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My first General Anesthesia Experience

Jul 10, 2010 - 11 comments

5 days ago I had a laparoscopic removal of  4cm x 2 cm cyst that apparently was mangled up with my left ovary. The doctor is pretty sure this was a dermoid, but the biopsy isn’t back. The cyst, my ovary, left fallopian tube and some old scar tissue were removed. I post here in hopes that it boosts the spirits of those who are facing similar experiences, as I found a lot of comfort from women online- and far more info than my own OBGYN surgeon ever gave me!
I have had 2 c-sections and my recovery so far is not too different except for general anesthesia "hangover". Going under was my biggest, most consuming fear; I'd never had general before and my fear was extreme. I have a history of odd reactions to medicines in addition to having a Mitral Valve Prolapse (heart murmur), some seizures and past history of panic disorder. I was absolutely terrified and broke into a cold sweat whenever I thought about the surgery. I read way too many horror stories on the internet, and forbade myself from googling any more search strings like "awake + paralyzed during surgery".
To prepare for surgery, I got healthy. I jogged, danced or swam every day and ate fresh foods. I stopped drinking alcohol and meditated. I also played little mind games with myself, forcing myself out of my comfort zones in various situations. I allowed myself to fully imagine the worse case scenarios and go through the feelings, desensitizing. Talking to the anesthesiologist- and officially requesting him - really helped a LOT with trust and info.  I requested a BIS monitor (measures brain activity during surgery to make sure you are in fact unconscious and not just paralyzed).
All of this sounds like high maintenance, ultra neurotic behavior but as my fear was on the scale of a phobia I did what I needed to do and I entered the hospital in a state of serenity. Everything went according to plan with none of my fears coming true. Throwing up afterwards and feeling like crap were gifts to me- I was so relieved to have it done.
What did they do to me? I had Versed (a sedative similar to valium) right before surgery- I had to wait 2 hours from scheduled time due to an emergency surgery that came in- so I started thinking my fearful thoughts again but pushed those away. The versed was given through IV, literally right when they took me into the O.R. It acted very quickly and I felt a little scared at first but I quickly turned into jelly. In the OR I remember they gave me Propofol through my IV and I asked if that would put me to sleep. The nurse said yes and I said it wasn’t working and the next thing about 2 hours later I was in the post-op room. During the surgery I was given one gas with nitrous oxide to keep me under, and a paralytic drug. As the paralytic effects the lungs, I had a tube down my throat to breathe for me. I had told the anesthesiologist that I have a narrow throat, and he graciously used a smaller tube. I had no sore throat afterwards. The surgeon filled my tummy with gas as to get to the good parts, and used a utensil through my cervix to move my uterus to the side. I am told they put some sort of pressurized things around my legs that helped keep the circulation going to avoid blood clots. All in all, I was in very, very good hands. The BIS monitor was used as I requested- probably unnecessary but I felt better having it.
I don't remember coming to, just being extremely drugged feeling and heavy, not scared or confused at all. I could barely move anything and so just gave into it and let the nurse dose me with pain meds through IV. I think she gave me too many pain meds- as much as I wanted whenever I asked- and I was in no good condition to make such choices! I was given morphine in addition to Demerol (which I was told beforehand helps with the shaky, cold feelings). They gave me something else for nausea. I was extremely sedated by this time. I was in the post-op room for at least 3 hours and finally they wheeled me into the 2nd recovery room where my beloved boyfriend was waiting.
   We were here for about an hour; this room seems like the place where the nurse's duty is to get you the heck out of the hospital as quickly as she can. She muttered under her breath to the OR nurse that I had too many meds. I was really out of it, but hey anxiety and pain free. :) I did throw up a couple times after they gave me some ginger ale- the best drink I had ever had, I was so thirsty- but this was a bit of a relief. The nurse actually gave me a Vicodin there-more meds- so I could sit up into a wheelchair and go to the car. Thank god my BF took good care of me; I could barely talk and was very, very out of it. It seems like they'd want to keep me around until I was at least more coherent and not puking. I was so happy when we got home. Where I promptly puked again and my BF helped me into bed.  I went in and out of a light slumber for a few hours then woke up and got to the couch for a light snack and 7up. The best invention ever is the bendy straw.
So far, 5 days later, I have been taking Vicodin  500mg apx. every 4 hours the first few days and then down to 5 or 6 hours the past 2 days and today just had a ½ when I got up and 1/2 a while ago. The Vicodin helps me be a couch potato- something I don't naturally excel at- and keeps me in recovery mode so I can heal but I’m tapering off.
The gas pains in my shoulders was intense the first 2 days- worse than the tummy area. Gently massaging, walking around slowly and shifting position helped. One thing I don't remember the doc telling me that freaked me out the first morning I woke up was the big puddle of fluid that soaked my bed. I thought I had wet the bed! I called the office and was told it was okay; in addition to 2 small incisions on the pelvic line and one on my belly button, I have a 1 inch incision on the right side of my belly. The doc had filled my abdomen with some type of fluid after surgery so that I would have less scarring. It was freaky to be leaking- I felt like a giant water balloon- but that stopped after a few days. I slept on my leaking side with a clean towel every night. For constipation I took powdered magnesium citrate in a little juice- and had a BM the next day.
The pain is diminishing but I feel like I have the IQ of a butternut squash and I'm very foggy headed. Also nauseous, dizzy and weak. Weird feelings in my stomach and groin;  tiny cramps.  Walking around the house a bit for circulation but that exhausts me still. I am very lucky to have my BF with me; he has been so sweet and patient and won't let me do anything I'm not supposed to (nothing more sexy than holding hands and little kisses- yes, only I would want to be intimate at a time like this!) I know I need to wait until my 2 week follow up for the okay on sex, swimming and my third favorite activity tub baths.
I am very happy to have this done and that I didn't  run away screaming and just let the thing grow. That would have ended up in a dangerous rupture or more invasive surgery. I am feeling a bit emotional and weepy- but will not judge this time as "the new me" as so much has taken place. My doctor has not discussed the effects of having lost one ovary. I've read that the remaining ovary learns to make double the estrogen but not sure if this is right.
I am wiped out and hope that I start feeling better soon. It seems like the anesthetic is still in my body; I hear that taking goldenseal can help detoxify (after the initial healing period and pain meds are done). I hate feeling like a zombie and daytime television is an aesthetic nightmare. But overall, truly, I am blessed and have faith that my biopsy comes back clean.
This has been a very long and rambling message, but I hope someone gains something from my point of view. I am so relieved I can't tell you- I can handle the horrid CSI reruns and tax reduction commercials for now, life is beautiful and I could do this again if I had to!

