It was about 2 a.m. I woke to a pain like someone had thrust a hand in my gut, grabbed my internal organs and started twisting. I was covered in sweat. Vomit rose in my throat.
“Chris,” I said to my new husband, uttering his name with a long, rising pitch like the beginning of panic. He reflected later that he understood, before he was fully awake, that something was terribly wrong.
“I need help.” An understatement. I thought I might be dying.
We got up, quickly dressed and Chris drove me to the ER. There was a flurry of activity. I was whisked behind a curtain. My husband was kept outside and questioned — embarrassing questions.
We had only been married six weeks. One of the happy parts of this story is that just six weeks earlier I didn’t have insurance.
Before our wedding in the 1990s, I had been working three jobs with no benefits and no health insurance. Those were the days before universal health care. If I felt ill, I just pushed on without seeing a doctor, unless absolutely necessary.
In fact, I did have similar symptoms about a year before — not quite as severe, also in the middle of the night. I just lay in bed, sweating and feverish and worried, hoping it would pass.
Luckily, it did. Luckily, now married, I had insurance.
Behind the ER curtain, the doctors asked me my sexual history. The word “chlamydia” was thrown around. Yay, chlamydia.
For a Catholic couple who had practiced abstinence until the wedding night, this was a bit insulting. Could we have a little credit, here, guys?
So with my gut gripped in a giant’s fistful of pain, being probed by strangers, I was imagining my Dudley-do-right husband at some wild bachelor party with a lapful of strippers.
I was given an ultrasound. A large, grapefruit-sized mass was found on my right ovary.
Things got a little quieter. There was no more talk of VD. I was instructed in grave tones to see a gynecologist the next morning. Well, it was morning. In a few hours.
A few hours later the OB-GYN greeted me warmly. “It’s not often ovarian cancer in someone your age, but I did just have a 20-year-old patient die of it.”
2) Ovarian Cysts. MayoClinic.com. Retrieved February 10, 2016.
3) Ovarian Cyst Rupture. medscape.com. Retrieved February 10, 2016.
4) Management of Ruptured Ovarian Cyst. saintlukeshealthsystem.org. Retrieved February 11, 2016.