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February 17

The 17th of February.

Dys pointed it out last night, actually.  It’s an anniversary for us.

But what really hit me was today in my meeting.  I sat on the opposite side of the table from where I usually sit in this meeting, just to do something different.  And then someone opened the door and said something, and I remembered:  That’s where I was sitting that day.  Yeah, sure, there used to be a view of the quad and the street out the opposite window instead of a view of the multimillion-dollar expansion to the building that’s there now.  But the conference room was the same.  It was eerie.

So now I’m going to talk about something I’ve rarely talked about in detail.  A day in which our lives changed.  Although, to be honest with you, my memory on a lot of this is pretty damned fuzzy.  And I think in a few minutes, you’ll understand why.

My parents had come out to visit on the weekend, like they still did fairly often back then before they had another grandchild closer by.  We had a nice Saturday evening.  Sunday morning, Dys couldn’t get out of bed.

She had wretched abdominal pain.  It was horrible…and serious.  She didn’t think she could sit up to ride to the hospital less than ten minutes away.  We called an ambulance.  Believe it or not, for me, this was a first.  I watched them load my crying, moaning wife onto a stretcher and out the front door while my worried parents agreed to stay with our preschool-age son.   I hopped into the car and followed the ambulance to the low-rent hospital closest to us.

They couldn’t find a cause for her pain.  That’s what we were told at the end of…god, I don’t even know how many hours in the ER.  All I remember is that the lighting was shitty, there was nothing to do except stare at Dys and wish somebody would figure out what was wrong, figure out a way to make things better.  They gave her something for her pain, and ran some tests that I didn’t recognize and didn’t remember.  (She could probably tell you.  If she reads this.  Unsurprisingly, it’s painful for her to do so and she knows what this post is about so…don’t hold your breath.)  But ultimately the painkillers got her pain under control, and they couldn’t find what was wrong with her, so the choices were a) we could agree to have her admitted, b) she could go home.

We went home.

On Monday my parents left, and she couldn’t walk unassisted.  I helped her to our local doctor’s office to be seen.  Our doctor looked concerned but didn’t have any good ideas.  They scheduled us for an ultrasound on Tuesday.  I had to walk her to that appointment, too.  The tech took a look and said, “I’m not allowed to diagnose…but you’ve got a big old ovarian cyst right there.  It’s going to have to come out.”  She made some phone calls, and were told that the ob/gyn surgical office would try to work us in on Wednesday.  If they could.

I was in that meeting on Wednesday morning when my office manager poked her head in, crooked a finger at me, and told me that Dys had called to say we could get in.  I broke every personal record (and quite a few local ordinances) getting home, loading her in the car, and going across town to the doctor’s office.

The NP at the ob/gyn surgeon’s office took one look at her, one look at her ultrasound, and ordered us across the street to the ER.  Immediately now. So.  More hours in the ER as various people ran in and out without giving us much helpful info.  Finally we saw the surgeon.  He was leaving for vacation that night.  He could do the surgery that evening, or we’d have to wait a week.

Our son was at day care.  We had no one at home to take care of him.  No family nearby.  Nothing.  But she couldn’t wait.  We agreed, and they started to do some minor surgical prep while I called around frantically.  Dys’s mom hit the road almost immediately – but she lived 600 miles away and couldn’t be there before 2am or so.  In the meantime…I called everyone I knew, and nobody could stay with Boy.  Finally our neighbors got in touch with their 20-something daughter.  She could do it.  But I had to move quickly.  Dys would go in for prep while I picked up Boy from day care and took him home.  They told me where to come when I came back, and I tore out of the ER, laying shoe rubber everywhere.

More blurring.  I remember that Boy didn’t really understand what was going on, that Daddy had to go back to the hospital to be with Mommy, but Miss A was going to stay with him.  He wasn’t thrilled.  He actually asked to go to bed instead of staying up with Miss A.  I was confused, but okay.  To comfort him, I fed him dinner and tucked him into bed.  Then I shrugged and hauled ass out of there and back across town to the hospital a little after 6 or so.

It was dark.   I found a place to park, entered through the ER since that was the only way I knew into that hospital, and went to the place where I was supposed to wait.

No Dys.  No sign of her.  Anywhere.  Nobody manning a desk that could talk to me.  I fought panic, with marginal success.  Is this some fucked-up Lifetime movie?!?  Where the fuck is my wife?

I wandered back to the ER.  Nothing.  I wandered back to the other office again, in the utterly stupid hope that something would be different then.  I finally found another desk that was actually staffed (and not swamped like the ER triage).  A lady confirmed that while I’d hoped to make it back to see her before she went in, Dys’s doctor got her in earlier.  She was already in recovery.  The doctor?  Already gone, probably lugging his golf bag to the airport.

