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Surgery Redux

June 13, 2012

Well…it ain’t over til it’s over.  Almost four weeks ago, on May 17, I went to the doctor for my six-month remission appointment.  As far as I was concerned, this one was in the bag.  I didn’t even take anyone with me.  The CT scan I’d had several days before was obviously going to be clear, like all of my scans had been since my surgery in March 2011.

This time was different.  The resident asked more probing questions.  When my oncologist came in, she did not lead with good news.  Instead, more questions.  More time spent on the examination table, poking and prodding my abdomen in search for a spot that would draw pain.

Finally, she broke the news:  the scan had shown a “shadow” between the stomach and colon.  In addition, a cyst I’d had on my ovary since this ordeal began more than a year ago had changed.  An appointment would be scheduled a couple of weeks later with Interventional Radiology to see whether they could biopsy this shadow (I was headed out of town eight days later to go rock climbing in Utah, so sticking a needle through my stomach before that was a no-no).  I’d see a GYN oncologist about the ovary.

It could be nothing…but it wasn’t nothingNothing would have been a clean scan.  Still, it didn’t sound terrible.

It occurred to me that I might be able to resolve the ovary issue before I left town; the GYN oncologist was able to fit me in a week later, the day before my Friday departure.  This time, I asked a friend to come with me.

The doctor walked in saying something like, “Let’s have a look at these tumors that are all over your ovaries.”  The word tumor?  And plural?  Ovaries, plural?  I’m pretty sure my friend and I exchanged nervous glances at this point.  Doc then proceeded to examine me, as he explained that the scan had shown that both ovaries were enlarged, and filled/covered with (or entirely replaced by) “non-solid structures” that did not seem to be cysts.  He also referred to “nodules” (again, plural?) in the tissue between the stomach and colon – what my GI oncologist had called a “shadow” on the scan.

After the exam, we moved into a “nicer” (carpet, comfortable chairs, flickering fluorescent light, lamp without a lightbulb and with the shade askew) room to discuss the implications of all of this.  He recommended major surgery to remove the ovaries, which would be scheduled for the second or third week of June.  I surmised that this would mean I could never have children, so he quickly drew a diagram of lady parts on the back of a sheet of paper to show me that as long as they were able to leave my uterus behind, the eggs I banked last year could be fertilized and implanted, no prob.  Phew.

We found my GI oncologist, who seconded his recommendation.  These things were not going to self-correct, and would likely begin to cause me problems and/or pain very soon.  The surgery would be scheduled as a possible total hysterectomy, in case the surgeon (who would be the GYN oncologist) saw something “grossly abnormal” during the procedure and decided everything had to be removed, or in case the uterine tissue sample taken for biopsy during the gynecological exam came back from the lab showing evidence of cancer.  Return of the nerves.

I left D.C. for Arkansas the next day; I was headed home for my Mom’s 60th birthday before my big Utah adventure.  I didn’t want to ruin the birthday party, so I saved the big announcement for Saturday.  I was very nervous, but pleased with the outcome; I used the fairly extensive notes I’d taken in my appointment two days prior to give all of the details and answer questions, and made tentative plans with my mom for her to come for the surgery/recovery.  And then my dad lightened the mood by telling anecdotes of horses and skunks in houses, old men falling off docks in their rocking chairs and losing their glasses in the lake, and children on potty chairs rolling down interstate embankments.  So that was that.

Monday I left for my rock climbing trip with First Descents, an organization that does free! adventure therapy trips for young adult cancer survivors.  What timing!  I had signed up for this months ago, and my experience at camp warrants its own post.  So for now, suffice it to say that the week, spent in and around Moab, Utah, with limited cell phone service, included many discussions of my uterus (and other campers’ cervices).  When, in the middle of Arches National Park, we drove through a spot with enough service for a voicemail from my nurse to come through, there was much celebration – and many uterus/uteri cheers – when I reported that the uterine tissue biopsy had come back benign.  The next day, Friday, when we stopped in town for gelato after a day of canyoneering, I received another voicemail.  The surgery was scheduled for Tuesday.  Tuesday!  As in, four days later.

After the initial shock, and though I was worried that this wouldn’t give my mom enough notice to get to D.C. in time, I decided that it was just as well.  I was as prepared for surgery as I would ever be, and the sooner the procedure, the sooner I could begin to recover.  I returned home the next evening, in time for my spring league ultimate frisbee tournament on Sunday (although I had a lot to do, who knows when I’ll be able to play next?), went to the hospital for pre-op work on Monday, and checked in for surgery on Tuesday morning with my mom, who had arrived Monday evening.

The surgery lasted about two hours; when I woke up in the recovery room, the first thing I did was ask about my uterus (even though I’d forget and ask again).  Intact!  They’d taken my appendix, however.  I told them I didn’t care.  And my grapefruit-sized ovaries, of course.  And finally, the nodules.

After five days in the hospital, I was discharged on Sunday.  Now, waiting for pathology results to determine the next steps for me.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. June 13, 2012 10:08 pm

    Hope and pray that your pathology report offers some good news. Bernie

  2. Connie permalink
    June 13, 2012 10:46 pm

    Waiting to hear and hope it is good news. Love, Connie

  3. kpozzoli permalink
    June 22, 2012 1:10 am

    I love that days before a major surgery you were climbing rocks and playing ultimate! Cancer shmancer. So inspiring 🙂

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