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Avatar universal
by Mellie5271, Jul 10, 2010
THANK YOU so much for sharing your story. I have been looking for information on this very topic! I have 2 cysts that I have to remove, and because the left cyst is complex the left ovary will go with it! I have an appt with my doc this Monday to sit down and go over everything. I am so scared to "go under." I don't like the idea of being out of control, and am afraid that I may freak out when on all the meds. I've never had so much as a broken bone, so surgery (even if minor) terrifies me. Thank you for taking the time to write your experience down to all the details. It will help me know what to expect.  I have a demanding job and being out more than 5 days would be difficult. How long have you been out of commission (if you work?) Also how do you feel about losing an ovary??? It seems a little strange to lose something that is inside of me, and has been since the day I was born. That said, I look forward to getting rid of the cysts that are causing me so much pain! How long before you receive the results of your biopsy? That part scares me too. My doc said he wants to run my MRI tests by an Oncologist just to make sure any other tests are not necessary in that regard. Just the work Oncologist is scary. This is serious stuff!  Something I feel like people minimize laproscopic it's no big deal. It is when it's happening to you!

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by scarlet_ardeur, Jul 10, 2010
Hi Mellie-

Like you I found it hard to find others with a fear of anesthetic who were going through a similar procedure. You are NOT alone, and yes it is a big deal to go through any surgery in my opinion. The experience is subjective; it seems like there is a big range of recovery times for other women with oopherectomies (ovary removal).

The good thing about losing one ovary is that you do still have the other. My own doctor took a good look at my healthy right ovary while she was in there and said everything looked great. It is an odd thing losing part of yourself, especially as a woman. Our own female organs are more hidden than with men, but think about how connected we are to the ovarian cycle. Menstruation and ovulation seem to rule the hormonal lives of many women.
Since I have two wonderful children and had a tubal ligation during my last c-section my relationship with my ovaries is mostly physiological and not biological. (Having tubes tied was partly my choice; but it would be dangerous for me to be pregant again as my uterus tore during the first c-section. This was under extreme emergency circumstances; c sections are a pretty safe procedure so don't want to scare any pregnant women).

