Vulvas, Lichen Sclerosus, Gyne Cancers, and Sex.

How well do you know your vulva? For any men reading this, how well do YOU know the anatomy of the vulva? To change things up I’m going to start out with my myth bust. *Ahem* Did you know that the vagina actually refers to the internal birth canal that leads to the uterus, and NOT the outside containing the lips and clitoris which is in fact the vulva?

Too often women don’t know their own anatomy, and too often women are made to feel ashamed of exploring and learning that anatomy. Some women may go their whole lives not knowing vital information about their bodies, and this can be a major problem in more ways than one.

Let me ask you, how can you explain or show a sexual partner what you like and don’t like if you don’t know your vulva? How can you notice if there are concerning changes to your vulva if you’re not looking at it? Furthermore, how can you advocate for yourself when need be at the doctors office if you can’t be specific, and rely solely on the doctor to interpret and guess?

When you have a gynecological issue and you have a limited understanding of your body, and don’t understand the basic medical terminology doctors often use it can be a source of confusion, but also a missed opportunity to allow you to better advocate for yourself by learning basic terms/body parts.

Do you see where I’m going with this? The more knowledgeable we are about our own bodies, the better we’re able to advocate for ourselves, and it makes it a lot easier to gain an understanding of what may be going on and where to start. For example, let’s say you have pain in your vulva so you go to see your doctor. If you just say, “It hurts” that’s not very helpful. On the other hand, if you can say “It hurts between the labia minora, and the vestibule to the vagina” then that’s a heck of a lot more descriptive don’t you think? **I’m going to stick to specifically talking about the anatomy of the vulva, but I encourage you all to learn about where your reproductive organs and other organs are located at as well.**

Now, I’m not saying you need to study pre-med, but what I AM saying is that EVERYONE should know their basic anatomy and it not only helps in the bedroom, but also when you need to communicate with a medical professional, which for most of us with these conditions is pretty often. Rather than type out the parts of the vulva here, I’m going to link you to this surprisingly great article by TeenVogue that gives a fantastic overview of the parts of the vulva with full descriptions. I encourage you all to READ it and start learning your anatomy! Unfortunately this article leaves out the Bartholin’s Gland so if you could take a second to look HERE please do!

Do you perform breast checks for breast cancer? Hopefully the answer is YES. If not, please get on it! Do you perform regular checks of your vulva? Have you ever looked at your vulva? Checking out your vulva is JUST as important as doing those breast checks. Why? Because it’s important to know what your vulva looks, and feels like so that if any sinister changes occur you can quickly identify them. If you consistently check your vulva you might be able to catch early signs of infection, or irritation. In other cases, however, changes might be indicative of something potentially more persistent such as lichen sclerosus, or even more severe, vulvar cancer in which case the goal is to catch it early.  According to the MayoClinic “Women with lichen sclerosus on the vulva are more likely to develop vulvar cancer. But consistent treatment with topical corticosteroids may reduce this slightly higher risk. Severe lichen sclerosus can make sex extremely painful for women because itching and scarring may narrow the vaginal opening and affect the ability or desire to have sexual intercourse. In addition, blistering may create extremely sensitive skin to the point that any pressure on the area is unbearable.” As you can deduce, lichen sclerosus is a condition that all women should be aware of so that it can be identified and treated should it arise!

Please read about vulvar cancer HERE and please read HERE to read the signs and symptoms of vulvar cancer. Read HERE and HERE to learn more about lichen sclerosus including the symptoms and treatments. *side note: lichen sclerosus can occur before menopause so it’s not something only older women should be informed about!* I hope you’ll each take a moment to watch this great short video about how to perform a check of your vulva, because it really is important and should be something we all do to ensure everything is A-ok. Before you watch this video I also want to mention that the clitoris is often overlooked during an exam whether you are performing a self check, or in the doctors office. I advise you all to gently pull back your clitoral hood from time to time to make sure that everything looks good, and if you find anything concerning please bring it to the attention of your doctor!

 

How does knowing the anatomy of your vulva help you in the bedroom? It’s as simple as finding out what you like and don’t like. There may be some people out there who are just automatic gurus when it comes to sex, but it’s unlikely. For most of us it takes time to learn what we like and what our partner likes. It’s crucial in any sexual relationship to explore your bodies and to figure out what does and doesn’t feel good. Do you like a light touch, or more aggressive? Do you like lots of clitoral stimulation, or do you like to be touched in between your labia? Do you like a stroking motion, or vibration? These are all things that are essential to know to ensure you have the best sexual experience you can. For those of us with genital pain/conditions it’s even MORE important to know what does and doesn’t feel good.

