Disclaimer: I am not a trained medical professional. This post should not be used as substitute for sound medical professional advice. Please consult a trained medical professional regarding any symptoms or concerns.
I wrote last summer about my dermoid. It was a pretty serious post for me to put out and after publishing I realized there were some interesting experiences I wanted to include in a follow up post. This post will just be about the ultrasounds I had, my pre-op appointment and some surgery day thoughts. These events happend over the course of 2010/2011, but it feels quite recent to me.
Pelvic & Abdominal Ultrasound (Part 1).
Looking back, I was pretty nervous about this one and for good reason. The night before, I had searched the internet and found someone’s experience on their pelvic & abdominal ultrasound with details on a transvaginal probe. I remember thinking, hmm.. am I getting one of those too? The appointment slip just said pelvic and abdominal. Turns out my pelvic ultrasound portion of the exam was a transvaginal ultrasound. Wouldn’t you think they would make it a little clear that they were going to go INSIDE of you? haha…I prefer having a heads up. Thank goodness I read about it the night before.
The instructions said not to eat for 8 hours prior to my examination and my appointment was around 11am. I had to make sure to finish drinking 1 litre of water (32oz = 4 glasses) 1 hour before my appointment, and to not empty my bladder until the test was done. I didn’t like any of that. I decided to sleep in so I could avoid feeling like I was missing out on eating. After showering, I drank 1 litre of water just before the cutoff time of one hour before my appointment. I felt the urge to pee almost immediately after I finished the 1 litre. The hour until my appointment was one of the longest hours ever. I distracted myself by listening to some podcasts as I got dressed and walked a couple blocks to my appointment. VERY loose pants, worn low and baggy shirt was in order. I was probably waddling a bit and looked pretty anxious. It was mind over matter. haha
When I got there, it was a few minutes until 11am. I paced impatiently until I was called. I was anxious to get this over and every minute felt like I was dangerously close to peeing on myself. Worst, feeling ever.
When I got called into the examination room the technician asked me if I had done an abdominal ultrasound before and I said “No”. She said she would be applying pressure on my abdomen. Imagine you have been holding your bladder for over an hour, and now someone is going to push on your lower abdomen, repeatedly and you gotta continue holding your bladder. This was a test of willpower. haha. During this time, I was trying to relax and feared I would pee all over myself, this cold examination table, and on this lady. Luckily, I didn’t and ight after the abdominal ultrasound was done I was free to pee.
When I came back from the washroom, we had to continue the second part of the exam which was the transvaginal ultrasound. She asked me if I had a transvaginal exam before and I said “No”. As she lifted a long plastic looking probe and put a condom on it (Gulp! this is going to hurt). Ya see, this was going inside me and it wasn’t soft looking, it was a rounded rod like hard plastic looking probe with a camera on the end of it. It was uncomfortable because she had to take pictures at different angles and had to apply pressure with the rod (ouch). I tried to relax as much as I could by breathing and thinking about what I had going on for the rest of the day.
I can’t remember what I did afterwards, but I imagine it probably included a change of clothes, another shower and a ridiculously awesome lunch to make up for the stressfull morning.
Pelvic & Abdominal Ultrasound (Part 2).
A few months afterwards, the exam had to be repeated when I got referred to a hospital for surgery. The specialist I was referred to was a gyne-oncologist, who wanted to make sure this thing was benign before referring me to a gynecologist. He assured me that it probably was but he wanted to be certain. I later learned from the technician that it was common for doctors to have tests re-ordered at hospital facilities that had been previously performed in a lab.
So I went through the entire exam again (twice in one visit actually). Luckily, this time around I didn’t have to drink 1 litre, they just told me I couldn’t pee for the 1 hour before my exam. When the technician was done taking pictures of my abdomen and the transvaginal exam. She left the room to get the radiologist to come take a look at my pictures.
I almost fell asleep during that time because the room was dark (lights were left off). During that time, some thoughts rolled through my head about the results of this exam. I thought if this mass turned out to be far more serious than the other exam from the lab and it led to my eventual demise, well… I had a good ride. Seriously, that’s what I thought and I wasn’t sad or afraid. I’ve experienced love, I had some great friendships, and I have met many wonderful people who I know will do amazing things even if they don’t feel they have it all together yet. I’d be sad knowing that I’d miss out on sharing future life moments with them but I’m just happy that I was able share my life with them while I was still around. I also thought that if this thing was just a dermoid, then the next big thing will be surgery. Afterwards, I’d return back to my normal life but things will probably feel different. I may even have a more positive outlook and greater appreciation for life.
