You’ve got a rather large ovarian cyst. It’s a simple cyst. Imagine a balloon of fluid, around 10cm in size, attached to your left ovary
Those words filled me with such relief I can’t even express it to you. Finally, I had answers.
From what I remember the gynaecologist saying
‘You’ve got a rather large ovarian cyst. It’s a simple cyst. Imagine a balloon of fluid. It’s not polycystic in nature, and your cancer markers were normal. It’s approximately 10cm. I’m putting you on the emergency list for surgery, and we’ll come back to you after our MDT meeting. But I’d assume you’d be in surgery within the next month’.
Finally some answers
Finally, I could pin point what was going on what was making my period pain so bad I was nearly bursting into tears in meetings. Finally, I could understand why I could barely move for 1-2 days a month (but kept going because god forbid us women let our periods detail us from life). Finally, I could understand why my PMS symptoms were so much worse than normal. Finally, something was happening. Nearly 2 months after my initial GP appointment where I raised these issues, I sat in a gynaecologist’s office in the Colposcopy ward at the Royal Free Hospital in London and got some answers. Maude, the giant cyst, was an issue and needed to be removed.
All my life I've had period pain
And I just soldiered on, assuming it was normal
Since moving to London approx. 10 months ago, the pain has become exponentially worse. On a scale of 1-10, I was probably at 25 with a side of occasional tears. Bear in mind, I’m on the pill and have always been that unfortunate sod whose pain level never changed on or off the pill.
Ovarian cysts are almost stupidly common.
As women, we should get this warning while we’re growing up. In sex ed (or maybe in later years so as to not freak out the pre-teens) we should be told about ovarian cysts- simple, PCOS, Endo or other. It infuriated me how little I knew about cysts before the surgery, and how much of a lack of information there is around women’s health in general. I made the conscious effort to speak openly about my adventures with Maude. And the more I mentioned the surgery and Maude the giant cyst, the more I had people saying that they themselves/ their sister/mother/friend had all had something similar.
The stats for needing to remove a cyst like mine are quite small. Only 8% of women are unfortunate enough to have cysts larger than 7cms. And anything larger than 7cm is classified as large, and inherently comes with more risks- all of which involve ending up in massive amounts of pain and in the emergency department.
The surgery itself is pretty simple. The correct term is a laparoscopic cystectomy. Or in simple terms, the surgeon makes 3-4 minuscule incisions in your stomach/pelvis, they puncture the cyst, drain it, remove the sack, then stitch you up and boom your cyst free. But boy is there a whole heap of stuff that I wasn’t prepared for, no matter how prepared I thought I was.
There’s no pain quite like the feeling of gas escaping your body via your shoulders.
Sounds weird I know, but what I found weirder is that the surgeons pump gas into your stomach to create space. Fancy that. They try and remove as much as possible but given its gas, it’s almost impossible to get all of it out. I also felt what I described as ‘pregnant’ for the first few days- heavy and bloated. Note- I’ve never been pregnant so hopefully check back in in a few years and I’ll know if my initial assessment was right.
Overall though, removing Maude has lifted a massive weight (literally and figuratively). Will this eliminate all my period pain? Will I have to have surgery again? Only time will tell. What I do know, if that Maude probably came at a time where I needed something ti force me to pause. I needed a physical push to just sit down, stop rushing every which way and just take stock of where I was at in my life. I needed a forced break from killing myself at the gym 4-6x a week and a forced break from work where I was not allowed to do much more than watch Netflix and read for a few days.
Why am I telling you all this?
What I really really want to get out of sharing my story, is that we all start paying more attention to our bodies. If something feels off, go to a doctor. And more importantly TALK to your friends, colleagues, or even random strangers like I am and share your stories. I hate the fact that there’s still so much about women’s health that exists in the shadows, that we women are afraid to talk publicly about. So come ‘on ladies- let’s interspace those conversations with our friends with talking about some real, sometimes scary things. Because I’m, willing to bet, that friend who you’re sharing a glass of wine or tea with, is probably going to be even more understanding than you can imagine.