It was in the midst of the “Great Recession,” 2010 and full time work was hard to find, so I worked three part time jobs. If that wasn’t stressful enough, my “internal plumbing” was giving me a lot of trouble. Most of my days were spent juggling work schedules and looking for bathrooms. I was tired all the time but blamed it on the fact my day started at 5am, to make sure I got my “morning business” done before I was sitting on the freeway, driving to my first job. There is nothing worse than having a bathroom emergency and finding yourself stuck in rush hour traffic!
Over the years I saw different doctors to find out what was going on and they each told me the same thing: stress or IBS — caused by too much stress. Then one day I found drops of blood on my toilet paper after I wiped myself. About six months before my “correct” diagnosis, a nurse practitioner insisted the blood was from hemorrhoids that were probably aggravated by (you guessed it) stress! My gut feeling said it was something else but exactly what, I didn’t know, so I went along with his diagnosis. The bleeding continued the next few months.
This wasn’t the first time I had trouble getting a correct diagnosis from western medicine doctors. When I was forty, I started having heavy periods twice a month. I went to a woman’s clinic to get a pap smear and was told the results were normal. A couple months went by and I saw a female doctor who said I was anemic. I asked if I was starting menopause, but she assured me that I was too young for that, and told me to take iron pills and wear thicker pads on those “heavy flow days.”
The bleeding got so bad I started missing work because I sometimes bled through my clothes. There was something wrong with me but didn’t know who to turn to for help. Two different doctors already said I wasn’t sick. I was working as a waitress at the time and one day I mentioned my problem to a female customer who ate in the restaurant a few times a week. Since we shared stories about our personal lives, I felt comfortable enough to ask her if she had problem periods like mine. “Yes.” She said. “You need to see an acupuncturist. They will straighten you out.”
A week later I was sitting in an exam room at the Acupuncture and Integrated Medicine College in Berkeley. This was my first experience with acupuncture so I had no idea what to expect. After checking my pulse and looking at my tongue it was determined that I was perimenopausal. Yay! I have a diagnosis! I thought. My periods were back to normal within a month, but I would have to go back monthly for treatments until I was finished going through “the change.”
The day after Christmas in 2010, I woke up having trouble breathing. When I got out of bed my legs felt so heavy I could barely walk, so my husband decided I needed to go to the emergency room.
An hour later we checked in with the ER receptionist. No sooner did we sit down when my name was called. I was ushered into a room where a nurse took my vitals. She said everything looked normal. “I thought, how can that be possible when I feel so bad?”
It wasn’t long before the ER doctor showed up. She told me everything looked good but before she sent me home, she wanted to take some blood from me. “Maybe that will give us a clue as to what is going on.” She said.
An hour later she came back and announced, “I know what’s wrong with you. Forty percent of your blood is gone. Are you bleeding somewhere?”
“Yes, from my rear-end.”
“For how long?”
“Four months, but only it was only a few drops a day.”
The doctor yelled, “YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME!”
“No, I am not kidding”, I thought. I was relieved to finally find out there really was something wrong with me.
“Oh that’s good news. All I need is some blood and I can go home then,” I said.
“Oh no, my dear, you will be our guest at the hospital for a while, AND I am sending a nurse to sit with you in case you ‘stroke out’ from loss of blood.”
I sat there dumbfounded… little did I know my life was about to change forever.
Be well and learn to become your own health activate.