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Debbie Hotalen

Symptom-Free After Surgery

Holy Name Patient Stories - Debbie Hotalen

Debbie Hotalen suffered with gynecological issues most of her adult life, though she always managed to work through them, functioning in her job and raising her son. But at 47, she developed pain, searing stabs that shot down from her abdomen to her legs. It kept her up at night, and sometimes forced her to miss work as a vendor specialist for a Fortune 500 company.

After countless visits to her doctor and three biopsies, she was told she had a type of cyst called a dermoid in her right ovary, many smaller cysts in her fallopian tubes and endometriosis. Surgery was needed, but because she was overweight, her physician said he didn't want to perform the procedure.

Yet living with all the symptoms - pain in her leg, hip and back, and a 28-day menstrual period - wasn't an option. Based on the recommendation of a friend, she sought a second opinion from Dr. Sharyn Lewin, Medical Director of the Department of Gynecologic Oncology at Holy Name Medical Center.

"I'm so blessed Dr. Lewin took my case - she's an angel," Debbie said. "She said she didn't think it was a dermoid cyst but wouldn't know until she did the surgery. She was right, and everything went really, really well. The staff at Holy Name was amazing - people brought me ice, a magazine, anything I wanted - and were there to talk if I needed to. They were always considerate and took excellent care of me."

As it turned out, Debbie did have severe endometriosis, cysts in her fallopian tubes and a huge cyst in her right ovary. It wasn't a dermoid, which can cause the ovary to twist and eventually be life-threatening, but it was large and would have continued to cause a lot of pain. It also could have burst at any time.

Dr. Lewin also validated what Debbie already knew about her weight - it wasn't an issue.

"I had surgery to remove my gallbladder and appendix when I was 100 pounds heavier," Debbie said. "Dr. Lewin said she could do the surgery but gave me the choice."

Dr. Lewin performed a robotic hysterectomy and left Debbie's left ovary in place, so she wasn't thrust immediately into menopause. Both the surgery and recovery went better than Debbie expected.

"When I went home two days later, I walked up 16 stairs - I was symptom-free and had no pain," Debbie said. "Dr. Lewin had explained everything to me, then checked on me that first weekend when I was home. Her bedside manner is exceptional.

"I travelled 80 miles to have Dr. Lewin treat me and I would travel even more if necessary," said Debbie, who lives near Mt. Olive. I'm just so grateful - I feel wonderful."

Learn more about Endometriosis Center at Holy Name