We leave Dr. Roberson’s office and head to lunch, where I promptly call Dr. Mangal to set up an appointment. I learn that it doesn’t work that way. First, you call to request an appointment. The office will then send you paperwork to fill out, and once you send that back, they will call to tell you whether or not Dr. Mangal will accept you as a patient.
In that moment I realize this process may take much longer than I originally planned. I had figured down time of about 2 months tops, then I’d be back to my normal life. It never crossed my mind that this journey could actually be quite long. I wasn’t ready for that reality check.
I send the paperwork in on Thursday, and by the next Monday his office calls me to make an appointment for Friday. Hooray! Turns out I am sick enough. The nurse informs me that Dr. Mangal does his new patient appointments a little differently. To begin, he sees us all at once, where we will watch a couple of videos and then he will have a Q&A before he begins our individual exams.
On Friday we get there early, and watch restlessly as the clock ticks past one hour, then two hours, then three hours after my scheduled appointment time. I’m uncomfortable, in pain, and pacing the office like a mad woman. I can’t sit still. I’m straddling a fence: one side is the promise of a new life that this man will give me, the other is the wretched thought that nothing will change. I don’t know where to plant my feet.
I get my blood drawn, then I give a urine sample, then one of his nurses does an ultrasound. I see the words “right ovary cyst” on the screen and ask the nurse about it. Even though this is my first ultrasound, I know you don’t want to see those words in sequential order. But she just smiles and says the doctor will go over everything with me during my exam.
We go back into the waiting room and wait some more. I have to use the restroom, which is in the back part of the office, and there I stumble upon Dr. Mangal himself. He looks at me with open warmth and I just blurt out “You’re my doctor!” and grab his hand like he’s saving my life. He immediately grabs my hand back with both of his and introduces himself, apologizes for the wait (was in surgery) and says he will be with us momentarily. He is nothing short of delightful.
When we’re finally called, there’s 6-7 of us crammed into his office, and we watch a couple of videos. Then Dr. Mangal comes in, and he is all compassion and sunshine and I know there is no one else I want operating on me other than him.
He draws the reproductive system on his whiteboard and explains to us what happens in women with endo. It was so much information – and it is such a complicated disease. There was a girl in the room who couldn’t have been more than 12. After a while she just put her head on her mother’s shoulder and closed her eyes. I wanted to do the same thing.
He then explains how endo pain shows up in 3 different phases. The first phase is painful menstrual cramps. The second phase is painful cramps, plus random stabbing intestinal pain. The third phase is painful cramps, stabbing intestinal pain, and a persistent dull ache in your pelvis that never goes away. My heart sank as I heard this, and I instinctively reached for my lower abdomen. I can’t remember a day that it hasn’t ached.
From there we go into our exam rooms. Dr. Mangal comes in and gives me a vaginal and rectal exam. It was…..not pleasant. He could feel the endo at the bottom of my uterus through that physical. So that meant surgery was a go. The only thing he didn’t know was how far it had spread, and he wouldn’t know that until he went in with the laparoscope.
Best case scenario: He makes 4 incisions and goes in with the laparoscope and cuts all the endo tissue out. Then boom – I’m set. Get on a post-op plan to control it and I’m good.
Worst case scenario: He goes in and it’s a tornado (his words) and he maps everything out for another surgery 3 months from now which will require a team of surgeons in order to remove the tissue from all my organs. Obviously this will be very invasive, and has a 4-6 week recovery time frame.
We schedule the laparoscopy for April 22.