Last summer, I had a huge tumor taken out of my uterus. I realize that isn't terribly remarkable, but six months before the tumor was removed, I had a healthy, eight pound, baby. Yes, he and the tumor were roomies!
I’m not sure when I actually noticed the oddly hard mass in my gut. I was quite overweight, so it could have been there for years. Then I got a wake-up call, in the form of my dad’s quintuple (that’s FIVE, y’all) bypass, and dropped a lot of bad eating habits.
Over the course of a few months, I lost 50 pounds. I felt awesome, but that’s when I noticed the thing. After consulting Dr. Google (because I know how doctors love that), I determined that I had a uterine fibroid and made a doctor's appointment. I got way more than I bargained for.
I watched her face for a moment, looking for any indication that she was joking. Her mouth didn’t even twitch.
She shook her head and began to explain that this tumor business was nothing more than what she estimated to be a five month pregnancy.
"So...I don't have a tumor?"
"No, I really don't think so. I want you to have an ultrasound to confirm. "
Now I was really freaking out because if she was right, I was only four months away from my very own episode of "I Didn't Know I Was Pregnant." After she’d had enough traumatizing for one day, she gave me an order for the ultrasound and sent me to the hospital. "So I'm pregnant AND I have a tumor?!"
The ultrasound tech was polite, if a little cold, and pointed to the tiny egg sac. “I’m guessing you’re about five weeks." (Not five months, HA!) She waved her hand over another part of the screen. “And this is the tumor..."
"Yes, and it’s pretty big, so you may not be able to carry to term.”
I finally worked up enough nerve to ask what I should do. The tech shrugged as if I was supposed to know these things. "You should find an OB. Call around and see who has openings."
She handed me a CD and a few printouts from the ultrasound. "Here you go...congratulations!"
Congratulations, indeed. My only comfort was knowing that I had actually been right about the tumor. So much for my half-hour of reality TV fame.
My stomach was in knots for the rest of the day, in anticipation of my boyfriend’s reaction. I broke the news practically the second I walked in the door, and it felt like an eternity waiting for his reply.
“If it’s a boy, can we name him Remington Winchester?”
I had been holding my breath, and let it out in a super attractive snort/laugh hybrid that might have been embarrassing had I not been so incredibly relieved.
If the other doctor and technician had been giant stormy rain clouds, my OB was a lovely ray of sunshine. She dismissed my fear of being high-risk right away. Still, I couldn’t get the comments out of my head. It was going to be a long nine months.
I ended up having an uneventful pregnancy otherwise. Not once did I throw up, my heartburn was pretty minimal, and somehow my blood pressure stayed low the entire time. There was one week, right after the Fourth of July, that really sucked: round ligament pain kicked in and the tumor outgrew its blood supply, causing me to be in serious, stabbing pain almost 24/7. The only way I could keep it at bay was to lay on my side, curled into a ball. Even then, sometimes the boy would punch or kick the fibroid and cause jolts of pain to tear through my abdomen.
My doctor was always pretty laid back, but there was one thing she stressed the whole time: I needed to avoid a C-section if at all possible. Having the fibroid increased my risk for hemorrhaging by quite a lot.
It should not have been a surprise, given how everything had gone so far, that at my 36 week appointment I learned that my little stinker child (who had been head down the entire time) was now breech and wouldn’t be able to turn thanks to the enormous mass he shared my uterus with. I was crushed with the news that I would now most definitely have a C-section. Convinced I’d bleed to death on the table without ever seeing the baby I thought I’d never have, I scheduled the surgery and tried (pretty unsuccessfully) not to cry until I got to my car.
My C-section was pretty uneventful, as C-sections go…my doctor was all sunshine and rainbows, as she tends to be. I remember bits and pieces of the actual operation, like the anesthesiologist showing my boyfriend pictures from a recent hunting trip over my head. I also remember asking what was smoking, and then realizing they were cauterizing the incision as they cut. Being awake while your body is being cut open is a trip.
