Part II: The Onset of Illness

We never had a honeymoon. It wasn’t really compatible with our schedules, and we didn’t even know where we would go.  We decided it would be a better idea to save our money and maybe take a nice two-week vacation later, when we’d had more time to think about things.  After the reception, we still had a few weeks before work started again, and we spent a lot of time with family and friends while we could.  It was toward the end of our stay that I began to get a constant, dull pain in my pelvic area.  I felt it every hour of the day; sometimes it would sharply remind me of its presence (usually at the most inopportune times), and other times it would just be an annoyance whenever I shifted positions.  Our next show for work involved the crew driving from Bakersfield, where they had left the trucks with our equipment over our break. Knowing I had a few extra days since Bakersfield is about two hours from where I live, I decided to visit a gynecologist.  Since I didn’t have too much time before I’d have to leave again, getting an appointment with a regular gyno was not going to happen.  I went into Urgent Care, who snobbishly told me that they didn’t have doctors who could do pelvic exams on site.  After a lot of researching, I finally found a clinic where they did have a gyno on site, and immediately scheduled an appointment.

It had been about three weeks of constant pain at this point.  The gyno did the typical examination, where you have to scoot your butt to the end of the table, put your feet in stirrups, and let them stick a cold metal speculum inside of you.  They wrench the speculum apart like a vice so they can get a better view of your cervix and vaginal walls.  Then they poke a large cotton swab inside of the opening to your cervix, and scrape some skin cells from the top of your vaginal wall.  This is obviously not a pleasant experience in the first place, but with the pain I was already in, it was terrible.  The gyno pressed down on my uterus while they felt inside for lumps, but couldn’t find anything. She recommended me to someone who could perform an ultrasound to have a clearer view.  I managed to get something scheduled before we had to return to work, so I was happy.  After running a few tests on site, she also determined that I had some kind of infection, so she prescribed some antibiotics for me.  I had to take them for 10 days.

I went in for the ultrasound as scheduled.  I was so nervous that I’d stupidly googled pictures of cysts, ectopic pregnancies, fibroids, and tumors before I went in.  I knew which ones indicated Endometriosis, which ones indicated Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome; which ones meant cancer and death and pain.  The technician had the screen facing me so I could see what was going on.  I watched her move the wand around until little circles appeared on the screen, hollow in the middle with a thin white outline: This meant cyst.  A common type of cyst that did not mean cancer and death, thankfully, but they were still cysts.  She started taking pictures of them from different angles and pressing hard on my pelvic area.  It hurt very badly.  I watched her as she started measuring diameters.  Meanwhile, she had begun talking to me about having kids.  I absent-mindedly had a conversation with her while I watched her work. I knew what she was measuring, and I made note of what the final numbers were.  She never told me what it was, or what it could possibly mean for me.  Ten minutes later, I was sent on my way.  (By the way, thanks to my shitty health insurance, this event would cost me $648, down from $720.)

The night I drove my husband to Bakersfield to leave for work, I got a call from the doctor’s office.  She told me that yes, I do have cysts, and that they are common for women of child-bearing age.  They usually resolve themselves.  “I’m still having pain, though, so what can I do about that?” I asked. But what I was really thinking was “No shit? It took $650 to tell me this? I KNOW all of this already. But I know pain like this isn’t normal.” She told me I would have to wait it out and see. Keep track of my periods, what I ate, my pain, etc. If it didn’t go away in a few months, I’d have to talk to someone again, because there’s a possibility it could indicate PCOS or Endometriosis. I thanked her and prepared to return to work even though I felt uneasy about it with the cysts and pain.

We went back to work without much fanfare; the company I worked for traveled everywhere, and we worked long and difficult days thirty-nine weeks out of the year.  We’re talking 80-hour weeks with no days off, for sometimes two months at a time.  So while our friends cared for us and our marriage, they didn’t get to attend the wedding. Upon returning to our life on the road, our lives largely remained the same. 

