By Lauren Belcher | CBelcher@flagler.edu
People still ask me to this day, “How did you not know?”
Well, denial is a peculiar feeling. I would know; I experienced it from age 11 to 17 years old. For six long years, I ignored what was happening to my body and tried to continue my life as normal as possible.
If, as a child, you had an ever-growing stomach, would this raise a question? Or would you just wear looser clothing and ignore it? I did the latter.
The first time I realized I was depressed was in eighth grade. I was in middle school and I got a morbid writing assignment. The script said “Congratulations! You died today. Now, write your own eulogy.”
While everyone else wrote comical essays about freak accidents that lead to their deaths, I took this assignment to the next level. I committed suicide, figuratively of course.
I don’t have many memories from my childhood, but this essay is still clear as day in my memory. It was the first sign that something was wrong and I needed help.
The details in my essay scared my teachers. I didn’t have many friends but even my peers were strongly affected by my essay. To me, it was just a piece of writing. But, in reality, it was a look into my denial, my first attempt to reach out.
Flash forward several years and you’ll see a high school junior applying for colleges. At this point, I’ve been living with my depression for quite sometime. Everyday was a living hell for me, especially when I was at school. I couldn’t help but wonder why I would subject myself to another four years of this.
By now, my stomach gave me the appearance of a pregnant teen. I was 17 years old, so the notion wasn’t the strangest idea in the world. I looked ready to pop, like a walking reminder of what all high school kids never want to see. And they tortured me for it. But I wasn’t pregnant; I didn’t know what I was. I just assumed I was overweight.
If I had known a freak medical disorder had caused all the torment in my life, I would have gone to the doctor sooner. If I have one regret in life it’s that I didn’t go sooner.
But, eventually, I snapped out of my denial and got a nice taste of reality. I went to the doctor and found out whatever was in my stomach was far from normal. It took many months, and many doctors, to figure out what it was but eventually I got my answer.
I had an ovarian cyst. It was benign and had managed to grow for six years. By the time I got the CT scan, my cyst was 30 by 16 by 36 centimeters. Even though those numbers are impossible to comprehend, something about them made it so very real for me.
Many thoughts hit me at once. It wasn’t my fault. There was nothing I did to deserve what I went through. All the dieting and exercising made no difference. I laughed, I cried, the denial finally broke.
Then the questions came rolling in. How could I be so stupid? Who else in their right mind would have let something like this go for six years?
It has been almost four years since the surgery that changed my life. The two hour surgery that drained eight liters of fluid from my abdomen; the surgery that helped me lose 22 pounds in one day.
Although it never physically harmed me, the cyst took six crucial years from me. I can’t say that I was cured on the surgery table but I did get a second chance.
After my surgery, I was diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome. Broken down, it basically means I’m prone to many ovarian cysts. I am now living with PCOS, a disorder that thousands of women live with everyday.
I now have something someone can actually relate to. I’m a survivor.