Ovarian Cyst-er

(Heads up! I’m talking about the female reproductive system in this blog post. If this raises all sorts of red flags in your brain, or if you’d rather not be subjected to seeing ME and MY OVARIES in the same sentence, this might be a good time to check out something else on the internet. Ah, the internet. So many things to see! So many ways to waste time!)

And yes! I'll be using stereotypical "flower" images in this post to represent my blossoming femininity. Feel free to let out a collective groan now. "OBVIOUS!"

And yes! I’ll be using stereotypical “flower” images in this post to represent my blossoming femininity. Feel free to let out a collective groan now. “OBVIOUS!”

Eight years ago, while I was in the midst of an angst-ridden Masters Degree program, I experienced blinding pain one evening when a large cyst on one of my ovaries ruptured. This had never happened to me before, and yet I knew it was an ovarian cyst, and I knew that it was bursting open with the glory and fanfare of ten thousand royal weddings. God save the Queen!

I had been reading a text book on my bed at the time (nerd alert!), and suddenly I was overcome with stabbing pain in the vicinity of my right ovary. I couldn’t stretch out, I couldn’t curl my body into a ball, I couldn’t sit upright, I really couldn’t stand up, and I couldn’t even cry out loudly enough for Marty to rush to my assistance. Thankfully, he happened to be coming back to the bedroom on his own accord anyway, and when he saw me doing an oddball version of Twister by my lonesome– my face contorted in agony– he insisted we head to the hospital.

Here’s the thing. I knew that there was nothing the hospital could do about this pain, and a tiny part of me also worried that I would get to the ER, only to be told that it wasn’t a cyst but rather a nasty case of gas. Inner wisdom aside, that would have sucked. (And in case you were wondering about my intimate knowledge of triage/ovarian cyst protocol, my sister had suffered from PCOS symptoms for years prior to my own incident, and one time she landed in emergency due to a particularly brutal rupture. There, she was unceremoniously sat down in a wheelchair to endure the pain in the waiting area. After 45 minutes of cramping and kvetching in public, she decided to head the eff home and suffer in privacy. Hospitals…)

Two delicate flowers... just like my delicate ovaries. "PAINFULLY OBVIOUS!"

Two delicate flowers… just like my delicate ovaries. “PAINFULLY OBVIOUS!”

Anyway. I never made it to the ER that evening, and the pain eventually subsided. I didn’t think anything further about my ovaries until last week, actually, when Marty came home from his training camp. We went to bed, everything was fine, and then I was woken up by incredible pain in the area of my right ovary about 2 o’clock in the morning. My first thought this time was “painful gas?” (so sad), but once again, my inner knowing quickly told me it was my ovarian cyst-er, back again and bursting like ten thousand tiny flowers in bloom– flowers of PAIN and SUFFERING, though.

The flower of PAIN and SUFFERING.

The flower of PAIN and SUFFERING.

This time, I managed to roll over onto all fours like a cat, and my pitiful whimpering was enough to rouse Marty from his earplug-ensconced slumber. What do you do at 2 in the morning when a cyst has suddenly ruptured on your ovary? In this case, Marty immediately started doing Reiki on my body, and I initiated a round of EFT tapping on myself, just like you’d imagine from a hippie granola couple like us. Ha. I breathed through the pain, tried to relax my body instead of tensing up in a cocoon of suffering (way easier said than done), and eventually managed to drift back to sleep. Same thing happened the next night, though– went to bed just fine, was woken up by anguish and general teeth gnashing, and fell back asleep after beaming love and golden sunshine to my right ovary with the awesome power of my mortal hand.

What gives, body?

Well, just like you’d imagine from a hippie granola woman like myself, I consulted Dr. Christiane Northrup (she of Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom fame), and I also Googled Louise Hay, the Mother of Positive Affirmations. (Yes, I also read up on standard medical explanations for ovarian cysts, but let’s be honest– the woo-woo stuff was way more exciting. I love me some new age stuff!)

You can feel free to roll your eyes now if you wish, but I happened to be struck dumb by the cosmic significance of ovarian cysts. For one thing, they are supposed to symbolize an imbalance between masculine and feminine energies (i.e., leaning towards masculine energies like competition and achievement, sort of like what my trusted psychic told me back in June.) Secondly, they represent a need to prioritize rest, relaxation, and self-care– not like that applies to me at all. Whatever, Universe! (Ha.) Finally– and this is what really got me– ovarian cysts remind us that it’s just as important to love who we are as much as we identify with what we do. If the emphasis is always on doing things— working, exercising, cooking, cleaning, even fun things like reading, writing, knitting, or watching movies– we don’t leave any space for simply being ourselves. And as improbable as it seems in our go-go-go culture, we really do need to balance ‘doing’ with ‘being’ in order to be at our best.

