Friday, October 12, 2012

Could Be Worse!

SO Grateful It's Not!

Have you read this book?  We received it a couple of years ago during our long wait on the job market.
It's about a grandfather that tells his grandchildren a dramatic story about all the bad things that happened to him in a dream, but, as he always tells his grandchildren, "Could be worse."

We immediately adopted this saying because, it is very true, things could always be worse.

Ever since William’s birth, I have felt concerned about my body fully recovering. You see, his placenta was completely stuck and did not deliver normally, and so the doctor TORE it out. I had William naturally, but having the placenta ripped out of me was 100% more painful than the labor and delivery was! It was very traumatic! I imagine that it would be similar to having your ear ripped off, but much larger. Unfortunately, because of our move out of the country, and with preparations being SO hectic, I missed my postpartum appointment. I was so disappointed because I was really looking forward to being assured that everything was healing correctly.

Fast forward at least around 9 or 10+ months to last spring. I laid back on my bed to snuggle with William and felt my lower abdomen and thought I felt a small lump. I told myself that it was just my uterus and maybe it hadn’t completely moved back to its normal position yet.

I was also discouraged around that time that my waist was not returning to normal. I thought that maybe it was just because I had had four full term babies and I was 30, so maybe at this point things would never be the same. I called my waist a “muffin top”, and was a little self conscious about it.

Ever since moving to Russia, it has been a challenge to regularly exercise, as we had done our last few years in New York, but my waist annoyed me enough to work harder at being more consistent. I missed doing aerobic exercises, but I hoped Pilates would be enough.

Just over a month ago, I was doing some stretches and rested flat on my stomach and I felt the pressure of a distinct lump. I rolled to my back and felt a large mass. While on my back, my abdomen sank below my hip bones, but right in the middle, a rounded protrusion poked up. Jon was working at home and I got his attention and said, “This isn’t normal is it?” His reply was, “No, it is not.”

Jon bought me these roses the day we found my lump.
Aren't they beautiful?

I knew I couldn't be pregnant. We were not trying, but even more convincing was that I didn't feel it. I've been pregnant six times and I KNOW what pregnancy feels like, and I didn't feel any of that! We were advised to take a pregnancy test anyway. It was somewhat of fun experience to try in Russia since I won't probably get another chance here. The tests are cheap.  They're not big and cutesy, but they're small and basic. They're just a strip without any fancy caps or clear windows, and they do the job just fine. No surprise, my pregnancy test was negative.

I have a bad habit of being a pessimist sometimes, and all sorts of bad scenarios were going through my mind. I worried it was cancer from the damage that had been done to my womb, and I was afraid I was going to die.

Our church believes that families are forever and that when we die, we can be together again in heaven. In so many ways it is such a comfort to know that this life is not the end and we can be with our loved ones again, but I still couldn’t help but be sad and afraid, if I died, of all that I might miss in my family’s lives here on earth. Growing milestones, birthdays, holidays, special events, graduations, weddings and grandchildren are just a few things that would break my heart to miss! I had looked forward for so long, and had worked so hard, for this little family of mine, and I just could not imagine losing them now.

If it was cancer, our Russian health insurance would not cover it, but even if it wasn’t cancer, I worried about how much this might cost our family to get it taken care of when we already didn’t have much.

I looked over the life that I have lived so far, and I looked at my dear, dear family, and a new sense of love and appreciation for them came to me. I realized that many of my other worries were of little importance in the whole scheme of things. I knew that I needed to make the most of the blessings I had now.

We tried to make an appointment at a doctor’s clinic, but their schedule was completely full. They said they would contact us if there was an opening. We waited for two whole weeks before we got an appointment! It was quite a test of my faith to keep a positive attitude and not dwell on all the scary what-ifs. Jon and I prayed and held each other tight, and tried to remain positive.

In addition, I will be honest and admit that I struggled a little with looking at myself in the mirror. When I was a young girl, I remember seeing a sad looking yellow lab waddle through the park near our home. The dog had several large tumors hanging from its stomach, and I felt grossed out at the sight of it. Now I couldn't help but feel like I might be revolting, as well. I know it was shameful of me to think, and I'm sorry.

When the day of our appointment finally came, Jon’s coworker, Valia, met us there to translate for us. I worried about the facilities and the doctors being totally medieval, but on the contrary, we were pleasantly surprised with our experience that day. Probably the worst and most medieval part was the fact that Jon could not join me in any of the examination rooms. He had to sit out in the hall at all times. So, I was so glad to at least have Valia there with me.