If you’re single that doesn’t mean you can’t have a healthy sexual relationship with yourself! Self love is important and there are great health benefits from masturbation and yes, it’s even a pain/stress reliever.

So PLEASE learn about your vulva, learn about your body in general and use that information to help you have a better sex life, AND to help you with any doctors visits, as well as to help catch any concerning changes and potential diseases/illness. Many conditions can be identified early if we pay attention to our bodies, so to name a few please read and learn about Lichen Sclerosus and Vulvar Cancer as discussed in the links above, as well as Vaginal Cancer, and Womb/Uterine/Endometrial Cancer Before I end this post I also want to mention that when you explore your vulva and you experience pain, but see no visible symptoms this could be an indication of Vulvodynia, Vestibulodynia, or Clitorodynia and the sooner you can be evaluated and start treatment, the better. Fortunately conditions like vulvodynia are not life threatening, but can be debilitating and often take some trial and error to get in hand. You can read about Vulvodynia HERE Vestibulodynia HERE and Clitorodynia HERE

Don’t be afraid of your vulva! Love yourself, love your body, and embrace it! LOVE YOUR PEACH! XO 

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Dishing it up on Partnerships and Chronic Pain.

As I was going to bed last night I was thinking about what I believe to be one of the essential keys for having a lasting relationship, ESPECIALLY a relationship in which there is a person or persons with chronic pain. I instantly was reminded of building a shed with my SO in our backyard last summer as I had joked (mostly serious) that building something together is a true test of a relationship…a partnership. How many of you would trust your partner in a life or death situation? Say, if you were in a war zone together and HAD to rely on each other to make it out alive? Is it a YES, or a NO…or a MAYBE? I want you to really think about that. It may seem extreme to some, but really, who you choose to be with is someone who you are choosing as your PARTNER. This is the person you’re choosing as your right hand if/when needed and vice versa. This doesn’t mean that you never disagree or that you could build a shed without problem, but that you should be able to calmly and effectively work through the problem should it arise. You see, being able to work through things… to engage each other, and at times explain your points of view to each other is what it comes down to. As we were building the shed I realized that my SO had misunderstood how the floor was meant to go in. I, for once (building is not my strong suit), had instantly understood how the floor was meant to be constructed. So, I brought it to his attention that unfortunately he had misunderstood, and that in fact the floor was meant to go in this way. He didn’t understand the first couple of times I brought it up and thought for sure that his way was correct, but something as simple as getting out the manual and walking him through my understanding is, to me, a perfect example of how any issue that arises should be approached. When I don’t understand something he in turn extends the same courtesy and explains to me in a way that I understand. Sure, sometimes it may take a few tries for your partner to get your meaning and vice versa, but the point is that communicating and working together to solve a problem should always be how you approach an issue that arises, and to me that is the definition of a partnership. A partner is someone who you CONSULT with. If your SO storms away, gets mad at you, or reacts in some other nonconstructive manner EVERY time a problem arises that you’re trying to work through/approach with them, then you need to ask yourself if you’re truly in a partnership.

In a way, those of us with these chronic pain issues are at an advantage because they can help us find out really quickly if someone is truly in a partnership with us. Many relationships are never tested in the ways that ours are, and therefore many people may never truly know if their relationship is one that can withstand serious hardship. I know, some of you are probably thinking that it would be nice to not have to go through any of this, and that finding out if you have a rock solid bond with your partner is hardly a silver lining, but really it is something quite special.

