Sunday, June 08, 2008

Due To Mature Content, Viewer Discretion Is Advised...

I awoke this morning to a scene not unlike that of Carrie during the night of her prom…except I was not covered in pig’s blood…let’s just say I looked like something one might find at a gruesome murder scene, but marinating in my own menstrual blood instead! I had to get out of bed (well before I had intended), rip off all of the bedding from my sleeping cocoon (well before I had intended to wash my sheets), and gimp into the shower (well before my MONTHLY bath was due!...LOL).

Yes, that’s right. Gentlemen, change the channel. I’m going to be talking about menses today…periods…the “curse”…that time of the month…for an ENTIRE post. Because the subject is on my mind this morning…and, of course, on my expensive Egyptian Cotton sheets!

For an organ that is described as “no larger than a human fist”…7.5 centimeters long/2.9inches (per Gray’s Anatomy, not to be confused with the CBS show “Grey’s Anatomy”…and far more reliable than Wikipedia!), and weighing only 30-70grams/1-2 ounces “normally” (and without an “occupant”/baby), this little reproductive organ can sure store VOLUMES of blood/endometrial tissue when it feels like it! For those of you *not in the know* about the “normal” menstrual cycle, most women (males, breathe a loud sigh of relief here if you didn’t stop reading as instructed…you DON’T have one of these) experience a sloughing off of their endometrial lining every 28 days or so (aka, the period, the curse, the menses). For some women, “normal” cycle times are between 21-35 days, so don’t feel like a failure if you can’t claim to “bleed with the moon”!

Generally, during a “regular” cycle, women lose approximately 35ml/1.8 ounces of blood per period/menses. For some women, this blood loss is more, and for some, considerably less. For MOST of us, it just SEEMS like gallons and gallons of wasted “baby lining”! But if the truth be known, that entire amount is just about enough to fill 1½ shot glasses (I will refrain from any sickening “Bloody Mary” jokes here). And researchers tell us generally a woman’s heaviest “flow” day is on the 3rd day AFTER she begins her menses (which fits in nicely on the time line of my “Carrie” moment!).

Female menstrual cycles can be affected by many variables…age and weight are certainly two main factors. Age, because as we age, EVERYTHING begins to wear out (actually, our hormone levels change), and weight…well, because mainly the hormone, estrogen, is primarily stored in our fat cells. So, the more *tire* one has around the gut, the more estrogen there is believed to be available in the body. Other common variables are certain diseases, climate and altitude (don’t ask me about THIS one, I just read it somewhere…probably on a bathroom wall), diet, smoking and exercise (I DO love to include those two bad habits together!), pregnancy (no brainer here…at least I “hope” this is a no brainer why there’d be a change in the menstrual cycle?!?), fibroid tumors, and medications. And this list is NOT exclusive. Hormone changes/fluctuations are what influence the female menses the most, and these changes can occur because of the above list (and for other reasons too exhaustive to list here). Which reminds me of a really bad hormone joke: Q: Do you know how to make a hormone? A: Don’t pay her. But I digress as usual. LOL

But seriously, if only briefly…the word “hormone” comes from the Greek word “hormao”, which loosely translated means, “set in motion”. And that’s exactly what the sex hormones in the female body do—prepare the uterus, each and every month to conceive and hopefully carry a child…to “set in motion” the birth of off spring with an everlasting lifetime of grief and despair…if you happen to be a Jewish mother. LOL And, at some point, even the female body recognizes it would just not be COOL to be applying for Social Security while taking Lamaze Classes! Eventually, like it or not (and not soon enough for me), the female body enters a phase called “peri-menopause” (that wonderful time where it just can’t decide: Social Security or day care?) and finally menopause.

We’ve all read or at least heard about the affects of pregnancy on Multiple Sclerosis. And surely we all know by now, it is NOT the fetus/baby that has been shown to be the causative factor in a marked DECREASE in MS symptoms/flares (“we” DO know this, don’t “we”?), but the drastic HORMONE levels that get rearranged when a woman becomes pregnant. Estrogen levels steadily increase as do progesterone levels, which prepare the uterus and the body to maintain a viable pregnancy. As we age, estrogen levels steadily decrease, causing a cessation of menses, otherwise known as “meno-pause” (menses pausing…get it?). Nobody really knows yet WHY this complex and changing hormonal balance in the female body during pregnancy and co-occurring with MS causes a generalized REMISSION time…it just does. But I STILL don’t recommend all of us women with MS run out and knock a bun in the oven just to get a break from our MS symptoms! I think I’d personally rather be numb than dumb. Hehe…

Another fact whispered in the female MS circles but sorely under investigated is WHY the menstrual cycle seems to temporarily WORSEN our MS symptoms. I, for one, would testify in a Congressional Health Care hearing that this is FACT…I really don’t need a scientist to confirm this at the current stage in my life! I am sadly one of those “other bleeders” who has NEVER had a regular menstrual cycle…and, after the past 5 years of MS diagnosis, my MS symptoms drastically and suddenly worsening are one of the ONLY red flags (yes, I DID mean that flag analogy to be funny) I have, signaling me it is time for that pseudo-monthly deed to occur. My joints stiffen, my spastic calves worsen, the MS hug either returns or worsens, a headache sometimes occurs, and my sleep becomes wildly disturbed among other things. These symptoms all return to baseline or disappear once Aunt Flow pays her visit, but generally come on or worsen about 3-5 days prior to Auntie’s visit.

