Six weeks ago my daughter called at 10:00 p.m. in the middle of our latest round of turmoil to tell me she was having intense stomach pain and didn’t know what to do. Responsible 22 year old to scared 5 year old in less than an hour. Since she currently lives three and a half hours away, I talked her through her options, convinced her to take pain meds and go to bed with a heating pad, and then call her doctor in the morning.
Her OB/GYN squeezed her in the next morning, did an exam followed by a sonogram. As usual, when she is involved, nothing is ever straightforward, and the sonogram showed that her left ovary was twice the size of her right and the area around her ovary was “cloudy”. She had an MRI, and then went back to the doctor. She had cysts and a “nodule” on her left ovary, as well as cloudy areas – either fluid in her abdomen from a cyst that had burst or endometriosis. End result – exploratory laparoscopy scheduled for March 9 – the Friday before spring break. We arranged to be off (remember, this is the girl we almost lost when she had a tonsillectomy and hemorrhaged – not once or twice but three times last summer), and then got another phone call. Her doctor had talked to the radiologist, clarified some issues, and moved the surgery to Friday, February 24th, which meant that the surgery was the next week – thank goodness, since she had Googled “nodule and ovary” and was freaking out about cancer, endometriosis, loss of fertility at 22, or maybe death. Still, as the saying goes, “she put on her big girl panties” and only missed work for doctors’ appointments and tests, and arranged to take off only the day of her surgery, with her return to work dependent on the results of the surgery.
M and I put our differences away, presented a unified and loving front, and arrived at her house the evening before the surgery. Even with the pain she was in, she had worked to clean and arrange the house she shares with her boyfriend. While she really has grown up a lot in the last year, she was definitely glad that we were there and was very “huggy” and “leany” – since she was a little girl, she has needed physical contact if she is sick or scared – and she was both. The boyfriend was doing his best, but he was also scared, so he seemed glad we were there too. The next morning was fairly smooth because her surgery wasn’t until 11:30, so we didn’t have to leave the house until 9:00. She handled everything like a pro – checked herself in and went off to be prepped by herself, and then we spent half an hour with her before they came to get her. Once she was prepped for surgery, we were called back, and when the anesthesiologist was came to talk to her, she explained clearly about her anesthesia issue, and we were assured that they would come and get me if she had a problem. The anesthesiologist also promised to call us himself if the surgery took more than 1 1/2 hours.
In less than 45 minutes we looked up and her doctor was standing there, telling us that the surgery had gone really well, that she saw no sign of endometriosis, but she had removed several cysts from her left ovary and as well as two large cysts from the left fallopian tube. Apparently, the scar tissue caused by a rupture can weigh the tube down and pull it out of place, affecting fertility. So – no endometriosis, no tumor, no emergencies in surgery!!!! Less than an hour later, a nurse showed up to get me. I had talked to the boyfriend and told him that I was ceding my place to him, but the nurse insisted that she wanted me. I checked on her, she was fully awake and calm – and just wanted to know what the doctor had told us. After spending a few moments with her, I turned her over to her love and in less than an hour she was ready to go home – YAY!!
Meanwhile, M and I had a squabble in the waiting room because he went out to the car and got headphones and then plugged into funny videos on his iPad – and proceeded to laugh like a hyena in a surgical waiting area – a large area completely filled with people. I was nervous and edgy and even though I knew that he was trying to cope with his own stress level, I almost came unstuck. In fact, after hinting several times, I was insistent that he consider the inappropriateness of laughing loudly and constantly in a place that people are stressed and worried and STOP it. It turns out that FOX News was making him nuts – after the first 15 minutes I had stopped wishing that it was CNN or off and had just tuned it out. I understand that the noise was on his last nerve, but that is not an excuse to make others tense.
