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.
HEALING FROM 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…
HORMONES AND PERIODS
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 would be to get 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.
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 the same 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 firstname.lastname@example.org).
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