I am also one of those women (who I consider FORTUNATE) to have experienced a chemically-induced menopause while on NOVANTRONE. That’s right…I stopped having periods for almost a year and hoped the Novantrone might have thrown me into early menopause…couldn’t be THAT lucky, however. Once I was off my every three month IV schedule of the big “N”, I simply reverted back to my regular irregularity of “the curse”.

I personally believe (without ANY scientific backing whatsoever) our hormones and our immune systems are in a delicate balance and directly influence each other…possibly more so than any of our other systems in the body. And I believe a key component to unlocking the mystery of Multiple Sclerosis lies directly under our noses in our hormones…both in the female AND male bodies (Let’s face it boys, IF YOU’RE STILL READING! You ALSO have small amounts of female hormones in your bodies just like women have testosterone levels.) Unfortunately, no one at the National Institute of Health is running out to offer ME a grant to study and investigate my belief…but then again, they really aren’t bending over backwards to throw ANY money into MS research. And this, I believe, is because MS is still considered a fairly rare disorder…oh, and the fact it doesn’t generally render anyone impotent or affect the breasts directly.

Well, enough about this sensitive subject…or is it just ME who’s sensitive? Probably…I tend to be a tad bit “temperamental” with the red tide. If I’m not crying my eyes out and believing Armageddon is around the corner, I am plotting someone else’s death, i.e., homicidal ideation! Time to go check the sheets that are in my dryer and get back to numbering my “menstrual hit list”…don’t worry…YOU’RE not on it. Or ARE you?!? Moohahaha…


Spaz Attack said...

although kinda informative... some of those factoids I didn't know -- and wish I'd remained IGNORANT, thank U very MUCH. And THanks so much for that Lovely MENTAL Image of you hemmrraging all over your mighty fine Egyptian bedding and the photo of the lovely young lass covered with blood (GAG). Marinating in your Menstrual blood??? Is there a way I can erase that metaphor from my mind? Oh yeah ... pass me my MEDS PLEASE.

In conclusion, I found your post exceedingly witty & facetious as usual. Well done Fair Maiden, Well Done!

Sara said...

i'm glad you didn't but any bloody mary jokes in since it's only 10am & I'm not sure I could have handled that (lol)

all I can say is for an organ the size of a human fist, it sure can pack a punch . . . sorry that was bad!

if you want to know more about why there's not money for research check out my mate's post.

Shauna said...

I've been in peri menopause since my diagnosis and treatment with steroids. (The steroids are worthy of a future post on their own)

And of course, since recent gyne surgery I am experiencing a bit of a change in my monthly habit.

I agree, there's a connection between endocrine and immune systems as it relates to MS. Let's face it, there's a connection between many other systems and MS, too.

I liken the menses flow to that of mucous in the nose during a do we become such snot and blood factories? Inquiring minds want to know.


TickledPink said...

Your post reminds me how very glad I am that I no longer possess a uterus. I once asked my doctor how I would know when I was going through menopause if I had no uterus. His reply? "That's a good question."

I don't miss the red moments. My MS dramatically made it's entrance into my life 3 months after my hysterectomy. I think it was trying to take my mind off mourning the loss of my female anatomy. Awwww, wasn't that thoughtful and sweet?

I still know when I *should* be menstruating because I still have the hormones, and I do feel crappier MS wise then.

BTW, your hormone joke was one of my dad's favorites. Another punch line to that is "about 10 inches." :-)

Anne said...

Hi Linda: I had a complete hysterectomy for my 45th birthday present to myself. Yep, on my birthday! And it was the bestest present ever.

But menopause was instantaneous - as soon as the anesthesia wore off the day after - the hot flashes started and they haven't left yet. Did hormones for 5 years after, but stopped them due to prevalance of breast cysts. A-OK there now.

So, I am 54 now and as much as I may complain about hot flashes (my only complaint, BTW cuz everything else is wonderful! um, I'm sure you know what I mean LOL), I wouldn't trade my decision for all the tea in China.