After we took C back to her house, things started to go further downhill. I tried deferring to the boy, but he made it plain that he had no intention of “catering” to C. In fact, he didn’t seem interested in her at all, and although he stayed in the living room, he seemed to be avoiding physical contact with her, didn’t check to see if she was OK or needed anything, and avoided talking to her by burying himself in work, although he could split his focus enough to watch TV. By the end of the night, I was uncomfortable and more than a little freaked out. We had decided to leave Saturday morning if her surgery was without incident, and she did not need to stay in the hospital overnight. By Friday night, M and I both were questioning whether D would actually step up and take care of her, or if we needed to stay until at least Sunday afternoon or if perhaps one of us needed to stay longer.
By Saturday morning, C was also questioning whether or not she was going to have any help or not from D, since he disappeared back into their room right after they got up, where he cleaned, vacuumed and rearranged the room, and then started on his office – without checking on whether she needed anything or not. This is the first time he has cleaned since, they moved in, so it wasn’t like he was just following the Saturday morning routine. C needed food and there really wasn’t any, and D didn’t indicate he had a plan for breakfast, so M searched online and went and picked up a variety of breakfast edibles, but by about 9:30 I was so angry that I was falling apart and had a good cry in the shower.
C, meanwhile, had clarified with D why he was pulling the disappearing act, and he seemed shocked that she thought he wasn’t going to take care of her – he was cleaning so the room would be more comfortable for her. He also had hurt feelings because she had asked for me instead of him when she came out from under the anesthesia. It turns out that she did not ask for me, the nurse just came and got me because I was the one who was supposed to be in the recovery room if she had trouble with the anesthesia during or at the end of her surgery. He was also scared to death because she had three holes in her – one of which had started bleeding again.
We took a deep breath and left her in his hands, and she stayed home and went back to work on Tuesday. On Thursday, she was back in her doctor’s office because she was in a lot of pain and was having trouble coping without pain meds, but couldn’t work if she took them. Her understanding was that if she DID NOT have endometriosis, she should have been fine to go back to work on Monday, and relatively pain free by the end of the week – and she was neither. It turned out that the surgical findings and procedure had not been as uncomplicated as we thought. When her doctor talked about the surgery, she had mentioned a bowel issue had probably been contributing to C’s pre-surgical pain. She has IBS, and we assumed that was the “bowel problem”. Nope – turns out the surgeon discovered that a sizable section of Em’s bowel on the left side was connected to the abdominal wall by adhesions which had to be removed because strain on them could cause a bowel rupture and possible peritonitis, followed by a lengthy hospital stay or possible death. In order to remove the adhesions, as well as the removal of the tubal cysts, her insides were moved around and that was what was causing the pain. Once she knew what was wrong, she has been able to handle her pain level and stay at work, although even now, almost six weeks later, she is still easily exhausted.
To sum up, C had surgery for one problem that she actually didn’t need, but while her surgeon was poking around, she discovered two other problems which could have had much more serious consequences if left untreated. Her boyfriend of two years freaks out about her propensity for medical disaster, and reacts like she is being a hypochondriac OR that it is too serious for him to handle and he wants to run away. When she was little we thought she would eventually grow out of these periodic medical incidents, but as she worked her way through high school and college, we have just accepted that they are a part of who she is – a part of her physical makeup. She has been tested and examined and taken medicine and vitamins and homeopathic remedies. She knows what she has to eat, and how much sleep she needs, and can usually tell when something is wrong. We have just accepted that she will have continual health issues, that she is learning to manage them well, and that she will ask for help if she needs it. J and I have worried, however, about two things connected to her health. 1) Will she be able to hold a steady job? and 2) Will the man she loves be able to handle colds that turn into pneumonia, rashes that might be lupus, menstrual craps that turn out to be cysts requiring surgery, childhood diseases that lead to appendicitis, etc…. The answer to the 1st question appears to be yes. She has been at her job for 7 months, while dealing with three respiratory infections, a torn ligament in her shoulder, and this last surgery without taking more sick leave or vacation than she is allowed, and her boss and coworkers feel like she is doing a good job. The answer to the 2nd question appears to be uncertain. I’m starting to feel less joyful that I’m gaining a son and more like I might turn into a mother-in-law like Endora from Bewitched – if a wedding ever happens, which does not appear to be the case.