Hello, My Little Friend

THE ER

The emergency room of any hospital is a strange place. Ask anyone who has been there. The kids dropped me off at the ER and I walked in to register. I was relieved to see only one other person waiting. I was in so much pain and my hand was shaking so much I couldn’t fill out the registration form. I had to ask the nurse if she could fill it out for me. I slumped over the edge of the counter as I gave her my personal information.

I spoke to the check-in nurse briefly, gave all my insurance info to another woman, then waited some more. We probably waited an hour, and the ER waiting room slowly filled up. I enjoyed looking at the clothes people wore to the ER. There were a lot of track pants, but also a surprising number of six inch heels and tight, short, hoochie mama dresses. I bet there were some good stories connected to those clothes.

We were finally called back and told that all the rooms were full, was it okay if they gave us a curtained off area along the hallway? I laughed and asked if we really had a choice, and she said some people actually choose to wait for a room. I guess some emergencies are more private–and urgent–than others. My curtained cubicle was not bad, situated right across from the main nurses’ desk, and I asked to leave the curtains halfway open so I could see what was going on around me. No chairs are allowed in these cubicles in the hallway (fire hazard), so Nick and Nicole squeezed onto the end of the bed with me. I was just glad to be in a bed. The pain was definitely an 8 by now.

emergency room

Just happy to be in a bed.

A nice nurse gave me a gown and a warm blanket, and a young paramedic put in an IV. It took two attempts. Ugh.

By far the worst part of any trip to a hospital, for me, is putting in an IV. They are not fun. The worst location to have one put in is on the wrist or top of the hand. No matter where they put it, it hurts. Maybe my abdominal pain was enough to divert my attention, but it really didn’t hurt too much this time, despite the fact that it took two attempts. The nice nurse came and asked the young paramedic why it didn’t work the first time, told him to “push right on through the valve,” and stood by for assistance on the second arm. I could tell he was a little nervous because we were all watching him.

More waiting. Dr H introduced himself, pushed at my stomach near the belly button telling me it sounded like diverticulitis, then frowned as I guided his hand down to the actual location of pain and told him my hormonal issues from the past few months. He didn’t seem convinced that it was anything other than diverticulitis, and eventually I was wheeled off for a CT scan–for the first time ever without having to drink the dreaded 35 ounces of contrast liquid. I guess I talked about hating it so much that they took pity on me. I sent the kids off for some lunch for themselves while I had the scan.

The man who wheeled me down to the CT room asked if I had ever had diverticulitis before, then was amazed when I told him I’d had the rare duodenal form twice. He literally oohed and aahed. I think it made his day. He didn’t know why they were doing the scan without the contrast, checked to make sure they weren’t making a mistake, then had me slide across the bed to the big donut-shaped tube. I took a few deep breaths when my old familiar buddy, British Accent Man, told me to, and then it was back to my “room” to wait for results.

spine

I have no idea where the cyst is in this cross-section from the CT scan, but at least I can identify the spine!

The nice nurse came by a little later with something for the IV. When I asked her what it was she told me saline, because the doctor thought I looked a little “peaked.” Oh, and this little vial here that I’m inserting into your IV? Morphine. Morphine! The effects were almost immediate and the pain subsided to about a 3. It was the first time I’d felt comfortable all day.

Dr H eventually came by with results from the CT scan. I had a cyst on my left ovary. A 10cm, “complicated” cyst. He said because of its composition (fluid and solid particles) and size, he was going to call someone from gynecology to come down and give me more information. Though he said it was too soon to start worrying about cancer, he admitted there was some cause for concern.

A cyst the size of a grapefruit. Well, hello, my little friend. This explained a lot about the bloating, tight jeans, and frequent trips to the bathroom.

I was calm. I was relaxed while I took in the news. I felt a slight sense of satisfaction that I was right about something being wrong with my hormones and ovaries these past few months. The idea of cancer, however, had never entered my mind. I told the kids I wasn’t worried at all, that except for the excruciating pain in my belly I felt strong and healthy. I ran marathons. I was thin. I had had two children. I breastfed both for a year each. I had none of the risk factors and no family history. I didn’t feel seriously ill in the least.

The gynecologist (or gynecological nurse, I’m not sure which) came down and explained more, telling me they wanted to run some tests to rule out all the “bad stuff” first. She said it didn’t mean there was anything to worry about, they just wanted to rule out the bad first and go from there. She asked me a lot of questions, then I was wheeled off to an examination room for a pelvic exam, which another gynecologist performed.

