So… I lost an ovary.

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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.

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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.

Thank you to Inspiration DC on Flickr for making this photo available.


25 thoughts on “So… I lost an ovary.

  1. Just wanted to share my experience, same exact thing happened to me at age 28, boy soooo excruciating pain I’ve ever experience..I did loose an ovary,and 2 years later conceived so now I’m 39 with 3 children! It’s so true you can have kids with one ovary…

  2. That sounds like a horrible and distressing situation. I know the feeling of worrying about pregnancy too. My doc assures me that endo does not mean infertility, but just knowing that it can is enough to cause a lot of worry. Thank you so much for sharing your story though, I think it will help people. :)

  3. So sorry to hear about your loss. My youngest daughter went through this at the age of 17. Her pain started around Christmas of that year. We took her to an ER, they checked her urine, said she had a UTI, gave her some prescriptions, and sent us home. Her pain lessened a bit, but never went away. We were back into our home ER within a week. They admitted her, run a lot of tests, and after 3 days of pain so bad that the pain meds barely touched it, wanted to do exploratory surgery on her. That’s when we called a halt to everything and brought our family doctor in. He suggested that we contact her gynecologist, who said bring her on down. They drove her, in an ambulance, from one hospital to another about 50 miles away.
    They admitted her and our gynecologist came immediately. Upon seeing her, he took her straight to surgery. After about 30 minutes he called me in the waiting room and gave me the bad news. She had a large cyst on her right ovary, and it had twisted her ovary and tube to the point that they were not receiving any blood; they were dead.
    He reassured us that she would still be able to have children with one ovary, but we were skeptical. Now at the age of 25, she is 4 months pregnant, due in August, and we are all thrilled! This baby will be special in so many ways.

    1. Wow! What a story. Good for you for bringing in doctors you trusted! It doesn’t sound like the staff at that first hospital were entirely competent. I was given a diagnosis within two hours of getting to the ER. This story definitely makes me appreciate the treatment I received.

      I’m so sorry that your daughter went through this experience, but that’s great that she is pregnant now! Thank you for sharing this story with me. It definitely helps to know that others have gone through it too (and gotten pregnant!).

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