Her brow crinkled in confusion.  “The doctor wanted to be called when you got in.  I’ll call him.  Hold on.”

How many people here think that’s good news?  Raise your hands.  Yep.  That’s what I figured.

It took a long, long minute before the nurse handed me the receiver.  The cyst had partially ruptured, he told me.  Bad news – although we sort of expected it.  But the news got worse.  He’d had to remove the ovary entirely.  Again, not unexpected.

But then things turned for the surreal.  He told me, I couldn’t find her other ovary.


I couldn’t spend a lot of time rooting around, of course, but I found the other fallopian tube, and there was nothing attached to it. My head started spinning.  I left her uterus, because you may still be able to conceive via implantation if you choose to do so.  We’ll have to do some tests when I get back to confirm it, but I think she will be menopausal.

Those weren’t his exact words.  Fuck, I couldn’t remember his exact words if loaded with pentathol and hanging over an acid bath.  I remember standing there, holding the phone in a numb hand while the floor rippled and swayed around me, wondering What the fuck do I tell Dys when she wakes up? I gave the phone back to the nurse, and staggered out to find the waiting area outside the recovery room.

I think at some point I blurted out to some stranger, a female nurse, that my wife was in recovery after emergency surgery, I hadn’t seen her in hours, and now I’d just been told by her doctor over the phone that she couldn’t have any more children.  I think she hugged me and commiserated with me before zooming along to do every other urgent thing that a nurse has to do.

Or I may have hallucinated that whole thing.  It is entirely possible.

I slumped in a chair in that waiting area, utterly dumbfounded at the turn my life had taken in the past few days, hours, minutes.  It would be an hour before she woke up, I was told.  I wasn’t allowed in to see her yet.  All I could do was wait.

What do I do?  Who do I call?  Our parents?  “Hey, y’all, no more kids for us!”  They should know that before Dys knows herself?  I shook that off.  No.  She deserved to be part of that conversation.  And she would be.

Sit there and bear it alone?  It was my default response to everything in life, after all.

But I couldn’t.   At that moment, it was beyond my ability to bear.  I called my friend Michael.  I got his voice mail, and I left what must have been an utterly incoherent and shellshocked message.  He returned my call twenty minutes or so later and told me comforting things.  I don’t remember what, but I remember feeling better after it was done.  I decided not to talk to Dys about the menopause until she was completely conscious…and not to anybody else before then.

I got up.  I paced.  I bought junk food and soda from the vending machines that somehow did little to reduce my nervous energy.  I pawed through the piles of magazines lying around and found one single solitary issue of Cycle World.  I sat down and read over and over and over the same words without remembering them.

Finally I was allowed into the recovery room.  She was still mostly out of it and asleep.  There was some inane sitcom on a very quiet TV in a darkened room while a bunch of unconscious people semi-reclined in hospital beds in rows along the wall.   I think they told me I could try to give her some water and to call them if she woke up and wanted meds.  I think.  At any rate, after a while they wheeled her up to a room, and I followed her.  I think that was 10 or 11pm.  I sat in a corner and read more and more of that same damned Cycle World while she was out of it.

Sometime before midnight, she partially came to.  I talked to her reassuringly.  I told her that Boy was fine, he’d immediately gone to bed.  I told her that her mom had called not long ago and she was only a few hours away.

Eyes half closed, she looked my way.  “What did they take?”

I ignored the question and kept blabbering.  “What did they take?” she insisted.

I hesitated.  I explained that they took her ovary, and that they hadn’t taken her uterus.  She looked at me.  I just knew that she saw it on my face.

I told her.

I found out later that she was mostly out of it and had NOT, in fact, read me like a book.  Until I spilled the beans.  Then, by god, she was conscious.

She cried.  I held her and wished I could make it all better – that I even understood the slightest bit of the whole thing.  My wishes were not granted.  Still haven’t been.  But I held onto her anyway.  I reassured her as best I could, and told her we’d talk more about it later, that for now she just had to rest and get better.  She went back to sleep, and I went back to my battered Cycle World, finally noticing that it was from the year before.

At 2:30 in the morning her mom came in and hugged me, brushed Dys’s hair off her face.  We spoke very quietly in the dark room.  We sat there together for a while, saying nothing.  Then we debated which of us should go home to Boy and which should stay with Dys until morning.  We ended up deciding that I’d go.  She really wanted to have a chance to talk to Dys, and we thought Boy would be less confused if I woke him up in the morning and took him to day care.