She was nice, but her cool demeanor wasn’t very calming. She seemed a little stiff and nervous. She spoke to me about torsion, which is when a cyst twists on itself and cuts off the blood supply to the ovary–which is “very bad,” though she didn’t explain why. She told the nurse to bring a pap smear kit, and I asked her if that was necessary since I’d had a hysterectomy five years earlier. Oops. She admitted she forgot I’d had a hysterectomy and apologized. Everyone makes mistakes, but it made her lose a little credibility in my eyes. Both doctors did a pelvic exam. This was not comfortable at all, even with the morphine. She said my stomach wasn’t too tight or hard, which was a good sign, and she didn’t think there was any torsion.

The cyst and ovary would definitely need to be removed, as soon as possible. She asked if I wanted my doctor to make all the arrangements or if I wanted to come to the clinic across the street. Maybe it was the morphine, but this is where I kind of spaced out. I wondered why my family doctor would need to be informed when he’s not a gynecologist, so she said she would schedule an appointment for the following Monday in preparation for surgery and that they would call me (they never did). Monday was still five long days away . . .

We were finally given our own room with a teeny, tiny TV monitor on a long, expandable arm that my son had fun annoying us with, and three chairs. Michael arrived from work, and we saw on the TV that it was storming outside. We heard nothing inside the hospital, and I was sorry to be missing a good thunderstorm. I thought about the dogs alone at home, who hate thunderstorms.

The nice nurse asked if I’d ever had a transvaginal ultrasound before, then told me about the grapefruit sized ovarian cyst she’d had years ago. She called hers a “chocolate cyst” based on the color of the fluid. Hers was removed, was noncancerous, and she went on to give birth to a son three years later. She knew all about the pain I was going through.

Emergency room

Waiting for the ultrasound.

A CA-125 blood test was given to test for tumor markers, then I was wheeled off again for an ultrasound. First the technician tried on top of my abdomen, but she said there was so much fluid inside my abdominal cavity she was having a difficult time finding either ovary. I asked if that was a bad thing, to have fluid in the abdomen, and what it meant, but all she would say was that it could mean different things. She next did a transvaginal ultrasound which gave her slightly better results. Both procedures were uncomfortable but not painful. The technician was very quiet and made almost no small talk, which was not very reassuring.

After getting to the doctor’s office around 11:00AM, and the ER around 1:00PM, Β by the time we left the hospital around 7:30PM it had been a full day. The young paramedic removed the IV shunt while I joked about him leaving it in and giving me a vial of morphine to take home with me. Trainspotting Mom! Maybe my joking waved a red flag because I was sent home with nothing stronger than prescription strength ibuprofen (800 mg).

I felt I was leaving the ER with more questions than answers. I had a large ovarian cyst. It could be cancerous. It would have to be removed, along with the ovary and possibly the other ovary as well, no matter what the CA-125 blood test showed. I would still be in pain for the next few days.

In the meantime, the morphine was starting to wear off.

To be continued . . .

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38 comments

  1. Margaret

    You are such a brilliant writer. I don’t know how you maintained your calm to remember what happened that day. Thank you for sharing what you are going through so others can learn. Prayers sent to lift you and your caregivers up.

  2. westerner54

    So, none of this is sounding the least bit fun. And I can’t imagine what the pain must have felt like if a marathon runner describes it as an 8. What would I have said? 32?

    During my meditation class last night I was sending many vibes your way, and the words that kept coming into my head were “soothing warmth.” So I’m sending you that!

    • Mind Margins/Run Nature

      We’ve got plenty of “soothing warmth” down here in Texas at the moment! All kidding aside, thank you for thinking of me during your meditation class. I still struggle with meditation, both finding the time and keeping my monkey mind from jumping all over the place. As for none of this sounding the least bit fun, just wait. It gets even better!

  3. Thomas

    “The cyst and ovary would definitely need to be removed, as soon as possible. …schedule an appointment for the following Monday in preparation for surgery and that they would call me (they never did). Monday was still five long days away…”

    WTFO?? Sorry, but I don’t classify 5 days as “ASAP”

  4. Michelle

    Yeah, me neither (to Thomas’s comment). I’m having some trouble with the casual stance the hospital staff seems to have taken. I’m sure they see so much in the course of a week, much less their careers, that it’s all fairly routine for them. And we have to assume they knew what they were doing and what the risks were for you. Maybe five days wasn’t an abnormal amount of time to pass in your scenario. But I will say again, I don’t like it!

