“All of this has happened before, and it will (likely, but hopefully not) happen again.”
I’ve been very out of commission for almost two weeks now. Please, let me explain why, because I think I’m about to have a hard time with my emotions.
In July I went to an urgent care clinic because I was having the strangest pain in my vagina and pelvic area. They suggested an ultrasound, but didn’t have any idea what could be wrong. They also managed to trick me into a pap smear, which terrifies me, because of all that’s happened.
I went about my life. I lived some months just thinking my body was just being a jerk about bowel business. October 19 I called in sick for bowel stuff. My boss is absurdly understanding and a human I’m actually friends with, so I told her everything. I stayed in bed a couple more hours. Before I couldn’t handle the pain anymore.
I waited in the waiting area for a while with my mom. At least an hour. A woman with an actual screw loose in her head fell from her wheelchair, and no one rushed to help her. A man having a stroke sat and waited. It was going to be a long day.
In the emergency room, I was taken seriously. The very first time I went to the hospital in similar condition, I waited and saw no one, until I was handed midol and told to leave. This time they were kind. They believed me. They were concerned. I know my body. I know when it’s rejecting me like it’s middle school all over again.
The ultrasound technician insisted I not get my roommate for the day until after she’d done the highly invasive ultrasound. Here’s the thing about a vaginal ultrasound. It’s terrible. It’s worse if you’re in pain. It’s worse if that pain is what they’re seeking out. Prodding inside you. It’s worse if you’ve been sexually assaulted and don’t want anything shoved up inside you. There’s no amount of kindness and forewarning that makes it easier. It’s worse when they cannot locate the offending ovary. It’s worse when it needs to be done, but it’s taking too long, so you just turn your face away so they can’t see the tears on your face.
When she couldn’t find the ovary, they sent me for a CT scan. The men in that room were also kind. One of them held my hand while tears silently rolled down my face.
When the gynecological surgeon got out of the operating room he came down to explain some things to me. That there was a mass. He couldn’t tell where it was, so we’d have to wait for the CT scan results to see if it was, in fact, in my ovary or if it was in the spaces between my intestines. The ovary was an easier solution. The bowel was going to be a problem.
He came back after the CT results came through, and with plans of a new bellybutton they took me upstairs to the operating room to get the monster out. Until I was unconscious, I was telling the anesthesiologist about Let’s Comedy. He was very politely enthusiastic about the ramblings of a quickly fading woman.
There was another teratoma, which is both a cyst and a tumor. It had caused a torsion of my right ovary, effectively killing it. Both were removed. When it was removed the tumor broke open and spilled some fluid on my skin. I have burns on my skin, that are more painful than “some irritation suggests.”
I was home that night. I was cranky and mean and still owe my parents a lot of apologies for how much I snapped. I spent the next few days in a recliner watching Daredevil season 2 and Luke Cage and Murder, She Wrote.
The next two weeks were spent shoving down my emotions. “Focus on dealing with the pain,” I kept telling myself. “You shouldn’t deal with your emotions and your pain at the same time. You’ll never stop crying.”
I don’t know that I ever wanted to have kids. I don’t know that I ever really could. I’ve always known I’m supposed to be a foster parent. I don’t know for sure yet that my other ovary is functional or fully functional. What I do know is emotions are starting to surface, and every once in a while I cry. There’s a difference between opting out of child bearing and waiting to find out if you’ve lost that capability. Or not knowing for sure ever. Compound that with the lies I’ve been fed most of my life by conservative evangelical leaders and friends that my worth as a woman is met up with my production of humans. (I know this is a lie, reminding me is not a helpful action. That’s something you’re affirming for your own sake. Please, don’t take a beat to affirm that this is a lie). I know my worth as a woman, I know my worth a person is so much more than procreation. It does not make the mental and emotional destruction any easier. It only makes me more aware of the cognitive distortions, which compounds the feelings of being crazy. I have not even begun to deal with this. I’ve slowly breached some conversations with people who have prodded successfully, but ultimately am still delivering information in the form of facts and laughing absurdly at the current feeling of emptiness. I’ll be fine. I will. Right now, I am. In a few days, I’ll probably cry on someone unsuspecting.
In my brokenness, I told several people, I didn’t care what it took. I only wanted to be able to keep my word and perform at the annual Dead Comics Party, a night where wonderful people resurrect wonderful people. I’d been pining for this show for five months. I couldn’t miss it. I sat in my recliner reviewing my bit, but couldn’t do it out loud, because it hurt my stomach. I had shaped a wig before I got sick. All I wanted was to be in Indianapolis on the 25th. I didn’t rehearse my bit aloud until that day. Sitting on my friends’ couch shouting. Standing in my friends’ bathroom shouting. Petting my friends’ dogs shouting. Between each line an enormous gasp of pain. Finally, three minutes and 25 seconds of ignoring my pain and thinking, “I wish I could be doing better.” I walked off proud of myself, but knowing it could have been better, if my body had been better. That to say, I got to spend an evening being one of my heroes, a genius, who coincidentally died of ovarian cancer. Here’s what I could muster.