A couple of weeks ago, I decided to invite a few friends out for cocktails to toast to my last period.
It's not often when a 38-year-old woman knows when she will have her last period. I do because I am having a hysterectomy this month. To celebrate my final menses struck me as having the potential to be wonderful and weird. Or just weird. I worried the women I invited would come only because they felt obligated. I worry about being a burden to my friends a lot these days, because I am often blue and hardly recognize myself. I broke down crying the last time I had dinner out with two of these women, because everything I had been through flooded me at once, and it was unbearable.
Though I might not look it, I am frail and fatigued after my ten-year fight to save my uterus. My diagnosis is endometriosis and adenomyosis, two similar but separate diseases that have the same side effect: I bleed too much and sometimes for weeks and months at a time.
My original diagnosis, stage-IV endometriosis, causes heavy bleeding and unbearable pain. I have severe anemia from the blood loss and need iron infusions because oral supplementation doesn't help. A few years ago, I gave up 20 years of dedicated vegetarianism for the iron in meat. I often feel depressed by the choices I have to make.
This will be my third surgery for endometriosis in eight years. The idea of another surgery, even if it finally improves my quality of life, has filled me with depression and dread, which is why I needed to try to change my attitude about it. I titled the subject line of the email "Witchy cocktails?" and hesitantly wrote:
Hi friends! I had this somewhat strange but somewhat soothing idea the other night that it would be nice to meet up in the next couple weeks for a drink (a final drink too, because I'm not really supposed to be drinking) with close girlfriends, and toast to positive outcomes and actually, to my last period ever, which is just a couple of weeks away. A good-bye and good riddance of sorts. A sending away. A harnessing of witchy power and reclaiming of good health. This is beyond my typical tolerance of New Age-y-ness, and yet I think it could be a healthy and energizing thing to do. And hopefully fun.
In the postscript, I implored, "Please tell me if this is a terrible idea."
Almost all who I invited said they would come. Of course, of course, they said.
This past May, I went to a friend's birthday party at a pub, then abruptly had to leave because I felt myself begin to bleed uncontrollably. By the time I walked a few steps to my car, I was covered in blood from the waist down. By the time I drove myself five minutes across my neighborhood and parked, I was sitting in a pool of my own blood.
At that point, I had been bleeding every day for over six weeks, and I would go on bleeding for several more. It added up to over 90 days of heavy blood loss. It was a side effect of the IUD that was meant to control the familiar, heavy, and unmanageable periods that had returned since I had my son in January 2014. My doctors all told me to give the IUD six months. I won't last six months like this, I said. Even with the daily bleeding, this hemorrhage was something different altogether.
I didn't do the thing I probably should have done, which was pull over when I passed the emergency room, because I had long stopped believing there was anything besides surgery that could help me. Surgeries are the only things that have helped, though they helped only temporarily.
Instead, I walked into my apartment and told my husband through tears that I was having the largest hemorrhage I'd ever had, and that I was going to get in the bath and clean myself up.