I'm sitting in a waiting room with all the pregnant women who are waiting to see grainy, slow motion movies of their babies. I'm nervous, visibly so, and if anyone notices me they might assume that it's my first appointment and I'm one of those women who never saw this coming. And they would be right- I didn't see this coming. But I'm not pregnant.
In the dark room, the ultrasound tech is not interested in talking with me. I'm lying on the table, shaking, trying to force myself to calm down. She is looking at a monitor that makes alternating clicking and beeping sounds, studying the images with a concentrated frown. I tell her I'm scared. "Do women always get scared about this sort of thing?" I ask, hoping for some reassurance.
She does not take her eyes off of the screen. "I don't know. Everybody is different."
"That's such a cop out answer," I snap back. And then I regret it. Don't be rude, I tell myself. She is helping you, even if it doesn't feel like it.
After a few minutes of silence, she prints out the images and stands up. "I don't see anything alarming, but your exam is only half over. I'm going to go show this to the radiologist. Then we have to put a camera up inside you and get a better look."
I sit up halfway. "What? My doctor didn't say anything about that."
She shrugs. And she says, "Don't worry. Most women find it tolerable."
Tolerable would be an accurate way to describe it. Nerve wracking, uncomfortable, but not the worst of the exams I've had during the last two weeks, as a host of doctors try and find the cause of the ubiquitous, searing pain in my abdomen.
The woman in Juneau told me it sounded like an ovarian cyst and that it would take care of itself. Then she gave me a prescription for Klonopin because maybe it was all in my head.
But it didn't take care of itself. It got worse and worse and worse. Something kicking me in the lower back repeatedly, a twisting, molten, agonizing pain twisting inside my abdomen.
Finally, on a backpacking trip with Andrew, it got so bad I could not walk. I lay down on the trail in a beautiful open valley and gripped at grass with my fists. This can't be normal, I said to him, breathlessly, urging him to scramble up the peak without me. This cannot be normal.
So the melange of doctors visits began. A woman reached her hand up inside of me and pressed on things- does this hurt? "No." Does this hurt? "Yes. Why- do you feel something?"
This is what I do- I try to jump to the bad news before the bad news jumps on me. Do you feel something? Is something wrong? Are you thinking we aren't working out? Are you losing interest?
When she said yes, she did felt something, I was surprised. I didn't expect her to actually say yes. I thought I'd hear what I usually do: that it was nothing out of the ordinary, it would go away on its own, it could be in your head anyway.
And so I was sent to wait with the happily pregnant women as it bucketed rain outside. The uninterested tech and the tolerable cameras. And afterwards, I couldn't stop shaking and feeling terrible about everything. I drank half a bottle of wine and made dinner and Andrew took me out to a movie, and later I cried on his couch and he said all the right things so perfectly.
The ultrasound pictures came back, a few days late but completely normal, and my doctor called and said that it was good news, but it meant we had to keep looking. She asked if I could come in the next day and see another doctor. So I did, another hand reaching up, pressing, asking if it hurt.
This new doctor was very kind and told me she'd taken her two little boys on a Disney cruise over the summer and how much they'd all enjoyed it. And then she asked me a bunch of questions, and I said yes to nearly all of them, and she said it.
"I think you may have endometriosis.
"What we need to do now is take a CT scan of your abdomen. I'd put you on hormonal medicine, but I see in your chart you have migraines with aura, so we can't do that. Let's start with the CT scan."
Endometriosis. It's something I've suspected since I was nineteen. Because some things just could not be normal. I've brought it up a few times, only to be brushed aside by doctors. "Have you tried Advil? Stretching?"
Endometriosis is not a disease that is cured, it's a condition that's managed. It's painful, but it's not the pain I'm worried about so much. It's the possible complications, which could mean, although does not guarantee, that it's really difficult to have kids.
The diagnosis has to be made definite, and then the options and treatment and answers to questions I am not letting myself look up on the internet. I'm waiting a little bit, because my friend Ryan said he was going to take me to his cabin in Montana for a week and get me away from everything.
And so between losing Andrew and letting anxiety take me on a spinning wheel of worst case scenarios, I didn't fall sleep. I lay there awake until Ryan came in at three fifty in the morning to get me up.
"I made it easy for you," I whispered. "I didn't fall asleep."
Ryan turned the light on and looked at me. He said, "Uh oh, hot stuff."
He texted the friends we were going to see: Lina is a wreck. Then he hauled me into the car and drove me all the way to Whitefish, Montana, which is where I am now.