Then the radiologist came in and looked at the pictures with the technician. They chatted back and forth and went through my pictures. He asked if he could take a look and took some more pictures of my abdomen, then did the transvaginal (darn my luck), yes again.
He explained that they were having a tough time with the exam because of the shape of the dermoid cyst in my left ovary. It was either one large one or two and it was sort of blocking their view of my right ovary. Even after he did his examination he still wasn’t sure. I asked him how he would describe the shape as my doctor said it was like a grapefruit or a baby’s head. He laughed and said “it’s long and is sitting horizontally in your abdomen”. I said “does it look like a hot dog or a sausage?” Hot dogs are thinner than sausages – I was thinking street meat. He said “it’s like a fat sausage”. haha that was the best part of the whole exam. Now, I had a better idea of what it looked like.
During my second appointment with the gynaecologist (prior to the operation), we were picking the date and he was going over the procedure with me. I wasn’t nervous since I felt like I already had almost a year to read about laparoscopies and laparotomies. When he asked if I had any questions I had a couple of pages worth. The last few were:
1) Can I have a picture of the dermoid?
I was sort of nervous about asking this. Mostly because, I was afraid the answer was no. Luckily, my gynaecologist was honest and respectful of my one request. He first asked me if I knew what a dermoid was and what it contained. I told him yes, I had read about them and was very interested to see what mine looked like and wanted to know what was inside. It’s been with me all my life and I only found out about it one year ago. Finally he said that “If the hospital that I will be operating on you at has the appropriate imaging technology, I will do that for you, but please remember to ask me on the day of surgery”. I remember being satisfied with his answer but that last bit “on the day of surgery”, made me a bit anxious.
2) These surgical scars aren’t going to be permanent right? *chuckle* boy that was a silly assumption.
He looked at me very seriously and said “Yes, they are permanent but over time they do become less pronounced”. In my head, my thoughts were, awww shucks, forever?? I wasn’t ready for forever, forever is a long time. I don’t consider myself a vain person, but to know that I was now going to carry three scars on my belly made me feel sort of sad. It didn’t last long because once we left I was on a mission to research ways to speed healing and minimize the appearance of scars. When I shared this part of the story with some friends (me not knowing about the scars being permanent), I joked “Boo! I’ll never be a swim suit model!”. Sidenote: I have no intention or dream of ever becoming one. But I do have one hell of a story to tell with markings that can help with sharing it.
3) Laparoscopically or Laparotomy? Which method?
The doc said that we will approach this laparoscopically and if we need to do a laparotomy we won’t know until during the operation, but the hospital you will be at isn’t equipped for those. Say what? What’s Plan B?… At the end of our appointment, I asked, so what happens if we need to do a laparotomy? I’ll wake up in another hospital? He smiled, paused and said “…Yeah”. Meh, so they’ll ship me somehow to another hospital. I’ll be unconscious and won’t need to worry about a thing. It’s their problem, I’ll let them worry about the details. This change in procedure was my biggest concern since I really wanted laparoscopy to work (key hole surgery), so I’d have a shorter recovery time and be back to feeling like myself (and more awesome than ever) asap. That’s a change of a few weeks to a couple of months. Knowing that I’d only know what had happend after waking up was a bit nerve wrecking.
Surgery Day Nerves
I felt like I was handling everything pretty well up until surgery day. Once I got into my surgical gowns, socks and booties. I started to feel nervous. I mean, they were going to be cutting into me, and this was starting to freak me out. I tried my best to keep calm because my sister and mother were with me in the waiting room.
When I finished meeting one on one with the operating room nurse, the surgeons and anesthesiologist, I was walked to the operating room by the female surgeon. I recall telling her that I was on my period and that my doctor was already aware. She told me it was fine because once we got inside they’d have me take off my underwear and something along the lines of they’d have to “prop up my uterus anyways” (ouch). It never occurred to me they’d be using an instrument to tilt it up haha. Well, at least I didn’t have to be awake for it all. When I walked in, I felt extremely nervous as she announced my entry and everyone gave a loud “Hi”. I am so glad I read someone’s discussion forum post about resisting the urge to run in the opposite direction (I felt this urge, a sudden pang of fear) when I entered the operating room and tried my best to be my bravest self.
If you are having your dermoid cyst removed, I’m hoping you’ll enjoy my posts on my experiences. I hope you find comfort in them knowing that you aren’t alone in your worries, concerns, and experiences. Please let me know if you have any questions.