Once upon a time, there was a young girl whom, while on her honeymoon in London, fell terribly ill, and after a brief stay at Charing Cross Hospital, was diagnosed with untyped IBD, family history of Crohns, and sent home.
Time passed, and the girl-who-was-me grew up and grew older, and learned how to deal with the chronic-though-not-always-active disaster zone that was her lower intestines. And with that dealing came a different scale of pain from most of the people around her. A 4 was a daily average akin to bad menstrual cramps, but it took burning-hot icepicks stabbing through her brain to reach an 8-9.
We’ll skip over the years she-who-is-me lived like this, and stop in August 2019. She was in Dublin, having the time of her life, but with the undercurrent of thinking, “my body is not well, I need to be careful with what I eat.” And then she came home with a bad case of airline-ick, and for the next 6 weeks was focused on getting that out of her lungs and sinuses, before she was able to start a food diary (as usually worked with her IBD) to figure out what was still causing those stomach pains and bloating. But none of the foods seemed to be the cause.
She was beginning to get worried at this point, not the least because she could now feel a hard knot in her gut that should not have been there, and she’s thinking she should probably talk to her doctor.
But before she could do that, driving to her volunteer shift Tuesday night, she had intense, sharp pains in her abdomen, so bad that she thought she probably should not be driving, much less going to walk dogs. The first 9-10 on the pain scale she could remember in years. Appendicitis, she thought. Or maybe her gall bladder. And so she ended up at an Urgent Care center, who send her on the ER. Who, after a physical exam and an ultrasound and a CT scan, had a doctor come in and tell her that they’d found a mass – a rather large mass – and they thought it was a tumor.
And then they sent her home to make an appointment with a specialist (someone within her insurance group, which that ER wasn’t).
By now, Americans are probably wincing at the bill piling up. So was she. But otherwise? Pretty calm. Maybe it was a little dissociation, maybe it was just that there wasn’t fuck-all she could do, maybe it was the fact that her friends had forbidden her to google anything on the topic, but the week between ER and appointment mostly went on as usual.
On Monday she went to the appointment with the specialist, who confirmed the initial diagnosis: high probability of ovarian cancer. Surgery was recommended so that they could remove the mass (and any other affected area) and have it biopsied. A lot of discussions then, of pragmatism and practicality, including a last-minute race to get legal paperwork ducked-in-a-row.
Two days later, during surgery, they discovered that it was indeed a tumor, and it had ruptured (causing the Tuesday night pains). As per earlier discussions, the surgeon did a full hysterectomy and yanked the appendix as well.
The main biopsy suggested that the tumor was probably benign, but the surgeon, being a cautious and careful sort, took many slices from throughout the cavity to be biopsied. So we’ll know more in a few weeks.
For now, I’m home, I’m healing, Still writing. I’ll have a hell of a scar, and hopefully a long life ahead of me yet. But it’s not entirely up to me any more.
My friends, if you ever ever, ever think something is wrong with your body, even if you can maybe-probably dismiss it as something else, check it out. Don’t wait. I got lucky, and depending on luck is a fool’s folly.