Tag Archives: child abuse

Repair, Recovery, and Rejuvenescence

From Merriam Webster, the meaning of rejuvenescence follows the theme of the renewal of youth, and vigor. 

The Good Stuff

I love using fifty-cent words as much as the next person (especially writers/bloggers) but the thing is, the title really fits with the theme here. Truly, each of these words evokes emotions associated to my current circumstances. In the same vein as my previous blog post 30 Pounds of Throbbing Pain this post is a sharing of some of my personal journey towards wellness, physically, mentally, emotionally. A couple of weeks ago I was rushed to the Emergency Room because I was experiencing intense abdominal pain. The sensation could only be described as the feeling that something had ripped loose inside my abdomen, to the point that I could scarcely breathe. Now, in my experience any trip to the ER is stressful, and this one was no exception. Within minutes of arriving, they had started an IV, given me strong pain medication and were performing a variety of tests including a vaginal ultrasound and pelvic exam. As a woman who has given birth to six children, I have had my fair share of pelvic exams. They’re never fun, but over the years (especially during my child-bearing years) it’s become a lot less difficult to manage the stress and emotions that come unbidden during such a personal experience. It wasn’t long before we discovered what was going on, and soon I was scheduled for an appointment with my gynecologist.

discussionSo, the exam. Honestly, this had to be one of the most thorough pelvic exams I have ever experienced. At one point, he handed me a mirror so I could see what he was explaining. It may seem somewhat unorthodox or uncomfortable, but I found it empowering. Perhaps as women we should be more familiar with our genitalia. We should see it, be as familiar with it as we are with our breasts or even our face. I was surprised the emotions that were evoked by having my doctor explain in excruciating  detail every aspect of my vagina and pelvic organs. So, all of that to get to this point, I am suffering from a prolapse of my pelvic organs. Specifically, I have the following:
  • Cystocele – A cystocele is formed when the bladder bulges or herniates into the vagina.
  • Rectocele – A rectocele occurs when the rectum bulges or herniates into the vagina.
  • Uterine prolapse – A uterine prolapse occurs when the uterus falls into the vagina.
Now, I will bet you’re wondering why I am blogging about such a personal experience. I find as a woman, that there are so many things that we DON’T talk about. It’s a fairly common, with nearly one-third of women experiencing prolapse or similar conditions sometime in their lifetime. However, it seems that this is a topic that is rarely discussed by women. It seems that once we’ve had “the talk” with our mother’s (or aunt or grandmother or best friend) about sex, that somehow we’re supposed to figure it all out ourselves. Why all the silence? What are we so afraid to talk about?
This is really why I am sharing this experience. Maybe I’ll be the one story someone reads or hears that tells them this is ‘normal’ and not shameful. That you don’t have to just live with the symptoms, but should feel comfortable (or at least not scared to death) to talk to your own doctor about it.  I am fairly young for the surgery, most women are over 60 before they experience symptoms requiring surgery. My own mother had a hysterectomy following my birth, so it’s not something that was even on my radar. And while multiple pregnancies and vaginal births were likely a cause, so was the sexual abuse that I suffered as a child.
I guess the part that I really feel is important to discuss is that I wasn’t really expecting the flood of emotion that I’ve been feeling. And like my foot/ankle surgeries, it seems that I am just now repairing damage done to me during the years of abuse. At 47, finally, I am having reconstructive surgery that will return my body to where it was pre-abuse.

 article-0-0C42CD2700000578-329_468x365Even with the 700+ words that precede this sentence, I cannot adequately describe the myriad of emotions that I am feeling. I wonder how the recovery process will affect me mentally, when it’s likely that I will be experiencing things so reminiscent of the original injuries.

On Monday, May 19th, I begin the next leg of the journey to wholeness, to recovery, to rebirth of sorts. I realize that this may be long or arduous, but also empowering. I hope that this post (and you) will remind me of this in the dark moments that are sure to come.


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A Basket of Daisies

10120634-field-of-daisy-flowers The story of my mother’s pregnancy with me and my birth is, I believe, a fitting prelude to the rest of my life, and is both a source of happiness and pain.

