Up until recently, I always felt so proud to tell people that I had never been to hospital and that I had never had an operation. It made me feel proud of my health and that I was looking after my body. I never realised that it was a judgmental perception and that majority of the time, people couldn’t help the illnesses that they had developed or needed to go to hospital for. My situation developed very quickly and was an extremely scary time of my life.
HOW I REALISED THAT SOMETHING WAS WRONG
Last year October, I was at the peak of my fitness. I had been going to gym and to boxing at least 4 times a week. I could see massive changes in my body, all very positive. After my bachelorette party, which included a lot of dancing and jumping around, I started to feel a dull ache in the top of my left thigh. Initially, I thought that I had just pulled a muscle. After a few days, the pain progressed into my abdomen and into my lower back. I have had kidney infections before (refer to my water blog for more info on this) and just thought it was a re-occurring infection. I began drinking countless glasses of water and taking kidney support drops.
After 3 days, the pain had progressed even more. I made a doctor’s appointment and she did urine tests, which all came back clear. She did however notice that the glands in my groin were very swollen and recommended an urgent consultation with a gynecologist. I managed to get an appointment early the next morning and never expected to get the news that I did…”You have a tumour, the size of a small orange in your left ovary”.
I cried.. and cried some more. Luckily, my best friend had come with me and was able to console and support me. There is just something so petrifying about the word ‘tumour’. It has such a stigma tied to it. I also got told that I would need to do a cancer test. I felt like the ground was being pulled away, from beneath me. How had I gone from being so healthy and in top shape to having a tumour in my ovary, that I had no idea about!
After a panicky few days of MRI’s, blood tests and further gynae consultations, I was eventually booked in for ovarian laproscopic surgery with one of the top surgeons. I was warned of the possibility of having to remove the entire ovary, which also came as a shock. I was fortunate enough to get pushed to the top of the priority list as my wedding was in 2 weeks and my mom had managed to convince the surgeon how important it was to me to be better for my wedding and my honeymoon. Mom – thanks for your countless hours of ensuring that I had the best surgeon and that I was well looked after for the days leading up to the surgery.
WHAT IS OVARIAN LAPROSCOPIC SURGERY?
A laparoscopic ovarian procedure is a minimally invasive surgery during which a laparoscope, a long thin instrument with a camera attached at one end is used. The surgery is usually used to remove cysts and to check for endometriosis or cancer. I was extremely fortunate as the surgery went so well that I got to keep my ovary, got a ‘no cancer’ diagnosis and had the entire mass removed in one easy go. It turned out that it wasn’t a tumour but in fact a burst cyst that had bled out into my ovary and caused a mass. The surgeon did however find signs of endometriosis but managed to cut out the small traces of it.
The surgery took about 2 hours in total and I was released the same afternoon. The trick is to show that you can eat, urinate and walk within a few hours of the surgery and then they will allow you to leave the hospital. I had arrived at 6am and only left at 6pm. My amazing mom and loving husband-to-be had stayed with me in my hospital room, the entire day.
Expect to wear the giant puffy underwear too!
WHAT TO EXPECT AFTER OVARIAN SURGERY
The next few hours and days after surgery are extremely painful but not in the way that you would think! The pain rippled through my ribs, neck and shoulders. During laproscopic surgery, they pump your abdomen up with gas to lift the skin and muscle away from your organs. This gives the surgeon more space to operate without having to make large incisions. After the surgery, the only way that the gas can escape is through movement and through your skin. The pain is referred to as intraperitoneal gas pains and is caused by gas trapped outside of the intestines, but inside the abdominal cavity.
Tips for Relieving Gas Pain
- Walk: Walk early and walk often. In addition to preventing gas pain, there are many other benefits to walking after surgery such as preventing blood clots.
- Heating pads: Heating pads may also provide relief. Remember if you had abdominal surgery, you may have some numbness on your abdominal wall. Do not apply a heating pad to numb skin or burns could result.
- Hot tea: If you are allowed to drink, hot tea is a great remedy to help gastrointestinal motility and relieve painful gas pains.
- Some prescription medicines allow gas bubbles to be eliminated from the body more easily. Enquire with your doctor.
Looking at my scars today, you would never guess that I had surgery. I have 3 small scars, each less than 2cm long, on my abdomen as well as one small vertical scar just below my navel.
UPDATE SINCE OVARIAN SURGERY
Although I still have very small ovarian cysts in both ovaries, I have not had any further issues since the surgery. I was in perfect condition for both my wedding and the honeymoon, which I am extremely grateful for. I have unfortunately not managed to get back to my peak fitness since then, as I felt that I needed to give my body time to rest and recover for a few months. It is important to remember that although you may have healed on the outside, it takes time for your internal organs to fully heal themselves.
Two weeks post surgery
If you have had the same surgery or may need to have it soon, please feel free to share your personal experience as well as any questions that you may have. I would love to share any information with someone going through what I have been through, as it was a very scary experience!