Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Sacs, Cysts, & Signs, Oh My!

Warning: this blog post contains graphic content of a medical nature. The material may not be suitable for those who are sensitive to health-related issues or males who don’t like to see the word ovary over and over again.

Stress is an interesting thing. Even though most of us have an innate ability to keep up with it, if not thrive from it, it can also take its toll on the most precious thing we take for granted – our health. I’m not going to lie…I’ve been blessed with a healthy body for most of my life. I’ve never been hospitalized, had a broken bone, or even had to deal with a lingering illness (other than bronchitis every other year).

So after my sister’s wedding this summer, my stress levels finally said, “Enough, girl. It’s time to teach you a lesson…or two or three seeing you’re a Smith and obstinance runs in the family.” (Looks like three was the magic number.)

It all started on July 4. It was the night before my sister’s wedding and I started to notice a slight pain in my left hip. Thinking I had hit it against a dresser or table, I didn’t think much of it and went about the business of fulfilling my duties as maid of honor.

Photo courtesy of Callaway Gable Photography
After the hustle and bustle of the wedding died down, I noticed the pain was getting worse and my mobility was starting to be affected. And it had spread to my right hip. Uh-oh. I made an appointment with my doctor and she seemed to think it was bursitis (inflammation of the bursa sac). After prescribing an anti-inflammatory, she sent me home with the promise I would start feeling better soon. After 10 days of no improvement, she gave me the number of an orthopedic specialist. He concurred with the initial diagnosis and started me on another round of anti-inflammatory, followed by oral steroids, followed by 6-inch cortisone shots in each hip. After little change, I started physical therapy three times a week where I would do stretches, electric shock therapy, and icing.

It’s funny, after all the money I’ve spent on doctor appointments, physical therapy, prescriptions, creams, etc., the only thing that really helped with the inflammation/pain was ice. I’d come home from work each night and stuff ice bags down my sweat pants. And I would keep them there for hours and it would never be cool enough. You could actually put your hand on my hips and it would feel like a fever. After eight weeks of misery, my doctor finally said, “I think it’s time we do an MRI to rule out there’s not something more serious going on.” Little did he know, but the MRI would reveal something else brewing in my body.

Here comes Stress Lesson #2.

The good news from the MRI: the inflammation in my hips was finally going away. The bad news from the MRI: I had bilateral ovarian cysts (cysts on both ovaries). Seriously?! After saying goodbye to my ortho with the promise I would continue my icing and ALEVE regimen, I promptly called my OB/GYN to schedule an appointment. Luckily, my normal 3-4 week wait was cut down to less than week. I guess “ovarian cysts” are code words for “We’ll see you next week.” After reading up (and obsessing) on all the different kinds of ovarian cysts (functional, complex, and the ones that contain hair, teeth, and skin), I met with my doctor and scheduled an ultrasound to determine the kind of cysts I have, as well as the size.

The worst part of an ultrasound: drinking 32 oz of water and having to hold it. I actually showed up for my appointment (the first one of the day) and was left waiting 15 minutes. It turns out the ultrasound machine was broken and no one told the staff! They sent me over to a nearby sister clinic to see if they could fit me in. Unfortunately, a cute little pregnant lady showed up for her appointment early. And my bladder couldn’t wait another 30 min, so I rescheduled for later that afternoon. Luckily, that day we were having a team-building event at Boondocks (a local arcade/entertainment center), and we would be done by 2:00 p.m.

But Stress Lesson #3 decided it was the perfect day to rear its ugly head. And my head was on the receiving end!

As I was leaving Boondocks, I was walking and talking (a dangerous combination!) with a few of my co-workers. My head was turned and before you knew it, I walked right into a 6 ft tall metal sign that was in the middle of the walkway. Thinking I was just clumsy, I cursed to myself and kept walking. Then a co-worker says, “Kelly, you’re bleeding. You’re bleeding A LOT. We need to go to the bathroom.” Seriously?! I’d been down this road 18 years ago. That little accident resulted in A LOT of stitches and a pretty scar right in between my eyes. I really didn’t want stitches right now – especially with everything else going on with my body. So, I followed my co-worker into the bathroom and we proceeded to soak up the blood with A LOT of paper towels.

Up close, it was a nice, straight 1-inch cut. Oh, and I was sporting a smaller version on my lip. I left the bathroom and met with the manager who was nice enough to get me an ice bag for my head. Ah, ice…my one and constant friend! After filling out an incident report, my co-worker says, “Well, we better get you to the hospital. I think you need stitches.” But before we could leave, our new CMO walks in and says, “Forget the hospital. I’m taking you back to the office (where there’s a doctor on site at all times)." Great perk of the new job! Instead of stitches, the doctor put some sticky adhesive over the wound, added Steri-Strips and a Band-Aid. Crisis averted. But there went my scheduled ultrasound.

After calling the clinic back and explaining my injury, I was able to reschedule my appointment for the following week. I got the ultrasound results back a few days later and it showed that the cyst on my right ovary was 4.2 cm and the one on the left was 5.4 cm (and actually two cysts fused together!). And it was their opinion that they were hemorrhagic cysts, which develop when a blood vessel ruptures and drains blood into the fluid already collected in the body of the cyst. And while they’re the least likely to rupture (hooray!), they’re also the most painful. And as I’m quickly learning, there’s a host of other symptoms besides the intense pelvic pain: constant need to pee (but never able to fully empty bladder), bloating, nauseous, dizziness, moodiness, exhaustion, weight gain.


In all my reading, doctors usually elect the “watch and wait” approach with ovarian cysts. Most usually resolve themselves within 2-3 months. In fact, most women have had ovarian cysts at some point and not even known about it since they never show symptoms. My doctor recommended a follow-up ultrasound in 6 weeks. In the meantime, I felt like a ticking time bomb. After about the month, the pain was getting so bad, I called my doctor and asked if we could move up my next ultrasound. Surprisingly, she said yes and I was able to get in the very next day.

This time the results showed the cyst on my right ovary had shrunk to 2.9 cm, but the one the left had grown to 5.9 cm (2.3 in). And they now think they're endometrial cysts. Because there hasn't been significant change between the two ultrasounds and the fact the pain is getting worse (even on Lortab), my doctor has agreed to laparoscopy surgery to remove the cysts. My sister Laurie has actually undergone this procedure a couple times, so hopefully the outcome will be just as favorable. All I know is I'm done with the lessons in stress. Message received loud and clear. It's time to get back to the business of living.

I'll keep you posted with my progress. If I text you or leave a strange message on Facebook post-surgery, blame the drugs (which I hear are fabulous, by the way!).


1 comment:

Vera said...

Aw, PK, I am thinking of you. I had laparascopy done twice due to endometriosis cyst and also had a few cysts that ruptured. Not fun at all. I hope you recover quick! And you can loopy message me if you want. LOL. Hugs.xo