Well, blogging friends, I still can’t believe this happened. But this week, I lost my right ovary.
On Monday afternoon, I went to the emergency room with extreme abdominal pain in my lower right side. It had been going on for almost 24 hours at that point. At first I had thought it was just my chronic digestive problems acting up more than usual, but as time went by it became more and more painful, and harder to walk on my right leg.
I had never had anything go so seriously wrong with one of my internal organs before, and despite all of the pain, I still wasn’t expecting anything incredibly serious. I am so used to dealing with pain and discomfort on a daily basis– to me, it’s just another part of the landscape. I was just getting checked out to be sure. I really thought they were going to send me home and tell me to follow up with my doctor.
They sent me in for an ultrasound, however, and from that point onwards the tone of everything changed. Everyone started moving quickly. I was told that my right ovary was swollen up to 7 centimeters, and that it had twisted inside of my abdomen. Because of how it was twisted, the blood vessels that fed it were obstructed, and not enough blood was getting to it.
I don’t think more than an hour passed between the time the radiologist gave me my diagnosis and the point at which the mask was being placed over my face to knock me out before surgery. Unfortunately, they weren’t able to save my ovary.
The two OB-gyn’s I saw at the hospital both reassured me that only having one ovary won’t affect my future fertility. They said, contrary to what most people learn in sex ed, most women’s ovaries don’t take turns ovulating every month. Instead, usually one ovary is dominant, releasing an egg every month– and if you lose that ovary, the other one can take over. They promised me that many women live normal lives with only one ovary, and have kids, and reach menopause at a normal age.
But I still can’t believe this happened. I am still waiting for some lab results to find out exactly what went on, but the doctors believe the reason my ovary twisted is because it had some sort of cyst on it weighing it down in a strange way. This altered the way it was supposed to be anchored to my uterus, and caused it to twist. The cyst on its own was probably nothing to worry about– many women get ovarian cysts on a regular basis– but because of its size, shape, and location, it managed to weigh down on my ovary in just the right way to get it to turn.
I can’t help feeling like maybe my ovary could have been saved if I hadn’t waited so long to go to the hospital. All of the doctors and nurses I mentioned this to kept telling me not to blame myself, but I think they were just trying to spare my feelings. Everything I’ve read since getting home emphasizes how important it is to get a diagnosis quickly.
I had simply never even heard of this before. It’s hard for me to tell this story, but I wanted to put this information out there in case it can help someone else. If you ever have extreme or unusual abdominal pain, just go to the hospital. Don’t wait it out like I did because you think it could be nothing, or because you don’t want to pay your high insurance deductible. Just go. Insurance costs be damned. At least you might be able to keep more of your internal organs.
Of course, as someone who really wants to have kids someday (not to mention going through menopause at a normal age) this is of course terrifying. One ovary can supposedly do the work of two, but what happens if something happens to the second one?
There are two things I can do to protect my left ovary.
A) Take the birth control pill. These cysts can form when an egg fails to leave the ovary. If you’re on the pill, you stop ovulating, and no cysts can form. (At least not this type of cyst).
B) Go to the hospital for an ultrasound anytime I have pain in my lower left abdomen. The doctor who performed the surgery said that in the future, all I will have to do is call her office and say I’m having abdominal pain, and they will set up an ultrasound at the hospital for me right away.
That’s about it for this post. Please ladies, don’t be like me. Next time you are experiencing significant abdominal pain, go to the hospital RIGHT away.
The condition I had is known as ovarian torsion. Check out this page for more information.
UPDATE: Three years later, I’m doing so much better than I thought I would be when I wrote this post. It turns out that it’s true: you only need one ovary. I am doing just fine, and I feel totally normal.
Thank you to Inspiration DC on Flickr for making the above photo available.