When it came to my ovary removal surgery I was completely ignorant that such a thing was even possible. As the only major surgeries, I was aware of for women’s health issues were hysterectomy and fibroid removal surgery. But, let me tell you endometriosis taught me a lot about women’s health. And, quite honestly I’m baffled as to why these issues are not discussed or talked about. You only learn about different women’s health issues when you’re going through them. No one ever talks about them freely just to create awareness. Well, I’m going to change that with today’s post. I’m going to talk about my ovary removal surgery. Let’s get a little more personal and talk about the details of what, when, why and how. So, pour a cup of coffee or a glass of wine. Depending on what time you’re reading this blog and let’s have some girl chat.
Why Did I Need An Ovary Removal Surgery?
If you’re new to my blog or not familiar with my story I have endometriosis. Endometriosis is a condition in which tissue similar to endometrial tissue begins to grow and attach to organs outside of the uterus. Such as the fallopian tubes, ovaries, bowels, kidneys, and various other organs in the pelvis. And, when these endometrial tissues are left untreated they lead to issues with inflammation, scarring, and adhesions on the areas they’ve implanted on. This is why many women with endometriosis experience excruciating pain, discomfort, and infertility struggles.
As for me, endometriosis had not only proliferated and covered my peritoneum (the membrane that lines the abdominal cavity and covers abdominal organs). But, it began to grow on my right and left ovaries forming a type of cyst called an endometrioma. These cysts had become so large that they formed two giant masses within my pelvis and abdomen. Thus, causing concerns for my doctors due to the fact that one, I had two large masses growing in my pelvis. And, two there was a chance that these masses could be cancerous and that I had ovarian cancer. So, it was necessary for me to have open abdominal surgery (laparotomy). In which my gynecologic oncologist (a doctor that specializes in gynecologic cancer) could assess what was going on and perform a biopsy.
Now Let’s Get A Little Technical
Before my surgery, I got the opportunity to sit down with my oncologist and discuss my options. The most important thing I wanted to know was if my fertility could be preserved. I’m 35 and have no children and would like to try to start my family fairly soon. He was very matter of fact and clear regarding and informed me of the options I had. If indeed the cysts were cancerous he would move forward with bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy. This meant that both of my ovaries and fallopian tubes would be removed but my uterus would remain. With this option, I would be able to get pregnant via an egg donor if I so chose. On the other hand, if the cysts were not cancerous he would do what he could to save my ovaries and preserve my fertility.
As it turned out the cysts were not cancerous (praise God!) and were due to endometriosis as suspected. He was able to excise and drain the 2 cysts that were found on my right ovary. But, he was unable to save my left ovary as there was too much damage done by the cyst and endometriosis. As a matter of fact, he found my left ovary and the fallopian tube had adhered to my intestines! So, he had to remove my left ovary and fallopian tube and reconstruct my right ovary. Additionally, the endometriosis on my peritoneum was excised. Which means he cut out the endometriosis like you would remove a weed from your garden. Finally, a small fibroid was removed from the outer surface of my uterus. Yes, there was a lot going on with my reproductive organs.
All That’s Left Is The Healing
That Hospital Life
My surgery took over 4 hours. In which I’m sure my surgeon thought “Wow, I’ve never seen such a mess!” I kid, I kid. Honestly, my surgeon is very nice and very thorough. He’s given me a little hope that nice doctors do exist. They’re not mythical unicorns. Anyway, I digress let’s talk about the healing process. I was in the hospital for 4 ½ days. The staff was lovely, the pain and discomfort were not fun. I was in a lot of pain for the first couple of days. I had to be put on a catheter twice because I couldn’t pee (this was honestly the worst part). And, had 2 or 3 nurses try to give me an IV for my morphine drip. It got so bad I told them that morphine wasn’t worth it. I’d rather be in pain than feel that fracking needle in my veins again.
Walking around was a challenge because I was so sore and uncomfortable and dizzy from all the meds. But, I made myself because I didn’t want blood clots and my super sweet nurse encouraged me. I will never forget she told me the worst thing I could do was lay around. That laying down and not being mobile would make the healing process that much harder. I believed her and fought for every shaky, dizzy little step. When I was finally released all my nurses came to wish me well and go over final instructions. They hugged me and were so encouraging and happy for me. Honestly, I owe a big part of my recovery to their care and positive energy. I’m determined that if I get pregnant I’m having my child at that hospital because the care I received there was top notch.
