June 2013 brought me the "thud", the "other shoe that dropped"......for those of you who have not seen my that July 21, 2013 post, it was all about the surgery I needed due to Tamoxifen side effects.
The short re-cap goes like this:
June 28, 2013, I had surgery to remove my left ovary and left fallopian tube (with the caveat that if anything biopsied during this surgery was cancerous, I would have a complete hysterectomy). I woke up with the left ovary, left fallopian and the right fallopian tube gone. Thankfully I had managed to hold on to my right ovary and uterus because there was no cancer found in the biopsies that were done during the surgery.
Two weeks after the surgery, I had the typical surgical follow-up appointment and then six months later I had a regular gyn exam with all the usual tests. During this six-month appointment, I mentioned to my obgyn that I was having pain (which ranged from short and tolerable to sharp, shooting and repeating pain) on my right side in the ovary zone.
Now, as you can imagine, I keep notes - with dates, details, descriptions - as I am now even more sensitive to whatever it is that I perceive as a change in my body....or something that just does not seem right.
My obgyn heard all my concerns and notes and recommended a "date with the ultrasound wand".
On February 24, 2014, I went back to the hospital radiology department (a place I already felt I was too familiar with) for the internal vaginal ultrasound. So there I was, clothes on my top half, paper "blanket" on my bottom half and my fabulous patterned knee-socks as I lay there in a rather vulnerable position. I was nervous and switched between moments of concentrated quiet breathing to talking incessantly to the radiology tech. The tech was doing her job and I was watching her face like it was a poker tournament and she had a tell and a pile of poker chips.
In my head I started a silent chant...."save the right ovary, the only ovary, save the right ovary, the only ovary". Oh, and in case you were wondering, it is very difficult to relax and let someone insert that ultrasound wand and do their job. After it was over, the waiting game began - there is this part of you that wants to know the answer/result, but there is also that part that would rather not know the findings.
A couple of days later I learned that the right ovary had a cyst and that at this point it appeared to be a typical cyst that would resolve on its own. I was told to keep tracking any pain that I felt and that I'd need another date with the ultrasound wand in six months. Then my obgyn says that if the pain changes, continues or is not in line with "girl math" (aka the halfway point of my period), I will need to have another ultrasound sooner than the six-month date.
I am sure that there are people out there that would have said "take it all" on the June 2013 surgery date and just be done with it, but I am not one of those people. I know there is a chance that I could end up having surgery again and having the right ovary removed, but it is just a guess...a chance...a possibility.
The one thing I am sure of - the one thing that has not let me down yet - is trusting in my body and doing what I believe is right for me.
If I had followed the typical course of treatment/ recommendations:
1. I would have had chemotherapy after my breast cancer surgery (on the off chance that a 3mm spot in one of three lymph nodes biopsied had shot cancer cells out into my body somewhere) in conjunction with the radiation therapy that I did have.
2. Instead of just having both fallopian tubes and my left ovary removed, I would have had a complete hysterectomy. The complete hysterectomy, per the Drs, would lessen my chances of ovarian and uterine cancers and would allow me to take the post-menopausal breast cancer drug without having to have shots to put my body into menopause (because the pre-menopausal breast cancer drug - Tamoxifen- had too many side effects for my body which actually caused the need for the surgery to remove my left ovary and fallopian tubes in the first place --oh, and don't forget that I am unable to take hormone replacement therapy because I had estrogen receptor positive breast cancer)
I truly shudder to think where I could be and what condition I may be in, if I had blindly taken the "typical routes" recommended to me.
I did my research and I trusted my body - I trusted how I felt and what I felt.
Because I made these choices, I still have a monthly period, I do not have a hormone replacement issues and most importantly, I still feel whole.
Saturday, March 15, 2014
Sunday, March 9, 2014
Balance is something that has been on my mind for a few months now....
work and life
family and self
one boob larger than the other...
It seems that for some reason I cannot have balance with any of these things. For instance, if I am dating someone and things are going well in my personal life, then work life may suffer. If I am single and not really looking around, then work is my life and I spend too much time in my office. It seems like I submerse myself in whatever is going on at the time and loose focus on the other half - either work or life.
Why does it have to be one or the other?
On December 3, 2013, I had my yearly mammogram - even though I have moved from the six-month exam to the twelve-month exam, it still causes me to come close to a panic attack when I put on that hospital gown that opens in the front and never really covers you well. Once you have been diagnosed with breast cancer, there is nothing that compares to that feeling of going back to the mammogram machine. And, because "breast cancer" is on my medical history form, I have to set my mammogram appointments when there is a radiologist on stand-by to immediately read my test results and decide whether they need more pictures or an ultrasound completed. I am very open with the person doing the mammogram about my nervousness and I generally try and make jokes (because that's just what I do). The time between the tech leaving me alone in the exam room, the radiologist reading it, making a decision and the tech coming back to me in the exam room feels like longest hours ever - but, it is really only about fifteen minutes.
I passed that test with an "all clear", but that leaves the now yearly breast MRI to be done. My last breast MRI was January 16, 2013 and I am overdue. Every time I have a breast MRI, there is wrangling between my surgeon's staff and my insurance company. The surgeon's office "wins" and my insurance approves it and within a week, I am boobs down in an MRI tube for about 40 minutes. The results for this take about two days, but it also comes with a huge bill from the hospital. My health insurance pays about half the cost and I get billed for approximately $1,200 for that one MRI.
And here we are at balance again, do I just take the mammogram at its word, not do the MRI and not have more dollars added on to my hospital tab or do I stay in debt and have the MRI?
It is not like I am going to forget I had breast cancer or get lackadaisical about exams - I have daily reminders since one boob is bigger than the other and I have scars, but when is there balance? When does the fear and the practical follow up, level out?
On yet another balance front..........my brother and his wife have been the only family near me for the last six years. I now have an 11-month old nephew (who is amazing and I could not love more) which has made the recent change even more difficult. My brother and I have always been close and his wife has become like a sister to me, so when my brother got the "job offer of a lifetime" the end of November 2013 I could feel the scale tipping. My brother started his new job in January 2014 and flew back home every other weekend until he could find a home, etc. for my sister-in-law and nephew. I thought I had more time to balance things mentally and emotionally before they all moved, but that was not the case. They moved back South the first weekend in March 2014 and it has been very difficult and sad. I am happy for my brother and his family, but I am crushed that he is no longer an hour car ride away for the weekend visit, movie and hanging out time.
My brother got a house with enough bedrooms for one to be mine (or to be used as a guestroom). When he told me about the house, he was careful to explain that "my" bedroom was on the lower floor so I would have my own entrance and privacy. He and my sister-in-law were very clear that I was welcome to move in with them this month or down the road - as my brother said, "there will always be a room for you here".
I stayed. I am now a two-hour plane ride from them. Some days I wonder what the hell am I still doing here and other days I think I should stay.
And there is that balance thing again, do I walk away from what I have here to be with family or do I stay and try to make a life for myself?
Balance in life, work, health, family and relationships is clearly something I am going to continue to struggle with.....I guess I would just like to see a balance in one area.....
but, I do not even know which area that would be.......or what balance may even look like.