The perfect balance between being and doing.

The perfect balance between being and doing.

As you might have guessed by now, I have a really hard time with self-care, simply ‘being’, and prioritizing rest for myself. Especially because of the Harbour and all the craziness it entails. Yes, I have a solid understanding in my mind that all of those self-care things are important (and essential!), but when it comes down to my actions, you’d be hard pressed to see any connection whatsoever between cosmic wisdom and what I actually do.

My mind says: You should really take some time off.

My actions say: I’ll only take time off if it rains non-stop for the whole damn day! Even if I have to work FOREVER!!!!  

My mind says: Maybe you should treat yourself to a massage or something!

My actions say: Self-care is for wimps! I barely have time to brush my hair.

My mind says: Don’t you think you should prepare meals for yourself more often? I mean, you love to cook, and you know exactly which foods your body craves.

My actions say: Meh. I’ll start cooking again in November. Until then, bring on the oily salad dressings, heavy pasta dishes, and the Frappuccino IVs! Stat!

Perhaps my body has had enough with my Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde routine. It’s like I’ve been promising myself, ‘yes, yes– I’ll get to that self care thing… soon.’ And now my ovaries are like, “What were you saying about self care? That you’ll be doing it NOW and FOR REAL this time?” [Picture cosmic arm-twisting; cysts bursting like fireworks; tiny sacs breaking open with gusto; cymbals crashing in a feverish symphony. And make sure you picture lots of PAIN and SUFFERING. Mercy, Universe, Mercy! Tiny-ness aside, those cysts HURT when they pop!]

This must be my wake-up call? My urgent call to action? My cosmic ‘FYI, let’s end this suffering once and for all’?

Must be.

Or maybe it’s just gas…

21 responses

  1. Dr. Northrup rocks. The affirmation I use is “Put the oxygen mask on yourself first before you help your children” Silly, but it’s easier to take care of myself when I think about how much better I’ll be at doing all that other stuff.

    • That’s such a good thing to remember, Lisa. The next time I feel pressed to help somebody else out, I’ll have to check in with myself and make sure my own oxygen mask is on. Thanks for the reminder! 🙂

  2. I never thought of cysts that way! My mind is blown. I had a rather large one removed (along with my ovary and fallopian tube) when I was 31. I had to wait for surgery and the whole time they thought it was a cancerous tumor. (It was benign but 15 cm large) Needless to say, that was a huge swift kick in my ass to change my life and start prioritizing and take care of myself more! I hope you do the same, Dana. You deserve some love and care.

    • Yowza. 15cm long is pretty gigantic, and I had no idea you had that sort of surgery at 31! This summer was definitely a game-changer for me. By the end of it, I was so battered and exhausted. (I knew it was a real problem when we were having all these record-setting days in August and I didn’t even have the energy to give a damn. I’ve LOVED counting money ever since I could count, so if I’m not excited about banking, something is VERY WRONG!)

      I knew I couldn’t do that to myself ever again– felt like a real crossroads in my life. I even asked Marty, “If our revenue went down 30% but we were able to have 50% more fun, would you do it?” Both of us said YES, so hopefully we’ve chosen the ‘right’ path for the future. 🙂

      PS: So nice to see you ’round these parts, Darla. I’ve missed you a ton!

  3. Bless your heart, Dana. Darla is right. You deserve some love and care. However, I have to admit–I LOVE the title. I’m a sucker for that sort of thing. Be well, my friend, and take care of yourself.

    Hugs from Ecuador,

    • Thanks, Kathy. I’m a sucker for puns, too!

      I’ve started meditating in the mornings again, which feels like taking my energetic cup to a well and filling it with the freshest, crispest, best-tasting water the world has to offer. (It’s funny and sad that meditating is usually the first thing to fall by the wayside when I get “too busy”. Truly, the times when we need to be still THE MOST are when things are getting too hectic in our lives. Pinch me if I need to be reminded of this again, okay?)

  4. Oh, Dana, this must be awful to go through! I’m so sorry! You did a grand job of describing it, and made it a humorous story as well. Nicely done, taking your pain, suffering and self-recrimination and turning it into a bit of excellent writing! Take care!

