My apologies to any of my male readers as this post may scare you, but hang in there, as husbands and perhaps fathers of daughters, I hope my story provides you with a little guidance and some laughs. And to my female readers, whether your own OB/GYN health is changing or you are embarking on a journey with your own daughters, I hope this too supports you in that path. Happy Mother's Day!
I've had reason lately to be thinking about my history of menstrual periods. I'm supporting my sister as she helps her daughter face her fears of growing up. My niece is heading into the sixth grade next year and just doesn't like all this stuff she's learning in health class! Ironically, I'm like an 8th grader all over again because my body is trying to adjust after being in treatment for a year.
Do you remember when you got your first period? I sure do. I was 13, in my bedroom, excited to be heading out the next day for a youth group beach trip, and I knew something wasn't right. I think most young females' first reaction would be horror when they realize they are bleeding. Additional fright came when I realized I had to be in a bathing suit the next day. I remember quite vividly yelling for my mother. Because I have an older sister, I think my mom had an ease about knowing exactly what to do - I was in shock, looking at the pads and thinking tampons did what?!?
My sister and I were also pretty lucky to have a father that didn't shy away from helping us. Our dad helped us feel "normal" about getting our periods - the topic wasn't taboo. He was our shopper - the coupon king! Our dad knew when "the time of the month" had come and was famous for yelling out, "Do I need to buy you ladies any "equipment"?" To this day, my sister and I still laugh about that (he died in 1997).
A month ago, during our spring break vacation, I found myself in an all too familiar situation. I was not prepared for the onset of a period after a long hiatus. My chemo and radiation are over and I've begun Tamoxifen (Hormone Replacement Therapy). I would say my lack of preparation was more denial than anything. I'm still trying to get my head wrapped around remission, life after cancer. So, we had to make some detours to get me situated; trying to find a drug store in the small towns of South Carolina was a little rough. My mother was traveling with us and she said to me, "so, how bad is it?" I looked at her and said, I have one word for you, "Seattle."
In the spring of 2009, I traveled to Seattle to attend a conference for student affairs professionals. Luckily for me, my mom wanted to come to help with Jack, who was 10 months old at the time. And, to add to the fun, my sister and her daughter (5 years old at the time) came along too. I definitely enjoyed that great benefit of breastfeeding where your hormones take over and make your period hang back for a bit, waiting for you to do your thing. Well, Jack and I were starting to part ways in the land of boobyville, so my body figured, we've waited long enough, it's period time!
I woke up in the middle of the night to find that I had pretty much destroyed the lovely Hotel Monaco's bed linens. For what I did next, I don't have any justification for my behavior other than to say I was so scared at the thought of what the housekeepers would find (it's like I was 13 all over again!). I quickly woke up my mom, who was sleeping with me, tore the sheets off, ran to the bathtub and tried to wash the sheets. Somehow, between washing the sheets, trying to clean myself, and using the toilet, I flooded the place. The toilet was overflowing and I think I had got the sheets so damp, they couldn't hold the water. My frantic pace must have made me look like someone who was trying to cover up a murder. There was nothing left to do, but call for help. I had to face my fears.
I know now after meeting that maintenance guy at 2am, Hotel Monaco has seen much worse. There is always someone, somewhere that has seen, heard, and done much worse.
What I've come to realize about my recent spring break fiasco is that what it all means is that I'm alive. I'm moving forward. No matter what embarrassing, humiliating experience I go through in life, I will survive it, even laugh about it. And I know my niece is absolutely counting on me to prove it.