Endometriosis

Wherefore Art Thou, Lupron?

What William Shakespeare meant to write before his editor gave all of the lines to Romeo:

[Juliet is visible at her window, amazed that a cool breeze actually makes her feel cool.]

Juliet

But soft, what light through yonder window breaks?
It is the east, and Estrogen is the sun.
Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious Lupron moon, 
Who is already sick and pale with grief
That thou her maid art far more cool than she.
Be not her maid, since she is envious;
Her vestal livery is but hot and sweaty
And none but chemically-induced menopausal women do wear it. Cast it off.

[Juliet turns and walks to her bedroom thermostat, happily turning it up from 68 to 78.]

O, Estrogen doth teach the torches to burn a little less brightly!
It seems she brushes upon the cheek of night
As a cool breeze upon a parched Dallasite’s visage.

[Juliet turns out the light and goes to bed. All is well again in the house of Capulet.] 

The end.

Is IVF Healing Medicine?

I am an advocate of healing medicine, both traditional and nontraditional.

I daily take prescription medication to keep my already overactive pancreas from kicking out more insulin into my bloodstream. I then supplement my medication with lots of exercise and a low-glucose diet.

My most recent venture into healing medicine involved a short round of hormone therapy to help my doctor properly diagnose several masses that were growing in my abdomen. I then underwent surgery to remove a batch of endometriomas and accompanying scar tissue from around my colon, bladder, and ovaries. Next, came a six-month regimen of Lupron shots to kill off the residual scar tissue my doctor had to leave behind, and, on top of that, I now eat a mostly pescetarian (vegan with fish) diet on top of my low-glucose fare to avoid environmental hormones, additives, preservatives, gluten, and nutrients which may cause inflammation in my body.

In other words, I prefer my medical cocktail as follows: one part traditional, two parts nontraditional, shaken with ice, and then straight down the hatch.

Why am I over-sharing all of this with you? I want to make it clear that I am a champion of healing medicine. I believe it is part of the daily bread God provides for us and that it is good and right to try to make the body whole. I believe that we are free in Christ to take medicine and to undergo diagnostic tests and to have surgeries and to train for triathlons and to sit for acupuncture treatments and to avoid dairy (Oh, wretched cross that I bear!) and to drink liquified kale for the healing purposes of our flesh.

However.

Like the Apostle Paul, I believe that my freedom in Christ, whether applied to medicine or to circumcision or to meat-eating or to whatever, is intended by God to serve my neighbor, not myself.

“For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” Galatians 5:13 (ESV)

We are totally free in Christ to seek healing medicine in our barrenness, but that freedom is still intended to serve our neighbor, even the little neighbor we hope to conceive in our womb. For this reason, I do not consider in vitro fertilization (IVF) to be healing medicine, nor do I consider it to rest safely within the realm of Christian freedom.

IVF does not simply seek to make the body whole, but it seeks to create children for our own purpose and use, whether that be cherishing, rejecting, discarding, freezing, or even killing. This is not using our Christian freedom to serve our neighbor. It is using our freedom to serve ourselves at the expense of our neighbor.

Let me draw a clear picture for you. When children are created in a petri dish during IVF, those children have no rights of their own. They, at the whim of the parent*, can be:

  • graded by appearance for their viability,
  • genetically tested for their sex, chromosomal abnormalities, and diseases,
  • discarded (in some cases, literally flushed down the drain) for their potential flaws,
  • put on ice to be stored, used, adopted, donated, tested, or killed at the parent’s leisure,
  • inserted into potentially inhospitable conditions in utero,
  • and, if part of a multiple pregnancy, selectively terminated and sacrificed for the vitality of a perceived stronger brother or sister in the womb.

IVF does not serve these children (our neighbors!) through love, but, at best, disrespects the personhood of the children created, and, at worst, serves as the concentration camp of the fertility industry.

Please be certain, it is the procedures surrounding IVF, not the children that result, that I am calling into question. As I wrote in my book, “Whatever sin and controversies may surround IVF, the children that are conceived and born to us through such procedures are still a heritage from the Lord. These children do not cease to be blessings and gifts from God simply because of the method by which they were conceived. We are not to think of these children as anything less than human beings who are wanted and cherished by our Lord. God’s love is what makes any and every child valuable in this life, not the means of parentage. Whatever decisions and actions parents may regret, the children that result from such decisions and actions are to be celebrated as the precious treasures that they are.” (He Remembers the Barren, 44-5)

Dear sisters, you may have already made use of IVF thinking that it was healing medicine. You may feel confused, angry, even guilty, right now. Do not despair! Your help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth. (Psalm 124:8) Christ, the Lamb of God, takes away the sin of the world. “Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.” (Acts 3:19-20a ESV) Confess your regrets to your pastor to receive the peace of absolution, and let it be done to you as you believe.

