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I was talking with a friend this morning about ovarian cysts (w00t w00t), and realized it has been such a long time since I’ve changed my diet. It made me think about the reasons I made the lifestyle change that I did. It’s hard for me to share, because my experience made me feel incredibly vulnerable. Writing about that time makes those feelings come flooding back, but I’m finally getting to the point where it doesn’t sting. As much, anyway.

My health decline started in the middle of high school. Just to give you a little more background about myself, I’ve always had an excitement for life. I still hate going to sleep because I don’t want to miss out on anything. I was thrilled to transfer to a performing arts school for my freshman year, and I wanted to be involved in absolutely everything. I was the ASB Vice President, a member of the Improv Club, taking dance lessons, and performing in amateur theater. I also worked at a costume shop in my “spare time”. You name it, I did it. I loved every second of it, but as the years went on, it became harder to do all of the things I loved to do. I’d come home exhausted. I’m not talking a little tired from having a long day, I was so tired that I’d have to pull my car over in the afternoon and take a nap until I was able to drive safely again. Everything was hard, and I’d have to spend my energy wisely. Sometimes I’d stop and lie down on the floor and stare at the ceiling of my bedroom and wish I could muster up the motivation to move my arm. I had to force myself to continue doing all of the things I loved. As I began to get more and more tired, I started having all of these strange side effects. I had acid reflux, I felt sick to my stomach all the time, I kept fainting and having dizzy spells. Sometimes I’d wake up in the middle of the night and throw up for no reason. I felt awful. I hated being a “sick person”, but my Mom and I had to start seeing a million different doctors. None of them were helpful. Most of them were rude. When they couldn’t think of anything, they told me the pain was in my head. After a while, I started to believe them. They were doctors, after all.

After having one doctor suggest I see a psychiatrist for “making up my pain”, I decided that everyone must feel sick, the way that I did. I was probably over exaggerating. It must be normal to feel awful, and it was time  to go on with my life and accept that I’d feel bad all the time and that I should stop complaining. It was like I was keeping a secret. I didn’t want to complain because I was worried I’d be labeled a hypochondriac, but I was in pain all of the time. In the meantime, my stomach started to grow. People started asking me if I was pregnant. I was skinny everywhere except for my stomach. Every time I’d get the pregnancy question, I’d start another diet and never lose any weight. It was a lot for a high school girl to handle. There was so much pressure to be thin and there was nothing I could do about my expanding waistline.

After high school, I moved to a new town to go to college and get a fresh start. I wanted to go someplace where nobody knew I’d ever complained about my health. I wanted to go someplace where I could pretend to be healthy and not be labeled as a “sick person”. I was pretty good at keeping this up, even though I’d have to stop halfway to class because I’d begin to feel like I was going to faint. One day, I went to the health clinic at school because I had strep throat. Even though I insisted I wasn’t pregnant and that there was no way I could possibly be pregnant, the doctor took one look at my huge stomach and made me take a pregnancy test. I was so irritated and insulted, and I didn’t feel well because I knew I had strep throat. The college nurse came in and I think the exhaustion from strep throat and my illness made me burst into tears. I’d had it. I told her I was tired of being asked if I was pregnant all of the time.

I sat there crying, waiting for her to tell me that I was making things up. I was shocked when she looked at me with concern and listened. For the first time, someone from the medical profession had actually HEARD me. She listened as I told her my secret. She didn’t make me feel rushed, and she told me to wait for her after my doctor’s appointment was over. The doctor came in and told me I wasn’t pregnant. I rolled my eyes at the big shock, and asked him to please give me a throat culture so I could get rid of my strep throat, already. Sheesh.

After my appointment, the nurse took me to her office. For the first time, I had an advocate. She grabbed the phone book and began calling doctors and asking them questions that I didn’t know I needed to ask. She talked to the receptionists to get a feel for their office, and finally found someone who she said she felt comfortable sending me to. She said that if I had any more problems, to come and see her again. Per her instructions, I made an appointment and went to the doctor. I sat in the waiting room of this new doctor, and while I was there I had another man ask me when my due date was. I told him I wasn’t pregnant, and felt guilty and embarrassed as he apologized to me. Frustrated, I cried to my new doctor and told him that everyone asked if I was pregnant and that it didn’t make sense for my stomach to be so big. He immediately scheduled an ultrasound.

During my ultrasound, I could tell something was very wrong. The woman performing the ultrasound looked really alarmed and started asking me all of these questions. I got a call from my doctor an hour later and he told me they’d found a cyst. It was 11 by 11 and a half inches. They were going to remove it as soon as he could schedule an appointment. Five years of being in pain, and someone finally figured out what was wrong.

I went from a size 18 to a size 8 on the day they removed my cyst. I felt lopsided as I walked to my apartment in my new body. I took a bath and was amazed that I could actually see my toes. There was a rumor going around work that I’d given birth and given the baby away for adoption. Yep. At least I was used to the pregnancy rumors by then. Besides, I did give birth, to a 22 pound cyst. Hardy har har.

I really thought that after they removed my cyst, that all of my health problems would be gone. I didn’t think of my diet and the reason the cyst was there in the first place. It took me a few more years to figure that out, but I’ll have to save that for next time because I have a baby that’s waking up and I have a feeling he’s going to need my attention. 😉