Meghan‘s Story: With Women’s Health, Awareness is Key

As our hospitals continue to adapt and navigate this pandemic, the need for new and updated equipment has never been greater. Emerge Stronger aims to raise $10 million to fund over 200 pieces of priority equipment for local care teams. Today, will you help us fund four new gynecological surgical sets? The new surgical sets will allow surgeons to perform more laparoscopic surgeries on a daily basis, improving patient outcomes.

It was a hot day in July 2019, and Meghan had just married her husband.

“I think it was 30 degrees. I was standing outside and everyone was saying, ‘Oh, look at the beautiful bride,’” says Meghan. “But I was bleeding into my wedding shoes, and nobody knew.”

Many of the women in Meghan’s family suffer from “atrocious” menstrual cycles and women’s health challenges, which can be hereditary. Her grandmother had a hysterectomy: a surgery in which the uterus is removed (and other surrounding structures, such as the cervix, ovaries, and fallopian tubes can also be removed). Meghan herself began her menstrual cycle at the early age of nine.

“I was very young, which was also common in my family. So, the pelvic pain and suffering began in my youth, and continued throughout my life,” says Meghan. “I would have one good week out of four each month. I bled uncontrollably for the other three weeks.”

Meghan says she experienced extreme fatigue from the blood loss, and had to take iron supplements.

“I was a high-achiever. I excelled in academics and I was the student athlete of the year. It was challenging,” she says.

Meghan was in her mid-twenties when a routine test revealed abnormal cells on her cervix—a risk for cervical cancer. At that time, she ignored the results. She had her first daughter at 28, after which she says her challenges seemed to correct themselves until 2019, when she had another routine test. Once again, it revealed abnormal cells on her cervix, and she was referred to see Dr. Hunt, an obstetrician-gynecologist (OB-GYN) at Victoria General Hospital (VGH)— the referral centre for women’s health on Vancouver Island.

“At this point, I was suffering from massive bleeding again. I would go through a box of tampons a day. I had to buy supplies every time I left the house,” says Meghan.

Some days, Meghan could only stand up for 30 minutes at a time because of the pain and bleeding. As a stay-at-home mother of two young children, this proved to be incredibly challenging. She also worked remotely for her husband’s towing business.

Meghan was scheduled for a procedure with Dr. Hunt to laser off the abnormal cells in her cervix when she started to think about her grandmother’s hysterectomy. Worried about the health challenges her condition might cause in the future, like osteoporosis and cancer, she started to think about prevention, and discussed the idea of a hysterectomy with Dr. Hunt.

“My energy was low. I was bleeding heavily for two weeks at a time. There just wasn’t a lot of time to enjoy life,” says Meghan. “Dr. Hunt agreed. At that point, I’d been suffering for decades. He said, ‘I’m sure we can improve your quality of life.’”

Meghan was put on a waitlist, with the hope she would get her surgery in the spring of 2020.

Then, there was a cancellation. In October 2019, Meghan had a laparoscopic hysterectomy at Victoria General Hospital. The surgery was performed by Dr. Hunt through small incisions in her abdomen. Laparoscopic surgeries have a number of benefits, including reduced recovery times. Meghan was discharged from the hospital the next day.

Through the Emerge Stronger campaign, donors can help fund four new gynecological surgical sets, which are used for laparoscopic surgeries to treat a variety of gynecological conditions in patients like Meghan. Currently, the OB-GYN team at Victoria General Hospital is limited by the number of laparoscopic surgeries they can perform in a day because they don’t have enough surgical sets. This equipment will increase the number of patients they can treat daily, and improve patient outcomes.

“Dr. Hunt was so empathetic and reassuring. I felt completely at ease,” says Meghan. “I feel so fortunate to have had the surgery, and to have him as a surgeon.”

Since the surgery, Meghan says her quality of life has greatly improved. Now, she’s ready to open the discussion around the future of women’s health for her two young daughters.

“My daughters mean the world to me, and I want to be a good role model in preventative health for them,” says Meghan. “I hope there’s even more awareness and information surrounding women’s health available when they are in their early twenties and childbearing years.”

Meghan, who has lived in the Victoria area since 1997, has always enjoyed running and outdoor recreation. She is part of a small community of like-minded women who have also undergone laparoscopic hysterectomies.

“Women like us—we’re not suffering from cancer or other serious diseases, but our conditions are still debilitating. It’s such a challenge,” she says. “But I feel really strong now. I feel like Superwoman.”

Through her husband’s towing business, Meghan says, “We operate in emergency response to the public. It’s our job to take care of the community.”

She says that, because the community has taken care of her, it’s given her the chance to be better at her job and be there for them, too.

“I just want donors to know my appreciation,” says Meghan. “When they give, it allows patients like me to go through a positive change, and it gives us the strength to give back as well.”