It’s been a month since I had to have surgery to have a 13cm cyst removed. What should have just been a cystectomy ended with a unilateral oophorectomy as the giant cyst managed to kill my left ovary making the recovery process a bit more intense than it originally should have been. I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on the recovery process- like way too much time. I’m honestly kind of horrible at being a couch potato so I tried to keep myself sane while I (not so)patiently waited for my post op date. Trust me…that was not easy.
Everything I do on the daily amplifies just how go go go I am and to all of a sudden have to come to a sudden halt- yeah, that didn’t go over so well. It took my mom and several friends constantly reminding me that I could not push things or force myself to heal faster to really listen and slow it down. The first week after surgery was definitely the hardest physically; I could barely walk and couldn’t even stand up straight. Just trying to hold myself up was obnoxiously painful and honestly in some ways a little defeating. It took me 20 minutes to walk what would have normally taken me 5 and the idea of not having something to lean on was completely terrifying for those first few days after surgery. Trying to get myself up after resting would take all of my energy and half the time I needed help or would end up in tears from the pain.
I’m so beyond grateful that the physical hurdles I faced during that first week were temporary because I know there are people out there that have trouble walking or standing or getting up without assistance on a daily basis. Those people take a little longer to do things; they need some extra time and patience. I’ve tried to be a lot more aware of situations like this now whether it be being behind someone grabbing a cart at the grocery store or holding the door a few extra moments for another. After living in those shoes for just a week it’s engrained in me how even strangers can make you feel so small and annoying in one brief encounter. For that first week anytime I was around other people I could feel them staring at me as I inched my way through a store or down a sidewalk. I constantly felt the judgments and annoyed groans I received when someone got “stuck” behind me. It didn’t feel good. It made me feel weak and small and like a burden and no one- surgery or not- should ever feel like that. So, I encourage everyone to really be aware of their mindset when they’re walking past or behind someone that’s clearly struggling. Be patient. Be kind.
These past several weeks following that first one have been hard in a whole different way. As my body has started to feel better and more mobile I’ve had to deal with the urge to want to do more. I’m a very on the go person and being on pause from my day to day busyness has been exceptionally difficult. Every part of me has wanted to jump right back in to exactly where I left off. But it’s taken me this time to realize that where I left off was with a completely different body than the one I have now. My old body was hurting immensely but it was strong. So strong in fact that I would have never realized how big that cyst inside of me was and how much internal damage it had done and was doing without the MRI and the ultrasounds. My body told me in different ways that something was wrong but it also fought strongly for months.
This new body is one that’s not necessarily wiped clean- but it’s different. It doesn’t feel like me yet and quite frankly I’m not sure it ever will. There are empty spaces inside of me where tissues once lived and died. There’s a mass hole where a 13cm cyst lived for God knows how long. My insides are trying to rewire and adapt to their new environment. My physical therapist said it best- this is a completely restructured body that now has to learn to work and be cohesive with organs being shifted and muscles being changed and redeveloped. Things are constantly shifting and healing and with every shift I feel different. I find myself freaking out several times a day as something new occurs and I continuously have to remind myself that I know my body- even though it’s different; even though it’s changing and doesn’t feel like I feel…it’s still me.
I lost almost 3 decades worth of core work due to this surgery. So, for the first time in a very long time my abdominal muscles are taking a (more than deserved) break, healing; glueing themselves back together little by little. And as much as I want to jump right back in to everything I know I have to take those baby steps again. I have to retrain my core, redevelop the muscle as it heals slowly and mindfully; being respectful of my body’s capacity to move on past something so physically traumatic.
I’m not saying it’s easy just because I know it has to be done or that this hasn’t come without push back because trust me…I’ll be the first to admit that I have fought this part the hardest. Being patient, especially with myself, doesn’t come easily and I find myself constantly reminding myself that it’s still early in the recovery and that my body is older and this trauma is different. I won’t heal the same way because the parts of me I relied on to heal from previous traumas are the parts that need to heal this time. Some days I hit great physical milestones like standing for more than 2 hours without pain or driving an hour and other days my victories are smaller or more internal like having one less negative thought about how the healing process is going. But every day has a victory.
The final thing that I’ve really delved into during this process was the one thing I didn’t think I would need to really acknowledge or hold space for (until I found myself having a complete emotional breakdown…in a parking garage…on a random bench…). Losing an ovary has shed some deep light onto my personal beliefs. I always figured I wouldn’t have kids. I adore working with my kiddos but I absolutely love the fact that I get to give them back at the end of the day and that I only spend 20 hours a week with them. In my head that meant that I just wasn’t going to do the mom thing- just the teacher thing. But knowing that my chances for a viable pregnancy were already close to less than 50% with two ovaries due to my autoimmune disease played much more of a key role in that thought process than I originally thought.
They say you can live easily with one ovary and that it picks up the slack of the other but having one less ovary in a body already low on baby making juice…well the outlook there looks rather grim. I’m not saying that all of a sudden because I more than likely can’t that I now have this crazy desire to have a baby. That answer is still a strong and hard NO THANKS. I’m still sticking to my I’d rather be the teacher than the parent deal. As a woman though losing an ovary almost felt like I was losing my ability to be considered a woman. Yes, i know that sounds silly but here’s the deal. Women’s bodies are the only human body that can create a human life and sustain a growing human being inside of it. And losing something so critical to that process- it made me feel like I failed the whole being a woman thing. Somehow because I now don’t have two fully functional ovaries I’m unworthy in some way.
Maybe that’s societal norms and peer pressure doing its dirty work but i spent a bit of time feeling less than. Because I felt less than in this part i started to feel like I was less than in other parts of my life. It all become one huge mental mind fuck and it wasn’t until I sat on that bench tears flooding out like a damn tsunami, too hysterical to even make it to my car that I realized these feelings were there and bubbling over. Honestly thank the heavens or the Gods or the universe for my dance family because they helped me pull through that storm of emotions and reminded me yet again of how strong I really am and how much healing still has to be done. But knowing that I have them supporting me- it made moving forward a little easier.
I feel like I can finally fully mourn what I’ve lost and appreciate what I still can gain from this. This whole process has given me the pathway to truly be ok with what’s happened, my decisions regarding it all, and guided me to a stronger and better understanding of why I’ve felt this way for so long. Maybe someday,if some part of me truly desires a child, I’ll look into my alternative options, but for now my family will just have to be ok with 4 legged grandchildren. And for now, I’ll continue to enjoy my big and little victories as I continue to move through this recovery.