“I do NOT understand the woman’s body!!”
That was Noah, not too long ago when the topic of breastfeeding came up, a phenomenon that he had completely forgotten existed. At first he insisted that surely HE did not take part in such atrocities after he was outside my body. Maybe that’s how I fed him when he was inside, but certainly not post-birth. I assured him that actually, he breastfed for 13 months post-birth.
“I do NOT understand the woman’s body!!”
I agree, kid. I agree.
I’ve had approximately 8 weeks of woman’s body unwellness, which started with 3 weeks of scattered unwellness for which I couldn’t decide which doctor I needed to see, so I just put it off, hoping the unwellness would go away. The reason for my uncertainty was because we women have so many vital parts shoved and crammed into one area (was God using those vacuum sealed travel bags when he packed our suitcases?!?) that if one tiny area goes awry, it affects five different categories of organs, and good luck figuring out which one is causing the problem.
Men are so much more…compartmentalized.
By a bit of serendipity, I ended up at the right doctor on the first visit – but not because I chose the right doctor. It went like this..
After three weeks of many and varied issues to which I couldn’t pinpoint the aggressor, I decided that my pain and suffering finally needed to be addressed. So I set an appointment with my gastroenterologist.
Except my gastro is an extraordinarily popular man (I guess that’s why he chose that specialty…to be the Cool Kid…), so he was unavailable – but his nurse practitioner could see me – in a mere four days.
Insert a long weekend out of town spent drinking an entire bottle of Pepto-Bismol and half a bottle of Maalox, along with a significant amount of ibuprofen and Tums.
We were on our way home on a Sunday evening, me somewhat hunched over in pain, counting down the hours until the next morning when I could finally see a professional about my malaise, when I got a voice mail from said professional, letting me know that she had a sick kid and so could not see me the next morning. And I’d have to call in the morning to see if I could reschedule my appointment.
I’d never been so crushed to be stood up by a gastroenterologist’s nurse practitioner in my entire life.
The next morning, I called and made an appointment with her for the following morning, making sure she’d return by then – which they assured me she would.
That afternoon, I got another call. She would actually be out for another day, and there was no one else who could see me, and would I like to schedule an appointment with her for Thursday?
No thank you, Ma’am. I will be dead by Thursday.
So in a fit of Doctor Desperation, I decided to go the other suspected route of specialty and called my gynecologist’s office.
(He and I don’t go very far back, because my long-term OB/GYN relationship ended a week after he gave me a hysterectomy, when he announced to me that he was retiring early to become a medical missionary in Ethiopia. I knew my health issues were complex, but until that moment I did not know that they could motivate doctors to flee to Africa.)
Despite my new and budding relationship status with my replacement gyno, he actually could see me, the very next morning.
YES PLEASE I MIGHT LIVE UNTIL THEN.
So I went into the office and met with his nurse, who seemed somewhat skeptical of my extremely lengthy list of maladies and my professed level of pain, and she said with a twisted half-smile, “Well, your urine is clear, so…”
Lady, my blood and urine has looked clear on every test I’ve ever been subjected to. THERE’S SOMETHING WRONG WITH ME.
I didn’t say it though. But I must have thought it hard enough that she said “We’ll get you back to sonogram and see if we can see anything.”
The sonogram tech was the much more friendly and the extraordinarily chatty kind of nurse – going on and on about her kids and family and friends and…until she said “OH…oh.”
Which is when she got penitently quiet, while clicking and zooming and screenshotting and measuring. She was trying so hard to remind herself that if she sees something amiss in my body, she’s probably not-so-much allowed to tell me about it – that’s a doctor’s job.
But in then end she couldn’t help herself.
“So have you ever had an Ovarian cyst before?”
“Not that I know of for sure…”
“Well you’ve definitely got one now.”
And she sent me back out to the waiting room to await being called back for my official diagnosis, and to google feverishly to assure myself that ovarian cysts weren’t usually malignant and actually part of the normal female experience.
Then back in a room, back undressed, waiting my turn, reminding myself that it’s totally normal. Totally normal. Totally normal for my ovary to turn on me, the little Benedict Freakin’ Arnold.
My short-term Gyno walked in.
“Well, you’ve got an Ovarian Cyst. But not to worry – it’s clear. We’ll do bloodwork just to make sure, but there should be no cancer. It’s 7 centimeters, which is quite large – normal cysts are 4 centimeters. But we can’t take it out unless it’s 10 centimeters. So it looks like we’ll need to see you back in 4-6 weeks and see if it’s grown or ruptured, which is what it’s supposed to do.”
“Um, but, did you see all the problems I’m having? The cyst is most definitely sitting on my bladder and intestines at once and neither system wants to work.”
“Yes, sorry about that. You’re going to have a very painful month. But I’ll write you a pain pill prescription.”
“Let me feel the cyst and see how soon it will rupture.”
