It’s Nature’s Way
The next thing I remember was a heavy sensation on my chest and stomach, as though an elephant were sitting on top of me. I gasped for air, and a nurse told me that I was in the recovery room. I remember someone telling me I had been in surgery for six hours.
My next memory is a visit from the gynecologist who performed the operation. He came to my hospital room to tell me how everything went. I don’t remember if my mother or my boyfriend were in the room with me.
“The cyst that we removed had strangulated,” he said. “That’s why you were in so much pain. The fallopian tube had to be removed also,” he added.
“Your uterus was fine. We then checked the left ovary, to make sure everything there was all right. I’m afraid that there was no ovary. What we did see was a dermoid tumor. The fallopian tube on that side had apparently never developed properly; instead of an opening to receive the egg, it was sealed off. We surgically opened it and left it. We thought—we think that—perhaps, someday, medical advances might make a ovarian transplant possible and you’ll be able to bear children. That’s why we left in the tube. And, of course, your uterus.”
I tried to let this sink in, but I didn’t understand all of his terminology.
“You’re saying that I didn’t have an ovary on the left side?”
“That is correct, yes.”
“What was it you called it? Some kind of tumor?”
“Yes, a dermoid tumor.”
“A tumor that has skin tissue, hair, and teeth.”
I didn’t know what to say. I’d never heard of such a thing—couldn’t imagine that such a thing had been inside of me. I tried to grasp the whole situation; this part of it was too difficult to comprehend.
“So you’re saying that I had a tumor and a cyst? Do I have…”
“We’re waiting for the lab reports,” the doctor said, not meeting my eyes. “But I’m confident we’ll find that both growths were benign.”
“But what does this mean? I can’t have children?”
“I’m sorry. I was not expecting this outcome, but no. You won’t be able to have children. Someday, perhaps, with medical advances …” He trailed off.
“I won’t have pain anymore though, will I?”
“No, absolutely not,” he said, relieved to have some good news for me. “But we know now why you did have pain all those years. That’s over though. No more pain.”
No more pain. It had been such a regular, excruciating part of my life for so long that I have to admit—as devastated as I was by his news, I felt relief. But still …
“I’m starting you on a course of estrogen replacement hormones,” the doctor continued. “You’ll take the pills every day for three weeks, then you’ll be off for several days. You should begin to have regular periods during the time you’re not taking the hormones.”
“How long do I have to take these pills?”
“Until you reach the normal age for menopause.”
I didn’t want to hear anymore. I closed my eyes.
“You rest now,” he said. “I’ll be back to check on you later, and of course I’ll let you know when I have the lab report.”
I must have fallen asleep; I was on strong pain medication. When I awoke, a figure was standing at the foot of my bed.
“I just wanted to check in on you,” said the man. “I want to say—I want to tell you how sorry I am. I’m so sorry.”
Still groggy, it took me a while to register who he was. Then it dawned on me, slowly. It was the osteopath, Dr. W—the one who had prescribed all of those pills for what he thought was a nervous stomach. Apparently, being my doctor of record, my surgeon had informed him about my surgery.
I was not happy to see him. Then, with great clarity, I knew that I should be—and in fact was—angry with him. On at least two occasions during the time he’d been treating me, I asked him if he didn’t think I should have an x-ray to see what was causing the pain, because the pills weren’t working. He told me an x-ray wasn’t necessary and that I should stop worrying; it was exacerbating the nervous stomach.
At some point during those years, with pain as my monthly companion, I came across a sentence in a book or an article—I no longer remember exactly what it was—that pain is nature’s way of telling you something’s wrong. That sentence then morphed into a refrain from a popular song of the day, Spirit’s “Nature’s Way.” The melody would haunt me every time I’d feel the onset of pain, and it would play out in my head, over and over.
I don’t remember articulating any of this to Dr. W, though. I don’t remember saying anything to him at all. I just glowered at him, giving him what my mother used to call “a dirty look.” And I tried very hard not to cry. He quietly left my room.
And then I cried.
I never saw Dr. W again after that.
To be continued …