So why am I railing on about being with someone who is your partner and your comrade? Someone with whom you can meet obstacles head on and who will face them with 100% determination? Someone who will NAVIGATE and PROBLEM SOLVE WITH you? Because too many people in this world sell themselves short. So many people with chronic pain feel like they have to settle, or that they’re not worth it and I want everyone to know that that is BS. You do NOT have to settle and YOU ARE WORTH IT! Don’t make your life harder by being/staying with someone who can’t be a partner to you, and you to him/her. If you’re struggling right now, I send all my love and light to you. If I could impart one thing upon this world before my time is up, it’s that knowing your worth is beyond measure. No one ever deserves to be with someone who treats them badly, or who doesn’t meet them halfway. Sure, even the strongest relationships can be rocky at times, but believe me, if your relationship involves a high level of mutual respect, and you have a solid line of communication, you will make it through. There is someone out there for everyone! Don’t settle, know your worth, and use your chronic pain to help guide you to the right person for you. Choose who you want in your fox hole with you, and if they’re a no or a maybe then move on! XO

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Myth: If you can’t orgasm with penile penetration alone then there’s something wrong with you.

Fact: Many women (somewhere between 50-75%) cannot orgasm with penile penetration alone, and that means it is completely NORMAL to need more stimulation such as clitoral stimulation in order to achieve orgasm.

Vaginal Dilator Therapy and Visualizations.

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“There is no life I know
To compare with pure imagination
Living there, you’ll be free
If you truly wish to be”

Alright, let’s cut to the chase! When you suffer from chronic pain, the imagination, the mind, can be a place of solace. One of the things that helps me the most with my vaginal dilator therapy is using my imagination to create visualizations that guide me. For those of you who are in physical therapy this will likely come as no surprise, but even so, it’s a good topic to delve into and something that really should be in everyone’s dilator “tool belt.”

Fun fact: Vaginal dilator therapy is used for MANY vaginal conditions such as vaginismus, IC, pelvic floor dysfunction, vestibulodynia, lichen sclerosis, vaginal atrophy, and after female cancers such as vulvar cancer just to name a handful! Read HERE.

Visualization or “guided imagery” (read HERE for an overview) is pretty much exactly as it sounds. It is using your imagination to hone in on a specific task or issue, in this case that is dilator therapy, to help calm the mind and the body. In a very basic and childish way, it’s like in Peter Pan when the children are taught to “think happy thoughts” in order to fly.

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Guided imagery is used in a variety of scenarios, but for the sake of being as clear as possible I will stick to talking about its use with dilator therapy. So, how exactly does it work? As most of you know it’s very daunting doing dilator therapy for the first time…at least it was for me. I felt very odd putting a piece of plastic in my vagina (this is also the reason I use it in the bath READ HERE) and on top of the pain which is what the dilator is to be treating it just makes for a very awkward and heightened situation. However, if we can use our imaginations to calm and guide us it can make the experience go much more smoothly.

For example, I have two main visualizations I use and one that I use just while inserting. For the initial insertion once I’ve got it about maybe half an inch in, I will start to create in my mind this sinking feeling, and picture almost like a calming pool of water that is just a bit viscous. Almost as if the dilator doesn’t even exist and I just think about sinking into a warm pool of liquid very, very slowly. Once the dilator is fully in (or as far as it will go that day) I imaging that the dilator is a warm, golden light. I picture that as the dilator inserts and touches my muscles and tissues it is relaxing it with its soft heat and radiant beam. I picture my vaginal tissues as pink, lubricated, and soft. Essentially a magic wand that is making all of the pain and tenderness disappear on contact. I try to keep my eyes closed as I do this and let myself navigate with my minds eye. Occasionally you might need to look and adjust your dilator, but once you’re comfortable and the dilator is inserted it is fairly easy to gently move the dilator without looking. The second visualization I use is imagining my muscles are like soft, pink latex, and that as my dilator comes into contact with my muscles they stretch easily and comfortably as if they are so elastic there is no resistance.

These are my visualizations, but truly what you can imagine and what may calm and hone your mind is limitless. Go to what makes you feel relaxed and comfortable, while also being in line with your goal of healing and treating yourself via dilator therapy. You may have to play around with several visualizations until you find the ones that work best for you. Maybe you will picture a slowly blooming flower, or perhaps something cold as opposed to my warm. Whatever works for you personally is what you should run with!