What he proceeded to do, without telling me first, was to actually attempt to rupture my quite large ovarian cyst. Imagine putting a water balloon under the covers of your bed, then reaching in blindly with one hand and trying to burst it while using your other hand on top of the covers to also help your bursting efforts. Then JIGGLING IT BACK AND FORTH AS HARD AS YOU COULD like you were juggling it from one hand to the other all in an attempt to – actually why would you want to pop a water balloon in the bed? I don’t know.
“It’s pretty thick-walled, so it’s going to take a lot to rupture it. I couldn’t make any progress. But it’s free-floating, so that’s why it’s causing trouble everywhere else.”
I wiped my tears away and said thank you sir may I never have another.
I went home and googled how big 7 centimeters is – estimating measurements is not my strong point, and I needed to visualize what this foreign entity was that had taken root in my already-crowded basement apartment.
7 centimeters is a baseball.
A flipping baseball.
No wonder everything hurt.
And how big would it be to qualify to be removed….well, there was no ball equivalent, but the first thing that came to mind is that 10 centimeters in diameter is the size of a freshly-birthed slightly squeezed baby’s head.
I was unnerved by this object living in me – this object that either had to fulfill its destiny and rupture, causing immense pain and discomfort, or grow to a large enough size to qualify for removal. And in the meantime, it would still be allowed to act quite unthoughtfully toward its host, stumbling around and running into walls and knocking over chairs and falling over and cinching every hose in my body.
As Chris and I walked around the neighborhood that night and considered our new friend, he said, “I think you need to name it.”
His first few suggestions, such as Bellatrix LeStrange, were way too intense.
“I can’t have something THAT evil living inside of me. She’s more of an annoying drunk friend – a friend that you keep around because she really was a great friend at one point, but now she’s just kind of selfish and nutty and causing trouble.”
“So…what about Karen? It goes with the 2020 theme.”
“Karen is too easy. And overused. In my head I’m picturing that character from Will and Grace…that was played by Megan Mullally. what was her name? She’s exactly what I picture my cyst acting like.”
“Oh. Her name was Karen Walker.”
It was meant to be. She was a Karen after all.
And she came with a whole host of gifs to express my feelings and discomfort of the moment.
Another week went by of all the Karen trouble that Karen could possibly cause.
I functioned when I could, and didn’t function when Karen was misbehaving.
I explained it to the kids, but Noah never picked up on the term “Ovarian Cyst” and instead latched onto my explanation of “Like a bubble” … and for the next many weeks, he said at least four times a day “I hope your bubble leaves soon” or “Is your bubble hurting you?” or “I hope I don’t get a bubble – could I have a bubble? I have a stomachache.”
(“No, son. You don’t have ovaries.”)
(“You have no idea.”)
I hoped she’d rupture, I hoped she wouldn’t rupture, I hoped she’d grow, I hoped she wouldn’t grow.
But by the next Wednesday, the pain TURNED.
It got sharp and moved around my body in a whole new way – up into my rib cage, for one.
KAREN, GET YOUR HAND OFF MY RIBS!!
Then I started having trouble taking breaths – It felt like I had to lift a two pound weight with every inhale. Not all the time, but positionally. Driving was the worst because I was sitting out with my arms in front of me – the most constricted position for one’s rib cage.
The next morning, so I called short-term gyno back, and they told me to come in right away.
Another sonogram. Another picture of Karen. I sent her to Chris.
He sent her back to me, but as original art. As a husband should.
Next, a nurse asking “Do you mind if a nurse practitioner student examines you? She needs to know what an abnormal ovary feels like.”
That’s what I’m here for. To train medical professionals on the essence of “abnormal.”
Short-term Gyno came in.
“Well this is good news! It’s ruptured! It’s down to 3 or 4 centimeters, so it’s a slow leak. That’s the best case scenario.”
“But..why can’t I breathe?”
“Well, your diaphragm is inflamed from all the fluid and blood floating around in your body cavity from the rupture. It’s like a giant bruise. You just have to wait until your body reabsorbs it all.”
Okay…well, at least it’s productive pain, right? That’s better than waiting-around-for-this-foreign-object-to-self-destruct pain.
She got worse, then she got better for a couple days, then she got worse again – much worse this time.
The breathing issues got more severe, and now I was dizzy all the time and blacking out when I stood up.
(Which, granted, can also happen on a bad day of Dysautonomia any old time, but this felt different than my normal normal. This had a touch of KAREN to it.)
Also, I was having trouble thinking clearly. So I didn’t call the doctor until Chris got home and he realized how bad off I was – but by then it was after hours. And when I did call, they told me to go to the Emergency Room to make sure I didn’t have an internal bleeding problem.
So I did. And they were great. And the checked for internal bleeding and blood clots and COVID (because sure) and everything else they could think of, and while they were in there, re-measured Karen (she was down to 2 centimeters now, that tiny little demon,) but ultimately, my diaphragm was still just highly irritated and inflamed from the extreme amount of fluid that can fit inside a Baseball from Hell.
They told me I’d still have a week or so of pain and trouble breathing and sent me on my way.
I’m still recovering, and Karen will have another measurement in a week to see if she’s decided to vacate the basement apartment or stick around for another round of fun.