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What Do Ovaries and Popcorn Have in Common?

A friend of long ago once said she’d been raised in a Catholic school where the nuns shied from sex education and talking much about those parts of our bodies that have to do with sex and reproduction. However, for whatever reason, they did try, probably to prepare girls for the day that they would start to bleed and therefore be able to bring about more humans. The friend said the nuns explained ovaries as being like a popcorn popper, popping ripe kernels into full blossomed eggs.

An odd image to be sure, but corn like ovaries does have many seeds within it. It’s probably closer to liken an ovary to a pomegranate or a fig, though both are far too large in relation to the size of an ovary. A gynecologist told me that research has shown that women don’t ovulate on one side, and then the opposite the next month. It goes more like this: right, right, left, right, right, left, with one side producing more. Maybe it ties into whether we’re left or right-handed but I don’t know.

The world of gynecology and women’s reproductive systems is complex and as a woman I have had my fair share of issues. Over the years I have used three types of birth control: birth control pills, diaphragms and condoms (worn by my partner as I have not tried a woman’s condom). They all have their issues. Condoms can be uncomfortable and need lube. Diaphragms have to be left in for many hours after sex and can increase yeast infections. Birth control pills can cause cysts, heart conditions and various other denied problems

I was on the birth control pill for about twelve years and it gave me hard and lumpy breasts. Cysts. These cysts can range from smaller than pea sized to as large as a pear. And yes, when they change from the normal size I have to get them checked out. They can be very painful and tender and during ovulation by breasts can swell up to two inches. Inflatable breasts are not as much fun as they sound.

These cysts can also be in the ovaries. So if they are like corn, imagine the cysts as a type of ergot. What that means in how they look, I don’t know. What it means for fertility probably depends on the number, size and severity of cysts. They can rupture and do other fun things that can cause a lot of pain. Ovulation can be very painful to the point where I can’t stand up straight. Sitting can hurt and pain can range from a general bruising feel to a sharp stabbing.

Anytime something seems out of the norm it is best to get it checked by a doctor. So one particular year when my popper was on the blink I went to a gynecologist. I was sent for exploratory surgery, a laparoscopy that leaves three small incisions and which they use to look around inside. The gynecologist said after the surgery, well you may have cystic ovaries and maybe not. We can put you back on the pill. I said, I’m not going back on as there are side effects after thirty. He said, what effects? Even if he didn’t believe the evidence out there, as specialist he should have known about the studies.

And one side effect? Cystic breasts and ovaries. I left, never to see that particular doctor again. A friend recommended a naturopath. At the time I didn’t quite know what they were or maybe even believe in them. But the naturopath gave me a  liver cleanser, a capsule, to take for three months and it did in fact fix the problem until three years later when I had a cyst in the uterus and that had to be removed.

The medical profession doesn’t always have all the answers nor do individual doctors always have the experience, knowledge and wherewithal to diagnose properly. It was only years later that I found out I had endometriosis as well. What’s that? The butter on the popcorn? I think not.

So as analogies go, ovaries are not much like popcorn or popcorn poppers. They pop on average one egg a month. That would be pretty slim pickings in the movie theater. No butter, no salty topping. Just eggs and cysts.

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Amoxycillin and Me

About ten years ago I had a sore throat that wouldn’t go away after a month and a half. So I went to the doctor and she prescribed amoxycillin. It’s a particular form of the cillins, like penicillin. Before that I never had had a problem with penicillin but also hadn’t had any in years.

I proceeded to take the medication and a few days later when friends were visiting I was feeling feverish and having trouble breathing. That eventually passed a day later but I started to break out in a rash. The rash proceeded to hives, which proceeded to cover my entire body.

I went to the doctor and for whatever reason she thought I had the Australian flu, a particular virulent version going around that year. I continued to take the medication. I now was itching head to foot, slathering myself in calamine and welting up. I couldn’t brush my teeth or hair, wash my face, touch any part of my body without giant welts forming. I was a mess and scared.

