"Oh. That's nothing," she said, dismissing my news with a flip of her hand. "Everybody gets those."
I sat there, stunned. It wasn't nothing to me. "Well, yeah, I know that, but considering my history, there's room for concern," I explained, trying to convey the seriousness of the matter.
"Yeah, but, really, I mean cysts on your ovaries are common. Every woman gets them."
It's a conversation I've had with every woman I know in the past week. My new doctor, the Romanian one, found a number of cysts on my ovaries and immediately scheduled a sonogram. It's been weighing on my mind since my annual appointment last week, so people notice the fog around my mood. They ask what's the matter, and I tell them "Oh, my doctor found some cysts on my ovaries and I have to get them checked out." And it's at that point where everybody I know chimes in with "That's no big deal."
But it is a big deal. A troublesome past with my reproductive organs dictates that it is a big deal. And that's where I say "Yeah, well, I've had a coupla cysts before, and they ruptured, and so my doctor's just sort of worried."
"Everybody's cysts rupture." That's what I'm always met with. And, sure, it may be true. But my ruptures caused me an immense amount of pain that left me crying in the fetal position for hours, sitting in emergency rooms waiting to be seen, terrified that something had gone horribly wrong with my body, only to be told by the overly tired doctor on call that there's really nothing they can do for the pain, just wait it out, and go to the gynecologist.
So that's what I did, every time I had a rupture. And the doctor, at that point, told me there was really nothing he could do either because, obviously, the cyst had ruptured, so there was really nothing to see. So he'd send me home with some paperwork to schedule my own sonogram and get my innards checked out.
But that was his mistake, to leave me to get it scheduled and looked at. Everytime I left his office with the thick referral form in hand, I'd set it down in my passenger seat and go back to work with every intention of getting it checked out, only to forget about it in a matter of hours. The fact that I wasn't actually feeling any pain allowed me to displace it from my mind altogether.
Yes, I'll admit the fault was mine; my lack of follow-through can't be blamed on the fact that he didn't schedule an appointment for myself. But he also told me "There's no need to worry, you're not in any pain, so chances are there's nothing to be concerned about." He put me on birth control to control my extreme cramping and outrageous flow, and said the birth control all but eliminates cysts. So I chalked it up to just being a cool, dramatic story that I could tell when people were exchanging medical oddities ("I had some ovarian cysts burst!"), and left it alone.
But last week, at a new doctor for my annual exam, I mentioned some fairly constant pain I was having on my right side. While I detailed my past experience with ruptured cysts, she moved the paper-like cover down my abdomen and placed her cold hand just beside my hipbone and pressed down. I winced immediately, nodding to confirm that she'd found the spot. "Yes," she said, looking up at the ceiling while pressing down on my ovary. "Zere is a cyst dere. It may be a leetle large," she continued. She moved her hands around, hitting a few more spots that made me curl up in reaction to the sharp pain she produced. "Zere too?" she questioned, surveying my reactions.
"Yeah. There too," I replied, eyes squeezed shut.
She wouldn't let me leave without scheduling a sonogram. I was terrified.
I'd have to wait a week to be get thoroughly probed, but she told me it was good that they were there now, that she would actually be able to get a look at them before they burst and caused me any more unnecessary pain. I left with an appointment, but not peace of mind.
There was concern. A lot of concern. Because the cysts should be eliminated by birth control. And because there were a number of them, not just one. And because of my history with what appeared to be endometriosis (again, undiagnosed because I never made the follow up appointments). And because they appeared to be large.
And all week, I was worried. Scared. Concerned. But each time I expressed that, to friends or coworkers, I was met with the same thing. "It's nothing." But I knew. I knew that it was something.
And frankly, I was irritated. Irritated that my worry, my fear, was being invalidated by all of these people who had no idea what my history entailed. That they would dismiss my heavy heart by saying it's common did not, by any means, make me feel better. It made me angry. How dare you say it's nothing. You have no idea what this means to me. Don't make me feel like I'm stupid for being worried. I have every right to be worried. Don't make me feel like an idiot for being scared, for being concerned. If you cared enough to actually ask me more, as opposed to giving me your completely unfounded diagnosis, then maybe you'd be able to talk about it. But they never asked, just dismissed. And so I never told. Because, first of all, who really wants to hear the Reproductive Organ History of Laurie? And, beyond that, do they really care? I mean, maybe their dismissing it was just their way of ending a possibly uncomfortable conversation.
But there were people - close friends, my family, Billy - who got the whole story. The people who were concerned with me all the way through. Who reassured me that I would be okay, but allowed me to be worried and a little sad, who didn't make me feel like I was making a mountain out of a molehill.
Today, I went for that sonogram. And, luckily, the doctor was able to review it and discuss it with me a few hours later.
Billy and I sat across from her at her desk. He held my hand, rubbing my fingers with his thumb, while she shuffled papers and went through my file. Billy kissed me on the cheek. "Stop crying," he said softly into my ear. I blinked my watery eyes and smiled, shrugging my shoulders, telling him I wasn't quite sure why I was crying already.
"About ze cysts," the doctor said, looking up from the papers before her. "Zey are quite large. Quite. And, it ees concerning becoos normal ones are only supposed to be between 4.5 and 5, vile your largest one, on de right side, ees 6.9." I don't recall the unit of measurement associated with the cysts, and I don't recall how big the other ones were. But I do recall that they were all above-averate, and her telling me that it's not good to have a cyst that large. That the cyst could twist and cause a great problem in my abdomen, or it could simply overtake my ovary completely. "And you are so young. Why lose an ovary?" She said. My eyes widened. "So, vat I zink we should do is drain dem."
"Is that an outpatient procedure?" Billy asked.
She giggled. "No, it's not. It ees an operation."
I have to have surgery.
I've never had surgery before. Never even entertained the possibility. But now, here it is. Two weeks from now, I have all four of the large hopefully fluid-filled cysts removed from my abdomen, by way of a laparoscopic procedure. Most likely, they'll just drain the fluid from the cyst, and that will be it. Possibly, they will remove the capsule of the cyst. It's possible, though, that once they actually see my insides, it could be worse than we think. "Vit the sonogram, ve can't truly see the ovary, so ve vill know more ven ve operate." They could be fibrous, they could require more surgery. But, most likely, it's a simple, one-day surgery.
And I know that's good news. It's nothing life-threatening, it just sucks. It's a simple procedure that my doctor has done "hundreds of times," that will only require three days off of work, some rest, and possibly some good drugs. And that's it. It's a relief, of sorts.
But only of sorts, because she's a little concerned. Why do I have cysts if I'm on The Pill, which is supposed to eradicate the cysts? How did they get so big? Why haven't they ruptured, like they do in normal women? And it's scary, to know that there's something wrong enough to operate on me. Even though it's minor task to perform, they still have to make incisions. And even though chances are that I'll have this surgery and never have to think about it again, I still have to have surgery. And that frightens me.
But, also, it's a relief because it is something. Because I get to tell all of those people who thought I was just being dramatic or overly reactionary that it is serious. That I scheduled a surgery already. That I have to go for bloodwork and pre-op appointments. That I knew me well enough to know that there was something not normal about what was going on with my body. That I wasn't just crying wolf.