Before I end this post, I also wanted to provide some information about a non-pharmacological technique called scent therapy or aromatherapy that could potentially be used with dilator therapy. Before you say “well, duh!” I would like to present a different way of thinking about it. Traditionally when one thinks of aromatherapy you think of smelling essential oils, rubbing them into your hands or feet etc. Aromatherapy candles and so on and so forth. In fact, the study I will link you to HERE used traditional essential oils. However, scent/aromatherapy could potentially be very powerful when you utilize a scent that is not only comforting, but that you specifically associate with a happy memory or a special person…a home you lived in etc. For example, some studies have used a familiar scent with infants when they performed certain medical procedures to help by way of distraction. More specifically (as I wrote in a paper discussing this topic), “Scent as was used in the neonate study has the ability to in effect transport a patient to a more pleasing moment thus reducing stress.” Scent is used in a variety of situations with children in medical facilities, but can also be useful with adults. When I think about the smell of pastries in England I am instantly transported to a happy time. Likewise, I have certain candles that evoke good memories or just lighten my mood. For my SO it’s the smell of balsam fir. I too, have an affinity for the scent because it takes me back to a vacation we took at this 100 year old B&B. Honeysuckle reminds me of summer in my backyard, and lilacs remind me of my dad’s house. As you can see, you don’t need to limit your aromatherapy to essential oils. What scents make you happy, or relaxed? 

*Tip: Use guided imagery with sex to help make it a more relaxing and less painful experience. Set the mood by finding a scent you both appreciate!

Go forth with your imagination, and your happy memories!

Myth: You only have a weak pelvic floor if your muscles are too lax and don’t contract properly.

Fact: Your muscles are weak if they are too lax AND if they are too tense (hypertonic) and contracted. If your muscles are too lax they lack the ability to appropriately contract which is necessary in order for them to perform their necessary functions such as for bladder and bowel control. Likewise, if your muscles are hypertonic (too tight) they are so contracted that they lack the ability to release and have the elasticity that is necessary also for things like bladder and bowel function etc. and are thus ALSO weak. Hyper-toned does NOT=strength. Muscles must be able to both contract and relax properly in order to be strong and mobile.

XO

EndoGab No More.

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Welcome to PeachTalk! So, why the name change? EndoGab, while always being focused on a myriad of pelvic and vaginal conditions resulting in pain, and impediments on sex lives and relationships, pretty much solely reflects endometriosis in its title. It was a great place to start, but I felt it was time to create a fresh face that feels more inclusive of the variety of women’s health conditions I discuss. I chose the name PeachTalk because, to be blunt, I wanted something symbolic of the vagina. I hope that any readers who do not ascribe to the typical depictions of femininity, or who may be transgender will understand my attempt to find a name that screams women’s health in a bit of a cheeky way. I do not want to exclude anyone who suffers with these conditions, but truly wanted to have a name that reflects the body parts that these conditions affect (have I dug myself a hole? Hopefully I explained this better than I’m thinking!)

I recently came across this article on twitter about the importance of recognizing and raising awareness for the MULTITUDE of painful women’s health conditions that there are out there and it REALLY resonated with me (you didn’t think endometriosis was the only one, did you? 😉 ) I know I’ve gushed about this before, but it’s something that I feel very strongly about, and I hope you do too! Having more than one of these painful conditions myself, I am often frustrated by the lack of awareness for women’s health conditions on the whole. I understand the need to perhaps focus solely on one in order to give it a concentrated effort, but I believe it IS possible to increase awareness for all of these conditions. To quote the article, “…doctors say other, equally debilitating, causes of persistent pelvic pain like adenomyosis are still being neglected.” Furthermore, “”We’re at this crossroads where it’s good to understand more about endometriosis, and have the public and have GPs knowing what to do with endometriosis, but we need for the education to extend beyond that.””  **Side Note** some clarification before you read the article. A more accurate definition of Adenomyosis is that it is when the endometrium breaks through the myometrium of the uterus. Read the article HERE.

I feel that endometriosis is often perceived as being the be all and end all of painful women’s health condition’s and this simply isn’t true. Having multiple of these conditions myself that tend to coincide, I can tell you that these conditions can be equally painful and debilitating on their own, let alone when you have them present together. Slight side tangent, but one particular thing that really makes me peeved is that endometriosis is still talked about as if it has anything to do with the uterus when it really doesn’t! Bear with me…

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By definition endometriosis is tissue that is outside of the uterus and is NOT even uterine tissue at all. It is able to be removed by skilled excision “cutting” and while it is a truly devastating disease lets not let it overshadow the fact that adenomyosis IS a uterine condition where the endometrium (inner lining of the uterus) infiltrates the myometrium (muscle wall of the uterus) and can only be cured by a hysterectomy. These conditions both require extensive surgeries and one should not overshadow the other. Yes, yes, endometriosis can and often does flare during the menstrual cycle, but let’s be real and start distinguishing that endometriosis is NOT uterine tissue and does not come from the uterus READ HERE. Furthermore, conditions such as vulvodynia, vaginismus, vestibulodynia, clitorodynia, pelvic floor dysfunction, vulvar cancer, uterine cancer, interstitial cystitis etc. all DESERVE to not be overshadowed. They are ALL painful and debilitating! I believe it is possible to raise awareness for all of these conditions and give them their due diligence if we truly have a revolution in women’s health. Please make sure you’re not someone who overshadows and dismisses these conditions in favor of one.

