Note: This blog post includes a lot of biological/sexual/medical descriptions that may be considered graphic for some readers…this is a post about my lady-anatomy, after all. I do not spare any details; read with caution if you’re prone to discomfort when reading such content.
Monday, August 3rd, 2015 – 8:30 pm
Irony has a funny way of jumping in to my life to yell, “Surprise!” while my pants are still down.
Steve and I just had a lovely round of marital relations and were looking forward to a nice relaxing evening, probably involving a movie and going to bed early. (Don’t squirm–intercourse is kind of a thing that happens in marriage, people. And I include this snippet because it single-handedly initiated the following story.)
I stood upright to go to the bathroom and was greeted by severe cramping in my lower abdomen. Curious, as I have never, ever experienced cramping before (lucky me, I know…sympathies to my not-so-lucky fellow females out there). True, I was due to start my cycle any day now, but this was something quite different than the usual pangs of discomfort.
Cramping was soon accompanied by extreme bloating in my upper abdomen, and the pain only continued to increase as an hour passed by. I lay in bed with a heat pad on my stomach in hopes the cramping would pass. But I found myself sitting on the throne of my misery, cramping at a full roar with my abdomen refusing any form of calm as nausea and fatigue and light-headedness took over.
I couldn’t even call out to Steve, barely getting out, “Babe…something’s wrong…”
He called an advice nurse through our insurance company, who asked me a laundry list of questions and concluded with, “You need to be seen at the ER. Immediately.”
Steve was a superhero—dashing around the house to pack a small bag of necessities for the hospital as I attempted to confidently leave the bathroom behind without concern of needing it again soon.
This was bad. Let me be clear—I have a high pain tolerance. Like, stupidly high. I know when my body is just dealing with something minor, which is most of the time. But this was unlike anything I’d ever felt, and everything in my body and brain screamed wrong wrong wrong. The pain was so bad I seriously considered telling Steve to drive me to Salem Hospital (which is a desperate move…everyone knows how bad the local hospital is when it comes to ER care…or any care for that matter). The proximity was that tempting. Steve reasoned me out of my insanity, though, reminding me that I would be seen and likely diagnosed at Silverton Hospital in the same amount of time it would take Salem Hospital to simply call me into triage.
Good point. To Silverton…
Pulled into Silverton Hospital Emergency 20 minutes later and hobbled my way to the front desk while Steve parked the car. I always forget how nice their staff is…and how just a little kindness can go a long way to someone who is in excruciating pain and just wants help and some answers.
It was a busy night at the ER—there were a surprisingly large number of children in the ER, poor babes. But it took a matter of 18 minutes in the waiting room to be called back to Triage, where I dubbed my pain an 8, because—let’s be real—10 is strictly reserved for mothers in labor, and 9 just seemed a little extreme for what could just be severe cramping…how would I know? I’ve never cramped before in my life. This could be what every other menstruating female experiences. Eight sounded like a good number in my fuzzy mind. (Bryan Regan, I feel you.)
I was escorted to a quiet room toward the back of the ER, which was nice, since all I wanted to do was rest and sleep and ignore my raging stomach. The nurses were incredibly helpful and attentive, which seems to be a dying art in this day and age. I was asked to give a urine sample (to test for pregnancy, which came back negative, hallelujah). The doctor was so prompt, arriving to my room while I was still in the bathroom trying to gracefully piss in a child-sized plastic cup without falling over in my current condition. If pissing in a shot glass were an Olympic sport, I would have humbly accepted Bronze that evening. Winning, but still shy of Gold or First Loser. Once I made it back to my room, the doctor pressed on my abdomen, tapped on my ovaries, and asked me about my pain levels. (Ow, yes that hurts, yes I’m still dying.)
Based on my symptoms and his tests, he stated his hypothesis: I had either ruptured an ovarian cyst, or had ovarian torsion (a twisted ovary), with the possibility of both. Other options included possible appendicitis, an ectopic pregnancy (where a fertilized egg implants outside of the uterus), or that my IUD had either punctured or embedded itself within my uterus wall. But the only way to know for sure was to start with an ultrasound and a probe to rule out the worst possibilities.
In order to prep for the ultrasound, I would need to have a full bladder, so in went the catheter in my left arm and the saline fluids flowed in abundance. They even shot me up with some morphine after realizing my 8 hadn’t budged. I was told to buzz the nurse when I felt like I had to urinate, and the ultrasound technician would come get me and take me down the hall. A perk to being in a hospital—all the necessary testing places are within the same building and a matter of hallways away. Glorious.
It was tough to know if I had to pee or not. The pain in my abdomen had not ceased much, even with the morphine, which just made me feel sleepy. (This is how I discovered the hard way that I’m apparently immune to morphine. Noted.) The bag of saline emptied into my arm…I figured a normal person would have a full bladder after a full bag of fluids (but what do I know?), so I somewhat fibbed when I buzzed the nurse.
