I don’t like the shift from provider to patient. I don’t like wearing a gown which covers some crucial areas. I don’t like being sick.
But I am not immune. I can conduct my own differential diagnosis, but I cannot do my own surgery. There are limits to my knowledge and immense need for others to help.
Two weeks ago I underwent surgery to remove an ovarian mass that had, unbeknownst to me, grown to the size of a grapefruit causing incredible havoc in my abdomen. I drove myself to the ER at 2 am with significant pain and vomiting. In the words of one of my friends, “There’s strength, and then there’s drive yourself to the ER at 2 am strength.” I didn’t feel very strong at that moment, unable to stand up fully or comprehend why my body was betraying me.
A flurry of CTs, Ultrasounds, Consults, transfers, prep, and surgery followed. The next several days were either full of activity with no rest in between, or waiting in my bed for ten hours for the operating room to be available. It was frenetic in my body when activities were tightly packed or frenetic in my mind when they were not.
There was lots of deep breathing, and big decisions, and meditating on the idea of God as refuge. He was not surprised by my large-and-in-charge, internal, ovarian grapefruit. He knew the weight in my heart to hear the news that I had to lose an ovary on Mother’s Day. He knew when physicians asked, “Do you want to preserve fertility? Do you want to have children?” how deep a question that was in my story.
Yes, I would love children. Yes, I would love a family. No, that has not been a part of my story. Yes, I realize my age. Yes, I am hopeful, perhaps stubbornly so. Yes, do what you must in surgery, because that’s not the end of my story, but realize the shift this procedure could have on future possibilities.
So my surgeon cut and cauterized and removed the troublesome ovary and enmeshed grapefruit cyst. She then inspected, protected, and preserved the healthy ovary, who I’ve named Susan B. Ovary, because she’s a fighter. Susan fights for defiant joy. She will take over the work that used to be done by two without complaint or compromise. She still gets a vote in the matter.
I’ve had a few friends invite me into their families and parenting in special ways. I love being Aunt Kelly or Fairy Godmother to my favorite tiny humans. I know the joy and responsibility of motherhood is larger than genetics. I know the duty of childrearing is broader than fertility. So, I press on, being honest about the shock and the disappointment, but also thankful that Susan and I get to keep writing the story. And, hey, crazier things have happened before.
I often say when seeing a darling little human that my ovaries twitch. The feeling is still the same, it will just need to be revised to ovary, singular. Susan B. Ovary twitches with defiant joy. Even now.