If you didn’t read the article, please make sure that you do so that you don’t get the impression I’m just railing on people getting endometriosis wrong. The bigger picture is not letting one condition outshine the others, especially when it leads to misdiagnosis and prolonged suffering. Funny since endometriosis is often a very delayed diagnosis, but people may not realize that it’s also thrown around as a diagnosis incorrectly. So, if you haven’t read this eloquent article, please read it  HERE.

I hope you’ll all enjoy PeachTalk and allow me to continue dishing it out and giving the nitty gritty on sex, relationships, and pelvic/vaginal pain. XO

 

 

Didn’t think I forgot my myth bust did you? Here’s a classic.

Myth: Cranberries can help clear up/prevent a UTI.

Fact: Not so fast! There is no clear evidence that cranberries can clear up/prevent a UTI. Basically, while cranberries do have a component that can “prevent adherence of bacteria to the bladder wall, particularly E. coli” it is not present in a high enough concentration to actually be effective. To top it off if you have interstitial cystitis cranberries are usually a bladder irritant! So, if you want to keep indulging in this myth it won’t harm you, unless of course you have IC then I would use caution! https://health.clevelandclinic.org/can-cranberry-juice-stop-uti/

 

 

Spilling the Tea on Hysterectomy

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So, before I start gushing I just want to remind everyone of this amazing new company ohnut.co that has almost reached their goal on kickstarter! ohnut.co has created a wearable device to help with painful sex, and I feel really strongly that we should all support entrepreneurs that are trying to make a real difference in women’s health, especially in regard to painful conditions that are often overlooked. Furthermore, we should all throw our support behind women in sex tech! So many fields are still dominated by men, and we need women who know what these conditions actually feel like to create these awesome products that will help us on our journey! So please, consider donating to their kickstarter campaign so we all can have a chance to use this awesome device for painful sex! The campaign ends on the 13th!

A hysterectomy is no walk in the park. For a while now I’ve been debating on exactly how to write about this, and I’m sure this won’t be my only post about it. For starters, I had post op bleeding around 4 weeks post op that included a rather big clot. I’m not one to be easily unnerved, but when you’ve had your reproductive organs removed except for one ovary, and you’re bleeding fresh red blood to where you need to wear a pad, AND a clot dislodges…yea it’s enough to make you start to panic. To top it off, most people in my Adenomyosis group posted delightfully stating how they never had any bleeding. Um…that’s GREAT for you guys, but can anyone give me any USEFUL advice?? Luckily after some calls to my doctor and laying very still for a couple of days the bleeding stopped and all was well. If you are recovering from hysterectomy and have bleeding it is most likely NORMAL! Don’t let the multitude of people who proclaim they had no bleeding freak you out. Bleeding is actually totally normal up through 6-8 weeks post op. If you have bleeding that is heavy and fills a pad in an hour or less then yes you need to go to the ER or call your doc asap, but aside from that, remain calm and just let your doc know what’s going on while also keeping in mind that it’s likely A-OK. If you’re wondering why bleeding occurs after a hysterectomy one of the possible answers is that they try to leave the tissue healthy where they create the vaginal cuff, and as the sutures break down there can be some bleeding. Granulation tissue is also pretty common and can cause bleeding. If the bleeding doesn’t stop then silver nitrate is usually applied in office to stop the bleeding. In regard to clots dislodging sometimes blood will build up along the suture line and break free. In short, always call your doctor if you’re concerned, but please don’t be fooled into thinking that some bleeding isn’t normal. I’m just telling it like it is, but it seriously irked me how many people posted saying they had no bleeding. Again, totally not useful information and definitely doesn’t help to calm nerves!

