Sarah is one of the thousands of brave women who found her own solutions to overcoming vulvodynia, a female health disorder that affects as many as 1 on 12 women. One of the reasons I wrote Rethinking Women's Health was because of the sheer numbers of women like Samantha who shared their brave stories on Facebook Support Groups. These women go through countless doctors and years of pain before they find answers. The good news is that there are answers if you are persistent in advocating for your health. This is Sarah's story:
My story of being diagnosed with and finally overcoming vulvodynia with a vestibulectomy dates back to October 2008. My then boyfriend (who would become my husband) was returning to the USA from his deployment in Iraq. I was so excited to see him, however, this would be the day I discovered something was terribly wrong. While trying to make love, I told Josh (*not his real name) that I was experiencing horrible pain. He assured me it was probably because I wasn’t used to sex since I went so long without it. Believing him, we went on with the day, just happy we were both together again. We tried sex later on and I was still in pain. In the back of my head, I knew this wasn’t normal.
I quickly made an appointment with my gynecologist. At the appointment, she told me I was suffering from secondary vulvodynia. This is when a person is able to have sex pain-free and all of a sudden, they cannot have sex. I was so scared. How was I supposed to get over this condition? Over the course of the next three years, I went to countless doctors to see if they could provide any relief. Prescriptions and physical therapy were doing absolutely nothing. I even went to sex therapy as this condition was affecting my relationship. Nothing worked. At this point, I figured I would always be in pain. No one seemed to be overcoming vulvodynia.
In mid-2011, I decided to move so I could be near family while Josh went on his third deployment. Before the move, I started to research gynecologists in the area who knew about vulvodynia. One doctor stood out from all the rest. From what I was reading, she had an extensive knowledge of the condition. I quickly made an appointment with her office and patiently waited until I could be seen.
Appointment day finally came and I was nervous and excited to see someone who might know what they were talking about. The sad thing about vulvodynia is how many doctors do not know how to treat this problem. My doctor came in the room and I told her how everything began. She was the most understanding, kind, and educated gynecologist I had come across. She explained to me that she wanted to try medications that I had never been on and to do physical therapy. After a few months of doing her recommendations, nothing was working. I started to get very depressed at the fact that my condition would never change. However, she mentioned something noone else had ever told me. She stated there is a surgery that can significantly reduce the pain or take it away altogether. She said it was called vestibulectomy. In a nutshell, this surgery takes away the nerves that cause the pain. This was the “last resort” idea she had for me. After living in pain for three years, without hesitation, I said I wanted to do the surgery.
On November 1, 2011, I went to the hospital to have the surgery. I was scared, but I knew I could be having a life-changing procedure. The nurse, anesthesiologist, and my doctor talked to me before I went in the operating room. After being prepped for surgery, I was rolled into the OR and almost immediately, I was put under. I remember waking up in the recovery room with pain, but it wasn’t as bad as I anticipated, as I was on a ton of pain medications. The next day, I was taken home and was instructed that for the first couple months, I needed to use a “donut,” which is a medical cushion that allows you to sit down without agitating the vaginal area. I will say that for the first few days, I was in horrible pain. All I thought about is that with each day that passes, the better I will feel. After a few days of major discomfort, the pain started to decrease.
During my follow-up visit, everything went great. However, it was too soon to tell if the surgery had been successful. Fast forward to a couple months later, I was back at the gynecologist office. This would be the visit that I would find out if all that pain and suffering I went through paid off. My doctor went ahead and did the “Q-tip test” to areas that were extremely painful in the past. By the grace of God, there was no pain. I was shocked, amazed, thankful…words just couldn’t express that moment. However, the big test would be when my husband returned from his deployment.
In February 2012, Josh returned from Afghanistan. We both knew that we would be putting my surgery results to the test. While making love, there was NO pain. We couldn't believe it. The vestibulectomy had worked!
Today, I can finally wear clothes that I want, sit down, have sex, and all without pain. I highly suggest women to research doctors who have knowledge of this condition or who can even perform this surgery. I am extremely grateful that out of the tons of doctors I saw before going to my final gynecologist, someone finally knew what I was talking about. I can honestly say that thanks to her, I HAVE MY LIFE BACK!
What questions do you have for Sarah about her procedure?
What solutions to female health problems have you found?
We gathered HUNDREDS of success stories just like this in Rethinking Women's Health. Find out more...