A Cautionary Tale For Women Who Use Tampons
It was my worst nightmare come true: I was losing the use of my legs. As a dancer, this was particularly traumatic.
It started 8 years ago when I woke up one morning, took one step and was doubled over in a kind of pain I could have never imagined. I was stuck in that position, unable to unfold my body, for more than two hours. It was as if someone had taken a mechanic's clamp to my abdomen and was tightening the grip with each passing minute.
I was rushed to my gynecologist's office. They whisked me into an examination room. My doctor caught a glimpse of me in the hall, did an about-face and followed right behind; her face expressing shock that I was walking bent in half and being held up by another person. She asked what happened. I said I had no idea, but that I got my period that morning.
She ordered an ultrasound, and from that, discovered a mass. It was about the size of a golf ball. To see if it would go away by itself (without surgery), she put me on hormones - a Nuvaring to be exact and birth control pills, at the same time. It never occurred to me to wonder what all those hormones might do to me - until I was overwhelmed by dark, depressing thoughts. My doctor asked me to try and ignore them in order to stay on the hormones because it would help her gauge the nature of the growth. So, reluctantly, I did.
After a month had passed, the golf ball was not smaller, it was larger. Now it was more like a tennis ball, so surgery was the next step. I went in thinking I was having a cyst, fibroid or tumor removed, but came out to news that my entire abdomen was covered in endometriosis.
I'd barely awakened from the anesthesia when my doctor appeared and told me what she'd found. I only remember her through a blur shaking her head saying, "It's bad." Endometrial lining had coated my reproductive system and pretty much everything else, including bowels and abdominal muscles. The whole cavity was covered in this gauze-like tissue that is typically found inside the uterus. How I got that far into my forties with normal periods, was a mystery. But suddenly, I had a problem.
The prognosis wasn't good. My options were to get pregnant, take Lupron, which shuts down estrogen production to starve the rogue tissue, or wait for menopause. With pregnancy behind me and no telling how far out menopause was, I went for the treatment. But after the Lupron made me too sick to work (I couldn't hold my head upright, stand up or eat, and that was just the tip of the iceberg), I decided to cross my fingers and wait for menopause. With every phase being worse than the one before, I realized I was not well-suited for traditional medicine.
About two months after the surgery, I developed hip pain. Having spent my life dancing, I naturally assumed it was time to pay the piper for the hours-upon-hours of pure joy I got from dancing. My body took a beating for sure. It seemed like the most natural and obvious conclusion. The pain came and went. It moved around my hip. Over time, it got worse.
Then, one day, I was walking down the street and my right leg totally froze. I was unable to walk. Not even one step. My friends lifted me into a cab. My boyfriend had to carry me up the stairs to get into bed. I lay there staring at the ceiling and burst into tears. All along I'd thought I had a dance injury. But now, I feared something worse, something more systemic. "What if I am losing the use of my legs?" I cried. My boyfriend took my hand and told me to wait until we got the MRI results, which was scheduled for the following morning at 7:30.
I waited anxiously for the results and was shocked when I didn't hear labrum tear, bursitis, tendonitis, arthritis, ligament tear, we need more tests, etc... Instead, I heard, endometriosis.
In my hip?!
Suddenly, it was starting to make sense, gruesome though, it was. No wonder the pain moved from the front to the back, the top to the bottom and side to side. Endometriosis spreads. After all, it's fibrous tissue that escapes the uterus. It wanders - like ivy - and then attaches to whatever is in its path, creates adhesions and continues growing. It's awful. It's like being strangled and suffocated from the inside out.
But still, in my hip?
A different doctor told me that the tissue could migrate out if there had been a little hole left from an incision from the surgery. "And freeze my pelvis and my legs like this," I asked. The answer was yes. It's called frozen pelvis and it's horrifying. After reading about it, I was no longer worried about my dancing days being over. Instead, I was afraid I would at some point soon be unable to walk.
Considering that conventional wisdom says endometriosis is the result of estrogen dominance, menopause was looking better and better. I couldn't wait. The silver lining was that it put a positive spin on something I was otherwise dreading. I counted the days and during that time, naturally, we watched my estrogen levels closely. Eventually, they did drop. But surprisingly, the endometriosis did not go away.
I had to look for other possible causes since the one the entire medical industry blames was no longer a viable explanation. I was in medical-mystery territory because endometriosis and menopause are rarely seen together, although it does happen and no one knows why.
So, there I was, without a clue.
I became obsessed with everything I put into my body, fearing something had gone in, or was going in, and tricking my system; in other words, mimicking estrogen and therefore sending signals to my body that made it think this tissue was allowed to be anywhere but inside my uterus. I was desperate to starve it, to kill it off, in hopes that it would begin to retreat.
And then I read this:
Research by the Endometriosis Association revealed a startling link between dioxin (TCCD) exposure and the development of endometriosis. Dioxin is a toxic chemical byproduct of pesticide manufacturing, bleached pulp and paper products, and medical and municipal waste incineration. The EA discovered a colony of rhesus monkeys that had developed endometriosis after exposure to dioxin. 79% of the monkeys exposed to dioxin developed endometriosis, and, in addition, the more dioxin exposure, the more severe the endo.
It is estimated that 1 in 10 women (in reproductive years) have endometriosis and no one has figured out why women develop this disease. So, of course, being one of those women, when I read about the monkeys and learned that dioxins are a byproduct of bleaching paper/pulp/cotton products - and found in tampons - I wept, remembering the years and years I used tampons, unwittingly allowing these chemicals to leach directly into my bloodstream through the skin in and around the very area where the cells spun out of control.
Everything you put into your body these days, needs not just to be questioned for what it is, but also for what's in it. There are many chemical, toxic concerns beyond those implicit in my tale. I found this article offers a comprehensive place to start if you'd like to learn more.
The EPA asserts dioxins are highly toxic and can cause cancer. Yet, they continue to be in use in many forms of manufacturing - beyond tampons. Plastics, toiletries/cosmetics, preservatives and other chemicals have the capacity to imitate estrogen and overload the body with too much, which then throws the delicate balance of all hormones off, which then of course, can trigger other problems.
The experts consistently say that endometriosis will (almost certainly) go away with menopause. They consider it a menstruating woman's disease. But the dots that they have not yet connected is that women also stop using tampons at menopause. So what if endometriosis is actually a result of tampon use that rectifies itself once women stop using them? What if it's not estrogen at all? In my case, the glitch was the surgery that left an open door for it to travel into foreign territory. Now, it's anyone's guess whether I can get it out.
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