* A frozen child’s right to life can also be at the whim of a government or a divorce court judge.

70% Cocoa

Karl Marx had it wrong. The opiate of the masses is not religion. It is chocolate.

I can usually tell when a grief cycle is ramping up, because I seem unable to deny myself the simple, happy pleasure of chocolate products. And cheeseburgers. And Chinese food. And, come to think of it, bing cherries, too. There must be something to things that start with “ch” that sing “Self-medicate!” to my grieving subconscious.

It is so much easier to eat than to cry.

The next time you see me sitting at a table with only “ch” foods in front of me, gently pull the fork out of my hand and replace it with a box of Kleenexes. I and my waistline will thank you.

Celebration

I have this friend. She is crazy talented and super smart. She teaches world music, composes trombone octets, circular breathes into her flute, and, when she’s not busy traipsing around the globe to play international recitals, she hangs out with lowly, Lupron-riddled me.

She asked me about a month ago, “Hey, aren’t you nearing the end of your shots? When’s your last one?”

I blubbered something about it being the last Friday morning in June.

She looked my needle-weary self in the eye and said, “I’m coming with you.”

And, she did. This morning, my busy friend braved the Dallas traffic to meet me at the hospital at 8:00 o’clock sharp. She walked me into the exam room, cheered me through an inconvenient hot flash, winced in sympathy at the giant needle, hugged me through an emotional wave of relief in the parking lot, and, when it was all over, sat on a balcony with me at my favorite restaurant to share a cup of coffee and a chocolate muffin.

Do you want to know the best part? On our way out the door, I got a quick peek at my friend’s day schedule. The whole morning had been blocked out with the words, “Celebration with Katie.”

I don’t know if I could have felt more loved or better understood than I did in that moment.

So, if you are wondering what to do to help a barren friend through a difficult time, take a cue from Lisa: add a little more celebration to her life.

Weather Update

There are a few side effects of Lupron which the manufacturer forgot to mention on the label:

1. The tropical-breeze-hot-flashes that tickled you in the spring of Texas will turn into blazing infernos in the Dallas heat of May.

2. No amount of fast-talking, gymnastics, or pointing across the room will hide the sweat marks on your clothes.

3. If you wear red, your face and arms will disappear against your clothes.

4. Sunshine, curling irons, lunch, sermons, cooking, reading, snuggling, writing, breathing, and time passing will cause a hot flash.

5. Never set your thermostat above 70. Ever. Or your loads of laundry will double.

6. Wear gloves and socks or your yoga mat will become a slip-and-slide.

7. Pants, capris, and anything with sleeves can be used as kindling at your next camp fire (though let someone else start the fire and sit 100 feet away; no, actually don’t go on that camping trip).

8. Don’t bother showering before bed, because you are going to wake up in the middle of the night soaked with sweat.

9. Lean into every air conditioner, fan, and refrigerator you meet.

10. Do not grow your hair out or cut bangs during this time.

This post was brought to you by Frigidaire, Fanimation, and Blue Haven Pools & Spas.

Havin’ a Heat Wave!

hot flash noun. a sudden feeling of feverish heat, typically as a symptom of menopause.

Not every girl in her mid-thirties is as blessed as me. I get to take small, frequent vacations to my own, private, tropical resort every day. I can be sitting in a restaurant, standing at my bathroom sink, or even kneeling in church when – swoosh! – within moments I am transported to a hot, humid haven.

Two Sundays ago, I was sitting in a pew when a particularly sweltering climate change hit, and I looked around to see if anyone else in the nave had noticed the equatorial shift. Everyone sat perfectly still, snuggled comfortably in their cardigans and suit coats, while I sat there furiously fanning my sleeveless arms.

“I remember those days,” a woman in her fifties leaned over to whisper conspiratorially.

She was not the only one to have noticed my steamy situation. A cluster of women standing in the narthex after the service grinned at me and confided, “The night sweats are the worst!”

Even though most of these women are twenty-plus years my senior, they welcomed me – Lupron-induced-menopausal, little me – into their circle. I felt oddly special to be included in their conversation, like a youth at the kids’ table suddenly being invited to dine with the adults.

The most touching show of camaraderie, however, came later that night at our monthly Bible study.

