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Hi!

I’m Alexandra. An American girl living in Dublin, Ireland. I honestly document my adventures in travel, food, beauty, and expat life on a budget.

Your Health is Your Wealth - Having Surgery in Ireland

Your Health is Your Wealth - Having Surgery in Ireland

If you follow me on Instagram you might have seen that I was recently in the hospital for surgery. I know I was being a bit cryptic in what was happening. I hate when people do that but I can now understand why they do. I didn’t have all the facts really because as with any medical procedure you never know what could happen. 

Long story short, I had a massive ovarian cyst removed. The cyst was around 20 centimeters. Every medical professional I came in contact with who was involved in my surgery or read my file was shocked by the size. In the end, they ended up draining about 4 liters of liquids total, around 3 kilograms/6 pounds. So gross, right?

The worst tea I’ve ever had but it came in this cute little pot!

The worst tea I’ve ever had but it came in this cute little pot!

So, how did I get a cyst that size and not notice? I truly believe this cyst started growing in 2017. I put it down to the fact that my stomach was growing bigger due to aging and thought my metabolism must be slowing down. I’ve always been slim so my luck was now running out. I could still see where my stomach had always naturally sat and where my stomach now constantly appeared bloated. I’ve never been overweight so how was I to know what my body would look like with the extra weight? Now I feel like such an idiot for not realizing sooner. 

Like I said, I believe this cyst started growing in 2017. My friend got married that summer and I was going to wear a dress I had only purchased a few months earlier and noticed it was tighter in the stomach. Oh well, a pair of Spanx will fix that. A few months later we went on holiday to Rome and I really started to complain about my stomach poking out. The jumpsuit I had purchased only a few month ago was now tight on my stomach, not loose like it was before. It must be all the carbs and wine. Then came Christmas and we all know how that goes. All perfectly logical explanations! 

2018 rolled around and my stomach was constantly bloated. I kept making excuses. At one point, I convinced myself it was stomach cancer but even then, refused to book into see my doctor. “It’ll be a waste of my time and money to go to the doctor when nothing is wrong. You’re just getting fat, accept it!” is what I told myself. But why was I getting “fat”? Yes, I do like beer and wine but I don’t drink these empty calories all the time. I love potato chips and sweets but as a treat every now and then. I eat well overall and at one point I was going to 4 workout classes a week so why was my stomach continuing to expand? I’ve never been into wearing skin tight clothes anyway but I began wearing only extremely flowy tops and dresses as a result. I was so embarrassed I couldn’t lose this weight so I decided to hide it. Feeling defeated I even gave a lot of clothes away telling myself they’d never fit again. Towards the end, I would only wear my stretchiest pair of jeans and my work trousers with a bit of elastic in them. I was so insecure and felt so defeated. 

Then in August 2018, Ireland offered a free AMH blood test during Fertility Awareness Week. We don’t get anything for free medically in America so I jumped on the chance mostly to get something done for free. To be honest, I didn’t give much thought to the AMH aspect of it all.

Even though the results of my AMH (more info on what AMH is here) were not what I was originally thinking, I am so grateful for this test and the push to have it done during Fertility Awareness Week. If it were not for me going and taking this test I can’t tell you when or if my ovarian cyst would have been detected.

The results of my AMH came back quite low for my age group so P and I scheduled in to meet with a consultant to discuss our options. By the end of the meeting it was decided I would come off my contraceptive pill and have my bloods taken for the AMH again in 5 months’ time. 5 months later I returned to the clinic for a follow up appointment and that’s when I finally found out why I was SO bloated all of the time. 

When I came back to the clinic I was seen for a vaginal scan and follow up AMH blood test. Before a vaginal scan, you have to empty your bladder for the nurse to get a good read inside. Everything was ticking along but as soon as she moved the wand (I’m sure it has a medical term but I’m not aware of it so it’s a wand here!) to my left ovary all she could see was liquid. The nurse asked if I had emptied my bladder. Yes. Okay, try again maybe? 

I went to the toilet but I had already gone so when I returned there wasn’t much of a difference. I can’t really remember but some point my top was pulled up and the nurse became alarmed by the size of my stomach and the amount of liquid by my ovary. Another nurse was called in to have a look. They then called in the consultant we had met with all those months previously. That consultant then called in another consultant to check what was on the screen. Meanwhile here I am, with my top up, huge belly hanging out not knowing what was happening. I teared up a little regretting telling P that he didn’t need to come with me because it was just a follow up appointment and everything would be fine. Things were not fine. 

The consultants then performed an ultrasound on me. That was when they were able to clarify what the problem was. I could see the screen where they were looking at my insides but I didn’t know what was what! They kept zooming out but the cyst was taking up the entire screen. The original consultant we visited asked me how long my stomach had been so bloated. Would you believe even in the clinic I told them “well probably 18 months but I had a big lunch before I came in!” I was still making excuses!!

The consultant we originally visited took me into another room. He was so super serious it was freaking me out! His main concern was the cyst but I was happy to hear that what I once thought was a problem of not being able to have children was not an issue! That said, we will not be having babies anytime soon! 

These saved my face while in the hospital!

These saved my face while in the hospital!

I overpacked for sure but better than feeling gross after surgery.

I overpacked for sure but better than feeling gross after surgery.

I am not going to go into what was the absolute nightmare that was calling consultants and trying to fully understand aspects of my health insurance I never used before. If for some reason, you are interested in the ins and outs of this you can DM or email me. While it was one of the more annoying processes I have ever gone through, I am grateful for it. I have a much better understanding of the healthcare system here now and will be better prepared should I need surgery again. Here’s hoping I don’t need anything else done for a longgggg time though! 

In the end, I went with a doctor that my friend’s mom recommended. She had surgery performed by him and was delighted. My friend’s mom would not be settling for less than the best so I knew I had to have him as my surgeon. He was amazing and I am so happy that I was able to get into see him so quickly. 

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Now I am back home recovering. I stayed in the hospital for 2 nights. I won’t lie, those first 2 days were bad. It felt like I would never feel normal again but as I write this, one week post-op, I am feeling quite good. I am still very tired and taking the entire time off of work that the doctor recommended. I had my big bandages and a pressure wound vac device I was connected to removed yesterday. The nurse who changed the bandage was so impressed with how well my scar was healing. I can probably stop wearing bandages this weekend but I’ll see how I feel/how the scar looks before I make any decisions. 

A hospital with no Get Well Soon balloons called for some improvisation!

A hospital with no Get Well Soon balloons called for some improvisation!

So yeah, that was me being cryptic and I do apologize because I know how annoying that can be and understand how it comes off as keeping some sort of secret. The main reason I wanted to share this though was to encourage you to go to your doctor when you think/feel like something is not right in or with your body. I will never not do that again. It can be hard to take time off work or spend the money but it is so, so worth it. I know this so cheesy, but that saying, “your health is your wealth” is around for a reason. Because it is true! If you’ve made it this far, thank you! I think that’s enough of this now and I am ready to put this behind me and continue to recover. Back to more regularly scheduled content soon!

One more shout-out to public healthcare! I know the extreme taxes I pay helped to fund the surgery but not having to worry about how I was going to pay for all of this has made all the difference. Surgery is already stressful enough so not having to add another worry in in the financial department has made this whole ordeal much easier. You should try it out, America!

x,

Alexandra

*all images original to Candid Alexandra

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