Over a year ago my period started on schedule. But, then it never stopped. I got online to look up “long periods” and “heavy periods” because I had always been very regular and now besides going on forever there was a lot of blood. Even clots a few times, which was scary. The internet relieved much of my fears. I was 51 and much of my searching online led me to believe that as a woman gets closer to menopause her periods get whacky. Either skipping and getting lighter or getting longer and heavier. Either way was “normal.” Hormonal Imbalances, which occur especially at the beginning or end of a woman’s reproductive years. Usually it’s from too much estrogen (estrogen dominance) and too little progesterone. Fibroids, which are abnormal growths or tumors inside the uterus, which are very common and usually something people decide to live with. Or problems with blood clotting. The site menopauseinsight.com reassured me further. It said, “A period lasting 3 weeks might be strange in your mid-twenties. If you are at the age where you may be approaching perimenopause, an unpredictable menstrual cycle is the norm.
In fact, more than half of perimenopausal women complain about their offbeat menses – which can include skipped periods, periods that happen more than once throughout a month, or drastically lengthy periods. They can even include menses with thick blood clots and a very heavy flow. The menstrual cycle is usually the first indication that you might be approaching your menopausal years.” Later it did say, “If you’re period is lasting 3 weeks and your menses flow is extremely heavy – so heavy that it’s causing you to feel dizzy or nauseated -it might be wise to see your doctor immediately to get to the root cause and to calm your concerns.” To calm my fears? I wasn’t dizzy or nauseated, so I was perfectly happy to choose one of their other possible reasons for my problem.
Yahoo Health reassured me even further. It stated, “Dysfunctional uterine bleeding is irregular vaginal bleeding. For example, you may get your period more often than every 21 days or farther apart than 35 days. Your period may last longer than 7 days. It is not serious, but it can be annoying and disrupt your life. And from emedicinehealth.com; “Heavy periods are also said to be symptoms of fibroids, which most sites say aren’t harmful and many women just live with them, or they go away at menopause.” So at worst case I thought I was either going through menopause, had a fibroid or was estrogen dominant and just needed some progesterone to balance me out. None of which was any cause for alarm. But, the bleeding was getting old and since I was sure the doctor would just put me on a prescription for some progesterone to balance me out, I went ahead and scheduled my yearly “wellness physical”. My doctor said I might just not be ovulating and put me on 10 days of progestin to stop the bleeding. She said sometimes it just needs a “kick start.”
Then I could come in for a pap test since that was included in what I had paid for the physical. In about 10 days the bleeding stopped and I was so glad I put off the Pap test for several more weeks until the bleeding started again. It was light though so I went in anyway and she did do the Pap test. 3 weeks passed and I hadn’t heard from the office so I called. The nurse put the doctor on and she told me there were some strange cells that shouldn’t be there and I needed to come in for a biopsy to find out where they were coming from. That was a Friday and on Wednesday I had a uterine biopsy and Friday she called to tell me I had uterine cancer, but it looked like we caught it early and she was sending me to a specialist in Charlotte the following Wednesday. I went there and 1 week later he performed a hysterectomy, taking everything; cervix, uterus and ovaries. The next day I was home and six days later they called to tell me they had gotten everything, I would need no further treatment and should just come in for pap tests every 3 months for 2 years, then every 4 months for 2 more years and then twice the 5th year.
Normally uterine cancer is not detected by a pap test. I’m convinced that since it was done while I was bleeding that’s how they found the cells. The point though is, even doctors don’t think abnormal bleeding is that abnormal and women, especially as they get toward menopause can find hundreds of articles and advice forums online that will reassure them that it’s no big deal. For me it did end up not being that big of a deal. But, I caught it at Stage 1a. I know someone who didn’t go in until she was Stage IV and she died. People also put off going in to get checked because they are so afraid they might find out they have cancer. I’m here to tell you, if you do, it’s not the end of the world. From the day I found out I had it until the day I found out they had gotten it all was only 18 days. I like to say I only had cancer for 18 days. The Internet is wonderful for many things. It can be a great place to gather information, but then you need to take that information in to a doctor.
And even then follow up! As you can see by my story, there were many places it could have gone off track. If I hadn’t called back for my pap results when would they have called me? I also wonder about the progestin I took for 10 days because I’ve heard it can actually cause cancer. So don’t put off check ups and screenings. Catching cancer early makes all the difference on your outcome! It is important to protect yourself from the harmful effects of the sun. By protecting your skin, you can dramatically reduce the chance that you will suffer from skin cancer at some point in your life. Unfortunately, many people assume that protecting their skin is difficult or troublesome.
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