Happy Silver Wedding Anniversary! – Soozi’s Story

I am 48 years old, have one daughter and have never, ever suffered from any real gynae problems. I had my appendix out in my early teens and it turned out the pain they thought was appendicitis was actually a mid-cycle pain caused by ovulation. However, although I suffered this intermittently through my life it was never a problem and I would only become aware of it if I allowed myself to get over-tired or did too much.

I have always been a very active and mostly fit and healthy person. In this last year I suffered a bad case of food poisoning which took a stone off my weight (which was never too high) and once recovered I felt very well but was thin. My periods have continued as normal and were every 4 weeks on the dot and have remained the same, slightly lighter in the last year or so. No menopausal symptoms to note, only suffering night sweats the night before my period started which has been the same all my life.

In the middle of July I experience pain in my lower left abdomen and just thought it was the ovulation pain, We had been very busy with a wedding and then I had guests staying so much cooking, cleaning, bed changing etc and one of the guests was a 6 month baby whom I spent a lot of time lifting and carrying around. However, this time the pain was a bit different and lasted much longer than the usual day. I also felt tired and was a bit constipated (very unusual for me).

After two weeks I thought I should see my GP and the night before my appointment felt a significant lump in my lower abdomen which hadn’t been there before. I thought it might be because my bowel had backed up. I went to see my GP the following afternoon. He did an abdominal examination and should never play poker for a living – his face showed real shock on feeling the lump! He then said he wanted me back first thing the following morning to have bloods taken and was immediately referring me for an ultrasound. He was going to phone the local hospital after my appointment and would let me know when I could be seen when I came back for the bloods to be taken. He was very nice and asked if I was frightened/worried (I was after the expression on his face LOL) but explained one of the blood tests would be for ovarian cancer. He did all this with compassion and took time to talk to me and asked me to come the next day for my bloods.

When I returned the following morning he took the bloods but explained I would have to wait about 2 weeks for the ultrasound, he had phoned the hospital and had hoped I could have been seen sooner but protocol was I had to wait! He was not impressed and I then remembered my husband has private health care through his work and I was also covered. The GP advised me to take this route to hasten things along and asked me to call him back once I had details of the scheme so he knew where to refer me.

I spoke to him that afternoon and he immediately e-mailed my referral to a Gynae consultant (at this point I thought he may be wrong and that my problem was my bowel!). I saw the consultant at the beginning of the following week and he gave me a physical and said he thought ovarian growth/cysts and some growth in my womb but had me get an ultrasound as soon as, which was later that day in the private hospital. I then saw the consultant again on the Friday of that same week and he had the ultrasound results and the blood test results. The u/s had shown numerous ovarian cysts the largest of which was 15cm in diameter. Given there was no previous history of cysts and I had no problems/symptoms they were concerned that there may be cancer or pre-cancerous cells present. The blood tests gave a low indicator of this but were not conclusive.

The consultant explained that cyst of this size could rupture, bleed out or cause other problems and obviously the possibility of cancer was there too. My family were two weeks away from a special holiday to celebrate our silver wedding , my husbands 50th and my daughter 21st. The consultant advised against travel. I was really worried, the absence of any previous problems, my weight loss, this lump, a 15cm growth in my abdomen!!!!! I made my husband check the u/s report when the consultant left the room as I thought he had given the wrong info. Where could I hide a 15cm growth, size 10, no protruding abdomen. The consultant explained that both ovaries would be removed, it was going to be an abdominal surgery anyway due to the size of the cyst and given the chance of cancer it had to be done this way to avoid contamination. Because he was concerned about the risk of cancer he explained that his first chance at surgery was his best so in his opinion I should undergo a hysterectomy with the removal of the cervix too.

The pathology tests for cancer take time and he did not want to leave anything that he may then have to remove at a later date. I had many questions and arguments but the size of the cyst really undermine my desire for laparoscopic surgery and the retention of my ovaries. The surgery took place 10 days later, less than 3 weeks after my initial visit to my GP.

I had a total abdominal hysterectomy, with both ovaries, tubes etc removed. I also needed corrective surgery to my bowel, my pelvis and bladder due to adhesions caused by the large cyst, it was also fused to my uterus. The consultant did a surgical wash and also took tissue samples from other organs to test for abnormalities.

I am now 5 weeks on from surgery and really still trying to come to terms with it all. On the plus side my pathology results were all good and my wound is healing well (an extremely neat vertical wound considering I am very small and the cyst was very large) and I have had very little problems with pain . I have all the usual symptoms I have read about on this life-saving site-wind, sluggish bowel, struggling to come to terms with big knickers LOL and many,many questions. Given I have no history of problems this has come as a bolt from the blue.

I am now wondering about HRT, should I do it or not. My consultant wanted to wait til after the 6 week check. So far, I have not really experienced any symptoms, a bit warm in bed a couple of nights but then my hubby indicated he had felt warm too and the ambient temp had risen. My husband and daughter have been wonderful but I really feel all adrift with this whole situation.

The very week we should have been enjoying our wonderful family holiday, full of celebration I was shuffling about at home, popping pills, farting horribly and drinking prune juice having just been discharged from hospital. Very different from the holiday I had envisaged, sitting poolside at the wonderful villa we had chosen, enjoying the sun and sipping champagne.

Soozi

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