My ovaries were a gang. Two peas in a lady pod. Each month they’d tag team, producing eggs and shedding their lining to keep my period in check. The left ovary ran the left block. The right ovary held it down for the right.
But not anymore. Now, I only have one ovary — and there’s no such thing as a gang of ‘one’.
I’ve always had a heavy period, but over the last 4 months it had become vindictive. Each month, I was greeted with debilitating stomach stabs and inside burns. I started having to miss days of work and school, but chalked it up to being a woman.
As a young girl I was taught to deal with period pain because it was ‘our’ pain. It was the burden we bore to earn the title of being a mother some day.
In fact, it wasn’t even the excruciating pain that finally brought me to the doctor. It was the left-side-throbbing that compromised my sleep and just wouldn’t go away.
So I finally went. The doctor suggested I get a ultrasound so that she could take a look at my uterus and ovaries.
As I lay on the ultrasound exam table, my mind raced to the soundtrack of hmmms, fast keyboard-clicking, and the awkward silence from the exam nurse. When it was finished, she sent me on my way and told me that the doctor would be in touch.
In my follow up appointment my doctor explained that I had endometriosis. Endometri-uh what? Endometriosis. A painful chronic disease that affects at least 6.3 million women in the U.S.
Well, now at least 6.3 million and one.
The endometriosis caused ovarian cysts to grow over top of my ovary and was the source of my pain.
A part of me was relieved to know I wasn’t a hypochondriac. But now I was anxious to know what medicine would put a end to this womanly curse.
The doctor explained that most cysts go away on their own. She suggested waiting to re-examine the cyst in a month to see if it had gone away. If not, I would need to have the cyst removed through a non-invasive surgery.
So, for a month, I waited. I shuffled daily between optimism and frightening “what if’s,” reminding myself that there was no point in worrying until it was time to worry. Every night I prayed “Please Lord heal my body.” Even in my spare time I would repeat the words just so he could hear my request. It had become routine, and was beginning to lose meaning.
A month passed, and it was time for my second ultrasound. When it was finished, I was sent away again, unceremoniously, this time to the waiting room and waited for my doctor to give me the results.
My doctor told me that the cyst had grown, and that she would need to remove the cyst from my left ovary. She assured me that the ovary would remain in tact and that everything would be fine.
When I heard this, adrenalin pumped through my body. I had an “okay, let’s just do this,” attitude. I just wanted it to be over. We scheduled my surgery and prepared for the next steps.
Two days later, she called me back. When I saw the number I didn’t want to answer. We had already confirmed what was to happen, didn’t we? We shook on it, we made a deal. Why was she calling me again? Reluctantly, I answered the phone.
The next 2 minutes were filled with muffled analog noise. My head was a swirl of pissed-off why-me’s, WTF’s and fiery tears. The only thing I heard clearly was, “Would you like to come in and talk?”
I responded through tears, “Yes.”
After the hanging up the phone, I screamed.
I screamed a scream that could have been felt through the paint of the walls. I was so angry at God, in a way I had never felt before.
“I’m never going to have children.”
“What did I do to deserve this?”
“I should have just stayed a virgin”
I beat myself up until I was tired of fighting. Weak, I called my mom and she came home from work to console me.
When we got to the doctors office, things became clearer. The doctor explained that after closer examination she thought that it would be best if the whole left ovary was removed through laparoscopic surgery. The cyst had twisted my ovary and was stuck to my uterus. The best course of action was to remove the whole thing because there would hardly be any ovary left if she took just the cyst. More importantly, she said that she wanted to do a biopsy to make sure the growth was not cancerous.
“How am I going to have children?” I asked her.
She then explained that you only needed one ovary to have a baby. Ovaries alternate producing eggs every other month, and if one was missing, the other would simply pick up the slack.
I was slightly more relieved. My chances at womanhood weren’t completely destroyed, they were however going to be altered.
I dismissed the idea completely. Cancer had already trudged it’s trail of hurt and loss through my family. I couldn’t fathom bringing on anymore pain to them on account of this. The last thing I needed was guilt.
As I waited for my surgery date, I tried hopelessly to be optimistic. I treated myself to gifts I didn’t need, ate 17 dollar lunches, and even forced myself to rekindle old flames so that I would have someone to comfort me before and after the surgery. It was all very selfish, dramatic, and irrational, but it was how I dealt with what felt like doomsday.
Finally, it was the day of surgery.
When I entered the surgery wing I was bombarded with a broken record of questions from the nurses and doctors as they prepared for the operation.
What surgery are you getting? Laporoscopic surgery on my left ovary.
What are you having done today? Laporoscopic surgery to remove my left ovary…
What brings you in today? I’m getting my left ovary removed!!!
When they wheeled me down the hall and into the surgery room I was numb. The numbest I have ever “not felt.” I repeated my favorite scripture, Jeremiah 29:11, in my head the same way I repeatedly answered the nurses questions. “For I have plans for you, declared the Lord, plans to prosper — not harm you, plans to give you hope and future.”
I was no longer angry with God. I knew that everything is in his plan and that this surgery was for the best.
The doctors placed me on the surgery bed and told me to breathe in deeply-
When I awoke, I had one less ovary.
I didn’t feel any lighter, just vulnerable knowing that I had been opened — fiddled with.
Along with vulnerability, the recovery process made me very entitled. I limped around the house keeping score of who checked on me and who did not. Some grudges I am still working on today to let go.
Despite the aches and mental pains — the complementary side dishes of surgery — I have recovered. My periods are less painful and I can sleep soundly.
I now have to take birth control every day to keep my hormone levels in check and prevent future cysts. These tiny pills are a daily reminder of that surgery, my endometriosis, and of my uncertain fertility future.
This whole experience has opened my eyes to the silent disease of endometriosis and it’s effect on women worldwide. I have joined support groups and have read excellent articles by other strong women sharing their experiences. These women have inspired me to share my story and my truth.
My ovaries were a gang. And now, my right ovary is a gang — a one of one. It is holdin’ down my territory, producing eggs and shedding linings. Better still, it’s allowing me to share this story. And for that, I am grateful.