Do you have children, or do you plan to conceieve or think you may want to in the future? From everything I've read, that other ovary will provide all you need for hormonal balance and conception.
Remember that it's important to face this surgery with acceptance; it sounds like the diagnostic was thorough. I had moments when I thought "oh I'll just wait and see if it stops growing" but I am so glad I had it done while it's relatively small. A laparotomy is much more invasive, with a much longer recovery time and more scarring. Don't wait. I promise you will feel relief when it is done.
I think my cyst was causing me horrible imbalances in terms of mood, weight and energy. I do feel an odd vacancy in that area but I am glad it was gone. I have had painful ovulation on that side for years, and increasing pressure and pain the past several months. It was never an extreme pain, but enough to notice often.

In terms of recovery, I had this done on Monday-five days ago- and I still have pain but nothing overwhelming (unless I foolishly try to get up using my abs, or attempt to shave my lower legs in the shower....ouch). I could be getting by with just ibuprofen right now. I cannot imaging working right now however; I have an online nutrition class and I barely made it through the assignments. I am a straight A student and writer but am very challenged right now in terms of mental capacity and energy so that is frustrating. I get mentally exhausted just reading a light novel, which was previously relaxing. Physically I am very worn out and off kilter. However: I am a very sensitive person and also was given very many different drugs in the hospital. In addition, it's almost 100 degrees here and I've been fighting off a cold so that factors in. I''ve heard from other women that they're back at work after a week, but taking it slow and working reduced hours. I'll return to my own part time job probably in another week  if I can manage it mentally, but just for a few hours here and there (as a writer).

If you can talk to the Anesthesiologist who will be present at your surgery, or the head of the department, that could help you quite a bit. At first I took a "dont ask dont tell" approach and just wanted someone to knock me over the head in my sleep and drag me to the hospital. But through understanding exactly what drugs they would use and why, as well as understanding all of the safety measures they would take helped soothe me. If you haven;t already, let them know ahead that you are particularly anxious; having a sedative before going into the surgery room made the world of difference for me. because I trusted the medical team and had developed a repartee with them, I allowed myself to be in their hands and allow the experience to happen.

As for oncology....relax and know that statistically speaking the majority of these cysts are benign, non cancerous growths. Our bodies make so many strange things, most of them harmless. My own biopsy should be back by monday but my intuition tells me it will be okay.
Having that MRI before surgery may be a good idea; in the unlikely occassion that there are other growths in your endometrium or surrounding organs, it would be better for you to have one surgery done than more later. 20 minutes in an MRI is weird but worth knowing.

Please feel free to privately message me any time if you feel like talking. And start learning how to go to your "happy place". It will come in handy if you start getting anxious. imagine your body strong and well, and facing this with serenity.


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by optimus22mac, Jul 11, 2010
Hi:) I just "happened" upon your journal post along the sidebar, and loved every word of it! Very informative! I now am armed with many more questions for the anesthesiologist whenever my next surgery comes up! Thank you so much for sharing...I think you've answered a lot of women (and men's) questions today:)

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by scarlet_ardeur, Jul 11, 2010
thank you optimus, I'm so glad I could help open the door of discovery for you. Have an easy breezy surgery!


Avatar universal
by Mellie5271, Jul 11, 2010
Thanks for your insight. I also feel that I've had imbalances with mood, weight and energy. Interestingly, my doc never mentioned that I may experience this. It was only through reading online that I discovered this...and then it all made sense. I'm not happy about potentially experiencing a longer recovery than expected. Unlike you, I haven't been able to exersize at all over the past 4 months. My doc told me I couldn' prevent the right cyst from rupturing. So my stamina is low in that regard. I hope my recovery isn't worse off because of it. I'm quit anxious to go to my appt tomorrow...I've had so many surprises throughout this whole ordeal...that I almost feel like I can't trust my body anymore. If I am told the Oncologist is going to get involved with further testing, that will just suck. It could be worse. This is what I keep reminding myslef of. Prayers help too. =D

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by scarlet_ardeur, Jul 11, 2010
Yes, there are so many surprises through the whole thing...I remember a year ago when they first found the thing, and I was feeling like crap all of the time and I had my first CA-125 (blood test for possible cancer markers) done, I accelerated very quickly into panic mode. Since the cyst was hurting and I was so physically drained all of the time, and the results of my ultrasounds and MRIs were "inconclusive", and then my doctor threw out the term "endometrial cancer" and other things, I was expecting the worst case scenario. I thought for sure I must have cancer, and started going through my stuff and organizing mementos and all of that rubbish.