I sympathize (and sometimes laugh reading your post... sorry) with you re: your experiences w/ menstrual cycles. For many years in my teens/early 20's, I had periods for 10 days at a time, but wouldn't get one for 60 days...kinda nice to get 5 to 6 periods a year but oh so painfullllllllll.

Later, fertility drugs made periods regular so I could get some babies outta this body before I recycled it and I don't regret that either.

Bad medical advice in the 1970's told me not to get pregnant because MS would flare. Garbage! Periods make MS worse! And telling me not to only made me more adamanant to get pregnant. LOL

Periods made MS worsen; chemo(1978/79) made periods go away and lessened MS symptoms. Sometimes. Plasmapheresis lessened periods but did nothing for MS symptoms.

Menopause hasn't made MS worse for me (at least I don't think so, just the hot flashes are arguing with my MS heat sensors) and most people think my red face is hot flashes when it is really MS ventilation malfunctions.

So hopefully you will be getting over the menstrual hump soon and aiming toward menopause because menopause is sure a whole lot better than having periods.

A friend of mine in France has a vacuum job done twice a year, especially when she has to do a bathing suit modelling job or wants a carefree vacation. What is that you may ask? Exactly that - vacuum out menstrual blood - takes about 15 minutes in doctor's office, and she is period free for that month. Costs $250 American.

If that was available years ago when I was suffering so with the pain of endometriosis, I would have signed up for it. But they don't do the procedure here unless you are having an abortion with it.

Anyway, in my book, menopause beats having periods!


Miss Chris said...

Okay, I've been in peri-menopause for about 3 years now. When is this all going to be over!!!!

pb said...

Yikes, Anne! Sounds like a baby-less abortion...

Yep, girls, menopause is a wonderful thing. Once I got past the hot flashes, which I ultimately did with Black Cohosh supplements.

Dear Braincheese, now I think you have busted past all the barriers and have earned the right to write about just about anything.

And I might add, this post is the largest compendium of both technical terms and slang expressions that I have ever seen anywhere.

Denver Refashionista said...

Oh yeah! I think the first symptoms of my MS may have manifested in puberty when I got my first period at age 16. I have felt awful for one or two weeks out of every month since then. I have also woken up in pools of my own blood.
My hormonal symptoms have included: muscle and joint pain, fatigue, nausea, migraines, back and hip pain, hormonal insanity, numbness, depression... Sounds like MS? My doctors never even suggested that but I suspect that puberty kicked in the disease and that hormones have haunted me ever since. I just got a non-hormonal IUD, yipee! Hopefully this period will be better. I'll keep you posted. BTW, if you do a study, sign me up.

Zee said...

OK, the post I found interesting but that picture? ARGH. I know it's from the movie but yeaogh. That is a nasty-ass photo!

I had really awful periods when I was in high school but since I've been on the pill I've had almost no trouble: I could set my watch by my cycle and my period lasts only 3.5 days.

For a minute there, I thought you were going to say you'd woken up soaking in sweat, which is the problem I have. I don't know which drug it is that causes that problem (and I'm on so damned many of them now it's hard to know... sheesh) but it's just awful. (Not as bad as having blood get everywhere, but pretty gross, still.)

Anyway, I'm babbling now so I'll just say thanks for being so open and straigthforward!

Taxingwoman said...

Hi !
Thanks for your honest,open remarks.
I did talk about this in one of my posts ages ago but wasn't straight forward like you.
I have read that MS symptoms do flare up before having your period due to a slight increase in body temperature.Yep that's all it takes!
I have mixed feelings about menopause because as soon as my mother went through it she broke her hip and has been miserable ever since. So everything is a trade off.


Bubbie said...

I'm only speechless cuz I'm having an incontinent moment laughing so hard.Aunt Flo still comes to visit this old Bubbie, begging the question, When does this end???!!!

SwampAngel65 said...

I am LMAO right now because Yesterday morning, that's almost how I woke up. Not quite such a horrible bloddy mess as you described, but YUCK all the same.

After having my last baby 4 years ago (I was diagnosed 2 years later), I got my tubes cut. So no more babies and no need to be on the Pill. But man, I miss the affect the Pill had on my body this time of the month! Without it, I bleed like a stuck pig! I've learned to bring extra clothes to work with me because twice...yes TWICE I have bled out at work and had to get through the rest of the day sitting on a wet ass because I took my pants off and scrubbed them in the sink and then...well...had to out them back on. God, it sucks. Being a woman is pure hell.

Menopause - bring it ON!!!!

natalief said...

I was the same. My MS always got worse for a week before I bled and all the time I bled. I never knew when I would bleed (anything from one week after my last bleed to three months), for how long (one day to three weeks, only stopped by medication), how heavily, with or without clots or how painfully.

I had an endometrial ablation and a mirena coil (I did not want a hystrectomy this young due to osteoporosis) and now do not bleed at all (touch wood)...