Because of the extremely taxing schedule, most of the people in our department played as hard as they worked.  When they had a day off, heavy drinking wasn’t out of the question.  There were even some days when these guys knew they had to be up early, pulling a 12-hour shift the next day, and they would still overdo it.  I didn’t mind going out and having some drinks, but I found it increasingly difficult to recover and still function at work the next day.  I wanted something more constructive to do with my time off, but I was so overworked that it was difficult to really think about anything at the end of the day, let alone go out and make an effort to see the city I was in.  I attempted to get back on track with my thesis for my Master’s in Linguistics, and I was making good progress.

The hotel I had to work in was filthy and the rooms were small. The worst part was that they were undergoing renovations: Drills and saws ran for hours on end. Dust filled the air and chemicals from the insulation and paint bothered my lungs.  It was not pleasant, but it got drastically worse.  I woke up one day, not only feeling pain in my lungs, but in my shoulders, chest, and head.  It hurt to breathe in and out, and it hurt even more to cough.  I got ready for the day anyway, sat down at my desk, and realized I felt like I was getting a bladder infection.  By the end of the work day, I was begging my husband to get us a taxi to another Urgent Care because it hurt to do anything at all. 

$90 later, I had more antibiotics to take. I had apparently killed my immune system with the previous antibiotics, and all the dust and germs in the air took advantage of that. They gave me some more pills to counteract any other infections while taking the antibiotics.  For four days I sat in my dirty hotel room while someone covered for me and wondered how the hell I was going to make it through this trip.  I successfully fought off whatever infection had started in my lungs, a urinary tract infection, and a yeast infection.  I hope, if you’re a lady reading this, that you never have to experience this trifecta of terribleness.

This work trip ended up being 83-days in a row, which brought us from Kansas City, to Fort Worth, to Punta Gorda.  I had pains most of the time, although they’d either started fading periodically or I was just getting used to it, and I had fallen behind on my thesis work.  I was trying to eat healthy, work out, and take care of my body, which is admittedly very difficult to do when you work so much (and live in hotels).  I was also given a very kind-hearted, motherly woman to train, whom I am still in contact with.  She was – and is – like ­a mom to everyone at that company and helped keep our spirits up when we felt down.  I had started to feel a little better, despite the excessive amounts of work.  My husband and I planned to rent a car and stay in Fort Lauderdale for a few days over Thanksgiving before flying home.  A coworker of mine arranged for us to use her brother’s family discount at the W Hotel, which bagged us a great deal.  Everything was in order to be a vacation that was well deserved.

I got a call from my supervisor the night we were supposed to leave for Fort Lauderdale.  “I’m so sorry to do this to you,” she said sadly, “but there’s something wrong with the police forms for one of our sites in Sarasota.  Do you think that your trainee could talk to them, or is it too much for her to handle right now?”  I thought about it.  I thought I’d trained her well, but it was a lot of pressure to put a brand-new employee in front of police to answer questions about a business she’d just entered.  “I’ll go,” I told her, “But I’m losing money on the hotel and car. Can you reimburse me for those?” She agreed. 

I talked to the police and smoothed everything over the next day.  Since my boss had refused to let me stay in the hotel where the police were going to meet us, I had to drive an extra three hours that morning. But with everything taken care of, we took off to Fort Lauderdale.  We spent the rest of the night drinking martinis, talking, people- and dog-watching, and planned on a lazy afternoon on the rooftop infinity pool the next day. We also walked around, enjoying the ocean at night.  We fell asleep out on our balcony in an oversized lounge chair, listening to the ocean.  I felt happy that night.

I’m going to conclude this post here, because the next part goes into illness that is not only my own, but my husband’s.  This was merely the beginning of the end.  The story will be continued in my next post, which hopefully will come soon.  This is not an easy part of my story to tell, so it is hard to force myself through it again.  

Thank you, everyone who has read this so far and given me support. Your words mean a lot to me.  

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