Jill was in a car accident the end of September 2009. She injured her foot, and needed treatment for back pain she thought was a result of the accident, or had been re-injured from a car accident years ago. As she came to find out, the back pain was caused by much more. I recently interviewed her to get the full story:
What happened after your car accident?
I was experiencing a lot of back pain, so my doctor ordered a MRI in mid-October. Not the most fun thing to do, but it was an open MRI. In addition to a couple minor bulging discs, the MRI also discovered two large growths about the size of baseballs in my pelvic region. The radiologist believed one was an ovarian cyst, but wasn't sure if the other was a cyst or fibroid. I saw my OB/GYN, who performed a sonogram. It showed that both were ovarian cysts and the doctor said that 90% of the time, these go away on their own. He explained a couple of other scenarios, the worst being pain and outpatient surgery. I went back a month later for another sonogram to monitor it. In the meantime, I researched ovarian cysts online, and found that most women have them off and on in their life and they usually go away when you have your period. They can commonly get to 4 cm, which is smaller then the ones I had. They can also be exacerbated by stress, which I had been having a lot of.
At one point, the doctor had suggested possibly doing a cortisone epidural, but since my back pain greatly subsided, it was manageable. So the doctor decided I didn’t need the cortisone epidural.
So what was the diagnosis?
My doctor monitored the ovarian cyst (size of a baseball) by measuring it over three months. The one on the right went away on its own. My doctor decided to do a Cancer Antigen (CA) 125 blood test which indicates cancer markers. The test came back slightly elevated; the doctor determined it was endometriosis, but had to wait until the cyst pathology report. It took about a week, and the test finally showed it wasn't cancerous.
My doctor and I discussed removing the ovary along with the cyst since I’m 45 and not having more children. We decided this was the best option. He also assured me that the other ovary would take over in my menstrual cycle and I would still have a regular cycle. I didn’t have any pain, and was still shocked this was found because of the MRI that was taken due to my back pain from the car accident.
What questions did you ask your doctor?
I asked about the procedure mostly, but also about the effects of removing an ovary. The doctor was very good at explaining everything to me, about the anesthesia that would be used, and how they would remove the endometrial growth through my belly button.
They removed it through your belly button?
Yes, they made three incisions in my belly button, one to the left of my belly button, and then one at the bikini line. They went in with a scope/light, and tools. They initially cut off the blood supply to the growth, covered it with a bag, punctured the growth, then removed the bag with contents of the deflated growth out through my belly button.
Did it hurt?
I was anesthetized for the surgery, but after the procedure, my belly button was sore and I had soreness in my pelvic area. I also was nauseated for the rest of the day after the surgery, but I could walk. It was outpatient surgery, so the procedure started at 7:30am, and I was home by 1pm.
What was the hardest part of your condition?
The time between finding out it was endometriosis, and getting the CA125 result was tough, but I was busy with other things, so it actually went by quickly. Other than that, the recovery from surgery was tough because the medication they gave me upset my stomach. I also was sore, but within two days I was out of bed and shuffling around. I had to walk hunched over for a few days, but I recovered well, I think. I since the surgery, I have been waking up with mild headaches (possibly from hormones) and experienced leg muscle pain (probably from the anesthesia or from being in the stirrups).
Would a normal gynecological appointment have found this?
My doctor said that he would have noticed the cyst during my pelvic exam. But I realized I hadn’t been to see my doctor in over two years, and had never received a reminder like I usually do. I had been going for mammograms for a separate condition, and must’ve gotten off track with my annual exams, so it’s a good thing that this was found. I feel very lucky it wasn’t cancer. I’m fully recovered now, and I don’t expect to have to experience it again in the future. I believe it’s very important to get annual exams with your gynocologist.
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