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The Truth About 2016

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So it’s been a year. And it has BEEN A YEAR, if ya know what I mean. 

I took a full year off from the blogging game, for reasons I still can’t quite articulate. I didn’t set out at the start of 2016 to deliberately ignore my corner of the internet, it just happened. Last December, I started a new copywriting job that was an absolute blessing and so much fun. My boss is fantastic, my hours are solidly nine to five, but flexible because I am a contractor. I have worked on a variety of projects, put some new creative milestones on my resume, and there are even more exciting work endeavors on the horizon for 2017.
Like the start of the past three new years, I had many hopes for 2016, and at the very top of that list remained become a mother. That dream is still yet to be realized, despite my earnest prayers and best efforts. One of my favorite authors once shared the advice to wait six weeks to six months before writing publicly about a tender experience, because it’s best to share from a scar than an open wound. I suppose so much of last year often felt like a gaping, open wound and therefore, I kept introspective writing to myself. Despite how badly I wanted some, I didn’t have victory stories to share—all I had were small steps in the right direction.
I never wanted this blog to become solely about infertility, because this struggle is only one aspect of my multifaceted life. My goal is to reach readers who are like me but also unlike me. I want everyone to feel welcome here. But this struggle ends up influencing other areas of my life whether I want it to or not. It shapes everything: how I work, eat, exercise, serve, set goals, and whether or not I can get out of bed on certain days or if the physical pain caused by endometriosis is simply too much to stand.
Managing my reproductive health this year was hard-won. From February to December, I had at least one doctor’s appointment or blood draw to do every month. The days often seem lost to a blur of bus and subway rides and waiting rooms. In February, I went for a six month surgical follow-up that was so entirely unhelpful that I immediately began to explore new methods of care. I visited an acupuncturist for months in hopes of helping to heal the effects and pain of endometriosis. Despite having surgery the August before, I was still having suspicious symptoms, so in the spring, I finally decided it was time to go get a second opinion.
In April, Nick and I sat in a consultation with my new doctor at The Gianna Center. For the first time, someone sat and really listened for an hour about our years-long struggle to conceive—what had been attempted and what still was not working. A medical practice that is warm and humanizing in such a fast-paced, results-oriented city is such an incomparable gift. Our timing was perfect, and we would need that kind of compassionate care in the months to come.
In May, I finally had my first ultrasound in 11 months. I knew from the start of the procedure that something was wrong because of the concerned tone in the technician’s voice. “When was your last ultrasound?” She found a large endometrioma (blood-filled cyst) on each of my ovaries, nearly the same size as the ones that had been there the year before. I stayed calm on the table, but inside, grief broke open and quickly spread through my body. Thoughts raced through my mind. The surgery didn’t work. I have to start over. These last nine months were wasted. I’m going to have to go through it all again.
Soon, I got a call from my doctor. She broke the news that the masses on my ovaries looked suspicious. There was a chance that maybe they were more than cysts—that maybe they were tumors. That maybe, they meant cancer. Now, you can say “cancer” to any normal human and they will worry. But imply possible cancer to the thirty-year-old daughter of someone whose birth father died of aggressive cancer when he was thirty-one? Despite my best efforts, fear fought to consume me. Two weeks before my thirty-first birthday, I laid in an MRI machine as it clicked and whirred, scanning my tissues for evidence of cells gone awry.
When I turned thirty, I didn’t have an existential crisis over the loss of my youth. I greeted my third decade with open arms, anticipating a new season of being more comfortable in my skin. But thirty-one had me asking those hard-to-wrestle questions. What am I doing with my life? Have I accomplished everything I wanted to do by this point? Aside from having kids, what else do I want? What other dreams do I want to fulfill? The two things I discovered were wanting to travel more internationally, and take on bigger writing challenges than ever before. I built a wonderful life with my husband, so beyond growing our family, these are the only goals I found myself wanting.
When I got the MRI results, they were bittersweet. I was (most thankfully) cancer-free, but the large cysts were most definitely endometriomas. I knew by that point that cysts that large mean stage IV endometriosis. This is the most advanced form, and the biggest threat to my fertility. My Doctors recommended a second surgery—this time by excision—as soon as possible. So in August, a year after my first laparoscopy, I had another to remove the effects of endometriosis: cysts, adhesions, and lesions throughout my pelvic cavity. I’m glad I had the surgery, but so far I still experience significant pain each cycle. We will only know if it truly “worked” until I get that long-awaited and much desired positive test.

While 2016 marked another year of the deferred dream of becoming a mother in the flesh-and-blood, full-bellied sense, I “mothered” in a different, spiritual way. A dear friend of mine said it seemed like God was still doing something else in this season. She suggested that maybe there was a reason I wasn’t pregnant yet. Maybe I was meant to give my time and energy to my community in a way that I would be unable to as a mom.

From a random person, that statement would make me want to hit them, but coming from a friend it was a confirmation and continuation of a conversation I’d already had with God. In addition to leading a weekly Dinner Group, I also became a Dinner Group Coach this year. I coached five amazing women through their own joys and challenges of 2016, and absolutely loved this new role. It’s been a privilege to sit one-on-one with people, see the emotion in their eyes, hear the inflection in their voices, and watch them grow as leaders.

So what’s on the horizon for 2017? I don’t know entirely. I’m going to intentionally pursue those deep desires and dreams 2016 stirred up. But if I’ve learned anything these past three years, it’s that my plans are bound to change. Of course I’ll make plans, but ultimately I’m relying on the One whose plans are far greater than my own. Whatever happens, I know I’m committed to write in more in public forums—here and elsewhere in 2017.

You guys still show up to read and share even though I went dormant. Every conversation I have with you about the blog in person and online encourages me. I am so humbled and grateful that you continue to stop by and read anything I wrote at all. That these words bring you comfort or hope or at the very least the feeling of recognition—of “me too!”—still leaves me in awe. And it motivates me. So maybe this year’s goal is to try stop overanalyzing my circumstances as they happen. I can only write what I know, and I only know when I write. I plan to just keep capturing the things I’m learning, showing up to write for you and in the process, myself.

What are you celebrating about 2016? What was disappointing? What plans are you making for 2017?

4 comments

  1. You never fail to amaze me. You beautifully told your story. God is at work in your life and good things will happen in 2017. Always love and prayers for you and Nick.

  2. Erika I love that you took a season to focus on yourself. I cannot begin to fully understand all
    you and Nick have encountered along your journey to become parents but you know I have a similar story and hopefully it helps to know you aren’t alone. The feelings of frustration, anger, disappointment, guarded optimism, disgust, and broken-heartedness are something I am so familiar with and I hope you truly allow yourself the opportunity to feel these God given emotions. I also pray that you are so bold as to have dialogue with Him in regards to these feelings; a friend once told me that the same God who created the entire universe and sent His son to Earth to be crucified is big enough to handle my frustration with Him. Just remember to also turn to Him for comfort.

    As far as for me last year was the year we experienced joy and added Callaway, via adoption, to our family. I have deemed 2017 as the year of fulfillment- in my walk with Jesus and His plan for all parts of my life and I can’t wait to see how the year progresses. I’m going to seek to be fulfilled by Him and Him alone which is always difficult in this culture we live in that says we can do any and every thing by ourselves so I am going to lean in to Him.

    I think of and pray for you and Nick often and I will be sure to pray fulfillment over you both as well in every aspect. Hugs to you.

  3. Erica, I’m so sorry to hear about the physical and emotional pain you’ve been going through. Thank you for your honesty and vulnerability! I love you! ❤️

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