TAKE IT EASY!! I had just turned 29 when I had my hyst this past February and I tried to do too much too soon. You really shouldn’t be doing much at all except for laying around and maybe making simple meals like a sandwich. No house work, no bending, no lifting. Take the restrictions seriously!! One wrong move, or lifting something just a bit too heavy could cause a major setback and you do not want to pop a stitch. I HATED not being able to clean the house, but it’s honestly not worth it. If the laundry needs to pile up then so be it. You will go from feeling pretty darn great one day to feeling exhausted and crappy the next. Don’t be fooled into thinking you’re healed in a week. It takes time and it’s a roller coaster. I’m 5ish months post op and still get hit by extreme fatigue. The hot flashes are getting better but they still happen here and there (even if you don’t have an oopherectomy the ovaries can go into shock/go to sleep for a while after surgery).

On a bit of a side tangent…I unfortunately lost an ovary due to a recurrent endometrioma and severe scar tissue that caused my ovary to be badly stuck to my ureter. Aside from the endometrioma I am still endometriosis FREE after my excision 4 years ago! All pathology of suspicious spots came back from pathology as NEGATIVE except for the endometrioma. Endometriomas (endometriosis cyst in the ovary) have a higher recurrence rate post excision due to them sometimes being deep inside the ovary and being missed. If I remember correctly ovaries have a 5% chance of recurrence after excision which is still very slim. If you do not have ovarian endometriosis then you don’t need to worry about this! I’m sharing this information because excision is curative and it’s important for people to know that. Pain is not a good indicator that endometriosis has returned, and please be cautious of those who say their endometriosis recurred after excision. Unless they have had pathology confirmation (like with my ovary) that shows that it did in fact recur or was missed, there is no credence to their claim that it came back just based on pain. **Recurrence/missed endo is possible, but should be confirmed by pathology!** In my case my persistent pain was due to Adenomyosis (confirmed post hyst via pathology), recurrent endometrioma and scar tissue (also confirmed via pathology), Pelvic Floor Dysfunction, and a new diagnosis of interstitial cystitis (I’ve made great strides by doing the IC diet!). As you can see, for many of us we have multiple conditions that contribute to our pain and they can cause pain in the same areas and feel very similar. My hope is that those who have had excision and who have had surgeries afterward that show that it has not recurred will start to say “My endometriosis was removed, but I still suffer from the EFFECTS of endometriosis” rather than giving people the false impression that because they still have pain they must still have endometriosis. When people still suffer from the effects of having had cancer, they don’t proclaim they still have cancer even though they’ve been cleared. We should hold ourselves to the same standard. #SorryNotSorry for my spiel, but people need to know that excision does work in the majority of cases to eradicate endometriosis, but that dealing with the effects of having had the disease and coexisting conditions often requires a multifaceted approach.

You probably want to know if I feel better post hyst? Yes. The Adenomyosis pain including the severe referred pain is 100% gone. So, am I all better now? No. Due to my other conditions and still healing from my hysterectomy I’ve had to basically restart my painless sex journey. Recently I was prescribed valium to help get my muscles to calm down and as most of you know I recently also began dilator therapy again. My muscles are better than they were, and it’s definitely an improvement to no longer have a cervix which was a big contributor to my pain. BUT, quality lubricant (check out my older posts about how to find a good lubricant!), vaginal dilators, valium, and lidocaine, are part of my process at the moment. I won’t lie. This really realllllly sucks. I want to be able to have sex with my spouse to where he can actually fully insert his penis. Right now I’m lucky if he can get half way in and that’s with a great deal of pain. I have days where I feel utterly worthless and like I have no idea why my spouse is still with me when trying to have sex is such an ordeal. BUT! I keep on keepin’ on and I’ve been really close to pain free sex before and I know I can do it again, especially without a diseased uterus and a diseased scarred ovary.

