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29.04.2019- My Ovarian Cystectomy: One Year On


Today (well, date wise, technically tomorrow) marks the one year anniversary of having my ovarian cyst removed! Hooray! I honestly can't believe that it's been twelve months since everything which I posted about here came to a head, but time really does fly. Looking back, the whole experience feels like a little bit of a blur to be honest- a whirlwind of waiting around, reaching for any vessel to vomit into and an overnight stay in hospital being looked after by the most amazingly kind and generous NHS staff imaginable. 

And, a year on from sporting my oh-so-fetching hospital gown, so far, so good. I really don't want to jinx myself but it's with an overwhelming, tear-stained sense of relief that I'm beyond thrilled to report that I haven't had to resort to prescription medication for period pain since my surgery. I never ever thought that this would happen, and having lived with crippling period pain for as long as I can remember, I'd just resigned myself to a grim state of acceptance- that I was just one of the unlucky ones and would have to muddle through each month as much as I could with a combination of rest, tablets and hot water bottles. For this now not to be the status quo is perhaps the most joyous thing I've experienced in a very long time- and has suddenly allowed me to get my life back on track little by little. No longer fixated with the 28 day rotation from vomit-inducing pain, to mid cycle bleeding, to water retention and back again, I'm able to plan to do things (including taking some much-anticipated holidays!), and am no longer petrified of not being in control of my own body. If I'm honest, it's something which has taken a little while to adjust to- but it's the best kind of adaptation I think I've had to make!

I do occasionally have little pockets of pain here and there, but on the whole it's nothing which a couple of Ibuprofen can't help with. The beached whale/beach ball/6 months pregnant look is still pretty strong in the week or so before I'm due, but again this is nowhere near as debilitating as it used to be (plus brings with it the bonus of nine times out of ten being offered a seat on the Tube), and I'm investing so much in peppermint tea that I'm certain I could buy shares in Twinings. Above all, what I've really come to appreciate in the twelve months since my surgery is just how important it is to celebrate your body for what it is and what it can do- rather than what it isn't and what it can't. We're continually saturated with imagery of what to look like, what to wear, how to get your body ready for the beach- blah, blah, blah- and if you're about the same age as I am, this narrative of inadequacy is one which will have been all the more pervasive in those weekly magazines which we all used to be so obsessed with as teenagers. As well as a slow but steady swerve towards more body-positive imagery in the media, I personally have also really come to respect my physicality for the wonderfully practical things which it allows me to do. A year ago, I could barely get dressed/use the loo/have a shower on my own. Walking to the top of the garden felt like the biggest achievement. The first run I did after the operation seemed like the greatest thing I'd ever accomplished, and I don't think that I'll ever take these small victories for granted. 

The recovery process was longer than I expected, and very much something which needed to be taken one step at a time- not the best if you're as impatient as I am. However, slow and steady wins the race, and the process of recuperation really made me appreciate just how burnt out and tired I was. Now I'm much more mindful of when I'm pushing myself too much, and when prioritising rest is essential- usually about the same time as I find my shoulders creeping up around my ears and my eyes starting to twitch of their own accord. As well as those tell-tale signs of tiredness, I've also got four little reminders of the importance of listening to your body- my laparoscopy scars. If I'm abundantly honest with myself, we've had a bit of a tumultuous relationship (thanks in part to some internal scarring too), from me initially peeling back my hospital dressings to find one of the wounds still marginally open (followed by frantic Googling!) to religiously applying Bio-Oil to them to make them look less aggressive. One of them is still quite a bit bigger and angrier than the others as it's the incision which was made to actually remove the cyst during the laparoscopy, but when I'm reminded of my consultant telling me (delirious as I was when I came round) that they almost had to open me up entirely to take it out, it seems like a very small price to pay. As well as that, these scars remind me every day of the surgery, the recovery, and, perhaps most importantly, the battle I faced in the first instance to get to the point of being referred for a specialist diagnosis. They stand as a hallmark to the power of persistence and to the strength of recovery - and for that reason they're signatures which I'm happy to carry around with me. 

I've got an appointment with my doctor next week to chat through a few things and for an overall MOT, and I think more than anything, this whole experience has confirmed just how important it is to encourage an open dialogue about things like this. I can't tell you how frustrating I found it at the outset of this whole experience to trundle up to the surgery for appointments only to be told my an (almost exclusively, it has to be said, male) contingent of doctors that I'd just have to learn to live with the pain. My experience is a tiny, tiny representation of a much bigger picture of menstrual and gynecological conditions which women are battling to get properly diagnosed all over the world, but shifting culture is key in helping symptoms being recognised and breaking taboos, particularly around periods (and period poverty), is essential. 

For more information and advice, visit gynaegeek.com, thisisourperiod.org and freeperiods.org

(Image credit: Sarah Farrell, please do not reproduce without permission.)

2 Comments

  1. I'm so glad that you are now in a better place, our bodies really are amazing!

    Maria xxx

    ReplyDelete
  2. So glad you're feeling better. xxx

    ReplyDelete

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