IT HAPPENED TO ME: I Had a Ruptured Ovarian Cyst and No One Would Help Me Without Insurance

The doctor said, like no biggie, "You’ve got a ruptured cyst and your body is filled with pelvic fluid," as she hastily undid my IV and told me to "get an ultrasound."
Publish date:
March 4, 2015
health insurance, ovarian cyst, Womens Health, Cystic Ovaries

I hadn’t been feeling so great, so I took the day off from work and ordered in. Salmon, eggs, and coffee — it was delightful. I read poetry in bed and painted my nails and took a mental day, prepping to get back to my new job at a busy marketing agency. That calm didn't last too long, though, because I was sent to the bathroom with nausea and vomiting, like whoa. I stubbornly and stupidly decided it was salmonella or food poisoning, and drank a ton of water.

As the night wore on, I became colder than words could describe. My body felt like it wasn't mine, as if I were just made up of aching, broken pieces. Moving an inch in bed hurt as though someone had pinned me between a truck and a wall. My boyfriend was in Europe at the time and my roommates were away too, so I was on my own, weeping into the phone to my mother. My fever was so high that I started to hear voices as I fell asleep.

I slept for two days straight, the pain throughout my body not ceasing. I thought, God, I'm never eating eggs again. Which would have been a travesty. Because eggs are divine. Somewhere during this hazy 48-hour period, I started having severe stomach spasms. I felt like I was literally giving birth to either a child or a small, spiky monster. Before long, ignoring the pain became harder and harder, and I just cried on the floor of my bedroom after failing to hobble to the kitchen sink. I'm exceptionally stubborn. After being poked and prodded for years due to an autoimmune disorder/uveitis (a chronic inflammation of the eye), I was just so over going to see doctors. I decided that I would google-diagnose myself and wait it out. I also didn't have health insurance. If you're reading this, and you're without insurance, you'll know that going to the ER is basically like going through a bad acid trip in hell. It's an eternal blur of odors and blood and dehumanization.

The pain continued, though, and Google eventually told me it could be appendicitis. Obviously, I took action and I got myself up and to the local emergency room. If something was going to explode inside me, that was super not okay.

After waiting for hours (I mean, like, five hours — thanks, New York City), they gave me a CT scan and a pelvic check. I had cysts; several, and some of them were quite a few centimeters. The doctor said, like no biggie, "You’ve got a ruptured cyst and your body is filled with pelvic fluid," as she hastily undid my IV and told me to "get an ultrasound."

They didn't have an ultrasound machine on the premises, and I didn't have insurance. No doctor, no leads. My abdomen was swollen and throbbing, and my body was ravaged with shooting pain.

I wasn't asking for them to hold my hand, but it would have been nice if I was given some options. Oh, and did I mention the $10,000 bill that came in the mail after my visit? A hospital representative called me and we got that dropped to $3,000, but still, Who are they kidding? The good news is that ovarian cysts are common. You might have one. In healthy women, they come and go with our menstrual cycles. However, there are many kinds of cysts, some with more complications than others. And, there are cysts that rupture, or cause serious ovarian torsions. In many cases, a rather simple surgery is the answer. I asked friends and Facebook where I could go to see a gynecologist without insurance. Each recommendation I got sounded great! But when I called, the doctors said they wouldn't be able to take me for weeks and I'd have to pay $400-plus just for the visit. Hospital clinics could see me, after a long wait.

I called other local clinics: no ultrasounds. I searched all variants of "Ultrasound NYC" and was given plenty of options — if I were pregnant. I called Planned Parenthood and explained my situation, but their representative said, "We just can't help you with that." Now, I understand that this was more of a medical situation and less of a pregnancy, birth control, or STD situation, but the lack of help and the lack of resources for women's health-care options was pretty shocking.

It's been four months since the cyst ruptured and I'm still waiting for my appointment. Luckily, the pain from a ruptured cyst doesn't last months and months. It lasts about week after it ruptures, but it does make you sick as hell and it does mean you should make a plan. It's not the most urgent issue, but four months of waiting has been hard, and I should have seen a doctor by now.

After everything, this is what I've learned: Pay attention to your body, don’t trivialize your pain, be firm with doctors, and find health-insurance coverage. It's worth it, trust me. Your health is the most important thing you've got going for you. Still, I recognize my privilege, and I can't help but wonder about the millions of women without financial options or access to useful information.