I feel like I’ve babbled on more than I wanted to so I’ll wrap this up. A hysterectomy is a very BIG deal. I’d love to say it was easy and great and I’m a new woman, but I’d be lying. Day to day I definitely feel better (sex is the biggest issue at the moment) and I’m glad I did it because unfortunately a hyst is the only cure for adenomyosis and I used every option I had to prolong that decision. I also wouldn’t have known my ureter needed to be dug out from scar tissue, and my ovary removed had I not gone through with the surgery (imaging unfortunately can’t see scar tissue like that!). I know that things will get better with time and effort! If a hyst is in your future do what you can to be prepared, and once it’s done try not to let the healing process unnerve you. A hysterectomy to me, really is a last resort. It’s a very big shock to the system and while many people (including my mother) were able to bounce back quickly, if you have other conditions like myself then just be aware that your recovery may be longer and more arduous than someone who only has a uterine condition and no other issues. I’m still processing my emotions. I know that I absolutely did the right thing for myself, but it doesn’t mean that your what if’s disappear. I’m still wrapping my head around it all and I will write more about it I’m sure. A hysterectomy is not only a big deal for a person on an individual level, it’s a big deal in a relationship. Alright, I’m signing off for now. I send good vibes to you all out there! XO

Myth: A hysterectomy will change your ability to orgasm/make you unable to orgasm/make you dry.

Fact: A hysterectomy does not and cannot affect your ability to orgasm. While some women may have some uterine contractions with orgasm, if your uterus is a source of pain then its removal usually IMPROVES sex and this climax. The muscles involved in orgasm are in the vagina which is unaffected by a hysterectomy. A hysterectomy does not cause vaginal dryness. Vaginal dryness has to do with hormones/lack of hormones and is affected by ovarian function/oopherectomy. (Remember last post I clarified an oopherectomy (removal of an ovary(ies)) is a SEPARATE surgical procedure that is not part of a hysterectomy).

New Device For Less Painful Sex!

Hey All!,

For the last couple of months I’ve been following a new company on Twitter called Ohnut.co as they promised to be releasing a new wearable item designed to help with painful sex. One of the main goals of this blog is to bring to you, the reader, options for tackling chronic pain with sex. Naturally, if I get the scoop on a device or technique that I think would be useful and/or that I’ve tried myself, I feel that it is my duty to share it. So, without further ado please feast your eyes on the Ohnut!  Take a moment to watch the video about this awesome little device (worn on your partners penis, presumably would also work on other penis-like devices for penetration) to help control penetration, thus allowing sex to be more pleasurable and less painful!

Supporting entrepreneurs who are trying to address the needs of millions of women is very close to my heart. I hope you will join me in spreading this kickstarter around like wildfire, and showing Ohnut.co that we support them in their endeavor to help women experiencing painful sex! **I am not compensated in any way for supporting Ohnut.co nor am I affiliated with them in any way. I just like to support entrepreneurs who are trying to make a difference, ESPECIALLY products created by WOMEN for WOMEN!** XO

Myth: If you have pain with sex it is always a psychological issue stemming from past trauma.

Fact: Painful sex can/does have both psychological AND physical causes, or can be either or. Above all, pain with sex is REAL.

Childless Thoughts on Mother’s Day

Hello EndoGabbers,

Today is Mother’s Day…

Perhaps the hardest thing for me personally about having to have a hysterectomy and unexpectedly losing an ovary in the process, is coming to terms with the fact that my fantasies are no longer ever able to become a reality.

When I was four I met my first best friend, who is still one of my best friends to this day (yay!) and like many little girls one of our absolute most favourite things to do was to play house. Not just play house mind you, but yes, we even stuffed our shirts with stuffed animals and pretended to be pregnant. We went through the motions of labor and the whole shebang! (Thank goodness this friend doesn’t read my blog she may be mortified!) We even used the largest stuffed animals we could find as our pretend husbands (usually giant bunny rabbits), who we gave the names of the identical twins we had major crushes on, and wanted to marry one day. In hindsight, this kind of pretend play is super normal (bestie don’t be embarrassed if you ever read this!) Children learn through playing and acting things out. Fun Fact: Pretend play can be really crucial for helping children deal with difficult situations such as hospitalizations etc. We had the time of our lives pretending to huff and puff, imitating women giving birth like we’d seen in countless movies and TV shows. There was never a thought that one day this might not be my reality.

Around the age of 8 or 9 I felt very strongly that I would adopt and would not have biological children. I don’t know if it was some kind of supernatural instinct, or just coincidence, but after that I never daydreamed about having babies much. I went through some horrible relationships with people who harmed me and degraded my soul. Having children was also not on my mind then. How could it be? It wasn’t until I met my true companion in college that I began to fantasize again. I’d never, and have never felt the extreme amount of passion I feel for my partner, for anyone else. He can drive me wild in the most exciting and aggravating ways…the best ways.

