Chicago-based writer Calle Hack’s periods had always been horrific, and the cause of her pain turned out to be equally horrific: a huge cyst with hair and teeth.
Cells that Calle had been born with slowly morphed into a dermoid cyst on one of her ovaries.
She spent over 15 years enduring debilitating cramps, nausea and even vomiting every single month, simply resigning herself to an unpleasant fact of womanhood.
Time and time again, Calle’s doctors reinforced that notion, dismissing her debilitating pain and turning her away from every check-up disheartened.
Finally, one doctor took Calle’s complaint seriously and discovered the bizarre ‘little monster’ growing on her ovary.
Calle Hack thought she just had severe period pains until she discovered that a dermoid cyst was hanging on to her ovary
The timing of Calle’s periods may have been ‘regular,’ but that just meant that she knew she could expect one week a month to be some kind of hell.
On day one of her 28-day menstrual cycle, she could expect to spend the day feeling ready to burst with bloating.
She might eventually feel some smidgen of relief from her abdomen’s stretching if the day culminated in a spell of dry-heaving.
And she might even get to cut out of the day early if Calle’s heaving became so intense that she blacked out, as she recalled once doing at a boyfriend’s house in her account for Women’s Health.
This had been a normal part of life for Calle since she had gotten her period at 15.
More than half of women say that period pain impairs their abilities to do their jobs, and it has led about a third of those to take at least one sick day for it.
Every other month or so, Calle symptoms would become so severe that the she would have to call out sick from work.
All of the doctors she had seen knew about her episodes, but didn’t seem to think they were anything some ibuprofen and patience couldn’t take care of.
She is not alone. Especially recently, women have been coming forward more and more with stories of serious medical conditions that went untreated because their pain was ignored.
‘Women are often told directly or indirectly that they don’t know their own bodies, or that the pain they are experiencing is probably more mental or emotional than physically valid. That they are melodramatic and prone to bouts of exaggerations,’ Calle wrote.
Cysts commonly form on ovaries and about 20 percent of these are dermoid cysts (pictured)
In fact, research has shown the in the US, men complaining of acute abdominal pain in emergency rooms wait an average of 49 minutes, while a woman with the same can expect to be told to tough it out for an average of 65 minutes.
Calle waited 17 years before anything was done for her pain, she told Women’s Health.
She was definitely among the four in 10 women who have from PMS and maybe of one of the two to five percent who have PMDD, or premenstrual dysphoric disorder, which can cause here severe physical symptoms as well as psychological ones.
Finally, when Calle met an obstetrics and gynecology DO named Megan Sheldon.
Sheldon listened when her new patient recounted her crippling pain and nausea.
She validated Calle’s concerns, and sent her to get an ultrasound – a $200 diagnostic procedure that is at least partially covered by most insurance plans.
All she needed was the quick non-invasive diagnostic exam to find out what was really going on with her reproductive system.
Within a week, Calle had her answer.
She wasn’t just having PMS, and her pain tolerance was perfectly adequate.
Calle had a dermoid cyst the size of an orange growing on one of her ovaries.
Dermoid cysts develop from embryonic cells that can develop into any kind of tissue, including teeth, skin and hair, earning the growths the name ‘teratoma’ or little monster (file image
Not only was her cyst large, it was grotesque: filled with partially formed teeth and hair.
Dermoid cysts like Calle’s are actually quite common, but still ‘super freaky’ as she wrote for Women’s Health.
Women’s ovaries are vulnerable to all kinds of strange and abnormal growths, and about 20 of those are dermoid ones.
These cysts are a sort of benign tumor, also known as as a teratoma, from the Greek for ‘monster.’
Dermoid cysts develop from embryonic cells that stayed in a sort of developmental limbo after a person’s birth.
For this reason, the cells possess everything they need to morph into any of several types of tissue, but it remains unclear why strange and usually harmless phenomenon occurs to some women and not others.
Mature ones, like Calle’s, are benign because all of their parts are fully developed into distinct tissues, usually skin, hair and teeth.
Teratomas that contain cells that have not yet become distinguished are dangerous because they can become cancer cells.
Calle’s, though, was just an big ugly ball of misplaced tissues hanging painfully onto her ovary, but it would not develop into anything worse or affect her fertility.
She writes that Sheldon said to her: ‘This is no clementine cutie you got in there, this is a full-size Florida orange, and it’s best to get it out as soon as possible.’
Sheldon was moving away, so Calle got to spend a few months searching for a new surgeon and stoking her anxiety with some YouTube videos about her kind of cyst.
Now that the cyst has been removed, Calle should be relieved of at least a bit of the monthly torment her ‘little monster’ inflicted upon her.