    Remember that scene in Terms of Endearment? http://movieclips.com/ZcVhp-terms-of-endearment-movie-emmas-pain-shot/

    That’s what I feel like – I don’t see why she has to have this cyst the size of a grapefruit! Give my friend her surgery!

    • Mind Margins/Run Nature

      I think the ER doctors were able to determine that I wasn’t in any imminent life-threatening danger. Once they determined that, all they could do from that point is set the wheels in motion for the next step. I did wonder why they didn’t prescribe a stronger pain med, but my family doctor took care of that when I spoke to him the next day.

  5. Richard

    Angela, as said above, very well written. Very real. So nice your children were there with you. Our 30 old son is named Nick, if we would have had a girl it would of been Nicole πŸ™‚ You have good humor too. Hoochie Mama dresses comment made me laugh. Prayers for you and your children will be said.

    • Mind Margins/Run Nature

      We love that we have a Nick and a Nicole in the family. I deal with things best through humor. If you can’t laugh at yourself and the world, what’s the point? Life is too short to be gloomy and depressed!

  6. oopsjohn

    Wonderfully informative and well-written account which has us all on the edge of our seats hoping for the best in your next installment. This is probably slim to no consolation at all but on a lighter note your X-ray is like an abstract work of art! πŸ™‚

  7. Runcolbyrun

    Know I have been thinking of you quite often—-and wishing you health. You’re a wonderful writer. And from what I know, a strong woman. Love that your children are Nick and Nicole. Of course, I am biased.

    Sending you healing thoughts-
    Nicole aka Colby πŸ™‚

    • Mind Margins/Run Nature

      Well, Nick (Nicolas) is my child, and his girlfriend is Nicole. She said when they met she knew she had to date him because of their names. Thank you for keeping me in your thoughts, Colby!

  8. MikeW

    “Like!” on your writing, humor, and concern for others. What you’re going through, not so much! Prayers continue.

  9. therunningtherapist

    Glad you can keep your sense of humor during all of this. Lots of prayers for answers soon and healing. From what I have read, you are a strong woman who will be able to handle this with grace and strength (and a little humor never hurts either)!

    • Mind Margins/Run Nature

      I will deal with whatever the prognosis turns out to be. Hopefully I will have good news tomorrow. No matter what, I will fight and hope for the best. I have so little control over this. All I can do is stay positive and keep laughing.

  10. Tim May

    My oh my. Your attitude is inspirational, your spirit wonderful, your patience remarkable, and your wit intact. And to that, how you kept from busting somebody in the nose is amazing in itself. I remember with my mom’s cancer, the doctors and I have always had more than one genuine conversation about her care and pain management. Mom would scold me when I told them that I now understood why they called their work a “practice”. So Angela, don’t make me come down there to have that same conversation with your doctors…. πŸ™‚ stay strong lady!

  11. pwhent

    Angela you move and inspire me with you honesty and courage. I think I am one of a cast of thousands who wait on tenterhooks for the next installment praying for good news.

  12. monica

    UGH. I hate this. you are so brave to be able to WRITE about this so soon afterward and to have such a fantastic attitude. I hate no bedside manner and I hate incompetence – you had to tell them you’d HAD A HYSTERECTOMY. HELLO. come on. and you are soooo calm. that’s so great and I admire you so much – your courage especially. how did you even have the piece of mind when you were on morphine and at an 8? you are my hero for today (and probably quite a few days).

    • Mind Margins/Run Nature

      Monica, I bet you would have acted exactly the same way as I did. I’m pretty patient with everyone except RUDE and MEAN people. They drive me nuts and set off all my alarms, and I feel compelled to dish it right back to them.

  13. averageinsuburbia

    I’m glad to read your doctor gave you more pain meds the next day. Still, it is unbelievable to me they would send you home with nothing but ibuprofen. From morphine to ibuprofen, yeah, that makes sense 😦

    • Mind Margins/Run Nature

      I heard one of the ER docs explain to another woman that they don’t prescribe potent pain meds for a reason. If they did, they would have people lined up around the block faking pain to come get their fix. He told her she had to call her family doctor to get stronger pain meds. It’s probably just one of their policies and they enforce it for everyone.

    • Mind Margins/Run Nature

      I wouldn’t describe any of this as FUN either, but it probably hasn’t been as bad as it seems. You are much stronger than you think you are. I learned that from running marathons, and now this is just another kind of race.

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