This follows my first post about my ovarian cyst story and the symptoms to look out for. If you haven’t read my full ovarian cyst experience I recommend starting there first.
As a quick recap, I was diagnosed with a football-sized ovarian cyst in October 2017. I underwent a laparotomy to have the cyst, my left ovary, and fallopian tube removed. Now that it’s been over a year since that ovarian cyst experience, I thought I would write an update to my previous post for those interested and/or experiencing the same thing.
While the surgery and prospect of cancer are scary, I hope by sharing my story I’ve helped some women get diagnosed quickly and cope with the process.
Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional. Everything I write about is based on my own personal experience and research. Always consult a doctor if you suspect something is going on.
THE PHYSICAL SCARS FROM A LAPAROTOMY SURGERY
In my previous post, I wrote about the healing process during the couple of months post-surgery. The first three weeks were the toughest for me. Having a laparotomy is a lot more painful and slow to heal than laparoscopic surgeries. Some women are lucky when their cysts can be removed with 3 small incisions. However, if the doctors suspect cancer they will usually perform a laparotomy to get a better look and perform other tests.
My incision went from my pelvic area to about two inches above my belly button. It was stitched inside and stapled outside.
While I was still stapled I kept reading forums online about the same surgery I had. Most of the posts involved complications post-surgery. Because of that, I was worried about the incision opening up after the staples were removed but that never happened. I now know that most people who have a good experience (no complications) aren’t the ones writing in the forums.
Within two weeks I had the staples removed. It wasn’t painful at all, just tugging. The staples left no scarring either.
The incision left a nice (or ugly depending if you’re a half-empty person) purplish scar up my abdomen. They say it fades with time but here is my scar 1.5 years after surgery…
LACKING AN OVARY DIDN’T AFFECT MY BODY AT ALL
One thing I was concerned about, and I think a lot of people are, was how my body is going to produce enough estrogen with a single ovary. Most sources of medical information say a single ovary is enough to produce the hormones you need, though you are still at risk of early menopause.
Before the surgery, I already had a hormone imbalance, however, I’m not sure of the cause. I was hoping the imbalance would have decreased or disappeared completely post-surgery. They didn’t.
I continue to have:
- Excess facial hair
- Painful periods/ovulation
- Weight gain
- High heart rate
When I bring it up to my doctor she simply tells me “it’s probably a hormone imbalance”, like it’s normal. I asked her for a thyroid test and she went along with my request, but the test came back negative.
The next steps I will be taking is testing my testosterone levels, but I need to build up the courage to visit the doctor again.
I continue to have regular menstruation despite having one ovary, so as long as that keeps happening we know I’m still producing estrogen.
SIDE-EFFECTS OF INVASIVE ABDOMINAL SURGERY
The side-effects from my laparotomy are surprisingly very minimal. Other than the scar I was left with I have very few complaints.
The biggest issue I have post-surgery is my weight. It may be related to my hormones or my unhealthy habits, but I have found it really easy to gain weight since. Post-surgery I lost 15 pounds. Since losing the weight I have gained approximately 30 pounds back! Some people might say I just need to eat right and exercise but I think my body is working against any effort I make.
On a positive note, since fully healing I have had NO pain. Doctor’s like to tell me I healed so well because I’m young. I would secretly roll my eyes every time they said it haha.
I CONTINUE TO FEAR THAT I WILL GET ANOTHER OVARIAN CYST
Over the last year and a half, there have been some pervasive concerns stemming from my ovarian cyst experience.
I will always be afraid that I will get another cyst and have to go through that all over again. I was strong the first time I was diagnosed but I don’t think I could be strong a second time. Part of this fear is not wanting to be in premature menopause in my 30s! I understand the long-term side effects and risks of not producing any estrogen and I don’t want to deal with that.
Fortunately, the type of cyst I had (teratoma) develops slowly and doesn’t usually recur once removed. My doctors don’t have me going for regular ultrasounds to monitor any new growths. I was told it’s all done and to continue with my regular life.
Lastly, I worry about getting a hernia. Since the area of my incision has been weakened from the surgery I will always have a higher risk of developing a hernia. Being overweight doesn’t help either.
FINAL WORDS ON MY OVARIAN CYST EXPERIENCE
Some of my post-surgery concerns might seem like I’m not happy with the result, but that’s not the case. I couldn’t wait to get the giant cyst out of my abdomen and a lot of good things came from not being able to work (eg. this blog).
What I mentioned in this post is what I experienced a year after the surgery in relation to getting a laparotomy and salpingo-oophorectomy.
It might be different for you, or you may have a similar experience.
If you can relate or just been diagnosed I would love to swap stories. Comment below (or if you prefer to be private you can send me an email at email@example.com)