I was really nervous to have a pelvic exam! It is already such an embarrassing and vulnerable examine in the U.S., and I was not looking forward to having one here in Moscow with things being so different. It was even more intimidating that I could not understand the doctor and she could not understand me. Of course, Valia was behind the screen translating everything, but it was still an unpleasant experience. I really hated being a foreigner right then!

One thing we were especially impressed about our medical care was the ease and convenience of being able to get everything we needed to done at once and in one place. After my pelvic exam and the confirmation that I did indeed have a foreign mass, they immediately sent me upstairs for an ultrasound.  It was very nice to have Valia with us and on our side because she made sure things kept moving in a timely manner and that I got good care.

We are also impressed by how thorough Russian doctors are. However, I will admit that the thoroughness of the doctor doing the ultrasound made me nervous. He looked in my abdomen for a long time.  I watched his face closely for any sign of bad news, but his stoic face made him hard to read. When he asked me questions, like if I'd had pain or lost any weight (which was hard to answer because I have lost pregnancy weight, but I don't know if I've lost more than I should have), I panicked and thought it must be bad news and that something must definitely be wrong.

Valia was a wonderful translator, telling me almost anything a doctor or nurse said, and even at one point causing the doctor to remark that she didn't have to translate EVERYTHING that was being said. She was also sweet to update Jon by texting him the final diagnosis to help comfort him over my behalf.

We were relieved to find out that what we thought might be the best case scenario, of this seemingly bad situation, turned out even better. You see, what we thought our best case scenario would require a fairly big surgery with possible negative complications. However, we found out that I have a pretty large cyst (6x4x4 inches) on one of my ovaries, and the surgery will only involve sticking a scope and a needle in to drain it.

Before I get my surgery I need to have a full physical and then it must be scheduled following a period. I had an appointment for my physical scheduled at the beginning of this month, but our family came down with the flu, so I had to postpone. Now it's too late in my cycle to schedule anything, and we have to wait until after my next period.

The cyst will continue growing, and the biggest concern right now is the possibility that it could burst. A ruptured ovarian cyst, especially large ones, can cause severe abdominal pain and internal bleeding and can be quite dangerous. I feel like I have a bomb inside of me that might explode at any moment. It's hard to sit here and wait, knowing that the treatment is relatively easy but the timing has to be just right.

A couple weeks ago I had high hopes that the cyst was shrinking and perhaps would disappear on its own. Unfortunately, I found out that an ovarian cyst can change size somewhat throughout a woman's cycle, and now mine currently has grown larger than ever. I really do look pregnant. I feel like I should have tender feelings and exciting expectations for my rounding belly. It's an odd feeling to have a small, protruding abdomen, but to not have a little life growing inside my womb. Instead, I have a benign water balloon putting pressure and discomfort on things that it shouldn't, and causing people around me to begin to wonder. I get a bit self conscious about it, can you tell?

We are so, so grateful that everything is okay and that my lump wasn't anything more serious. It really could have been A LOT worse! I'm glad that I don't have to worry about major treatments or procedures, and especially that I don't have to worry about the possibility of having to say goodbye.

Life is so fragile and so precious; sometimes it's good to have a reminder of that, and to take those things that truly matter most, hold them tight, and thank God for each moment that you have with them!


  1. Oh Shari! I wish I was there to hold your hand. I have poly cystic ovarian syndrome, so I have had a lot of ovarian cysts, but none that have ever gotten that big. I have had a bunch of them removed, everytime I have needed another abdominal surgery, and a few that were big and painful enough to need their own surgery.

    I am glad that your cyst is the kind that can be removed with a needle. Even though it is fairly simple, if they offer you an anesthetic, take it. The time I tried to be brave it just made the recover much more painful and several days longer.

    I am so glad that you have a good clinic and a good translater. Accurate diagnosis is so important for cysts!

    Please let me know if you need anything, even a 2:00 pep talk via Skype! I will be praying for all of you!

  2. My goodness! Hope it all goes well, keep us posted! You're in my thoughts!

  3. I am so grateful that it is not worse. I hope everything goes well. It sounds like Russia has some good things about their medical system. It is nice to find out exactly what is wrong right away. Keep us posted and take care.

  4. This is so freakishly weird. I mean, of all the things you could experience while in Russia.... I am so so SO glad it is nothing worse, though!! Cuz you are my SISTAH and I want you to be HAPPY and HEALTHY!!

    I love you so much!!!!

  5. p.s. "freakishly weird" meaning that it is happening to you, not the actual symptoms. :)

  6. Amazing woman that you are, hang in there! My family sends prayers and love your way.