Tuesday, July 15, 2008


I have received feedback from a variety of folks who are reading this blog. Not only are people from my neighborhood and town clicking in, but it seems to be reaching other parts of our country and even the world. This is a bit frightening because then I tend to think I need to deliver particularly brilliant posts. But no, I will continue to share as best I can what is inside of me. Hmmmm. That did not come out right because in no way do I want to share with even my worst enemy (not that I can even think of who this would be) what is in my abdomen. You know what I mean. I want to express as honestly as I am able, my thoughts and feelings about my situation.

Indeed, I am suffering from a serious illness. At this point, I prefer to think of myself as a patient, a sick person, who is being treated for the illness I have. I do not want it to be exaggerated beyond this idea.

Several times in the past on this blog I referred to a horrible event in my life that took place in 1983. I've said that some day I would write about it. I won't go into too many details but I am finding myself thinking about those days as I proceed on this journey.

In March of 1983 when I was 30, I became pregnant or so I thought. I had been working as an attorney in downtown Seattle for four years. My father had died three years before. We had been married for 10 years and decided to start a family. My Dad's death inspired me to have children when previously, I wasn't so sure. My plan was to work it all out with my law firm and continue practicing law after a reasonable leave.

Egg and sperm united, but contrary to what some may believe, life did not begin at this conception. In May, I experienced what I thought was a miscarriage. Let's just say, there was a lot of blood and debris. We went to my Ob-Gyn and were told to relax, take a ferry ride, and go on a picnic. In a few months, we could try again. Unfortunately, on the ferry in our car, I started to hemorrhage and pass clots in a major way. At the other side, we turned around and came back. At home, Dave called the doctor and we were told it was not unusual for additional shedding.

I never missed more than a day of work throughout all of it. I felt nauseated most of the time but was told this would eventually pass. I was light headed and weak. Specifically, I remember being in a deposition with a barf bag in my brief case. In my mostly male law firm, I had a difficult time convincing any of them to step in for me. I had to get a court order to change a deposition in California because I was too sick to travel and nobody else would do it.

As May passed, I continued to become more ill. Weirdly, my abdomen was expanding rather than shrinking but I was thin so it was not noticeable. I tried to do my usual jog one evening and almost fainted. Finally, we went back to the doctor and demanded to find out what was going on. My doctor took one look at me, did a portable ultra-sound and revealed I had a hydadidaform mole. Rare, it happens once out of 1800 pregnancies. Basically, conception goes cafluey and instead of a baby, large growths that look like grape clusters take over the uterus. They produce enormous amounts of HCG, the pregnancy hormone that makes you feel sick, and you experience significant blood loss.

The immediate risk is a form of cancer that the growths turn into if they are not completely surgically eliminated. The treatment is a D&C plus monitoring blood levels of HCG. In June, I had a D&C and during the procedure, I almost died. My blood pressure plummeted and they had to cut short the operation. Afterwards, they gave me a blood transfusion in the midst of HIV/AIDS and before there was any way to screen. I was lucky because some women given blood in those days for childbirth issues did acquire the deadly virus. After a weekend or so, I returned to work. Weekly, I walked from downtown Seattle up the hill to Swedish to have my blood drawn. The HCG levels were going the wrong way way and I began to feel nauseated again.

In July, I started to hemorrhage again. The growths had returned. They plunked me in the hospital for another D&C and told me it was likely I would need chemotherapy. A return of a molar pregnancy usually meant it had become cancer. Again, weekly, I walked up the hill to have my blood drawn. The levels of HCG were not going down quickly so they x-rayed to see if it had spread to my lungs. It had not. By this time it was October.

I remember that day. I was in the elevator in my law office building returning from my x-ray. I started weeping. One of the compassionate senior partners found me crumpled there in the elevator. As far as they knew, I had just had a miscarriage so I opened up to him and told him what I had been going through. This was the day I gained my resolve. I decided right then and there in the elevator in the Central Building in downtown Seattle that I was finished with the molar pregnancy. I wanted to be well. I wanted to get on with my life and not be sick anymore. Someday, I wanted to try to have children again. Needless to say, the HCG levels finally dropped steadily though my blood had to be monitored weekly for the next year.

The anemia, weight loss, and lack of appetite I am now experiencing are similar to those days. The fear of the unknown is as well. The inexplicable randomness of being struck with an illness out of the blue has happened to me again. I survived, regained my health and went on to have two healthy pregnancies and two healthy children.

Most importantly, I remember clearly the day in the elevator when my mind switched from being a victim to being a person who had decided to recover.