Women’s Hormonal Health: Personal Story

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I am going to start the next series in my blog about women’s hormonal health with a personal story.
I am 46 years old, and almost two years ago, I experienced a hormonal rollercoaster ride after a singular oophorectomy which is removal of one ovary.
I have been blessed with good health all my life. I am 5’5, exercise regularly, keep a mainly healthy diet, and my weight has been pretty consistent between 130 and 135 pounds.
Several months prior to turning 44, I had a series of stressful events in my personal life, and significant changes and choices to make about work. My energy level kept dragging, and I was very stressed, but other than that my periods were regular, and my general health was fine.
One saturday at work, six months after turning 44, I started having sharp pains in my abdomen which came and went. A low grade fever came on a few hours later. I had my period two weeks before, so I knew it was not menstrual cramps, and the pain was not familiar at all. I also was pretty sure it was not pregnancy.
My work had recently changed insurance providers, and I found an ob/gyn who would see me that week.

Two days later, the fever and cramps persisted, I saw blood in my urine and went to the emergency room for the first time in my life.

Let’s just say I made up for lost time. After a cat scan, pelvic exam, blood tests, iv antibiotics, and an ultrasound, the doctor told me that I could have diverticulitis (which I have never had symptoms of ), or could have had an ovarian cyst or a complex follicle because the left ovary showed a lesion measuring 3.9 cm (1.5 inches).
Also, my left fallopian tube looked dilated and scarred on the scan. No fibroids were found, and my white blood cell count was high. He said to me that he could not make an exact diagnosis, and that my presentation was not easy. He wrote a prescription for an antibiotic, and I followed up with the new ob/gyn doctor that week.
At the ob/gyn clinic, I had a pelvic exam, a pap smear, and the doctor changed the antibiotic. She told me I probably had an infection in the left ovary and took a culture, but my symptoms did not add up to her either. We spoke about the ultrasound and cat scan results from the er visit, and she was going to monitor the left ovary in a few days to assess the  possible cyst’s growth. My culture was positive with a slight elevation of bacteria that normally is present in the intestine.
After a few more days, my fever did not let up, the pain got worse, and the bleeding continued.
I had an ultrasound at the ob/gyn’s, and they found a 9 cm mass the size of a mango ( I live in Miami) or an orange, behind my left ovary!
I had a cat scan as well two days later, and the result was the same.
A functional ovarian cyst is a sac measuring at least 2 cm, that can grow on the surface of the ovary during ovulation, and it dissolves after the egg is released. This type of cyst is really common and symptom free.
If the egg is not released, or if the sac is sealed off after releasing the egg, it can fill up with fluid.
This is called a functional luteal ovarian cyst, and in some cases, it can keep growing, bleed and twist the ovary. This was a possibility.
Or, it could be a complex ovarian cyst : either cystadenoma or an endometrioma which can grow very quickly. Complex ovarian cysts are made up of both solid tissue and liquids. Cystadenomas are made of ovarian tissue. Endometriomas result from endometrial tissue (uterus lining), that attaches on the ovary and grows there.
I was hospitalized and put on iv antibiotics, and had many doctors who came to examine me and talked to me about the possibilities of a benign cyst or the worst case scenario, ovarian cancer.
My case was turned over to an ob/gyn oncologist surgeon.
I had a laparoscopy a  few days later, and the mass removed along with my left ovary and fallopian tube.
The mass had collapsed the left ovary, and it had to be removed.
The biopsy came back negative for cancer. I had a benign cyst that grew very fast and had put so much pressure on the left ovary that it crushed it along with the fallopian tube.
I asked my surgeon about the origin of the cyst from the biopsy, but he said he could not be sure because of the amount of pus and dead cells that were present.

The next three months I felt relatively ok after having surgery, and I had my periods on time.
Then, from one month to the next I started having hot flashes, drenching night sweats, weight gain, very low energy and no periods. It felt like instant menopause!
My surgeon and I talked about the possibilities of the sudden change. I had hormone blood tests done that month and the next to see the fluctuations. The first test came back indicating my right ovary could be shutting down, the next test showed a better result.
Apparently, the remaining ovary was still producing estrogen, but my progesterone level was extremely low. In three months I gained 25 pounds eating the same diet, and even more carefully than I usually did, and exercising.
It felt as if I was not living in my own body, but in one that was out of control with the weight gain, no energy, hot flashes, and night sweats.
I talked to my doctor about natural hormonal replacement, but he wanted to prescribe birth control pills instead, for me to get back to balance.
I talked to him about my preference to try supplementing with natural  progesterone at first without estrogen, but he insisted I needed estrogen to get my periods back.
He was not open to discussing natural hormonal replacement.
My surgeon is regarded as one of the most advanced in ob/gyn oncology, and he is a brilliant surgeon, but on hormonal replacement we had very different views.
I decided on natural hormonal replacement instead, and only on a natural progesterone cream to begin with because I believed, from my symptoms, that I was estrogen dominant.
My energy started to improve after a couple of weeks, the night sweats and the hot flashes diminished week by week until they stopped.
Four weeks later I had my period. The weight gain leveled off after several weeks, and little by little the weight started to drop.
It has now been a year since I started using progesterone cream. My health and energy are good, and I have a doctor who supports natural hormonal replacement.
Hormonal balance is a layered process because there are many factors not just estrogen dominance, which can alter and affect how estrogen and progesterone complement each other, and  how they work with our hormonal endocrine system.
It is important to understand how estrogen and  progesterone work as a team to maintain hormonal health, and how this balance has far reaching effects on our endocrine glands: pituitary, pineal, thyroid, adrenal, pancreas, ovary, and the hormones, organs and functions associated with them.
In this next series, I am going to cover women’s hormonal health starting with perimenopause, menopause, and the diseases mostly diagnosed on women.

Camille Medina, RPh
Natural Pharmacy C.l.i.n.i.c., llc

The information provided here is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Suggestions and ideas presented in this document are for information only and should not be interpreted as medical advice, or for diagnosing  illness. Seek advice from a health care professional before administering any dietary supplements.

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