“You need to pee?” she asked.
“I actually don’t know. The urge to pee seems to be drowned out by the discomfort I’ve felt all night.”
Her eyed widened. “Fair enough.” And the ultrasound tech came to tote me down the hallway in a wheelchair.
I love ultrasound; it fascinates me greatly. I always want to know what on earth I’m looking at on the screen (seriously, who wouldn’t?). I asked my ultrasound technician, “What are we looking at?” followed by silence. I already knew her answer before I asked, “You’re not permitted to say anything, huh?” She just pursed her lips and shook her head. What a bummer. So the external ultrasound continued with lots of screenshots and beeping and labeling, followed by an incredibly uncomfortable probe ultrasound which—you guessed it—was a stick straight up my nethers to get up close and personal with my equipment. To be fair, I understand why ultrasound techs have to remain mum, because, in my case, what came next was absolutely the doctor’s responsibility to tell me. Poor tech did her best to keep a poker face, but I could tell it didn’t look good.
While we waited for test results, my nurse gave me another titch of morphine to help with the pain, granting me Beast Mode status and leveling up on my Morphine Tolerance stats (a.k.a. drugs do nothing to me, yay!). I slept on and off during this entire process of tests and waiting and tests and talking with the doctor about possibilities and waiting some more. The pain never lessened, but I think my body got used to it, as if it just shut off my pain center in order to conserve energy.
The doctor finally came in with the ultrasound results.
“Well, you have a lot of abnormalities going on.”
Oh, really…go on.
“There appears to be a 4-centimeter complex cyst on your left ovary, and a 6-centimeter mass on your right. Appendicitis is ruled out, as is ovarian torsion. But I’d like to get a CT scan to see what we’re dealing with.”
“What do you mean by ‘mass’?” I asked.
“It’s hard to say if it is a cyst, or if it is–” his head tilted, “–something else.”
“Oh.” As in the C-word.
And so they wheeled me off to get a CT scan after administering more morphine (to which I finally informed the RN that morphine didn’t seem to be counteracting the pain, much to his surprise). Guys…I have discovered my secret Ginger Superpower. But back to the story.
I was given a serum through my IV that would turn my veins solid white in the CT scan (meaning, the radiation wouldn’t be able to “see” through them). The woman who operated the huge plastic-and-metal donut of a scanner was incredibly sweet, almost matronly, to me. She warned me that the serum would make me feel warm and flushed…that some patients claim to have the sensation that they’ve peed themselves.
“Sounds absolutely delightful,” I quipped, slowly climbing from my wheelchair to the CT bed.
She seemed to enjoy my humor; I’m glad one of us did. She even laughed when I joked about the random art that decorated the florescent light panels on the ceiling….There is something quite unsettling yet calming about a bunch of cats and dogs floating in an underwater scene of some artist’s rendering. What a bizarre choice for a CT scan distraction.
I fixated on the black kitty with the white mustache as the scanner hummed and whirled and talked to me, telling me when to breathe in and hold. Underwater Kitty’s curious expression was endearing, and his goggles and snorkel kept what little good humor I had left intact while radiation flowed through and bounced around my rebellious body. But good news–I didn’t feel like I’d peed myself. Small victories, here.
Numbness and apprehension accompanied me back to my room. The nurses took pity on me and administered more morphine upon my return in hopes that it would finally register in my body and counteract the pain. I’ll never understand how people get addicted to this stuff. Perhaps it’s a redhead thing…or just a Me Thing. It just wasn’t pleasant. I didn’t feel all relaxed and giddy with Bob Marley high-fives like everyone claims…no; I felt uncomfortably numb, dead to the world. My extremities became anvils and my brain flipped upside down. But the pain remained my constant companion. Sleep took me in my small bed as I waited for the results to come through.
Tuesday, August 4th, 2015 – 5:05 am
They called in the OBGYN specialist, a doctor who would know more of what we were dealing with because, unfortunately, the CT scan didn’t show anything to clarify what the ultrasound had shown. The OBGYN would be “going in” to ground zero to see what there was to see on the battlefield of my lady parts.
Asking a grown woman to place her feet in “stirrups” (which is just some medieval torture device for the sole purpose of awkwardness and discomfort for the unfortunate soul on the table), “cover” herself with a blanket (which is really just a knee-warmer made out of paper), and then ask her to “relax” seems so absurd to me, especially when the guy underneath the blanket is viewing more of me than even my own eyes have seen.
