Doctors make the best patients. Sort of.

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I had surgery last week to remove my left ovary.  I’m 53, so it isn’t doing all that much for me anyway.  It was what we call an “incidental finding.”  This simply means that we were looking for something else, but could not ignore this other issue that is staring back at you and is not supposed to be there.  The good news is that all of my cancer markers are negative, so there is a less than 2% chance it is cancerous.  These ovarian masses are usually dermoid tumors.  Think of a Pacman with hair and teeth.  Nasty little buggers, but they do no harm.  Because there is a slight chance it could be something more concerning and because it is kind of weird thinking of this thing inside me growing hair and teeth, I decided on removal.  Plus, if I had chosen to not have surgery, I’d be relegated to an ultrasound every three month for at least a year.  Considering that every time I go to my gynecologist’s office for any reason, I seem to be there for over two hours, and considering this ovary isn’t really doing much for me anyway, the ovary was voted off of my island.

My morning of surgery was spent showering, grabbing my paperwork and wearing the barest of necessities to the surgery center.  Loose pants with an elastic waist band, no jewelry, a case for my glasses, a button-down flannel shirt, and slip on shoes.  I’ve done this once or twice before.  This particular surgery center is a few blocks from my condo and a few blocks from my office, so I walked with a friend to get checked in.  I think she was supposed to wait for me, but knowing she could be there to pick me up in less than 5 minutes, she snuck out after they took me back to preop.  In preop, I met my nurse Jonathan who introduced my anesthesiologist Dr. Johnson and, I kid you not, my surgeon was Dr. Johns.  I was in a sitcom.  I spent the next 45 minutes answering questions about my health history and making sure everyone knew that it was the left ovary that was on the chopping block. 

I came home after surgery and slept for 20 of the next 24 hours.  I woke to find that I actually felt reasonably well so I went out for a three-hour excursion to celebrate my husband’s Castle Connolly Top Doctor nod.  Like so many physicians, I struggle to follow strict medical advice.  For the next two days, I did almost nothing and today I’ve done a slow walk with my dog around the block and sat down to write this blog article.  My abdomen hurts far less than I expected.  I have only used Tylenol for minor discomfort.  The oddest feeling and the location of most of my pain is in my shoulders.  When they do laparoscopic surgery, they blow air in so they can see what they are doing and this distension puts pressure on the diaphragm and the phrenic nerve pain radiates to the upper body, so pelvic surgery often results in post operative shoulder pain until the air dissipates. 

My surgery was at noon, so I did sort of break another small rule of surgery.  When you are having surgery, you are often allowed a medicine cup full of water to take any necessary medications.  I don’t take any daily medications, but I do have a strong caffeine addiction and therefore consider caffeine a necessary medication.  Since my surgery wasn’t until noon, I did an early AM medicine cup shot of espresso.  Caffeine plus water = no headache.  Now had my surgery been early AM, I would have not broken this rule and would have had my coffee upon waking.  There are surgeons and anesthesiologists shaking their head in frustration, but, in my defense, there are studies that show NPO (nothing by mouth) after midnight is unnecessarily strict for some patients and that the American Society of Anesthesiologists issued guidelines that permit the consumption of clear liquids (black coffee is technically clear) until two hours before surgery for healthy patients undergoing elective procedures.  I had my espresso 5 hours before surgery.  Now, did I pull out the guidelines and argue my point when they asked if I’d had anything to drink after midnight?  No, of course not, I just shook my head.  Then my nurse handed me a medicine cup of water and a Pepcid, so I smiled and drank it down.  If they can break the super strict rules, so can I. 

In a not so funny, yet comedic turn of events, our heat was stuck on full blast last night. I woke in a major night sweat regretting my decision to lose that ovary without so much as an afterthought. This morning, at 76 degrees, I finally realized the issue was not the loss of my ovary, but a fault wall thermostat and happiness was restored after I tore the unit off of the wall to get it to shut down.

I also asked if I could travel out of the country one week after surgery and was advised not to do so.  I have tremendous trust in routine surgical procedures, so I promptly bought my ticket to Prague one week after surgery.  I’ll let you know how it goes. Don’t tell Dr. Johns.

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