“Here,” Gretchen smiled, handing me a canvas-covered fan painted with delicate folk art. “I used this during the worst of it.”

I fingered the wooden handle and raised the fan to test its canvas sail. My lips parted in sweet relief as the most delicious, refreshing breeze moved across my feverish cheeks.

“Isn’t it the best?” Gretchen exclaimed. “You can keep it.”

Yep. I am one, blessed girl. Bring on the hot flashes!

My Peach

I had a peach growing inside of me. Not a little peach, but a ripe, juicy peach measuring at eight centimeters. Like any fruit in its prime, my peach needed to be harvested before it became hazardous to the rest of my orchard. Heaven forbid it should turn rancid, or – worse! – grow so big as to break off a limb!

“There is only one thing to do,” my orchard keeper said. “We need to schedule a peachectomy.”

Okay.

“And, who knows? Maybe, we’ll find some weeds to pull or some dead branches to trim. If not, we can at least test the soil’s acidity before next spring.”

“Peachy,” was all I could say.

However, I felt anything but. A peachectomy, you see, has never been on my bucket list, and I have always lived in hopes that my tree, fruitful or not, would never ever have to be axed or chainsaw massacred. Still, my orchard keeper is the best, so there was nothing left for me to do but to take her advice and to trust in the Lord of the Harvest.

Right around this time I received a package in the mail from a friend. It was wrapped in white paper, and next to my name on the top was a cut-out of an orange-yellow piece of fruit. I started laughing before I even opened the package, and I kept laughing as I pulled out an assortment of peachy-rific gifts: peaches and cream oatmeal, peach tea, peach lip gloss, you name it. “Here’s your ‘Life’s a Peach’ survival kit,” my friend wrote. “You weren’t trying to have surgery without one, right?”

Praise be to God, my peach was successfully harvested, pesky weeds were pulled, and my soil’s acidity was determined fine and dandy. I find myself daily offering up prayers of thanks to God for such a wise and talented orchard keeper and for such loving, thoughtful, hilarious friends who never let a sister in Christ feel alone in her suffering. (Thank you, Rebekah!) Life really is a peach.

Jump Squats

Everyone has a coping mechanism. Some bake brownies for personal consumption, others escape reality through episodes of Downton Abbey, and others still sew and stitch and glue and prune and create to their hearts’ content.

My coping mechanism? Training for the next big race.

So, you can imagine my feeling of panic when my doctor told me last August that I had to immediately cease all impact exercise. No road races. No triathlons. No nothing. That was six months ago, and I am still staring at four more weeks on the calendar before I can hit the pavement running again.

Sometimes, the temptation to despair is overwhelming. We already lose so much in our barrenness – our family line, our health, our societal pride, our Mother’s Day carnations – that the thought of losing one more thing, especially that thing which brings us the most temporal comfort, threatens to break us.

But losing it won’t break you. The things that we lose in this life are not the things that last, and they most certainly are not the things that save us from despair. Abandoning my sneakers has only reassured me of this truth: Neither death nor life nor things present nor things to come nor lost endorphins will separate me from the love of Christ. His gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation do last, and they most certainly do save me from despair. They are even readily available to me today in His Word and in His Body and Blood, filling me with comfort when my coping mechanism can’t.

Still, I am really looking forward to doing jump squats again.

Surgery Survival Kit

Laparoscopies. Laparotomies. Myomectomies. Hysterectomies. Sometimes, surgeries come hand-in-hand with barrenness, so we decided to create a Surgery Survival Kit for all of you. Here is the best (and worst) of what we have learned from our own experiences under the knife:

1. Do whatever your doctor tells you to do, both pre and post-surgery. Ignore everything else on this list if your doctor does not approve. (Sincerely, your HRTB Hosts)

2. Um, don’t even try to get through this ordeal without a stash of dark chocolate on hand. (Katie)

3. See if you can get your post-surgery prescriptions at your pre-op appointment. It is nice to have those meds ordered, picked-up, ready to go, and waiting for you when you get home. (Katie)

4. While you’re at the pharmacy, go ahead and stock up on MiraLAX or some kind of stool softener. Constipation is a common side effect of pain killers. (Katie and Jen)

5. Following a laparoscopy, you are most likely going to have gas pain in your shoulders (No kidding!), and it can cause you more discomfort post surgery than your actual incisions. The gas is leftover carbon dioxide from all that was pumped into your abdomen during the procedure. It can take up to 48 hours for your body to reabsorb the gas, so I recommend stocking up on some Gas X (Jen swears by the strips!) and having a heating pad within reach. (Katie)