He used the speculum (commonly referred to as “duck lips”—another medieval torture device of two freezing cold metal plates used to spread one’s nethers to take a peek inside), looked around, prodded softly with a giant Q-tip, and then rounded out the fun experience by sticking half of one hand into me and pressing down on my abdomen with the other to check my uterus and ovaries. (To be fair, he was super nice and professional…this is just one of those things that flat-out sucks.)
He sat back and stripped his gloves off. “You definitely have a ruptured cyst on the left ovary, the 4-centimeter one, but I still can’t tell what is going on with your right ovary. We need to go in and find out what it is we’re looking at, regardless, and what needs to be done. We’re calling in the surgery team now; they should be here shortly.”
“Oh.” That was fast.
We talked some more, asked questions and listened to tough answers. Words like “tumor” and “cancer” and “laparoscopy” and “laparotomy” and “oophorectomy” fell onto the pale tiles of the hospital room as my husband and I tried to wrap our tired minds around this sudden turn of events.
Best case scenario, the doctor would find the right ovary’s “mass” to be another cyst, they’d fix me up and back out and stitch me up. Worst case scenario, they’d find something bad—like cancer—and would have to remove my right ovary completely, possibly more of my reproductive equipment, and we’d have another tough talk about the possibility (or impossibility) of bearing any children.
I signed the consent forms with a remarkably steady hand, but my heart and head seemed to take a while to catch up to what we had just heard. They left the room to prep Surgery and give us a moment.
I don’t think we have ever prayed so hard in our entire marriage. Tears welled and flowed without ceasing as we lifted our words to the One who knew the what and why of it all. There was no point in bargaining—we could only hope for the best and steel ourselves for the worst. I asked Steve to call our parents and let them know, and to post something to the Facebook Group page for our Church’s Community Group. I made Steve promise that he would not get mad at God, no matter what happened.
We could use all the prayer power we could muster in hopes that God was listening and would have mercy on our family. If a clean bill of health wasn’t in my cards, I simply asked for peace and clarity, and that whatever happened would bring glory, would bring people, to Him. I made a promise of my own to Him…that when I came out of this, that I would tell my story…that I would praise His name no matter the diagnosis…I asked Him that He would use me for His Purpose and that I would find joy in this trial.
One of my nurses came in to prep me on the bed to be wheeled off to the OR (operating room). She checked my IV and helped me lay back and get comfortable, as much as physically possible.
She did a double-take when she saw my eyes fighting to keep tears contained. I could feel the genuine care in her body language when she asked, “Are you okay?”
There was no way I could hold back the flood at this point. “No,” I blurted. Truth be told, I was terrified despite my faith, despite prayer. I had no idea what would happen in the OR, and I couldn’t bear not knowing.
Her hands stopped tucking in my blankets around me. She leaned her petite body over me, wrapping her small arms gently around my shoulders and gave a soft squeeze.
And she held on. Longer than I assumed a regular nurse would. I cannot tell you how much I needed that. To have some unknown person, some stranger, offer some form of authentic reassurance in this awful mess of things. This was undoubtedly God giving me a hug, and asking me to trust.
“I know,” she whispered. “It’s all going to be okay.” She pulled away and smiled. “Let’s get you on your way to feeling better, then, yeah?”
I nodded, and kissed Steve one last time, firm and with intention.
Anything can happen in the operating room; everyone knows that. There is that quiet moment right before you’re taken away from your loved ones, when that little voice inside your head whispers, This could be the last time I see you, touch your hand, kiss your mouth, smile at your worried eyes…. And you have to force yourself to refrain from panic. You have to be strong, but not in the false sense of strength. I think it is perfectly okay (and normal) to have fear in situations such as this. It’s important to be resilient, though, when facing the unknown. And that’s where Faith comes in. Having complete and total faith in the fact that it will all be okay because He is in control holds power. Placing all control into His hands because, quite frankly, if there is any time when one does not have control, it would be right now. I cannot change what the doctor will say if and when I wake up. All I know is that Jesus had me wrapped up in His arms as I disappeared behind the double doors to the OR, and I prayed that my husband would be at peace knowing what I knew. We are not alone in these moments. And fear has no place in our hearts when Faith has filled it to bursting.
The operating room felt sterile, but in the comforting way—like you know things are clean and that these masked people mean business. Everyone waved to me and introduced themselves as we maneuvered my searing body from my small ER bed to the larger one which would serve as my operating table and recovery bed.
So many hands, so many things were being said over me. They asked me my name, date of birth, and what operation they were performing, double checking the information as jotted up on a huge white board at the front of the room.
Just breathe. Breathe. Silent prayers continued to escape my mind and float upward into the awaiting ears of angels and Almighty alike.