In August of 1964, my parents had a daughter out of wedlock, a girl born with a cleft palate to a 30 year old divorcee and a 19 year old truck driver. They gave her up for adoption directly after her birth, perhaps sparing her some of the more painful times of my childhood. This sister is someone whom I’ve only a tiny bit of information on, whom is still a mystery to me nearly a half a century after her birth.

It was the summer of 1966, and my mother was married to my father, her second husband, a man 11 years her junior, and she was already the mother to two boys ages 8 and 10. It was at this time,  about the 6 month mark in her pregnancy, that it was discovered she had a cancerous tumor of the uterus. The pregnancy was already a difficult one when my parents found out that my mother was fighting cancer, and that the baby she was carrying was sure to be a stillborn. It seems no wonder she (admittedly) hated me, hated this dead thing inside her.

My mother was due to deliver me on Christmas Day, 1966. However, she was too ill to try to deliver and was scheduled for a full hysterectomy once she was strong enough to survive the delivery and surgery. For the better part of the last months of her pregnancy, my mother believed she was carrying a lifeless child, and was counting down the days until she could expel it. My parents relationship was strained and falling apart. Though she had many doctors appointments, a heartbeat was never heard, and no movement, no butterfly flutters or tiny hiccups were felt.

So it was a complete surprise when, on January 26th, in the elevator of the hospital on the way to surgery, a screaming Dawnfelice was born. A tiny, sickly baby, scarcely as large as my father’s hand, born live and fighting for every breath. My mother was rushed to surgery, where she underwent a full hysterectomy and cancer treatments, spending weeks in the hospital. My dad ended up at some point bringing me home, long before my mother made it back to our domicile. And, since they had not planned on bringing home a child, they had only a few provisions for a baby, making my first “bed” a shoebox.

Due to the tumor (which consequently weighed 9 pounds to my minuscule 4.5 pound frame) crowding me and feeding on the placenta like the stronger being it was, I was born quite ill and fragile. I remember even as a small child hearing the doctors tell my mother that I would be lucky to see my next birthday. Born with severe anemia, a hole in my heart, underweight and malnourished, the prognosis wasn’t good. I probably wouldn’t speak, walk, or live to see my 5th birthday.

So many times during those early years, I could be found in the hospital, suffering through complications of anemia, or yet another case of pneumonia. On one such rainy afternoon in Los Angeles General Hospital in the Spring of 1971, I had been admitted to the Children’s ward for treatment of an acute bout of pneumonia. I was running a fever so high that I was hallucinating. I was truly quite ill, in grave peril. My mother (my parents had been divorced for three years by this time, making her a single, working mother of 3 children)  asked me if I wanted anything, and all I could cough out was the word “daisies”.

My mother went down to the gift shop to bring me a bouquet, but there were no daisies to be had. So, in an act of kindness and desperation, she ventured out into the rain to a floral shop near the hospital. Still, no daisies. At a small drugstore blocks away from the hospital, my mother found a small brown basket filled with white and yellow plastic daisies and an adorably large lady bug on the handle.


Rushing back to the hospital to bring the basket to me before my dreaded appointment for an x-ray (I believed when they explained to me that an x-ray was a test where they could “see your bones”, my fevered brain believed that the large apparatus that loomed above the  table was actually going to crush me so they could “look at my bones”) my mother slipped on the rain-slicked entry to the hospital, falling and breaking her ankle.

Imagine the surprise when, instead of the 4 year old Dawnfelice Ruger coming in for a chest xray, the technicians see my mother Felicia Ruger being wheeled in for an xray of of her ankle. I don’t think it helped that in my fever-crazed fear that I got away from the nurses and ran screaming down the halls of the hospital, being chased by nurses and orderlies until they returned me to the xray room securely strapped down to a gurney.

That little basket of daisies was a prized-possession for many years, reminding me that there was some level on which my mother actually did love me. It also became the cornerstone of one of my first collections as a child, a collection of daisies. To this day, they are my favorite flowers, eternally optimistic in their simple elegance.

For more information on daisies, their meanings and historical significance – check out http://www.whats-your-sign.com/symbolic-meaning-of-daisy.html

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