I had my gynaecology appointment at the hospital yesterday. Those of you who are still reading may remember that a few weeks ago I had an empowered moment when I went to see the GP for my self imposed yearly whinge about how my menstrual cycle was less of a cycle and more of a crazy, bat shit monster trying to kill me. It ended up with me finally being referred to a hospital instead of accepting the ‘it’s normal’ schtick or the ‘you’re being difficult’ routine.
I had my suspicions that I may have a form of what is known as PMDD, or Pre Menstrual Dysphoric Disorder. I had met a wonderful lady called Nancy at the Radio 5Live programme last year who has it, and a lot of what she said rung bells for me. Then, after blogging when things got very bleak last month, I had a message from someone who also has it in a slightly different form to Nancy and what she said also made sense in terms of what I have gone through.
I couldn’t get the GP to refer me to an endocrinologist, which is who I thought I needed to see. So I settled for a gynaecologist in the belief that at best they would be able to refer me on to the right person. I expected that it would be a drawn out, frustrating experience in which I was not taken seriously and where PMDD would also not be taken seriously (it is a relatively new discovery). I did some homework and spoke to some medic friends, and armed with my mum and some scribbled notes I set off yesterday prepared for the worst.
It did not happen.
Nobody was more surprised than me.
Especially given that the consultant was running 45 minutes late, and prior to seeing them I had to first see a junior doctor in training who was practicing taking case histories. That’s not to say it was terrible, because it wasn’t. 45 minutes is no time at all in a system that is operating to capacity. And the junior doctor was very nice, and by the time we’d finished, slightly overwhelmed, given the amount of history I had to give her. I was really impressed with the fact that she listened properly and was not patronising. I was even more impressed when she actually asked me what I wanted as an outcome from the consultation. But I was still sceptical that anything useful would happen.
When I finally got to see the consultant was when the surprise really kicked in. She was straightforward but not at all patronising. She discussed everything with me as an equal, but clearly knew her stuff, so there was no danger of me panicking about her ability. She checked in to make sure I was up to speed with what she was saying without being patronising. She had clearly grasped all my symptoms and didn’t dismiss any of them as having nothing to do with menstruation. She was particularly clued up about menstrual migraines which is not something I’ve come across before except in those of us who actually suffer from them. She was also pretty good on the depression aspect and the difference between my regular depressive episodes and menstrual ones.
She knew about PMDD in enough detail to show me she hadn’t just been Googling it while I was in the waiting room.
She also asked me about what I wanted as an outcome. I said I wanted to explore the possibility that I might have PMDD and/or that what I was struggling with every month was hormonally related.
This is where things got surreal, and a bit scary and brilliant.
She said that she agreed with much of what I had said in terms of thinking that many of my symptoms indicated PMDD. She also said however, that PMDD symptoms usually stop once bleeding starts or if a person falls pregnant. My symptoms do not automatically stop when bleeding starts and they worsen during pregnancy. As a result she suggested that we explore the issue by putting me in chemical menopause for the next few months and seeing what happens.
I was stunned. Absolutely stunned. I think she took this for disappointment as she went on to say that if the results indicated it at the end of the process, she would not be averse to giving me a hysterectomy, but given how major it is, it seemed sensible to go down this route first.
I wasn’t disappointed. I was amazed. I really could not have hoped for a better outcome. I simply hadn’t thought that what she was suggesting would be possible without months of fighting my cause, if at all.
Then, to put the icing on the cake, she said they could start there and then if I wanted? I was still in shock, but not enough to refuse. I snapped her hand off. Within minutes I had a prescription for the drugs and an appointment to see her at the end of August. Hours elapsed while we filled the prescription and sat in the emergency gynaecology ward waiting for someone to administer the jab, but that was a small price to pay.
If you’d told me that this would be my position yesterday morning, I’d have laughed you out of town. In all the years I’ve been desperately going backwards and forwards to doctors, begging for help this has never, ever happened to me before.
And the best moments of all? Not the actual getting the treatment, weirdly. Although that is brilliant. No. The best thing of all was being treated all the way along the line with dignity and respect. Every single person who looked after me yesterday, from the nurse who weighed and measured me (not sure what this has to do with gynaecological function, but hey), to the nurse who, knowing how long we had been waiting to be seen (emergency gynaecology, is, quite rightly, a triage based system and I was, also quite rightly, very low on the pecking order), commandeered an office space in order to give me the jab so I could go home, was lovely.
I was particularly overwhelmed by the consultant and junior doctor, who never once made me feel stupid or wonder why I was there wasting everyone’s time. Nobody I encountered tried to trivialise or down play my experiences or tell me that what I have been going through is normal, or have I tried eating less beetroot, or manning up. I felt like they actually saw me and heard me and were genuinely engaged in the process of trying to help me. I’m trying not to think that it was because they were women, but the thought persists.
It was the most singular medical experience I have ever had, and that is both sad and wonderful.
So, I have no idea what the next few weeks will bring. I’ve canvassed friends who have been through menopause, regularly and chemically, and amassed a rainbow of symptoms and experiences and no doubt, given how I react to almost everything that happens to me, I shall do something entirely different and unique to continue to baffle modern science.
I am somewhat scared about all this, mainly because it has all happened so quickly, but I am hopeful, and I have not been hopeful about this particular issue for a very long time.