This lead me to new levels of healing and understanding many of my wounds from the past. I cleansed, cried, laughed, made new friends, facilitated healing for others, found my tribe, received rites and participated in many sacred ceremonies and fires since then and am ready for more. In many ways, Shamanic training felt like a homecoming -- something I'd not expected at all. I was stunned by the beauty and so grateful for all the experiences I had from my first training in that steamy Summer of 2009, til the present.
Within that time frame, we also moved to North Carolina (Chapel Hill, but really Chatham County). This realized another dream of mine -- to live in a peaceful, wooded area, free from people looking in your windows and traffic noise, but still near to the funky and wonderful community of Carrboro. I believe the Shamanic training helped to open up this possibility for all of us: me, my husband, my mother (who lives with us) and our two dogs to live in a relaxing, nurturing environment at last.
We moved in 2011. After the initial exhaustion of that transition and labor wore off, I became much happier in many respects. But, by 2012, I began to notice a new sensation: stiffness in my hips, especially when getting up after sitting for a long time. My treasured Belly-Dance lessons had to cease, along with the running that I'd done in preparation for my 2012 Peru trip (the cardio helped me climb those mountains and breath that thin air, but soon after coming home, the stiffness worsened). I went to a doctor and found out that I had Hip Dysplasia (common in dogs, but also a birth defect or birth trauma in humans). This per-disposes me to arthritis in my hips because they never were protected or properly aligned -- indeed, the x-rays confirmed the damage had begun. I was told that within 10 years I would need both hips replaced.
As you can imagine, this news was not very easy to digest. But, I soldiered on. In April 2013, I had a hip arthroscopy -- my first surgery, which ended up improving my state exactly zero percent. I cut down on hip openers in Yoga, then stopped teaching all together and began swimming laps -- something that still feels immensely good in my narrowing list of exercises. I was working on accepting my body, having compassion, so I found myself focusing on writing, Shamanic work, friends. With my activity curtailed to walking, swimming and gentle yoga, I gained some weight. By Christmas, 2013, I was my heaviest. It had been a few years since I'd ended my 16 year stint as a vegetarian and I was thoroughly enjoying the organic, free-range burgers, local brews and wines and all the great restaurants in the area. Also, I was allowing myself to eat sugar, too much sugar.
While this was going on, something else began to creep up -- my bladder control seemed to be slipping. There I'd be, enjoying a long walk with the dogs, or driving and suddenly, I'd be hit with a powerful urge to pee. This happened more and more frequently and accidents began to happen. Also, because of my weight gain (of 10 lbs.) it was not so visible, but I noticed that my belly was round and felt very firm. I started hating at least 50% of the candid photos of me, I looked heavy and even pregnant. After the New Year of 2014, the bladder symptoms happened several times a week and even twice some days. My bowels sometimes joined the rush when I finally got to that toilet or tree. Also, my stomach: queasy when I'm hungry and queasy after I eat -- I had to cut down on the amount I ate (not a bad thing). I occasionally experienced faint, unidentifiable burning sensations in my lower belly, especially when anything pressed on it, including my lap desk that I use for my lounge-chair writing, because my office chair hurt my hips.
It's embarrassing to admit, but these troublesome symptoms didn't add up until a Face Book friend of mine (you know who you are) announced she was having surgery for fibroids. When I was writing my supportive comment on her page and mentioning that I had them too, a light bulb went off. "Hey, maybe mine have grown. Maybe all the pressure down below was due to that. When was my last gynecological exam?" I hadn't been in almost 2 years -- somehow I'd forgotten that too! I felt like a fool.
I immediately called for an appointment, emphasizing that I suspected my fibroids have grown, otherwise the wait for an exam under regular circumstances would be over a month. I described my symptoms and the receptionist seemed to agree. My doctor saw me the following week. During the physical exam, she sensed with her hand that my uterus seemed to be bigger than last time. She took some blood for various tests and had me schedule a uterine sonogram at another location.
My follow up appointment, during which time we'd discuss the results from the blood test and sonogram, came about a month after my first taking action. I remember feeling a mixture of nervousness and resoluteness. I've always rather known more and had a plan of action, instead of hiding from problems. We discussed the blood test first. Besides being low on Vitamin D (after our tough winter, who wasn't?), she pointed out that I was at risk for diabetes and recommended cutting or lowering all sugars -- except honey or molasses, gluten and corn, then handed me a sheet of paper outlining a more detailed "elimination" diet. Now, I'm not too friendly with the concept of a diet, because it's difficult to not feel resentful or deprived and I don't like blindly following what others think is best for me. How could they know, when every other person these days has a weird allergy? However, the word diabetes frightened me and I'd successfully cut things out of my diet for health crises before, so I agreed without flinching.
Then, we focused on the other issue. The fibroids were big. There were 3 that were the size of oranges. My uterus was comparable in size to 4 months of pregnancy and all my symptoms made sense. She was surprised I didn't have more acute ones and that my periods weren't extra heavy or painful. Though I could wait -- try acupuncture or other alternative healing practices, with the diet (corn, gluten and sugar all feed fibroids), the best option is a hysterectomy and soon. If the fibroids got larger, she'd have to do the proceedure the old-fashioned way -- with a long incision on the belly. As they were, she thought she could do it laproscopically, using cameras and instruments on tubes and making 3 very small holes in the belly -- the recovery for this technique is much easier. She recommended removing everything except for my ovaries, so I wouldn't plunge straight into menopause. I was relieved at that, and after I'd heard all her answers about my long-term prognosis after the procedure: feeling much better, having more energy and no periods, I said, I don't want to wait, let's do it now. At the end of our discussion, she asked how I was and I said, ok, I feel really good about this decision. I paid at the front desk and was weirdly charming, if spacey as I was handed a list of operation dates to choose from. I said, I'd check my calendar and call tomorrow. Then, I went to my car and had a good cry in the parking lot with the spring breeze blowing through my windows.
It was really going to happen. I was going to lose something I'd tried so hard to accept. Also, it was almost a year since my hip arthroscopy and I had to prepare for another surgery. Aging is not for the weak! This was going to be interesting.