WARNING: Medically graphic post and probably one that risks an overshare or two. Proceed at your own risk.
I wish this post was talking about the term Lady Gaga uses when referring to her fans, but in this case, it's referring to the monstrous tumor the doctors found in my abdomen yesterday.
I awoke yesterday morning to severe cramps that I thought were menstrual in nature. I had an endometrial ablasion almost six years ago, so I don't have periods any more, but I do, from time to time, get cramps, breast swelling and migraines. So, over the last few weeks when I've had increased cramping, I didn't think anything of it. I figured it was just PMS-related, took a couple of Tylenol and went on with my day. Yesterday, however, was quite different from the cramps I'm used to having.
I thought perhaps it was bowel related and once I went to the bathroom I'd be fine. I did, but I wasn't fine. If anything, the pain had gotten worse. Now, I'll be the first to admit I'm a pain baby, but rarely do I cry from pain. The cramps I experienced yesterday morning had me doubled-over sobbing.
I called my friend Wendy, who's also a nurse, and she suggested that if this wasn't normal cramping that I needed to go to the emergency room. So after a quick call to my bestie, she came and picked me up. That forty minute drive to the emergency room was almost too much. The cramps got worse and by the time we pulled up in front of the ER, I had all I could do to walk into the hospital.
My hubby joined Ann Marie and me a few minutes after I got settled into a room and I spent the next several hours being poked, prodded and scanned. My fear was that it was a blood clot due to all the sitting I'd been doing on the plane and in the airports last week, but the doctor quickly dismissed that fear. He first thought I had kidney stones and sent me down for a CT scan to find out for sure. This initial diagnosis scared me immensely. The pain involved with passing a kidney stone aside, I have plans for these kidneys and nowhere in the scheme of those plans was there room for stones. I had a small meltdown and was proverbially bitchslapped from my bestie for worrying about her kidneys instead of myself. I digress. Fortunately, the results from the CT scan came back and my fears were put to rest for the time being.
Then the doctor mentioned something called a teratoma that showed up on my right ovary and coming from a family who has been stricken with numerous types of cancer, I recognized the term -toma immediately. The nurse reassured me that it didn't necessarily mean cancer, that it was more like a cyst. Having known numerous people with ovarian cysts, I wasn't over worried; cysts are pretty common, after all. The doctor then told me that according to the scan, the cyst was 7cm x 7cm. Metric conversions aren't my forté, but I knew that was about 3 inches. In that area of the body, that's a good sized cyst. The doctor told me that he'd consulted with a gynecologist who was on his way over to look at my scan and discuss the findings.
When the gyno got there, he confirmed the doctor's diagnosis that it was a ovarian teratoma. He said it was a medium sized cyst that would need to come out, but that it wasn't emergent and unless I wanted to do the procedure today, it could wait a week or two. I expressed my concern about it being cancer, but the doctor reassured me that the chances of it being cancer were less than five percent. This eased my worries a little, but by this point, I was mad at whatever had caused me this pain and I just wanted it out. The gyno understood and explained the procedure would be done laparoscopically and that depending on how involved it was with my right ovary, it too may need to be removed. Given that I had my tubes tied almost fifteen years ago, I didn't care if my lady parts stayed or went. I signed paperwork, the doctor got on the phone with surgery and within an hour, I was being prepped.
By 7 p.m. I was in recovery and the nurses were reminding me to breathe deeply (always a problem for me). Typically, this surgery is done out-patient but because I was having a good deal of pain and one of the incision sites was having some trouble with seepage, they decided to admit me overnight. I spent the night on a Fentanyl pump and the doctor came in to talk to me this morning.
I had a lot of questions for him because he was gone by the time I came out from under the anesthesia and Hubs isn't the detail-oriented person I am, he didn't ask the questions I would have. I wanted to know if they had to take my ovary, first of all (they did). As an information whore, it was also important to me to know exactly what this thing was called (dermoid teratoma - I'll let you Google that little bit of nastiness on your own). I also wanted to know if there was any way this could've been an ectopic pregnancy gone horribly awry (it wasn't). I wanted to know if there was a chance of it coming back on the other side (there is). I wanted to make sure my tubes were still "tied" (they are). I wanted to know what my recovery period is (two weeks). Most of all, I wanted to know if it is cancerous (doc says no, the biopsy should confirm this). Long story short, this cyst is the most disgusting thing you could possibly imagine but it has been removed.
(The white and dark colored tissue you see here in the photos
is the cyst that wrapped around my right ovary.)
The doctor said that it was a bit larger than they first thought, explaining that the ovaries are typically the size of an almond and my cyst was the size of an orange and filled with fluid, hair and other organ-type tissues. I was totally grossed out, but he reassured me that this is normal because apparently ovarian tissues are complex in that they draw cells from all parts of the body - hair follicles, sweat glands, bones, teeth, organs like liver and kidneys, etc.This cyst, because it grew from the ovarian cells, also includes many of these cells. Hubs called it an alien and honestly? that's what it feels like this is: some sort of hairy little alien. It's been sent off to pathology and I should know shortly for certain that it's not a malignant tumor. Granted, the doctor has already given his expert opinion and that it's not cancer. But I'm someone who needs proof, so I will wait patiently (ha!) for the results to set my mind at ease.
Until then, I am forced to take it easy and recognize how fortunate I am in all this. If this had happened last week, my family would be frantic here at home while I was recovering at a friend's place in Harlem. My bestie, thankfully, is unemployed right now and was able to drop everything and not only take me to the hospital, but was able to stay with me all day to put my worried mind at ease. Hubs, too, was not only able to take off work and come to the hospital, his bosses had FMLA paperwork drawn up so he can take off the rest of the week to spend with me so I'm not alone. My friend RG came up and tagged in for Ann Marie and Hubs so they could get something to eat (since they hadn't eaten all day) and stayed with me. As it often does, our conversation helped me make sense of the day and the perspective I needed desperately. Even my ex-husband and his mother were there for me. They picked up Midget so she wasn't here alone and scared after school last night. They drove her to school this morning, too, so she wouldn't miss her presentation for National History Day.
Tonight, Midget and I had the "What if it's cancer?" talk and I think we both feel infinitely better. Since Hubs can be a bit of a tosser and a turner, I decided to sleep on the couch tonight. It's also easier for me to get up and down out here, so this is where I'll sleep. Midget, who is afraid I may need her in the middle of the night, is also camped out here with me. She's asleep on the bean bag and I'm on the sofa.
Even in this narcotic haze, I can appreciate God in all this. His timing is impeccable and He has surrounded me with love. I am so blessed.
**UPDATE** The pathology reports indicate the tumor is benign. It is not cancerous.