Phantom Ovary: What Shall I Name You; What are You Telling me?

Every time I go to the ob-gyn doctor (that is when I can get that appointment which is oftentimes a 6-month wait in New York City) I bring magazines, an ipad, a charged up phone and spare phone battery. I bring what is basically my “I’m-gonna-be-stuck-here-forever kit.”  This kit per se is not for the time spent in the waiting room. And it’s not for the time waiting in the cold examination room naked. I bring all those items with me because of all the time I have to spend on the exam table as they try to find my runaway-or rather phantom ovary. I have had two laparoscopy surgeries on my right ovary.  The first time I had surgery on my ovary, I had what is called a teratoma cyst. It is truly one of the creepiest things imaginable. I’m surprised horror films have not utilized that human-body oddity in more storylines. The word teratoma is derived from the Greek teras, meaning monster. These cysts, and mine in particular, can grow body parts-teeth, hair and have all sorts of plain old icky fluid-or what many refer to as yolk. I definitely felt like a character out of the movie Alien. I often joke, whenever I have odd pains coursing through my body, that the monster has come back.  And boy is that a bad joke.

About six years after my first ovary surgery, I was wheeled into the emergency room of a (fantastic) hospital in New York City.  I had started the day off in a series of work meetings beginning at 9am. By 4pm I was being given anesthesia.  See, it appeared that the monster was indeed back. That day, I had been in increasingly worse pain (for which a great many ob-gyns didn’t want to bother to see me for until six weeks later or so). So, instead I ended up getting emergency surgery with the top-rated oncologist in the city at the time. It’s funny how life works. I didn’t have cancer but he was the one doctor that took my pain seriously. So, off to surgery I went. I wasn’t that scared. What got to me, was how scared my mentor was. He took my situation to heart and that worried me because he suffered from a weak heart. At some point I will blog about him for he was such a great man who died way too soon.

Anyway, I woke up in the recovery room just as a woman was being tied to a bed and she was screaming her head off. I believe many of the people in that ER recovery room were either drunk off their asses or on some other psychotic bender.  Let me tell you, by waking up to those screams, I thought I was in the middle of some horror film where some evil serial killer doctor was afoot.  Anesthesia doesn’t make for a very clear mind. So, I had indeed another cyst on that same ovary. But the cysts had actually not been the problem. Instead, the scar tissue from the first surgery was adhering to and pulling down some of the neighboring tissues and organs. Wow! That’s rather frightening. What a monster I had inside of me that was bent on such self-destruction.

At the end of that surgery, I basically had the smallest ovary in the world. And somehow, with a barely existent ovary, I got pregnant.  What’s meant to be is meant to be. But again, that’s a topic for a different discussion.

And now I suffer from what I feel has got to be Phantom Ovary.  I get the weirdest pains where the ovary would be located if it were to be found. But there is nothing there. The doctor once looked for 35 minutes and had a team of specialists come into the exam room to look for my ovary. The room was dark and cold and big in a hospital. It’s not meant to be found. It totally seemed like a scene from yet another ‘80s horror movie.

I’ve been thinking about naming the hard-to-find ovary. The first name that came to mind was “althea” which would be quite ironic since Althea in Greek means “healer”.  Could I fool my phantom ovary to not being a monster anymore by naming it?  The name “Althea” is also the title of a song by The Grateful Dead from the album Go to Heaven that references Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Hmm, now I’m not too sure about that name. Maybe I will go with Ailith which means seasoned warrior.

Ok. I won’t probably name my phantom ovary because that would be weird. But how odd is it to experience what ostensibly is phantom limb pain for an internal organ. A phantom limb is the sensation that an amputated or missing limb is still there. Some individuals say they even feel phantom limb for a removed appendix. But I must admit I don’t get that one. Do you even feel your appendix when you do have it?  There are all sorts of theories about phantom limb. But it basically seems to be that phantom limb pain involves changes in the primary sensory cortex and modified neural representations in which the brain fools itself.  Now that, I understand. Cognitive dissonance, anybody?

Ah, the human body and brain still pose such great mysteries and in this crazy-hectic world we live we often forget to stop and try to figure some of these mysteries out. I think my phantom ovary may be trying to tell me I need to chill out for a few. What signal is your body sending you?

4 replies »

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  2. I have had the same phantom limb feeling from my absent left ovary. I enjoyed reading this because it is always nice to find someone with similar health history as myself. When I was 12 I had a football sized dermoid, which I beleive is another name for teratoma. It destroyed my left ovary and only the tube was left after surgery. Fast forward to 2006, when I was 21 I had another dermoid/teratoma that grew large and half my right ovary had to be removed. I do not know if I can have children yet, I am 28 and have not been in the situation to even try. I fear all the time that another monster, as you called it, will return and ruin my chances of ever conceiving naturally. But, I do find it odd that I get pains in my left absent ovary area during the month and even cramps on that side. Its crazy what we women have to endure with our reproductive organs. Best of luck to you and yours. May I also ask, did it take long to conceive at all? How long? I hope I do not have trouble. Family has been on my mind lately and I hope I am in a stable situation to procreate soon.


    • Hi. Thanks for sharing. Sounds like you have been through an incredible ordeal. My left ovary remains completely intact so it wasn’t hard. The phantom pain is definitely odd. Shouldn’t be that way. Drives me of luck going forward.


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