    • The cysts are pretty painful, but it could be way worse (constant suffering for infinity, a terminal/untreatable diagnosis, etc.) At least I always have my sense of humor to fall back on, right? 😉

    • I can’t agree more, Laurie– “Old” Age is more accurate, but then it sounds like I’ve fast-forwarded my life by several decades as well. 🙂

      Thanks for the link to your old post, too. The comments on the intricacies between being and doing are fascinating!

  5. Hi Dana love, I have soooo missed reading your funny blogs. OK, I guess this one borders halfway between painful and funny, but that’s what I like about your posts. You’re the real thing, you hippie granola girl, you. Your story brought back memories of my gall bladder attacks. Gosh, should write a blog about that, hmmm? The hippy granola explanation for gallstones: anger. I could never really 100% resonate with that, but maybe frustration? I think most of us aren’t very good at loving ourselves and self-care, that it sometimes takes a lifetime to learn to embrace ourselves in all our shit and glory, excuse the French. In the meantime, loving as much of you as I know.

    • Aw, thanks so much Kathy! It’s wonderful to be back amongst friends and to set my virtual table for guests once more. I missed everyone! 🙂

      I would love to read a post about gall bladder attacks… because that’s just how I roll. Ha. One of my best friends actually had her gall bladder removed about 10 years ago– neither of us probably would have been very receptive to the “anger” explanation of the issue at the time, though.

      I appreciate you loving all of what you know about me. Sometimes, the first step toward self-care is having people who care about you, too. (After all, if other people deem you worthy of care and love, they must be onto something, no?)

  6. What the HELL?!?!?? And after our amazing, deep, honest totally connected conversations on the weekend! Just think – that little bastard was in there the whole time laughing at us!!
    Ok, at least you know what it is and you won’t freak out when it happens. You know you can get through it. But damn, isn’t there something else you can do? I had fibroids and had them removed, but they never caused me any pain….I am in awe of your breathing techniques because I hear they are really painful.

    • I was just late posting about them– they happened about a week before we got together. (I’m running on Dana Standard Time, which is way behind the rest of the world apparently). Our visit is probably keeping those suckers in check– making sure I get a bit of “girl time” in to balance out my out-of-whack masculine energy.

      My sister stopped getting her cysts when she established a regular bedtime for herself and also got her blood sugar balance under control. I’d love an early bedtime for myself, but then I’d never get to see Marty, who is the very definition of night owl. At least my experiences were set apart by nearly a decade. It would be horrible to have these things rupture on a near-regular basis. (I can’t even IMAGINE!)

  7. I wonder why women find self-care so difficult? I’m sorry you’re going through the pain, but you tell about it in a wonderfully funny way (when I know darn well it isn’t funny since I’ve experienced it). The flowers were perfect. 🙂

    • Thanks for appreciating the flowers, Robin. 🙂 I know it’s one of the oldest cliches in the book, but seeing as I have no photos of my ovaries to post…

      I read a wonderful book about Resistance this summer (called “The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield), and one of my takeaway lessons from the book was that MAYBE, just MAYBE, I go out of my way to help other people so I don’t have to step into my own magnificence and true life calling (which would involve a lot of risk-taking, unknowns, and other things I find hugely disconcerting). I used to think I was so great and Mother Teresa-like for putting myself in such service to others, but the other takeaway tidbit from the book is that you don’t REALLY or TRULY serve others unless you have served yourself first. Oops. Reading the book on Resistance brought up gigantic amounts of Resistance for me, go figure… (and yet I still recommend the book highly)

  8. You have a wonderful talent for seeing the humorous side of grief.

    You are Marty are my favorite hippie granola couple. (Actually you’re the only hippie granola couple I know ((in so far as I know you in this bloggy way)) (but whatever you’re still my favorite). I love that he did Reiki for you. So sweet.

    Glad to hear you’re taking time out for meditation. And I loved the War of Art! It is such a kick-in-the-pants sort of book.

  9. I’ve wondered if this is what happens to me every so often. My first assumption is that it’s gas, as well, LOL. Sometimes it is, but it’s in a very specific place, and occasionally happens on my left side, too. Mum thought it might be a grumbling appendix – when I told her that it’s been happening for years, she said, “That’s why they call it a ‘grumbling’ appendix!”

    I drink something fizzy and wait for it to pass, but I am at my most snappy when it’s like that, just as I am with excruciating period pains when that area feels too hot and I can’t do anything to ease the pain. Back, front, it’s inescapable.

    • Obviously, I’m not a medical doctor so I can’t confirm whether this is the case for you (or even for me, for that matter!) I do know that the pain is excruciating, though. I’ve never heard of a grumbling appendix before. The things I learn on this here blog!

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