Now that I've read so many stories online and thoroughly researched this area, I am comforted knowing that almost every case is benign, and those that are treated for cancer early have positive results. The fact that your Dr wants to possibly get an oncologist involved even before you've had your growth removed and biopsied tells me that nothing will be overlooked at that you are likely in good hands. Doctors that err on the side of caution can cause alarm in those of us who are in the anxious state of an undiagnosed growth, but probably good to have on your side.
Being told not to exercise sounds like good common sense; I'm not entirely sure that being physically active has been the smartest thing for me and in retrospect knowing how bad the cyst was (twisted and mangled around my ovary and having messed up my tube also) actually rather stupid. :)

Good luck tomorrow...remember to take a little list of your questions. And I will send you a prayer and healing

Avatar universal
by Mellie5271, Jul 12, 2010
I just returned from my appt. My doc says now that they don't plan to remove the left ovary unless they need to once inside. The MRI revealed a large dermoid cyst inside right ovary (size of grapefruit!) and likely a teratoma in the left ovary (size of golf ball!) plus a few small an added bonus...a gallstone was discovered. (Pardon the humor, couldn't help myself!).  But seriously, I am glad to hear they don't want to remove the left ovary upfront. I pushed them to try and get me in asap, my doc goes on vacation early August and being out of work for me in August would be a death wish, I have an event I'm planning weeks away from then! (Yes, I know, I come first, job second). Did you find that you have lost any weight post-surgery? I have gained some weight over the past few months...attribute it to doctor's order of no exersize, plus the side effects of the cysts. Hoping removing them will get my weight and hormones back in check.  I am still scared of the anesthesia...but your words of support as well as my friends have been a huge huge help!  

Scarlet, how are YOU feeling now? Are you feeling any better?

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by scarlet_ardeur, Jul 12, 2010

Wow, that's a lot of stuff going on inside of you! But I'm happy to hear that these are very unlikely to be cancerous. You're going to have a serious internal makeover...and feel so much better when it's done. Yes, get these things OUT as soon as you don't want that think on the left to grow and threaten your ovary any more.

Have you talked to your dr about what would happen in the even that both ovaries are removed?  As you would no longer menstruate or produce estrogen, hormone replacement is almost always the path after that so that you don't experience full menopause ...and of course you can no longer conceive so if you think you may want to have children in the future this may make your experience more complicated. Eggs can be farmed and stored for later insemination.

They hadn't thought they'd need to take my ovary either but it turned out to be necessary, so just wondering if you're thinking ahead.

Weight loss. Yes, actually it's odd but I've lost 2 pounds in four days and I've been doing nothing but reclining on the couch with my laptop and my BF has fed me fattening things like fettucini and soda. I gained about 25 pounds the past 3 years and have lost about 12 of those so far. I attribute my own weight gain to a few things: I had torn both ACLs in my knees and didn't excericse for a long time; I was a regular drinker (2-4 drinks per night) until a few months ago and also to the growth in my ovary. One thing I must mention is that when I got home from the surgery I weighed a whopping 9 pounds more than that morning before the surgery! The doctor had filled my abdomen with fluid and like I wrote I felt like a huge water balloon. Ask ahead if they're going to do came as an odd surprise to me. The weight went off every day though and the fluid stopped leaking after 2 days. I'm hoping this gradual weight loss continues!

The hormonal changes were wild but also difficult to differentiate from my habitual wine consumption. The chicken and egg theory comes to mind. I think I was self-medicating to help balance my energy fluctuations from the growth- self medicating quite often. It was sometimes like having intense PMS for days at a time. I don't feel that way anymore. I do feel a little down, but that is because I am a very active and creative person and I'm stuck on the couch. There is a bit of weepiness but nothing major and the flood gates haven't opened... probably just feeling a little vulnerable. Overall my mood is good and I feel rather level.

Hang in there, and hold onto those friends! Truly, when you have general you will just go to sleep and wake up again. In some ways it was actually relaxing. The sedative beforehand and pain meds right after definitely helped, but it was more an inner serenity and knowing intuitively that everything would be okay that made it much more pleasant than I had imagined.

good luck- keep me posted on your surgery date I shall send prayers!

Avatar universal
by Mellie5271, Jul 15, 2010
Hi Scarlet,

Yes, lots going on inside. I think I have a new outlook on general health. Maybe this has been an awakening. How important it reallly is to have yearly check ups, eat right, and exersize. Plain old fashioned approach to good health.

I haven't really chatted with my doc about "what if" he has to remove both ovaries...he did stress that they always want to save the ovaries...I did tell him I want him to save them though. I am on the fence about children, but would like to have the option and don't want it taken away from me.