My healing journey at home was fairly easy physically. But hard on me mentally and emotionally. I’ll get into that part later let’s just talk about the physical stuff for now. I didn’t experience much pain and was able to discontinue my pain meds. And let me tell you I hated that medication. It gave me the worst nightmares, made me hallucinate, and caused me to hum at random intervals. Ok, I know that sounds like a weird side effect. But I’m telling you I would start humming under my breath while I was half asleep and wake myself up to realize oh it’s ME that’s making that noise! I was more than ecstatic to drop them in the compactor and grind them up forever. Walking was still hard but I made myself do it. I had trouble walking upright. Most likely because my core muscles had just been cut into and were weak. So, I had to get an abdominal binder to help retrain my muscles.
My appetite was non-existent. I didn’t have any real interest in food. I mean I would get hungry but once I started eating it just didn’t taste that great. So, I stuck with mostly soups and really simple bland foods for a while. Consequently, I lost a good bit of weight that I’m just now starting to gain back. Then there was the incision. When my post-surgery dressing first came off and I saw my incision for the first time with the staples I cried. I felt all the feelings. I have body image issues and it was just a shock seeing my stomach with the incision and staples. It wasn’t a pretty sight. I eventually got over it but it wasn’t easy at first.
The only severe complication I had post-surgery was constipation. Oh, boy that was a doozy. It got so bad that I had to have glycerin suppositories. Which are seriously awkward but thank God for them they came in clutch. And, to be honest, I think I’m still recovering because my bowel movements haven’t regulated. And, I still need stool softeners to help go to the bathroom. Now, I’ve had issues with chronic constipation and IBS in the past. Which I’m sure was linked to my endometriosis. So, I do believe these two things have just wrecked my bowels and I’m going to be repairing them for a while. I’m so glad that I wasn’t prescribed antibiotics because I think it would’ve been even worse.
Mental & Emotional Recovery
Up until this point I’ve never had major surgery. Unless you count having your wisdom teeth removed as major surgery. Like I never dealt with my health in this magnitude before. So, understandably there was a lot of anxiety and stress about my surgery. Those feelings subsided post-surgery and I was super euphoric and elated. But, that was a temporary high that lasted for maybe 3 weeks. First, it was self-esteem issues. I was feeling some type of way about my incision, especially before I had the staples removed. These feelings subsided post staple removal as my incision began to heal. Second, losing all the weight messed with me mentally. I’ve always struggled with body image and feeling comfortable in my body. But, this took me back a little. Especially, when I had others commenting on my body. I struggled with thoughts of others not believing I had endometriosis because of my dramatic weight loss. And, I felt the familiar pressure of trying to fit a body ideal that pleased everyone but me. Not to mention I went from looking pregnant to not looking pregnant. That was another adjustment for me to reconcile. This really took some time to get to a place of body neutrality. And, honestly, I’m still working on it.
Then there was the fear that the surgery didn’t work. While my recovery was easy and there wasn’t major pain I did have some moderate pain days. It was on those days that I would freak out and assume the worst. That the endometriosis was already coming back. After my most recent follow-up appointment with my surgeon, I’m feeling more confident. My ovary is healing and recovering fine. My cancer antigen levels aren’t elevated. There’s no inflammation present. There is still some tissue around my ovary because she’s still healing. But, no presence of cysts or endometriosis. My fears have been put to rest.
Finally, over the holidays I began to grieve over my lost ovary. This was unexpected and came out of nowhere. I wrestled with emptiness and guilt. I blamed myself for having endometriosis. What did I do wrong? Why was I infertile? What mistake did I make? Then I became mad at the world, the medical community, any and everyone that had ever doubted me. I fell into a downward spiral. It was making me bitter and full of anger But with some work, I’m overcoming it. I’m accepting that sometimes these things happen and there’s no one to blame. And, yes medical professionals are lacking when it comes to women’s health issues like endometriosis. But, there are so many good doctors out there that want to help and want to make a change. Plus, there are so many women that are advocating for awareness and for better treatment. This has helped me so much. And, I believe I’m in the final stages of grieving and I’m ready to let her go. Would it be weird to name my ovary? I don’t know.
I’m Sharing This Because…
I’m sharing my experience because there’s a chance that you’re reading this and going through the same thing. Perhaps, you’re at the beginning of your journey and need to know that whatever happens you’re going to be ok. Or, maybe you have a friend that’s going through something like this and you want to understand her better. Better yet, you just want to know more about women’s health issues and why a woman would lose an ovary. Heck, maybe you’re just nosey and want to know more about me I don’t know. But, whatever drew you to this post I hoped you learned something. If you did do me a favor and leave a comment sharing what you learned.
About the Author.
Hi, my name is Kathleen but you can call me Kat. I’m a health and wellness professional turned freelance writer and content creator. You can find me on YouTube and Instagram. If you take the opportunity to visit me on my other platforms don’t hesitate to leave a message, I would love to hear from you!