I got home a little before 4am on the 18th.  Still utterly confused and with no idea how to react to the events of the past 24 hours.  It took years, really, to come to terms with it all.

The details are ridiculously hazy.  But I have no trouble remembering February the 17th.


11 Responses

  1. Wow. Just… wow. What an awful experience, for both of you. And good heavens, they couldn’t find her other ovary??? How the heck does that happen?

    I’m so sorry that such awful things had to happen so abruptly, so violently. I’m sorry it happened AT ALL. I made the choice, myself, to not have children. I can only imagine how awful it would be to have that choice taken away from you completely.

    Hugs, to both of you.

    Crisitunity got it right – she was born with only one. When the doctor got back from vacation and we went in to have her hormones tested, etc., he said that he found the fallopian tube but it terminated before the ovary, and he didn’t see a “floater” or anything to indicate that it had ever been there. He asked if she’d ever had ovarian surgery before – and she hadn’t.

    It was pretty fucked up to have it all happen so abruptly, but in the end it all worked out. We soon found out about Boy’s ASD and decided that we were better off concentrating on him anyway. (Plus we suddenly didn’t have to move as we’d been planning and devoting a lot of frustrated energy toward, as our house was not really two-kids friendly but for one it’s fine.)

  2. I read that entire thing with a lump in my throat, until I got near the end and the lump turned into tears (that’s been happening a lot lately).
    I think while it’s difficult for you guys to understand some of the things we women go through, the best we can hope for is to have someone like you by our sides for whatever it may be. I am lucky in this way and I am glad she is too.
    What a harrowing anniversary.

    I thought this might be tough for you, Kim, and I’m sorry about that.

    It was tough for me to have that choice taken away, but I knew instinctively that it would be harder for her to have that part of her female identity stripped away so rudely. And that’s without all the hormonal stuff. (Which was, and still can be, pretty damned weird.) So I just tried to hold on and be there for her as much as I could. But at the same time, by trying to relieve her of burdens by not talking about my own struggles, it made her feel more alone, if that makes any sense. I just think there was no good way for either of us to deal with it. It was only later when that, Boy’s ASD diagnosis, and our marital problems all collided at rock bottom that we could really deal with any of them.

  3. Where did the ovary get off to? I actually have heard of some women having a “floater”, but I’ve never known anyone who had one.

    My Mom went through similar problems shortly after I was born (technically, she wasn’t supposed to have ME). They didn’t take everything the first time even though she begged them to. She ended up with cancer in what was left about two years later and they had to open her up again.

    Ugh…I’m so sorry that you kids had to experience such crappy stuff, but I am so glad that you have each other and Boy.

    I’m sorry for your Mom, that must have been horrible to have to go through all that twice even after asking them to take everything the first time.

    We’re glad we have each other, too. Hence “Dig” on Valentine’s Day. 🙂

    • I really feel terrible to disrupt these comments, but Heather, I know someone who had a “floater”. It turned into literally the most disgusting medical story I have ever heard of, anywhere, ever.

      In this case maybe Dys was born with only one.

      Yep, apparently she was only born with one. Everybody tells their SO at some point “you’re a freak of nature” – I get to mean it!

      If it’s a truly disgusting medical story, Dys may want to hear it someday.

  4. TB, I am so sorry to hear the harrowing details of this story. I can only imagine what those days, hours, minutes must have felt like when you were experiencing them. So awful.

    Something to counteract the awfulness? Boy is a real, actual miracle.

    Indeed he is. And thank you for the commiseration.

    You’ll love this one – a few days ago I was playing Oblivion, and he walked through the room, recognized which dungeon I was in, gave me directions to the bad guy, and kept on walking. Never slowed a step or batted an eye.

  5. As one who has stood in a hospital, one who has heard the bad news, one who has struggled to parse for years afterwards…I still have a tough time comming up with words.

    Thanks for putting that out here for the rest of us to read. It helps us see the world more clearly, even if it’s sometimes a hazy blur for you.

    I thank you for your kind words, my friend. Having read your story…as harrowing as my day was, I would not trade it for yours for all the money in the world.

  6. Damn, dude. They never make it easy, do they.

    And, trust me, if I ever find they I’ll make them pay.

    Yeah, give ’em an extra forearm shiver for me.

  7. I have no words, other than I’m sorry. Saying that it sucks would be the understatement of the millenium. But everyone else is right, you got Boy and you and Dys have each other and that’s all that really matters in the end.

    In the end, not being able to have more kids probably helped – help deal with Boy’s ASD, and quite possibly saved our marriage (I can’t contemplate going thru what we did the following year with the added stress of a toddler around). But at the time, hell yeah it sucked. Thanks for your kind words.

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