When I was 19 years old, I was admitted to Mater Dei hospital due to sharp abdominal pains.
I had been suspecting something being wrong for at least a year, but both times that I had visited a medical practitioner, I was told that my stomach was bloated due to Inflammatory Bowel Syndrome, most commonly known as IBS.
Their examination consisted of merely inspecting my stomach using nothing but their hands, and did not bother with conducting actual tests such as an ultrasound, a CT scan, or an MRI scan, ones which would help reach a proper and well-informed diagnosis.
Looking back now, I can recall that at some point my abdomen starting growing and never really stopped. If you asked me back then, I was pretty convinced that I was just gaining weight, especially after having visited two doctors in order to get a professional opinion.
I was not taken seriously, and I distinctly remember the last doctor I visited, laughing in my face, and telling me that “it’s just gas.”
When I was then initially sent to the emergency room, for testing to determine the cause of my abdominal pain, it took five hours of back and forth between doctors, as they all tried to guess what I had, rather than test.
I remember a group of seven surgeons coming in next to me, again, feeling my stomach with just their hands and nothing else. They all agreed between them that I just had a UTI (Urinary Tract Infection), and that I could go home at that very moment.
At that point, I was certain that there was something very wrong with my body. My stomach felt like it was going to explode, and the pain had nothing to do with that of a UTI.
It’s beyond me how yet again, none of these doctors initiated an ultrasound. I was partially relieved, ready to go home and forget about the whole growing nightmare.
Then the surgeons left the room, and I was meant to go home. One female doctor intervened as soon as they left and told me that there’s something very wrong with my stomach.
“I don’t trust in what they just said,” she said.
And she proceeded with getting me an ultrasound, the first ultrasound of my life, and the first doctor from all that I saw that actually bothered to conduct one.
From here onwards, it was a series of shocks. First, they couldn’t see anything through the ultrasound, they couldn’t see my uterus, my ovaries, or my cervix, pretty much nothing. That’s when I first saw the panic starting to creep in, as the doctors realized they had no idea what they were dealing with.
An hour later, I was getting my first CT scan, which was what determined what I had in my abdomen.
The culprit was a 33cm ovarian cyst, directly attached to one of my ovaries. At that point, we did not even know whether it was benign or malignant, and uncertainty and fear swooped over.
At this point, the appropriate testing had finally become a priority, and doctors were not dealing with the situation lightly anymore. I was immediately told that it would have to be surgically removed, and the news later came that I would also have to lose one of my ovaries, as it was unsalvageable.
Had it not been for the endless neglect prior to finding that one doctor in the emergency room, I most probably would have not lost one of my ovaries.
The operation was a success without any complications, but the recovery was not an easy one. Nonetheless, it passed, and here I am two years later, sharing my story.
As an individual that went through the experience first hand, it was surprising afterward to realise that a lot of women have dealt with similar experiences. Prior to having one myself, I had never even heard of an ovarian cyst.
We were never given the proper reproductive education about such matters. But after starting to speak about my experience, I met so many women which also had ovarian cysts, or other female reproductive health conditions such as PCOS and Endometriosis, which are also not discussed enough.
Given how common it is to get these ovarian cysts, nothing is being said about them.
From an educational standpoint, more definitely needs to be done, in order for women to be educated about their own bodies. The lack of proper education enables such experiences to happen and go unnoticed.
The stigma needs to be broken, and these matters need to start being discussed openly.
And from a medical standpoint, coming from someone who has suffered grave consequences due to negligence, I call out on all doctors and ask them to take their jobs seriously. You are being paid to be trusted with other people’s lives, the least you could do is conduct the proper tests, and not laugh in the face of your patient.
Diagnosis should never be a guessing game.
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