Big plans, and then your ovarian cysts act up

Hello HIH family, Chloe Wilde here writing to you from the Montreal airport! Officially on the last leg of a very, very long journey from Kampala, Uganda. I believe we are on hour 24 of our trek home, our flight to Toronto was randomly cancelled so here I am, sipping on a glass of wine (don’t judge me), counting down the minutes until I can crawl into bed after taking a hot shower! But in the mean time, I had this idea of writing up my trip recap but my brain feels like mashed potatoes and I worry my delusional state might not lead to anything witty or intelligent. So instead, I’ll tell you a story from my last day in Uganda. 

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On the last day in Uganda with FINCA Canada learning about their BrightLife programming (proper blog post to come on that in the next little while), I had big plans. It was the first time in a week where we didn’t have a schedule filled with community visits to meet and chat with locals using the Microfinance resources or purchasing solar powered devices and I wanted to take advantage of the free time to absorb all that had happened in the past 7 days, soak up a little sun, record a FINCA-trip focused podcast with my boyfriend Ben who joined me for the adventure and write up a proper recap article sharing my thoughts on my time in Uganda. 

Big plans for that last day. Big plans that never saw the light of day. All those little boxes on my to-do list were left unchecked and the sun chose to stay hidden behind heavy rain clouds from morning to night. Although, to be honest the sound of heavy rain soothed me like a lullaby to a baby during the bouts of excruciating pain. 

A level of pain I am unfortunately familiar with, a level of pain that makes your whole body shake in anguish and unable to move. The only reprieve is lying horizontal facing up, but even then the stabbing sensation can creep back and cause the shaking to return. The first time I was introduced to this unwelcome visitor was roughly 5 years ago, when I was walking to work and midway I found myself in the fetal position on the concrete wailing in fear at this unknown overwhelming sharp pain in my lower abdomen and reaching over to my lower back. Toronto at 9am is packed with people on the move, and so there I was, arms wrapped around my legs rocking side to side on the street, with lots of pedestrians walking by, some concerned, some alarmed, some pretended not to notice. After what felt like an eternity I crawled into a cab and headed straight to the emergency room where I waited for 10hours before finally speaking to someone. By then the pain had become manageable, but the traumatic effect and fear of the episode that brought me there was as vivid as ever, I needed answers and I needed to understand why this was happening. 

The answer? Ovarian cysts. 

The pain? Brought on by a cyst bursting.

Recommended route of action? Who knows. The solution I was most provided was: go back on birth control. 

They provided no relief to my questions, my concerns or my anxieties over the days events. Our Canadian healthcare system is incredible, but even incredible systems can thrive for more. There have been times over the past 5 years were similar episodes have taken place, but none as severe as that first time that resulted in a hospital visit…. Until Uganda. 

One minute I was chatting with Ben while he was in the kitchen and I was still lazily lounging in bed, savouring the morning with a coffee in hand when all of a sudden, a small little stabbing pain threw me into high alert as I braced for one of two things to happen: either it would pass or my day would be ruined. I held my breath and tried to be still, somehow believing that would keep me on the safe side of things, desperation will do funny things to you. That brief glimmer of hope was brief indeed, as the pain grew, spread across my lower abdomen I yelled out for Ben in a voice that did not sound like my own. This voice was scared, in pain, and anxiety-ridden. We were in a country we barely knew and immediately my mind started assuming the worst: was it a hemorrhagic cyst and maybe I was suffering from internal bleeding, or maybe it was some type of torsion with my ovaries?! My mind raced, my breathing was shallow, I started sweating, shaking and crying all at once. Now that I’ve had some time to recover, I know part of my reaction stems from anxiety, in addition to the pain. But in the moment, I would hear none of it. 

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As a modern day woman who prides herself on being self-sufficient and independent, I’ll be completely transparent: I don’t know what I would have done without Ben that day. He earned brownie points for a solid year, and throw a couple on top for fun. From rubbing my back, to bringing me Advil, to pouring me a hot bath, the boy stepped up and made me feel safe. When the bath was ready, I tried to walk the 8ft from the edge of the bed to the warm water calling my name and couldn’t make it off the bed, it was as though a thousand rusty knives were stabbing me every time I inhaled, moved either of my legs and the thought of sitting up made everything worst. When he hoisted me off the bed so that I was standing, I caught my reflection in the mirror and my posture was frightening, it was as though I couldn’t stand straight; my legs were bent, my upper back hunched over resembling hunchback of Notre-Dame and my weak attempt at balance was having my forearms jutting forward clinging to Ben’s hands. By the time I made the 8foot journey, I was relieved. Only to be knocked down by attempting to lift one leg at a time into the bath - it was the worst pain yet. At that point things get very blurry, my memory of specific moments is hard to grasp but what I do know is that I took a few more painkillers and finally felt some relief combined with the bath. 

For the rest of the day, the check-list went unnoticed, I felt weak, my voice was feeble, my eyes swollen from the tears and my breathing slowly returned to normal. But I was able to walk. I was able to sit on the toilet and pee without discomfort. I was able to walk upstairs. The first time I walked without pain I called out to ben with so much pride and excitement “Benny, I can walk again!!”. 

This was a lesson…. 

  1. Never take your health for granted. The ability to walk is a blessing. The ability to sit up is a treat. Appreciate your body and treat it well.

  2. When things seem off, don’t put it off 5 years. It’s time I take my health and make it a priority to finally follow-up with ultrasounds & tests.

All my love, 

Chloe Wilde