As women, we're the experts on our own bodies. We know what does and doesn't feel normal, but we don't always feel empowered to speak up to get the care we need. I recently had an experience with my health where I had to seek a third opinion because the recommendations my longtime doctors offered me didn't feel right. And I'm so glad I did. Here's what happened.
For most of my life, I had reliably regular periods. (I'm lucky. I know this isn't every woman's experience.) But last summer, I got my period — and it didn't stop. Every time I thought my period was over, I started bleeding again. Suddenly, my periods were worse than they had ever been, and it wasn't just abnormal and heavy bleeding. I had significant pain, low energy, and horrible cramping, and I felt tired all the time.
These symptoms weren't normal for me, so I called my gynecologist. She couldn't see me right away, but I knew I couldn't wait, so I saw another doctor in the same practice. He recommended a birth control pill to control my bleeding. I was hesitant, because I'd experienced serious side effects while taking the pill in the past, but I tried it. As I feared, I had a host of new issues — headaches, vomiting, blurred vision, and more fatigue. I stopped taking the pill and made an appointment with my gynecologist of many years. She saw two small fibroids and recommended an intrauterine device (IUD), even though she knew I'd had trouble with an IUD in the past. I know both doctors thought my cycle was changing because of my age. I wasn't so sure. But here's what I did know: I was anemic, exhausted, and cranky.
My husband and I talked about my options, and together, we decided that I should get another opinion. It wasn't an easy choice, especially since I'd been with my doctor for so long. But my quality of life was suffering, so I made an appointment with a new doctor who ordered a series of sonograms and ultrasounds, as well as a uterine biopsy to rule out cancer. She found several additional fibroids, endometriosis, and adenomyosis, and she believed those were causing all my pain. Ultimately, my new doctor recommended a partial hysterectomy, a procedure that would remove my uterus but allow me to keep my ovaries. Since my husband and I are done having children and I knew I couldn't continue in my current exhausted and pained state, I decided that a partial hysterectomy was the right choice for me.
In December, I had my hysterectomy. The procedure and recovery went smoothly, and once fully recovered, I felt immense relief. And my pain is gone. Getting a hysterectomy was the best choice for me. Of course, it helps that I didn't experience complications or side effects. Not all women are so lucky. But I am so glad I listened to my body and sought that third opinion.
What I've learned through this experience is that I know my body better than anyone else. I knew my symptoms weren't simply a result of getting older and a changing cycle. I knew something else was wrong.
The same way that I'm the expert on my body, you are the expert on yours. Doctors are here to guide us and support us, but ultimately, the decisions we make about our bodies are our own. If you're experiencing symptoms that don't feel normal to you, talk to a doctor. If you're not satisfied with what they have to say, feel empowered to get a second, third, and fourth opinion. Gather as much information as you can so that you can make an informed choice. Making decisions about your body may not always be easy, but only you can make the best choice for you, your body, and your health.