Sunday, October 23, 2011
I remember in 6th grade, when we had "The Talk". You know, the one where the boys went to one room and the girls went to another. Mrs. Brown was in charge of the girls, a five foot tall fireplug of a woman from Corpus Christi, Texas. I can remember this scene vividly: at one point in her little speech about "The Change" that was coming for us, she was holding up a Maxi Pad in front of the room, and Scott Whitely came barging in the classroom door at the back, clutching a message from the office. Mrs. Brown turned white as a sheet, Scott Whitely turned beet red. She hissed at him to get out and get out he did, double-time.
The message was clear: Maxi pads were scary and embarrassing things that men must never, ever see.
That message persists into adulthood. Just take a man on a basketball court who gets hit with the ball. He gets a bloody nose, mops it up with his shirt, and goes over to the sidelines holding a towel against his nose. You'd think the bloody towel was a badge of honor by how he treats it.
The same amount of blood coming out of a woman's coochie is like the scarlet fucking letter, right? Shameful, to be hidden, not even mentioned. Not even when he's your husband. If he sees a tiny bit of blood on the toilet seat, he might go faint, meanwhile the same man farts with abandon during episodes of The Family Guy, never thinking that gasses emitting from his butt should be equally...well... concealed.
Which is all to say that writing a blog post about what it means to be a woman and a triathlete, what it REALLY means on one of "those days", is culturally embarrassing. Yet, because we don't talk about it, none of us knows how anyone else deals with it. No one knows that the reason I didn't have a bigger PR in my half-Iron distance race last year is that I spent all those precious minutes in a porta-potty line that I couldn't avoid. What does a guy do? He pees on the bike. Changing your womanly supplies on a bike would require the skills of a circus acrobat and be a good deal more messy. And no ones knows that I went on the pill for four months the last time I did an Ironman just so I'd know for sure I wouldn't have my period that day.
Wouldn't it suck to train for a year, spend $500 plus travel expenses, and not be able to do the race due to your @#!%! period??
So, what happens when you're signed up for an Ironman at age 46 and you're a woman? Women's bodies at 46 are not the same as they are at 36 or 26 or 16. To put it bluntly, they're starting to do weird things. Periods come at odd times when they're not expected. They're either really light or so heavy you might as well pitch a tent in the bathroom for a day or two. Sometimes you end up wondering whether you got pregnant without knowing it and are miscarrying something that looks like Eraserhead. Don't go squeamish on me, I told you I was going to be blunt. So doing an Ironman in the middle of that? It can be difficult.
Luckily, a couple of my women friends clued me in to this procedure called a Uterine Ablation. Yes, that's about as Un-Fun as it sounds. Actually it's way, way less fun that it sounds, but I'm getting ahead of myself. Basically, they burn the shit out of your uterine lining and it never comes back. A few days of painful recovery and you're free of The Curse for evermore. Or at least semi-free of it, or probably free of the worst of it. There's no guarantees of course, but it sounds better than the current uncertainty and mess. Sign me up Scotty!
So that's what I had done this week. Of course, me being me, nothing ever goes quite according to plan. I have this really weird body that has a pretty high pain tolerance (good) coupled with the fact that anesthesia and medications don't work all that well on me (bad). Novocaine has so little effect that my dentist always wants to pull his hair out when he has to work on me. Given all of that, I maybe should've chosen to use general anesthesia for this procedure, but that freaks me the heck out. I keep remembering people like Olivia Goldsmith, who died during general anesthesia for plastic surgery (one more reason I won't ever do THAT for sure!) Thinking about my kids being motherless, the answer for me and general is NO WAY. But then again, I've never had experience with anything like this (even my babies were not born in a hospital) so how would I know what would happen?
So it was some Valium and some Percocet, some injection of an ibuprofen-like NSAID, and we were off. I wish I could tell you that my experience was like all of my friends who have had it done. For most women it's pretty much a walk in the park, for me it was not. I won't scare you with the gory details but it hurt. A lot. Like if it was a mob movie and a torture scene, I would've told them anything. I would've sold my mother upriver just to make it stop. My doctor (and probably the entire waiting room) got to hear every curse word in my personal arsenal, and then some. It was like The Sopranos in there.
Luckily, I'm now on the other side of the River Styx, after the first day of agony with some upchucking thrown in just for kicks and grins. Several days later, I'm just taking ibuprofen and will hopefully be back to training sometime in the near future. I'm hoping this bet pays off, the pain and suffering were worth it, and I have an Ironman to look forward to where I don't have to worry about taking Aunt Flo along on my bike with me.
And because I'm not Mrs. Brown, and this is not 1976, I'll let you know how it goes.