I received the report of my abdominal and pelvic ultrasounds in the mail today. Turns out I have a cyst within my left ovary that is 2.5 x 2.0 x 1.8 cm. The plan, or so it says on my radiology exam report, is to wait and watch for the next 2-3 menstrual cycles.

I did some research this afternoon about 2.5 cm ovarian cysts and what to do about them. One thing I learned is that many women are dealing with the same sorts of issues/symptoms as I am and are, like myself, not finding any real answers. I read many forum posts that expressed frustration with tests and waiting and still not receiving any real answers from their physicians. Women’s pelvic pain in general seems to be a huge mystery for medicine.

On the website “Women’s Health,” the section “What are the common causes of pelvic pain in women?” lists 26 “common” causes. That seems to be a large number for “common causes.” Maybe too many to all be lumped together. My question now is, since I’ve been waiting years for some sort of explanation for my pelvic pain, should I just wait 2-3 more cycles? It seems odd that the discovery of this cyst would be the one explanation considering I have been experiencing the symptoms for many more cycles than health websites claim it takes for cysts to “disappear” on their own. It is frustrating that these conditions are so difficult to parse out and treat. Many women just live with the discomfort. I find that I am one of them, and that is a sad sort of resignation.

It doesn’t seem that these sorts of conditions and disorders that cause this pain are as glamorous as others, though that doesn’t make them any less important to continue to investigate.

Ophthalmology and Dan Flavin

An extraordinary ordinary event:

I went to the ophthalmologist last week for my semi-yearly retina check up (Plaquenil, my maintenance medication for lupus can cause retinal deposits and needs to be monitored). When I was there, I had the usual read the letter/number lines across the room test, but I also had to have my pupils dilated for the doctor to have a look inside. After he put in the dilating drops, I waited in the waiting room for about 15 minutes (I read Species of Spaces by Georges Perec). I then was back in the examination room for more tests.

One of the tests he performed, that I can’t find the name of, was a seemingly simple test with what seemed like a magnifying lens and a bright light. Right side: First, I had to look down and then the doctor opened my eye wide with his fingers and placed the round magnifying lens right in front of my eye. I had to try my best to look forward without blinking. Very hard to do when looking straight into a blinding light. It took a minute for me to stop blinking and for him to get the correct position of the lens into my eye. When he did, though, I stopped blinking and saw smack-dab in the middle of my eye what appeared as a vertical beam of brilliant yellow light. A few seconds later, he switched eyes and the same steps repeated with the same beam of yellow light.

I thought in my examination chair, “I’m seeing a Dan Flavin!” The sculpture was inside my organs of sight. Flavin’s diagonal of May 25, 1963 was inhabiting my body.


I had pelvic and abdominal ultrasounds this morning. Not as easy as I thought they were going to be. First, you can’t eat for 8 hours before the exams. At least I had mine at 8:30 this morning, so not too bad. That’s only for the abdominal exam, however. After that one (easy peasy), you have to go eat a bit and drink 40 oz or more of liquids to make your bladder full. I sat in the cafeteria and chugged water (and coffee…) and ate a yogurt parfait. (Hospital cafeterias are sad.)

After a while of drinking and reading, its back up to the radiology department. The first pelvic ultrasound was easy enough other than the pressure on my bladder – you’re not allowed to pee! However, there was a third exam I had to do that I wasn’t made aware of before this morning – another pelvic ultrasound that is more invasive for women.

Interesting how I was unaware of this more invasive diagnostic. Who was supposed to alert me to this? My physician who ordered the test, the radiology secretary who calls to tell me how to prepare for the procedure, or the person that did my first test, who mentioned three tests, but I didn’t understand what this meant? Or, is it on me because I didn’t research the procedure on the internet like I usually do? I have had multiple ultrasound tests – mainly echocardiograms – ultrasound of the heart – so I didn’t think twice about having these done. I thought that the ultrasound is performed only on top of the skin. Little did I know, it’s not.

But that’s how it usually is when it comes to the patient’s knowledge. We, the patients, are sometimes encouraged to ask questions, at least we see this on 8.5 x 11 paper signs in some hospitals and medical centers, but not many physicians or test technicians really suggest this. The test is performed on us, to us, and we lie back and witness the technicians chatting about our “cute ovaries” above us: “left, right, left, right” moving the probe back and forth from the inside.

There is not much dignity to be had while lying back on an examination table wearing an open robe. Staring at the ceiling. At least the lights are dimmed in ultrasound labs.

To prepare for an abdominal ultrasound, click here.

To prepare for a pelvic ultrasound, click here.

a bird death

My dog killed a bird yesterday, maybe.  I went to get the mail outside.  Walking back to the house, I found my dog in the yard with something in her mouth.  I screamed, told her to put it down.  It was a tiny bird – a house wren I think.  Its mouth was moving – opening and closing.  I freaked out.  Ran into the house, not knowing what to do.  When I got back outside, its mouth ceased moving.  It was still.

I dug it a grave in the flower garden with a hand shovel.  I picked it up.  It was so small, so light, so fragile.  Its head flopped from side to side, its neck was broken.

I laid it down in the shallow garden grave.  I covered it, started to cry.

The day after, today, I revisit the event.  I have been told that I make everything that happens to me into a metaphor.  This seems contradictory to my larger project of divorcing illness and disability from the metaphors they have historically been attached to (I follow Susan Sontag and her work that does the same – see her Illness as Metaphor).  So, why do I see this event metaphorically?  And, why, as I have been told, do I see all life-events metaphorically?

George Lakoff and Mark Johnson argue in their book Metaphors We Live By that we use metaphors to structure our understanding of the world.  So then, can we ever divorce illness from the metaphors we have historically ascribed to it?  Can the dead bird that I buried in my yard ever be experienced as a pure event, separate from the metaphors I attach to it – metaphors I create about its life that connect to mine?