So last August, I had these pretty intense pains. They felt like gas pains. But it lasted for a long time, and it hurt to move my legs and to walk. It wasn’t enough for me to feel like I needed to do anything about it.
The same thing happened in October, much worse than in August. I was in the middle of a workout, doing sit-ups, actually, when I started hurting. It was bad, but I was determined to finish my workout. Then suddenly, the pain came in sharp spurts. It was excruciating. I cried mixed with quiet screams—the inhaling, confused, panicked kind. I didn’t know what was happening. I folded up into fetal position on my living room floor, unable to move because any small movement sent pains shooting through me.
A less extreme version happened in December.
Then it happened a few weeks later in January. In the shower, I was extremely light headed and felt those familiar gas pains. I knew something was wrong since I felt like I was going to pass out. I continued to get ready for work and again was struck with pains so bad that I dropped to the floor. I lay there, unable to move, for several minutes. I eventually crawled over to my then-roommate’s room and knocked on her door. She felt so bad. The worst of the pain passed, and I went to work.
After calling urgent care and talking with my parents, and after the pain hadn’t gone away the next day, I had my roommate take me to emergency. I packed a bag just in case.
They did an ultrasound (two, actually) and diagnosed me with at least two hemorrhagic ovarian cysts. They told me to follow up with an OB/GYN.
I did, and he put me on birth control. I hadn’t had another incident for 6 months.
So one day, those same “gas pains” started to come around again. The pains were not sharp, shooting, or incapacitating like a couple of the other incidences. I decided around 11 AM or so to go on a run. About a quarter mile in, I started to feel much worse. I couldn’t even run. I had to keep stopping to walk. Granted, it had been a little while since my last run, but I hadn’t completely fallen out of shape. I figured I would run through it and it would go away. No such luck.
I texted Kristen when I was about a mile away from home, telling her that I was in enough pain that if she were home, I’d ask her to come get me. She knew that was a bad sign, so she texted someone to come get me. By that time, I had already made it home.
That day I started to balloon up really huge. Four months pregnant huge. I took it easy on the couch because every little movement was hurting me. If I stayed still, I was fine. I made the mistake of texting pictures of my bloated belly to my mom. She freaked out and begged me to go to emergency.
I told her that I knew it was a cyst problem. I promised that if it wasn’t better in the morning, I’d go to emergency. I didn’t get much sleep on Saturday night because of my bloating. I was up at 6 AM on Sunday, July 7 and unable to go back to sleep. My roommate went with me to emergency.
They did another ultrasound and the doctor ordered a CT scan just to be certain because of where the pain was hitting when he pushed on areas of my belly.
Thousands of dollars later, they confirmed that I had an 8 cm cyst—“the size of an orange,” they told me. They couldn’t figure out which side it was on—the ultrasound technician was very confused.
I got a follow up appointment on Wednesday with my OB/GYN. I showed up with my mom and grandma only to find out that my doctor was out with family issues, and they scheduled my appointment for the PAST Wednesday. “Hi, can I have an appointment for three days ago? I have a time-traveling Delorean.” Idiots.
So I called a doctor that the emergency room physician recommended. Best thing that could have happened.
The doctor wanted to see me on Friday the 12th. She explained my options. She told me that the fact that I had gone five days with no pain or bloating was a good sign. I decided to wait three weeks and get an ultrasound to see if it had shrunk. If it hadn’t, we would operate before I went back to school. I felt good about this option.
Then two days later, I started feeling a lot of pain again. Throughout that week, it became painful to urinate. I had to lift up my belly to take pressure off my bladder. It was a stinging pain right at the start of my peeing that caused me to shout out, “(expletives removed for consideration of the audience)!” This happened repeatedly. I was very uncomfortable. It seemed to be lodged on the left side right by my hip. It hurt my back as well. I just was not in good shape. I had no appetite, and was having other bathroom issues. So I called on Thursday and received no call back until Friday. They said they would get me in on Monday the 22nd.
I went in first thing in the morning and had explained my discomfort during the previous week. The doctor said she usually does surgery on Thursday but didn’t want to make me wait, so she asked what I had eaten and when. She would operate that day.
I was not expecting that. I had eaten yogurt and berries.
I went downstairs and registered for surgery and got everything squared away. I went home and passed time without food OR WATER until 3 in the afternoon when I had to report back to the hospital. I didn’t pack anything because the procedure is only 30 minutes to 1 hour tops, and the doctor expected I would go home that night.
It ended up that they didn’t even take me back for surgery until around 7 PM. It also ended up that the surgery took over 2 hours for my doctor to complete.
She found endometriosis and removed as much as she could. She discovered that it was an endometrioma cyst. The fluid inside was thick and goopy, and the cyst had grown.
I couldn’t stand up, and I couldn’t go to the bathroom. It was a rough night. I wasn’t going to be discharged because I couldn’t do those basic things and was a serious mess.
The next few days were a whirlwind of no sleep and intense pain—worse pain than anyone had prepared me for. The gas they pump into the midsection during surgery was pressing on the phrenic nerve, causing intense pain in my shoulder. I managed to go pee twice that night, under threat of a catheter.
Guys, I can deal with a lot of pain. I refuse to take pain pills most of the time. The doctor was amazed that I could even pee, and she said anyone else in my situation wouldn’t have made it as long as I had tolerated it.
This shoulder pain was worse than anything I’ve ever experienced.
It made it so that I couldn’t recline even a little bit. I had to sleep sitting up. If I leaned back slightly, my shoulder killed.
Let me explain “killed.” It felt like somebody was stabbing my shoulder from the inside with a dagger. The pain would come so suddenly and so intensely that I involuntarily screamed—screamed like someone really was stabbing me. I don’t mean I cried quietly. I mean I screamed bloody murder. That was my body’s natural response; I had no choice. Then when I would tense up from the pain and crying, it made the pain worse, so I had to scream even more. I hadn’t anticipated pain and discomfort worse than my previous cyst ruptures, but this really was much worse than anything I’ve had since last August. I asked my home teachers to come give me a blessing, and they did.
The nurses said the only thing that gets the gas out of the diaphragm is to walk around. So I walked and I walked. Besides the gas in my diaphragm, another doctor said she didn’t want to release me until I passed gas. So I walked, and I walked. I was given stool softener. I drank prune juice. I tried everything. I tried yoga poses for gastrointestinal health. I didn't want to stay another stupid night in the hospital. I wanted to go home on Tuesday.
Finally, at 11 PM, I managed to do what the doctor demanded. I rejoiced. (Never has anyone been so excited to fart, I’m sure). But at that point, it was too late for me to want to go home. So we stayed a second night (mom stayed too) and went home on Wednesday morning—walked out just fine.
I spent Wednesday and Thursday night sitting up sleeping. Thursday was pretty bad for nausea, but I hadn’t taken many pain pills at all and was feeling good.
Friday I walked two miles on the treadmill and did a few minutes on the stationary bike. I slept a normal, horizontal night.
So that’s my story. Endometriosis and cysts are awful. Hopefully birth control prevents more ovarian cysts and keeps the endometriosis from getting worse. Besides absolutely shattering my fitness and endurance, I am feeling much better. One out of three incision scars looks bad, which I probably shouldn’t complain about. My doctor is amazing. I was so blessed to find her and to have been referred to her. I am grateful for my mom and grandma and amazing friends and home teachers for taking such good care of me.
I’m on the road back to cyst-free fitness.