Wednesday of last week was a great day – for the most part. The weather was nice and summery, I restocked the fridge with all kinds of fresh and healthy foods, and I completed my 5th day of the 30 Day Shred. It was in the last few minutes of the 30 Day Shred that something started to go wrong.
During the last set of crunches I felt a pain in my stomach. I think it was right as Jillian says “You’re probably feeling a pit in your stomach”. It was nothing out of the ordinary. I chalked it up to maybe overdoing it in warmer weather than I’m used to, not having enough water, or working out after supper (which I usually don’t do). I went to shower after completing the workout and still felt “off”. There was a crampy pain in my abdomen that wasn’t going away, but it was better when I sat and rested. After I showered and got dressed, I sat down with a big bottle of water and soon enough the pain had passed.
I refilled my water, helped myself to a nice bowl of fresh watermelon and got on with my evening. Except the pain came back. It came back stronger and more intense than it had the first time. And this time nothing I could do would lessen it. As the pain kept getting worse, I struggled with what to do. I finally called the provincial “health link” line and spoke to a nurse. She asked all kinds of detailed questions about my symptoms and condition. At the end of the call she recommended going to emergency because the pain was continuing to worsen during the call and showed no signs of letting up.
We arrived at the giant university hospital around 10:00pm. The pain was continuing to get worse and was now the worst pain that I had ever experienced. It was too long until we were out of the waiting room of the ER and I was lying down in a bed getting shots of morphine. I honestly don’t remember many details from the overnight period. I know there were all kinds of exams, blood was drawn, pain was ever-present, I could call for more morphine whenever I wanted, and at some point they told me I’d have to wait until morning for an ultrasound.
By morning I think the steady supply of morphine had really kicked or my body was just accustomed to the pain. Things seemed not quite as bad as I went for the ultrasound. I even got a decent nap while waiting in the quiet, dark ultrasound room for the radiologist to come by and check the scans.
A couple of hours after the ultrasound, I was waiting back in the ER and the ER doctor came by to explain to me that he thought I should be seen by a gynecologist because there was a large mass growing on my right ovary and tube. He stressed this was non-cancerous. Unfortunately for me, the giant university hospital in my city doesn’t really do any gynecology. The ER doctor had already been in touch with a gynecologist at another hospital in the city where they have a reputation of being “pelvis specialists”. I was sent away from the giant university hospital with the results of my ultrasound in hand to transfer myself over to the community hospital.
They were expecting me at the community hospital, so as soon as I checked in at the ER, a gynecological resident came down to examine me and ultrasound results I had brought over. It became apparent in that first discussion with the resident that surgery was my only option. This large cyst growing on my ovary had twisted things around and was unlikely to just correct itself.
It was a relief to know that a relatively routine surgical procedure would just eliminate this thing which had caused such agony for the past few hours. I listened carefully to the explanation of all the risks of this surgery, but in my mind there was no doubt that I was going to consent as soon as possible to get this over with.
Just over 24 hours from when the pain started, I was on a bed on my way up to the operating room. The doctor came by and explained that his first priority was to remove the cyst cleanly and that may mean the loss of my ovary. That didn’t even phase me – I had complete trust in this doctor and the resident I had met earlier. I remember feeling excitement at the prospect of waking up without this pain and as the anesthesia kicked in on the operating table, I felt calm and peaceful.
Waking up a few hours later outside the OR was surreal. It felt like only a second had passed from when I was falling asleep on the operating table. And there was no pain. My entire body was numb and at ease. The nurse smiled and said she was glad to see me awake and explained that everything went smoothly. She also told me that the cyst was bigger than any of the doctors expected and that the OR team was quite amazed at what they saw when they opened me up.
A cyst the size of a small cantaloupe melon or a baby’s head was removed from my abdomen. The cyst was attached to my right ovary and tube, which also had to be removed with the cyst. The resident described the cyst as being a purple colour, meaning that the blood flow had been cut off for some time (likely the worst of the pain on Wednesday night/Thursday morning was as the cyst and ovary were having their blood supply cut off). The cyst was sent to pathology and I’ll get those results at my follow up visit, but it was likely a run of the mill dermoid cyst, complete with hair and teeth. Unfortunately, in the quick work to get me into the OR, the hospital never obtained my consent to photograph my cyst, so all I have is the vivid description provided by the resident.
After getting to the recovery ward in the wee hours of Friday morning, I spent all day Friday and Saturday in the hospital and was discharged on Sunday morning. I have a rather large incision running across my lower abdomen that will necessitate a longer recovery time than if they had been able to do the surgery laparoscopically. Obviously the size of my cyst ruled out that possibility.
Recovery is going as well as can be expected. The pain is quite manageable and I have been able to get up and move around since Friday. Here at home I’m noticing that my appetite is coming back, mostly because I can choose to eat anything I want not just awful hospital food. My husband is taking great care of me and is able to work from home for a week or two to ensure that I’m not home alone for the first couple of weeks of recovery.
The hardest part of recovery is probably going to be limiting myself and what I do for six whole weeks. As I explained to my husband this morning, I’m someone who is used to getting what I want when I want it. And that may have to change as I listen to my body and give myself time to heal properly from this surgery. It’s going to be hard work, but I’m not going to push myself and I’m going to ask for help.
Throughout this experience, I couldn’t help but be thankful for the fact that I am relatively healthy and strong. I have no doubt that my relatively smooth recovery so far is in part due to the fact that I am healthy. I also imagine that this entire process would have been quite a bit more complicated had I weighed 90+ more pounds than I do today. It’s also ironic that this cyst only started to cause problems when I took away its little nest of abdominal fat. Who knows how much bigger it could have grown had I never changed my body and my lifestyle…
I was also in complete shock that something this large and problematic could have been inside me for so long without causing any major problems. Then my husband and I started thinking back and remembering instances where I had some unexplained pain or issue that came up and passed relatively quickly. Many of those could have been due to this cyst, but I ignored those signs because the pain or discomfort passed and I was able to put it out of my mind. This whole experience is teaching me to be more mindful of the signs and signals sent by my body.
The next few posts will focus on elements of my recovery rather than weight loss progress. I have no idea what I weigh right now and have no idea when I’ll even be able to go outside for a short walk, let alone run or do anything else. I’m taking each day as it comes and I’m thankful that each day is getting easier than the last.