6. Buy some good pads. The hospital may send you home with a few, but buy ones you like.  Bleeding is common after whateverectomies, and the last thing you want to do on the way home from surgery is stop somewhere to buy pads. (Jen)

7. Make sure your pastor knows the date, time, and location of your surgery, so that he can be there to read Psalms to you and pray with you while you wait. Don’t be embarrassed to tell him. I promise you, it’s worth it. (Katie)

8. Wear low-rise, loose-fitting, comfy pants to your surgery, as well as slip-on shoes. Your incision(s) will thank you later. (Katie)

9. Leave a pillow in your car. Trust me, you want something in between you and the seatbelt on your way home from the hospital. (Rebecca and Katie)

10. Are you a singer? Make sure your anesthesiologist knows. You can tell him/her when he calls you the night before your surgery. It doesn’t hurt to remind your anesthesiologist to look out for your vocal folds during intubation. (Katie)

11. Pack a bag for the hospital. You may be going in with the intention of having outpatient surgery, but you never know – especially if it is a diagnostic surgery – whether or not it will turn into an overnight stay. Must-have items on your packing list: toothbrush, toothpaste, hairbrush, hair rubbers bands, pajamas, prescription meds, a good book, your glasses case, and someone to take you home. (Jen and Katie)

12. Invite someone to stay with you for a few days (or longer). It can be very difficult to manage on your own when you are on bed rest, doped up on pain meds, legally unable to drive, and on doctor’s orders not to lift anything over ten pounds. (Jen)

13. I remember seeing a cat scampering around the post-op room as I was coming to. If you see similar sights that just shouldn’t be there you are probably halucinating and need to close those eyes again to get more sleep. Or else you just chose the wrong hospital. I’m pretty sure my cat didn’t really exist. (Rebecca)

14. I found it incredibly helpful to have an audio book available to listen to after my last surgery. Since I had to spend the night, and since it’s very difficult to sleep with those stupid leg compression tights on and the accompanying LOUD compression machine, it was nice to be able to turn something on in the middle of the night when I was wide awake. It was also nice to have it post-surgery at home when I just didn’t feel like focusing on the pages of a book, or I was too tired to keep my eyes open and watch a movie but my body wouldn’t let me sleep. (Rebecca)

15. Bending straws are your friends, especially on those days when sitting up is difficult. (Jen)

16. Ginger Ale tastes so much better than water when you are groggy and nauseous from the anesthesia. Mom’s chicken and quinoa soup is also a must. And some salty crackers. And some watermelon. And some bing cherries. And…zzzzzzzzz. (Katie)

17. Everyone reacts to anesthesia differently, so be prepared for some side effects. Headaches are normal, though not fun. Have that heating pad ready! The pain medication doesn’t necessarily take those headaches away. (Rebecca)

18. Have a recliner or some kind of armchair available for sleeping in the first night at home. Another option is to have multiple pillows on hand to prop yourself up in bed. Be prepared to sleep on your back for awhile. It can be painful to turn onto your side. (Kristi, Rebecca, Jen, and Katie)

19. If your bed is high, consider getting some type of stool. It can be difficult getting in and out of bed when your abs are toast. (Jen)

20. Along the same lines, consider investing (around $50) in a raised toilet seat. Getting up and down from a low seat can be really painful and difficult for the first week or so, especially if you have had a myomectomy. (Jen)

21. Don’t be afraid if you feel some numbness above your incision. This can happen due to nerves being cut. It can take awhile to get some feeling back. Call your doctor if you are concerned. (Jen)

22. Start walking as soon as your doctor says it’s okay and you feel up to it. It helps get your digestive system moving again. (Jen)

23. Listen to your body as you recover. Sometimes at the beginning of the day you may feel great and make plans for a fuller day. But if your body gives out after a few hours, stop everything and rest. Don’t plan to bounce back immediately, no matter what you’ve heard from other people’s experiences. The last thing you want is a business trip scheduled for the week after surgery. So, be gentle with yourself. You’ve come through surgery, and the body is tender. It will take time to heal, so don’t push it. (Rebecca and Kristi)

24. Indulge in some light shopping. Every girl needs a new pair of sexy granny panties to cover up her incision. (Jen)

25. Be at peace in the knowledge that you are God’s own child, and He preserves and sustains your life. He perfectly loves you in Jesus. Whatever happens, it’s okay. (The Bible)

P.S. These suggestions are lovingly brought to you by Jen, Rebecca, Kristi, and Katie. Happy Healing!