Good job on the weight loss! And I am sure that while recovering eating good meals is important, even if it is fettucini and soda! You deserve it after the experience you have had. And good job on cutting back on alcohol. I am sure removing that from your life has caused some mood swings. Hand in there as you mind equalizes itself and maintains clearity.

Funny you say that it really feels like sleep, the anesthesia. My husband seems to think it's the best feeling ever, he said he was given a warm blanket and then was put under. He said it felt so great.  

I have already made arrangements with my employer and they have been real supportive, which truly helps. I works with some wonderful women.  I am now starting to make a mental list of items I may need next week after my surgery 7/21...prunes, beano, frozen dinners (just in case), a heating pad, and some good magazines!...

Thank you for your thoughtful well wishes, I will keep in touch!


Avatar universal
by Mellie5271, Jul 23, 2010
Well, here I am 3 days post-surgery...I survived!  I started off full of anxiety, they tried to take my blood pressure 3 times with it going off the charts. Finally, after settling in a bit they were able to get a reading. My husband says close to surgery time a nurse came in and gave me a relaxer. I don't recall the incident at all. I blacked out from that point on, so don't have any memory of being administered anesthesia. The next thing I new, I woke up to the sound of a nurse saying that I was moving. I promptly asked if they found cancer (answer was NO!), what time it was, and can I have some pain meds and a blanket please.  Then, I was wheeled to the room I started in so I could get dressed.

They ended up taking the right ovary, fallopian tube, and the grapefruit sized cyst. My doc said it was much more complicated than the MRI report results had given. They spent a good hour and a half on the right side. They saw endometriosis which completely covered my left ovary and cyst. He decided not to do anything to the left side, and has a plan to put me on hormones to try to shrink it before having to  have IT taken out in 6 months. Apparently the left cyst is just a mangled mess.

I am disapointed that they  couldn't take care of everything in this one swoop, but accept that he's the doctor and must know what he's doing.

The first night was tough, and the next day. Just really sore and painful. No appetite. Forced myself to eat. My husband has been just wonderful!  Today was the first day I was able to get myselft out of bed without assistance. It is still my most unpleasant thing to do,as it pulls inside when I bring myself up, but it has gotten much better with time. The gas pains came this morning but seemed to have subsided. My chest was hurting and I have not had any shoulder pain. I just weighed myself and couldn't beleive, I gained weight since the surgery! Like 5 lbs. I hope it's just water retention, as I haven't had a bowel in 3 days. I've been eating prunes and bran muffins each morning. Just drank one of those drinks that is supposed to help.

ALl I can say is, man, even though a minor surgery, it really feels like hec. Painful. Feels pretty major to me. I'm glad it's over....and hope I don't have to go through it in 6 months again. Scarlet are you feeling better? What is the latest with you?

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by scarlet_ardeur, Jul 24, 2010
First of all, I am so sorry I wasn't here to "send you off" and to reply- we had a major heat wave and my satellite internet was dead for several days.

I am so glad things went pretty well for you- yes, it does feel major to me too. Anyone who says they can breeze in, have a laparoscopy and then make it out in time for a cocktail party has a different type of DNA than I do! It seems like some people in my life think I'm exaggerating the recovery time, but at my follow up 4 days ago the doctor reassured me it is normal to still feel low energy and a bit of pain.

I still am definitely wiped out, but doing stuff every day in small doses. I go to work for about 3 hours, or go run some errands, then need to rest a bit. Still not allowed to swim, take a bath or have intercourse until the 4-week mark, as they cauterized the tubes and the doctor doesn't want me to risk ripping something inside. The incisions are closed up, but two of them were red so thus no tub baths still.

Don't worry about that weight- I had gained almost 9 pounds the day of surgery and it is all gone now. It is fluid retention, in addition to fluid they may have put in your abdomen to help avoid scar tissue forming. It sounds like our issues were almost identical! My growth was about 4x4 inches and inside of my ovary; it had twisted up the tube on that side, too. My other ovary apparently is "beautiful". I am sorry that you may have another issue...but trust that some people have had success in reducing growths through hormones. There are natural remedies and dietary changes you may be able to make in addition to what your doctor recommends- let me know if you need or want help getting that info.

I hope you continue to take it easy for a bit. Don't force yourself now- and any post-op pain meds mask the pain so you may do more than your body is ready for. I'm very happy that your hubby has been helpful, that's very encouraging!

Best to you!

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