There was an awful lot of shoving and pulling, and I thought I was going to fall off of the table. Finally, finally, they brought my boy over and held him near my head so I could see him. I cried a little, because there he was, living and breathing and whole and beautiful. And extremely pissed, judging by the wail he let out. He had a head full of thick black hair, which prompted me to whisper (well, I thought I was whispering, but apparently not so much), “Thank God he isn’t a ginger!” For the record, my doctor (who was still in charge of sewing me up) has red hair and a few freckles. Lucky for me, right after I said that a nurse peered into the gaping hole that was my abdomen and exclaimed, “That thing is HUGE!” Everyone else in the room stopped to gawk at the giant tumor, and after a short discussion they all agreed that it must be named Fred.
Due to the extremely high risk of bleeding, Fred was left alone for the time being. I healed from my C-section and began my life as a new mom, and six months flew by. I met with my doctor, and discussed options for Fred removal. She thought the DaVinci robot would be the way to go, as it would be far less invasive than a regular surgery. An outpatient procedure, less recovery time…I was so excited that I called to get a consultation as soon as I got to my car.
Of course, my insurance wouldn’t cover the procedure because it was done through an infertility clinic. It looked like I would be going the old-fashioned route and spending a week in the hospital. At least I would be getting this bowling ball removed, though, right?
And then my insurance company decided that having the three-pound tumor removed wasn’t really all that medically necessary, and denied my surgery. Again. My surgery date was nearing, and it was starting to look like I would never get it approved in time, but my amazing doctor began an appeal process that she was sure would work. The insurance company fought her every step of the way, requiring me to jump through more hoops than a circus dog. Finally, after more ultrasounds and paperwork on my part, and possibly threats from my doctor, the insurance company caved. I would be getting Fred removed! When I heard the news, I finally allowed myself to be excited…I would be able to wear pants that fit! I would be able to lie on my back again! I would be able to poop normally!
I’d be lying if I said that last one wasn’t the most exciting part to me.
I went in for my pre-op bloodwork the day before, and while she was draining me dry the nurse started talking about how painful this surgery would be -- she’d had it done a few years ago. “Way worse that having my son without drugs,” she said, “He was nine pounds and ripped me from one hole to the other, if you know what I mean! Never thought I’d experience anything that awful, but then I had this surgery…”
As if the horrendous mental picture she gave me wasn't enough, she looked at my orders again and sighed. “I see we’re reserving some blood for you…Well, you’re going to need it! Looks like you’re going to be a problem patient.”
“Oh honey, you just hang in there. I’ll be praying for you!”
I had assumed this would be much like my C-section, in terms of recovery. After all, she was making all of the same cuts, and something was going to be removed from my uterus. The only difference was that I would be asleep this time. Now I worried that the recovery was going to be awful.
The morning of July 2nd, we dropped my boy off at my mom and dad’s on our way to the hospital. I was given my surgical gown, and visited by all of the people that would be attending the surgery. The last thing I remember was sitting on the bed in the OR, waiting to get an epidural (the doctor wanted to make sure the area was really numb). My anesthesiologist was pushing something into my IV and I asked what it was. “This is just something to keep you calm,” she said. It was apparently a mind eraser, because I completely blacked out after that.
I have pictures on my phone from recovery that I don’t remember taking. My first post-surgery memory was holding an ice cream bucket that contained my tumor, and asking if I could please show it to my boyfriend. I’m not sure what went through the minds of the people that witnessed me being wheeled to my room, propped up in my hospital bed and clutching my tumor in its bucket. I also remember shaking the bucket a lot to hear it bang on the sides…It was heavy and far more dense than I had imagined. My boyfriend called it a cannon ball.
My doctor released me to go home the very next day, much to everyone’s surprise. Apparently, no one expects to find you shuffling around your hospital room at 5:30 a.m., less than 24 hours after having a giant tumor removed.
Recovery wasn’t even close to the nightmare the phlebotomist described. At my final post-op appointment, my doctor handed me the pathology report and I was a little surprised to read that Fred weighed three pounds. That may not sound very heavy, but when it’s hard as a rock and hanging out in your abdominal cavity…well, it gets a bit uncomfortable. It’s even more uncomfortable when the three pound tumor in question is sharing your uterus with your eight-pound baby.
All in all, the experience wasn’t so horrible. Do I want to do it again? Uh, no. Am I upset that it happened? Not at all. I tweeted the tumor in a bucket picture, and Jenny Lawson (The Bloggess) retweeted it. My blog got thousands of hits that night and I gained some loyal readers. It’s kind of the craziest thing that’s happened in my life (thus far), and it makes for a good story.