I had been moody, distant, and confrontational. If you believe in teen angst, then I was the poster child for it. Unfortunately, I didn’t sneak out and ride off into the suburban sunset on the back of a motorcycle. I felt isolated and particularly emotional during my time of the month. My PMS was like a nuclear reactor: volatile and unaware. My anxiety, which was probably charming when I was small, got worse and affected my socializing. Obviously concerned, my mom thought it would be best to start me on birth control. I was a sophomore in high school and still kind of hesitant about that. I said, “I’m not even having sex, why do I need to take the pill?” But, as it was relayed to me, the pill helps ease pesky PMS symptoms and makes your period lighter and shorter. I got many blood tests and an initial ultrasound; an elevated amount of some hormone was found, suggesting Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. Polycystic Ovary Syndrome causes irregular or prolonged periods, acne, hair growth, weight gain, depression, and anxiety. Cysts crop up alongside enlarged ovaries, and although it isn’t curable, it is treatable and common. To top it all off, it heightens the chance of developing infertility and Type 2 Diabetes. Terrified, I assumed the worst. But that’s not what was in store for me.
The ultrasound showed a mass that didn’t belong. It was a singular ovarian cyst, dangling off my right fallopian tube. For a visual: ovaries are about the size of almonds, and my unwelcomed guest was the size of an orange or tennis ball. I don’t think I ever had symptoms of this intruder, which ranges from pelvic pain and nausea to pressure on your bladder. And since it was my first ever ultrasound, this cyst could have been with me my whole life.
Avoiding conflict and difficulty, I thought I could just ignore it and let it rent space. But my doctor told me that I was at risk for “ovarian torsion,” which could occur from the largeness of the cyst twisting my right fallopian tube and right ovary until it dies. I could lose my right ovary, severely limiting my chances of pregnancy in the future.
I was seventeen years old and faced with a seemingly adult burden. I had no idea what I wanted to officially be when I grew up (tentatively the next Jennifer Lawrence) or if I wanted children. Yet, my future was riding on this decision: remove the cyst or not.
The route was laparoscopy, or when a surgeon makes a small incision (abdominal and through your belly button) in order to see your ovaries and remove the cyst. Hell no. I had never broken a bone, gotten stitches, or had invasive surgeries. I had gotten stung by a bee, skinned my knees, and gotten sporadic bloody noses. I did not want to go under anesthesia and have my body ripped apart. What if I didn’t wake up?
The surgery was scheduled for the following July. Devastated, I went through the motions of college tours and AP classes, feeling that in the back of my mind I was a goner. They say ignorance is bliss, which I wholeheartedly agree with now. I would have been unaware but content if I had no knowledge of the cyst. Looking back, I don’t consider this an overreaction or pure dramatics. I was not terminally ill; I was lucky.
But I was immature. I focused on myself and my own problems during a time where tragedies and misfortune, like the Boston Marathon Bombings, still sadly clogged the atmosphere. The local cable news was reporting on the controversial Rolling Stone spread on the Tsarnaev family as I awaited going under for my surgery. I thought about fear and its hold on me while unsuspecting marathon runners, families, and bystanders were struck with the worst fate possible. A little boy lost his life. Fear is always a choice and those people had courage amidst a senseless and cowardly act of violence. I could suck it up for a routine surgery.
Apparently, the last thing I talked about before giving into the anesthesia was cheeseburgers. All the nurses thought that was a riot. My cyst turned out to be benign, but the entire summer was spent with two miniature holes in my pubic area. It took a month for them to disappear, but I still feel the slices of new skin even after three years. I still feel like there’s something out of place and empty at the same time. I’ve moved on but I replay those moments from time to time, sometimes when I’m daydreaming in class instead of taking notes on Rousseau and his “sexual perversion” for being spanked by dominant women. That’s a whole other story you should really research, it’s quite fascinating.
Anyway, whether there is such a thing as luck or fate, life is scarily unpredictable. Yet we can predict that there will be three million cases of ovarian cysts in any given year. After my surgery, my anxiety never went away. It grew debilitating and overwhelming, to the point where my parents had to sit down and have a “serious” talk with me. Yes, going on birth control did alleviate the Dr. Jekyll / Mr. Hyde scenario. But I was still a nervous hamster, running on my wheel, overwhelmed. A couple years later, I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder.
Being a woman is hard, and not just because a man like Donald Trump could be our next president. We have to be happy, collected, and easygoing. The “cool girl” is ideal, just listen to Amy Dunne’s (Rosamund Pike) candid rant in Gone Girl. We should be in control of our bodies and God forbid if someone hurts us, it’s our fault for how we were looking or acting and what we were wearing. Realizing I had this cyst, which led to my anxiety disorder acknowledgment, showed me I can be vulnerable and out of control. Despite the inferiorities of being a human, I am invincible for what I’ve gone through, and continue to go through. I can shout, “I am stronger than my cyst, I am stronger than my anxiety, I am a superhero.” Women must practice self care. Whether it’s emotional and mental, like declaring a “me day” and binge-watching Gilmore Girls, or physical, by seeking a doctor to get a check up.
My cyst (in memoriam) and anxiety made me proud to be a woman. This is my thank you to my cyst. Yes, I have annual ultrasounds to check if anything grows back, like a cyst neighborhood (and drink copious amounts of water in preparation which nauseates like you wouldn’t believe), but if it wasn’t for that cyst, I wouldn’t have gotten the help I needed and the overdue diagnosis I deserved. Thank you, you stupid gross cyst, for making me strong and a better, more self-aware woman.
Photo By: Hana Antrim & Alyssa Geissler