. Makes me grateful for those doctors that do take insurance!

  12. I know it isn’t easy to find the right doctor. Persistence is the key. Glad you’ve got it all set up now. Wishing you good health in the future and an easy recovery.

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