IMPORTANT DISCLOSURE: I AM NOT A DOCTOR. NOT EVEN CLOSE. So PLEASE, if you think you have any kind of health issue, please consult a physician. Please do not read this and panic that you have some terrible disease. Please do not read this and get mad at me. I am sharing this story because I've been ashamed to do so until now and I suddenly realized - there may be other women out there ashamed and in truth, THERE IS NOTHING TO BE ASHAMED OF.
This is important, otherwise I wouldn't dare use such a click-baity headline.
When I think about how this all began, I actually can't seem to pinpoint a start date. But I do know for certain that by mid-April, I was battling a serious bladder infection or UTI or something that was making me very uncomfortable and causing me to pee incessantly. There wasn't always burning but there was sometimes. There was definitely a lot of pressure on my abdomen. And there was inconsistency -- sometimes I would have no problem going, sometimes I would sit down and it would take 30 minutes or more to get it all out.
I promise you I am not exaggerating -- I was waking up to go to the bathroom four or five times a night. Sometimes I would put off going to sleep because I knew I'd be up in an hour anyway, so despondent, I would take my iPad into the bathroom with me and sit on the toilet where I'd pee two or three times in an hour, and then I'd go to bed. Sometimes that would buy me a straight three hours of sleep. But you can't imagine how exhausted this was making me. And at the time, I was unemployed, so keeping myself not tired and active was a challenge to begin with.
The unemployment also meant I had no health insurance. I was in the process of trying to get "Obamacare" but omigod what a pain in the ass that is -- it was not moving along at the pace I needed it to (I got laid off like four days after the open enrollment deadline, of course). So my doctor prescribed medicine - I went through three rounds of different antibiotics.
Nothing was fixing anything and I knew something was wrong. More than just a bladder infection. And Web MD was not my friend, of course. Web MD told me I either had bladder cancer or was in the early stages of menopause. They should take Web MD away from me. One of my doctors once told me "sure, keep using it and coming in here with problems. You'll end up paying for my next vacation." Point taken.
At the end of April, just before I was to begin my new job, I took a trip to New York. I spent much of that trip planning my activities according to where I'd be able to find a bathroom. For example instead of strolling the city or enjoying an iced tea in Rockefeller Center while I window shopped as I would normally do on a New York trip, I took Taxis to a few places I had to visit and then would pray I could wait out the train ride back to where I was staying.
Because of my weight, I was instantly concerned I had become diabetic, but I did get tested and that was not the case. The same doctor who tested me for Diabetes, by the way, told me I was fine and probably "just one of those women who pees a lot."
This did not sit well with me. Mostly because he was a prick but also because, quite frankly, I have never been one of "those women." I can hold it like a champ. I can. I attribute this to a position I had out of college where I needed to find someone to watch the phones when I had to use the restroom. Sometimes this meant waiting a little while and boy did I learn to use those muscles.
So now I was at my new job and it was great -- except I was peeing every 30 minutes and I was still exhausted and simply could not take it anymore.
I cut back on caffeine, then I cut it out entirely. You can imagine how pleasant that made me to be around in the mornings. I also cut out alcohol. Eventually, I wasn't drinking much of anything because I was just always afraid I'd have to pee. So I was also always thirsty and dehydrated. When none of that made a difference, I just gave up and drank whatever. But one day I had a single margarita at a family gathering and spent the next day paying a huge price for it. I peed all day long and I was with family. It was humiliating to have to keep excusing myself.
Luckily, a blogger I've become friends with also happens to be a wonderful nurse with a specialty in this area. And on a Sunday morning, she was incredibly generous with her time, letting me call her and tell her my story and giving me some good advice. The best of it was to find a Urogynecologist. You can probably guess what that is but just in case -- that's a doctor who practices both gynecology and urology.
Easier said than done. While I finally had a job, I had to wait it out for the insurance to kick in. Was this the smartest thing to do? Absolutely not. You shouldn't mess around with anything relating to health, of course, and I do not condone that. But in my mind, I had Cancer and I didn't want to find that out while I didn't have insurance. (Look, I'm a crazy hypochondriac, ok? I admit that.) In my exhausted, frustrated state, this made sense to me as the best thing to do at the time.
July 1 was practically a holiday. I was never this excited to see a doctor, I assure you. She was/is wonderful but it still took her a month to figure out what was wrong with me.
WHAT IS UREAPLASMA?
