We all love it. We are all thankful for it. When we don’t have it, bad things happen. Seemingly insignificant bacteria and viruses equate with certain demise. But what do we do when our immune system is overly active?
Such is the case with Endometriosis (Once again, I will refer to it as the big “E”).
I’m am learning so much about this new diagnosis of mine. Thankful for answers, but nervous as to how it will play out over the years.
4 things I have learned.
1. It is painful – This would explain my intensely painful periods over the years. 5 times between 2003-2005 (I think this is when the big E began to run its course, see more below), I ended up in either the ER or urgent care with pain so severe, I was doubled over, ready to die. The nausea came with the pain and quickly lead to vomiting and when there was nothing left to bring up, hours of dry heaving would ensue that left me exhausted and dehydrated…still in PAIN. Ahh, such pleasant times. Double O-C more like it. (Out of control).
When I started my Master’s in 2006, I could no longer deal with the unpredictability of my painful periods. Would this month be SO bad that I will end up in urgent care again, needing an IV, Morphine, and anti-nausea medicine? The unpredictability was anxiety provoking. I could not afford to miss class/clinicals for my period – thus began my 5 year stint on CONTINUOUS birth control. It kept the painful periods away. Yep, that’s right…not a single period for 5 years. In retrospect, I am SO thankful for this now, given my diagnosis…given point # 2.
2. There is cell growth where there shouldn’t be. Endometrial cells (the cells that line your uterus) somehow find their way OUT of your uterus where they belong and can become attached to your abdominal wall, ovaries, bowel, vagina…you name it. They grow a lining and shed it right along with your regular menstrual cycle. This bleeding in areas not meant to have to deal with such atrocities become angry and inflamed. This leads to the formation of adhesions that cause parts of your body to stick/twist to areas and/or organs they shouldn’t. Adhesions = SEVERE PAIN. The fact that I was on BCP meant that my body was given a 5 year stent of reprieve from such growth and inflammation. THANK YOU, Doctor, even though you didn’t know you would help me so much in the long run, what a GIFT!
3. My IMMUNE SYSTEM is WHACKED. I have discovered that the immune system of someone with the big E is a little, shall we say, off the mark. Without getting too scientific and lose you all in medical ease, I will give you the quick and the dirty. The body doesn’t like foreign material. Sperm is foreign material, embryos are invaders – kill them…kill them all! ATTACK! Yep, that is pretty much what can happen.
4. IVF works. It takes the abnormal conditions within your body and normalizes them within a controlled, ideal environment (like that of our fertile counterparts). The beautiful 5 day old blastocyst (embryo) is able to attach, unharmed, unattacked to the rich uterine lining of a now medically suppressed immune environment within a woman’s body. This is KEY to a pregnancy in an otherwise hostile uterine environment.
Next question for the RE. So, if IVF works for us and we achieve implantation, what next? Will we have overcome all obstacles in our BATTLE against the big E? Will we need to continue to suppress my immune system? Or will my other hormones take over and bring the pregnancy to fruition?
Tomorrow is our last BIG RE appointment before we leave for France. While in France, we will start our treatment regimen….come home mid-June…and then it will be time to start the heavy hitters of IVF. So much to learn. A long ways to go, I really hope we can get my immune system in check.