The Thursday night (everything had started the previous Saturday/Sunday) I could feel welts in my throat and on my gums. I asked a friend to call me in the morning because I was afraid I wouldn’t wake up. In the morning, luckily I did, but things were not getting better. I called my doctor’s and burst into tears. I went in (the third visit that week) and she gave me an epinephrine shot. Unfortunately I overreact to epinephrine with racing heart, numbness and tunnel vision so she could only give me half a shot.

The shot worked for about a half and hour and then everything continued, so I went back in that afternoon. My doctor sent me over (rushed me in) to the dermatologist’s who asked me about five questions and said I was having a severe drug reaction. He put be on one drug to stop the itching and prednisone to stop the hives and welts.

The problem with the anti-itch drug was that it makes one eat and crave carbohydrates more. The problem with prednisone, a steroid, is that it puts weight on you. Because prednisone takes over for one’s adrenal glands a person cannot quit it right out. Doses must be tapered down so that the adrenal function comes back on. People can die from stopping prednisone cold turkey or screw their adrenaly systems permanently.

It took three weeks for my symptoms to go away. In the process of taking the prednisone I put on 40 pounds in a month, became very round and puffy and grew sideburns. My face was as round as the moon and I got something like zits but closer to cysts on my body. My nails grew longer and straighter than they ever had done and the stuff kept me out of the hospital. It gave me an appreciation for asthmatics who must use prednisone to breathe and the weight problems they must then deal with.

It took about 6 weeks to two months to be tapered off of the drugs. And once off I lost all the weight relatively fast. I also did a four-day juice fast as soon as the drugs were gone. Growing up with an eating disorder had left its mark and the way I was eating while on prednisone scared me. Luckily the eating disorder didn’t resurface.

Unfortunately I was left with some long term and permanent affects of prednisone and amoxycillin. I can no longer take any of the cillins for fear of an adverse reaction. I’ve run into other people who have had severe reactions from amoxycillin and I would caution against it. It contributed directly to the illness of my cat and subsequently his death months later. He had a persistent ear infection and the drug nearly killed him. I stopped it because he wasn’t eating or drinking and was vomiting. I forced water into him but his kidneys were damaged and six months later my very robust cat was dead from cancer. There is no proof that the cancer came from the amoxycillin but he never fully recovered from the amoxycillin.

Prednisone also permanently changed me. My hair had always been bone straight like the rest of my family’s. Now it has a medium wave throughout. I have spots on my body where there had been cysts from the prednisone and they will swell up from time to time. I had, before prednisone, been sensitive to dairy, couldn’t eat oats or lentils, and couldn’t drink grape juice. That was it.

Afterwards, I began to develop itchy red patches on my face, neck and arms. Eventually I had to go to my doctor about this and she sent me to an allergist who was a research doctor. This doctor told me that many food allergies cannot be tested with just the scratch test because if you’re affected by eating, surface areas do not accurately reflect this. I tried a few different diets and we found that I was reacting to foods that contained histamines. So those old cysts would swell up when I had too much and eczema would develop (which is now a chronic condition for me).

Some foods that contain natural histamines are: citrus fruits, all seafood, caffeine, dairy (cheeses, milk, cream, etc.) including whey, casein, milk solids and lactose, eggs, tomatoes, eggplant, pumpkin, spinach, vinegars and fermented foods, alcohols, preservatives such as sodium benzoate, sulphites, sulphates, tartrazine, prepared meats like bacon, salami, sausages, soy and red beans. There may be a few other categories but those are what I remember off the top of my head. And you can be sensitve to some but not all.

The elimination and testing period are long and tedious and I could never stay on it long enough to test everything. But some foods became self evident, such as when I eat vinegar or an orange and get itchy immediately, breaking out in a rash and possibly suffer from diarrhea. I may welt if the citrus touches my skin. I’ll get eczema as well. I’m not just sensitive to dairy now but will bloat, get stomach aches, bags and dark circles under my eyes, and break out–a full allergy.

And in the past year, my once hugely annoying eczema has progressed into rosacea but I’ll talk about that another day. Needless to say this is a cautionary tale about amoxycillin and prednisone and just some fo the things that can go wrong.

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