Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The Other Side of Depo

Just like this post, The Other Side of Lortab, I'm happy to be done with my 3-month trial of Depo-Provera. Or as my family doctor calls it, Depo-ProSCAREa.

And when I say done, I mean D-O-N-E. Like NEVER EVER AGAIN! Unfortunately, it can take up to a year for all of the nasty side effects to completely disappear. I've learned doctors don't give disclaimers on certain drugs because every patient reacts differently to them. Some have no side effects at all and some have every side effect in the book. I would fall in the latter category.

While Depo-Provera is primarily used as a contraceptive, it's been known to be effective in the treatment of endometriosis. And when I woke up from my surgery last November, this first thing my doctor said was, "Moving forward, we're going to have to treat this aggressively." Which is why we went straight to Depo.

By suppressing ovulation, the goal of Depo-Provera is to keep all my crazy hormones calm, quiet and dormant. And theoretically, if this is accomplished, no new endometrial adhesions will form and life will be just peachy (insert sarcastic tone here). My life the last 3 months has been anything but peachy. More like an episode of LOST where I'm stranded on an island and nothing is what it seems.

Within a day of the injection, I started experiencing daily headaches and this weird pain in my side, right below my left rib cage. I started taking calcium pills (to counteract the effects of bone density loss from the shot) so I thought my body was just having a hard time digesting the big, fat horse pills. I switched to calcium chews and that seemed to help a little, but the pain continued, along with being bloated, gaseous and hungry ALL THE TIME. (Example: I went to the mall one afternoon and ravished a Philly cheesesteak and then followed it up with a corn dog because I was still hungry! Who does that?!) Then the pelvic pain and irregular bleeding started. The nurse warned me while my body was getting used to the shot, I would experience pain similar to the pain of endometriosis. I had to laugh at the irony. If this "treatment" is supposed to be helping me, then why is the pain worse than actual endometriosis? To stay sane, I was popping Advil every 4-6 hours. The Kelly Cocktail (3 Advil and a Coke) was my saving grace. Hair loss, weight gain, fatigue and mood swings came next.

Long story short, I was a mess.

But during those long 12 weeks, I had plenty of time to do research (knowledge is power after all) and was strangely comforted that I wasn't alone in my struggles. On AskAPatient.com, Depo Provera users rated their experience with the shot. Out of 2,102 responses, with 1 being "extremely dissatisfied" and 5 being "highly satisfied", the average rating was 2.1 "not satisfied". After reading through many of the comments, I found myself nodding in agreement, in fascination, and in horror. I actually felt guilty because many of the experiences were far worse than mine. So many referred to Depo as "synthetic poison" and "it will ruin your life". I can't say I disagree.

As the appointment for my second shot approached, I was anxious to speak to the doctor about other treatment options because like I said before, I was D-O-N-E with Depo. She listened sweetly as I rattled off all the side effects I was experiencing and let me vent for awhile. I'm sure she's heard it all before. But she also mentioned she has patients who have been on it for 5 years and love it. Grrr...

After careful consideration, she asked what I thought about a IUD (intrauterine device). Mirena, to be exact. This plastic, t-shaped device is placed in the uterus and slowly releases the same hormone that's found in Depo, progesterone. The advantages for endometriosis patients: the hormone stays in your uterus instead of traveling through your blood stream and causing all the horrible side effects. It also lasts up to 5 years or can be removed at any time by a physician. My sister, who also has endo, has had the Mirena implant for the last year or so. It's worked well for her and kept her pain at bay. The one disadvantage: she has had more ovarian cysts with the device. I asked my doctor about this and she said while it doesn't cause cysts to form, it doesn't prevent them like the pill or other treatments do. And these types of cysts usually resolve themselves within a couple of months.

So, we're going to see how Mirena works for me. The "installation" was not fun. I guess the pain is worse for women who haven't had children since the device must pass through the cervix before it reaches the uterus. I had pretty bad cramping and spotting for a day or two, but the pain subsided. I had so much fun telling my male boss I was going to be working from home due to a "procedure". I could tell he wanted more information, but knowing my past female issues, he just nodded and wished me well. Good choice! It's been about a month, but I can already tell my pelvic pain is better. And I'm happy to report I'm completely off my daily consumption of Advil. Not by choice, but after taking it habitually for the last 9 months, I'm more concerned about the effects it's having on my liver and the lining of my stomach. We'll see if I can stay off the Kelly Cocktail...it is so addicting!

In hindsight, this last year has been a game changer for me. Health is no longer a gift I take for granted. I'm proactive and intend to stay this way until I find the best treatment that is right for me. If I can help anyone who is currently dealing with endometriosis or similar issues, I'll sleep well. And because laughter through tears is my favorite emotion (love that movie!), I had to share this ecard:

PK (#endosister)


Shanon said...

I hope you can find a treatment plan that works well for you. I think sharing all this info on your blog is brave and I hope it helps someone because so few people want to discuss such personal issues via a public forum.

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