If using a road as a metaphor for the cancer journey, I can honestly say that my recent hysterectomy was merely a bump in the road. To give some context, the double mastectomy and reconstruction I had two years ago, well, that was a major pot hole! This experience was pretty easy, I must say.
My surgery was a 1:00 pm on May 2nd. The only downside to an afternoon surgery is you have a long wait without being able to eat or drink. However, it wasn’t too bad this time. The pre-surgery experience began with another pregnancy test (they are sooooo paranoid about that!) and an EKG. Then they started the IV. It took quite awhile, but they did get it on the first poke! Believe me when I say, that is a true miracle! Then the grilling by the anesthesiologist who I quickly asked if I could have some of that nice medicine to help me “relax.” She gave me the run around and said not until I had the consent forms signed. After all the forms were signed, she hooked me up! About 10 minutes later they were wheeling me back and I was scooting onto the operating table. Then it was lights out.
I woke up in recovery and the only thing that was really bothering me was my hunger. I had some mild pain, but very little. They gave me saltines (boo!) and water. I tend to wake up rather quickly and I don’t think it was long before I was being wheeled up to the 5th floor for my over night slumber party. Mark was waiting. It was about 6:00 pm or so. They gave me some pain meds and between those and what was left of the anesthesia, I was pretty out of it. Mark said I literally fell asleep with a saltine in my hand, half way between the table and my mouth. It was too late to get dinner, so I had to survive on saltines until breakfast the next morning. Fairly cruel and unusual treatment, if you ask me.
At 6:00 am the next morning they woke me up to take out my catheter. I don’t know exactly why this had to be done at 6:00 am. It probably had something to do with the nurse shift change at 7:00. I gave up trying to go back to sleep and got up to go sit in the recliner. I was expecting some major pain the first time out of bed, but it really was very minimal. A little tightness and a “pulling” feeling was really about it. I checked out my incisions. Four total, each about 1/2-1 inch in length. I think they will blend nicely with all of my other scarring, so nothing to worry about there. Next up……breakfast! Thank you very much!
Mark came in about 9:00 and we just hung out until the doctor came in around 2:00 pm. He had told us not to expect him until the afternoon. We played cards, watched a movie, and took a nap. I think I was a lot more coherent than when he had left the night before. As usual, I beat him 2 out of three games of gin.
The doctors first words were “Boy, it was really a mess in there!” To which he went on to explain that I had fibroids, endometriosis, and some weird looking things on the outside of the uterus. Tamoxifen, the drug I was on from 2002-2006 and 2012-present, is famous for doing interesting things to the uterus. So, ultimately, I think it was the right decision to have everything taken out. I might have been able to keep things a while longer, but eventually, it would have given me problems.
I went home Saturday afternoon and spent the next two days taking the pain pills and sleeping. By Monday, no more pain pills. I took some ibuprofen, but wasn’t really even convinced I needed that. I really was surprised at how good I felt. In fact, by this last weekend, I truly felt “back to normal.”
The pathology on all of the removed body parts (uterus, ovaries, cervix, fallopian tubes) came back benign! No cancer! We really didn’t have reason to believe that there was cancer in these parts, but they are linked to breast cancer and I have read numerous stories of breast cancer patients who had hysterectomies that contained “surprise cancer.” I was glad there were no surprises for me!
I go back to work tomorrow and not a minute too soon. I have gotten a little bored and I assure those of you who work…….daytime television is awful! You’re not missing anything. I have to get through the next two weeks at work and then the summer begins. It will be fun, it will busy, it will be productive, and it will be fast. But, I am ok with that.
On June 9th, I will get another PET/CT Scan to confirm the progression of cancer to my T11 vertebrae and my hip bone. If the cancer has indeed spread, I will switch from Tamoxifen to a drug called Arimidex. It is also a daily pill but does come with some heavier side effects. Joint pain, fatigue, headaches, increased menopausal symptoms, etc. Hopefully I will tolerate it well. I guess that is the nice thing about switching drugs in the summer. I will have some time to adjust before going back to work.
So hopefully this “bump” is behind me. I know there are more to come. There are probably more than just bumps ahead. But, as with anything else, I have to face them one at time. As long as the road continues, which I’m hoping it goes on and on for a very long time, I will take the bumps, the pot holes, the bad weather, and perhaps even some complete breakdowns. Why? Because just like any other road trip, in between those problems lies sunny days, interesting detours, entertaining passengers, and the fabulous feeling of the wind in my hair!