Suddenly I started daydreaming about whether or not our child would have curly (he calls his hair wavy but I call it curly!) hair, and blue eyes. No…perhaps his hair and my hazel eyes. Maybe a mix of our noses? My super small ears, or his more proportional ones? Would our child sing like we do? Or would it be inclined to play the piano? The child would be the apple of our eyes…and if a girl? Oh, most certainly a daddy’s girl. She’d have him wrapped around her little finger. A son? A special bond with his momma.

Friends and family may not realize that those of us who are infertile, or childless due to needing a hysterectomy etc. have these fantasies, these dreams. I still catch myself thinking  “I could get pregnant” after sex without condoms, despite no longer having a uterus, tubes, and minus an ovary. In my case, people may be fooled by my reservations about having children pre-hyst, some of which are extremely valid, and others of which I used as a defense mechanism to help myself not feel so bad about an impending much needed hysterectomy for my incurable Adenomyosis (Adenomyosis can only be cured by removal of the uterus). I rationalize, like many people, to make difficult situations feel justified and lighter. For example:  Can’t have children due to having a horrible condition that causes chronic pain, and keeps you mostly house bound, AND that can only be resolved with the loss of your fertility? Then talk to yourself about all of the pitfalls involved with having children to make yourself feel better. RATIONALIZE. So I did, and I will continue to to help myself through this. One point that personally truly troubled me and that wasn’t a rationalization (no judgment on those who don’t feel this way) is that I couldn’t live with myself had we decided to try to get pregnant and succeeded, and I passed down my conditions. Granted, with the condition of my now removed ovary (and the remaining one possibly not working so well) and not being able to go through a pregnancy, let alone care for a child with the immense pain I suffered, having a child really wasn’t an option no matter how I spun/spin it. The bottom line is even with all of the reservations that many people have/think about when it comes to having children it’s nice to have the CHOICE. Who knows how I’d feel down the road? Maybe I’d decide to hell with the possibility of passing my conditions on (also worried about other family conditions/traits) and decide to go for it! Maybe we would have done gender selection for a male embryo to hopefully rule out passing on my conditions. Maybe we would have used a donor egg! I don’t know how I would have felt, nor do I know how my partner is going to feel however many years from now.

For many of you who read my blog and who grapple with these issues I’m sure you’ll find points of agreement. And for those who aren’t in this position, but who have friends and family who are, I hope that you will take a step back and realize that you likely can’t even imagine the slew of emotions and thoughts that plague the childless. Be an ally. Don’t judge. Recognize what a tough journey this is. You think you might know, but you really don’t unless you’ve experienced it yourself. Even for those of us on this journey I feel like we often surprise ourselves. I’m waiting for the day I truly understand that my fantasies can no longer be real. I’m waiting for the day that I don’t have a thought about getting pregnant after sex. Until then, I’m going to cuddle my cats close on Mother’s Day, and try to focus on fantasies that can become real. XO

I found a very powerful article titled, “What Mother’s Day Feels Like When You’re Childless” by Brigid Moss that I felt compelled to share and that you can read in full HERE, but I wanted to close with this excerpt.

What we, and others, often fail to realise is the depth and reach of our loss: that not only will we never have children, but we will never create our own family. We will never watch them grow up, never throw children’s birthday parties, never take that ‘first day at school’ photo, never teach them to ride a bike. We’ll never see them graduate, never see them maybe get married and have their own children. We’ll never get a chance to heal the wounds of our own childhood by doing things differently with our children. We’ll never be grandmothers and never give the gift of grandchildren to our parents. We’ll never be the mother of our partner’s children and hold that precious place in their heart. We’ll never stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our siblings and watch our children play together. We’ll never be part of the community of mothers, never be considered a ‘real’ woman. And when we die, there is no one to leave our stuff to, and no one to take our lifetime’s learnings into the next generation.

To me, this doesn’t sound like ‘nothing’; it sounds like a very big ‘something’. And to carry that around on Mother’s Day without ‘minding’ is not to honour our grief-heavy hearts.”

Myth: You can diagnose Endometriosis solely based on symptoms/you can diagnose Endometriosis based on appearance.

Fact: Endometriosis can only be diagnosed with a diagnostic laparoscopy AND biopsy sent to pathology.