The anesthesiologist, whom I had met earlier during my lady-exam, spoke reassuring words to me as she placed an oxygen mask over my nose and mouth. She told me to just relax and breathe deep. I closed my eyes in anticipation. And it actually happens like it does in the films:
“Breathe in…and one…and two…and…” Complete darkness and unconsciousness…
Everything felt heavy. My extremities, my head, even my eyelids. The hospital room was dim. I could make out shadowy shapes of people at the foot of my bed.
Cool. I made it.
Funny thing about anesthesia—I didn’t even realize I had blacked out until I woke up in the recovery room. I did a quick check of my physical status…head was sluggish to keep up, arms and legs moved, torso felt large and stiff and sore…oh, and the copious amount of invisible cotton in my mouth was unbearable.
I caught Steve’s gaze as he sat at my bedside, and saw the worry disappear instantly, crossing the small distance to grab my hand and kiss my head. (My God, I am so grateful for this man’s love.) My eyes focused and I could see my mother, and my in-laws in the room with me; I was relieved and overwhelmed to see them. What comfort in such a simple image.
I kept repeating that I remembered the doctor coming in and talking to me earlier, but I couldn’t recall what was said. Steve told me he’d come in later. But no, even in my lolling state, I repeated and insisted that I know what’s going on and what happened. He said the doctor found a “corpus luteum cyst” on the right ovary, and that they didn’t need to remove my ovary. Two cysts, both taken care of.
Immense relief. I faded back to black.
Much of my time recovering in the hospital room is a bit hazy. I was still so tired and even the simple act of talking hurt my abdomen. The narcotics they gave me made me dizzy and lethargic. My in-laws bid me farewell, and my mother insisted that she’d stay, ordering Steve to go home to sleep. That poor man had been awake with me since we first came in the night before.
Bless my mom’s heart. I felt like I had reverted back to a child, and my mother was simply doing what she has always done my entire upbringing—take care of me.
Eating and drinking was tough; I felt so full already, my stomach aching and tight. Going to the bathroom was even more thrilling…somehow getting myself out of bed without using my core muscles, tottering to the bathroom nearby, pulling down my sexy mesh “panties” they had put on me, not giving a blankity-blank about sitting bare-butt on a hospital toilet, afraid to urinate in the case that it would cause me more pain, cautiously peeing a tiny amount, then using all my upper body strength to stand back up, wipe without falling over, and totter back to bed to pass out in exhaustion. What a classy ordeal. I spare no details because I would never want anyone to think recovery from surgery is some cutesy thing where people wait on you hand and foot (though they kind of do as much as they can) and that no pain is involved and no discomfort occurs because you are floating on a cloud of drugs (yes, drugs…if they actually work on you…but you’re still miserable). And you can forget about modesty. You’re either too drugged up or too wracked with pain to give a damn about what anyone sees or thinks of you.
It’s actually rather liberating.
Home. How often we take such beautiful places and people for granted. People. Ohhh…people are just wonderful.
Can I just reiterate how amazing the entire staff is at Silverton Hospital? Every. Single. Person. I have been to the ER at Salem Hospital multiple times, for myself and for my husband. Let’s just say it’s black and white. Wolves and sheep. Take a number, be a number, get charged a number. At Silverton Hospital, I was never without, never under the impression that I didn’t matter or that my situation wasn’t valid. Each nurse, each doctor, each staff member made me feel like I was a real human being in real pain with real emotions regarding the matter. And they made me feel like it was all going to be okay.
Because it is.
I am okay. Steve is okay. My ovaries are okay. I got to see the images they captured on the camera during my surgery. The before and after photos were staggering. I had two huge shiny peaches attached to my lady parts, and boom—gone. All that’s left is some tissue, lanced and drained and cauterized, which will reabsorb into my body once more.
Recovery has been good. Slow, but good. Steve is the best in-home nurse, and he’s spoiling me left and right. It’s kinda nice to not have to cook all the time, and just relax and sleep and eat. I stopped taking the narcotics after the first day, though. They made me feel…wrong. Shocker–I do not get that happy-go-lucky loopy that people talk about when under the influence of Vicodin. I feel heavy and slow and stupid, and it only muted the pain just enough to make me forget about it. They also block you up. That’s right. Constipation. And no one wants that. Especially someone who cannot use their core muscles whatsoever. So I’m on Ibuprofen now. Nice and simple. And I feel much more like myself.
In retrospect, it all seems like puffs of smoke from a distant memory. I’m still too drained, too tired, and honestly too shocked to fully grasp the entire significance of this event just yet. All I know is how blessed and fortunate I feel at the end of the day. I have witnessed true friendship, true marital commitment, and God’s true Love in a matter of 24 hours.
Funny, the kind of ironic lessons one can learn from two little balls of whatever when they decide it’s time to reveal my priorities in this life. But storytime is long over, so I’ll leave that little revelation for another time. Time to go build a couch-fort in the living room and watch a ridiculous amount of movies.