Well, I can tell you this. It's a rare bacteria that is very tiny and very hard to diagnose. Which is why it took the good doctor a month to nail it down. For starters, after they take your urine sample (via catheter and THAT SUCKS), it takes two weeks to get the results. But then, I guess it's just so rare and hard to diagnose that so be sure, the doctor insisted on a second test (yes, another catheter - HORRIBLE). But there it finally was. Ureaplasma.
Here is the WORST thing you can do when you get a medical diagnosis. GOOGLE IT. Don't do it. I know you're going to ignore me and do it anyway (as will I), but for the love of God, save yourself the strife and confusion. Ask the doctor a lot of questions and don't worry about feeling foolish. This is what you pay them for, right?
That said, I did eventually find one wonderful article about Ureaplasma that brought me a lot of comfort. Read it here on Jezebel.
WHAT UREAPLASMA IS NOT
It is not Chlamydia or Gonorrhea. Those are other bacterial infections but we all know how we get those, right? RIGHT? And here's something I'll admit to you right now to even further clear that up: I am not presently sexually active. I'm not saying I'm happy about it, but there you have it. So I was never concerned about that anyway. But when you google Ureaplasma, it's very hard to figure out what the causes are and many doctors have chalked it up to being somewhere in the STD family. The truth is, you could live with Ureaplasma cells your entire life and never experience symptoms. But if you're someone like me who has had a bevvy of other female-related issues, you may not have the physical or immuno-resistance to keep this bacteria from growing. My luck finally ran out and there I was. A one-woman pee factory.
Sometimes shit just happens. Or in this case, pee. (You're welcome.)
While we waited for the first test results to return, my doctor put me on Uribel. This was supposed to relieve some of the pressure on my bladder and hopefully, let me sleep through a night or two It also turned my pee BRIGHT BLUE. Sadly, it was not effective. Except at making me giggle like an eight year old every time I saw neon blue pee in the toilet. Because.
When my first culture came back, like I said, the doctor actually doubted I actually had Ureaplasma, so she put me on a medication for Overactive Bladder called Myrbetriq. So convinced was she that my round two would not come back positive that she gave me a full month's worth of the Myrbetriq. But of course this pill did absolutely nothing for me. In fact, I swear I was peeing even more on it. But that could very well be in my head.
Finally, there was the indisputable truth. Ureaplasma. And then, a prescription for a very high dose of Doxycycline. Fun fact about Doxycycline - it can be used to prevent malaria, treat Anthrax or Lyme Disease. Right now I am taking it twice a day and it makes me REALLY nauseous. It's easier if I take it with food, though, which I do more often than not, even though the pharmacist told me to take it on an empty stomach for maximum absorption. I am on this stuff for a total of two weeks though I could potentially have to do two more. But the GREAT news is, Ureaplasma is treatable and curable. (I seriously cannot wait to be a normal human again. Peeing a lot is really super annoying, guys. Hats off, pregnant women. How do you do this?)
Most of the time, I feel like the Doxy is working. Like the other morning I woke up for the first time in AGES and didn't feel an urgent need to go to the bathroom. In fact, I rolled over and went back to sleep for two hours and it was GLORIOUS. Last week I went to New York for work and was able to survive both plane trips without needing to go. But I've still had a couple nights where I've been up a few times and that never gets easier. I have to believe that will go away soon. I'm still pretty weary and basically praying to any God listening for uninterrupted sleep.
WHAT I LEARNED
- Do not use WebMD. If you want to look up medical information, use something less showy, won't you? Try the Mayo Clinic's website. But really, just call your doctor. Call a pharmacist. Call your mom.
- No one knows your body better than you do. Remember that when some schmucky doctor is saying "you just pee a lot."
- There is no price cap on peace of mind.
- Don't be embarrassed. Everyone has a "thing" they think they should keep a secret -- it's amazing once you start telling that secret how many people step up with their own secrets.
I think this might have been even harder on me did I not have such wonderful people around me. My mom let me whine and bitch and moan about all of this to her endlessly, god bless her. My blogger/nurse friend brought me back from the brink that Sunday morning I broke down and called her. My new co-workers actually got to (!) hear about this on a regular basis and never ever made me feel ridiculous for it (this is also how I knew I was working with amazing women). To all of these people, and even my friends I chose to hide this from but supported me without realizing it, I thank you.
This was so hard to write so thanks to all of you, too, for reading it.