Beer for dinnerPosted: November 11, 2011
Nobody said it would be easy…but I certainly didn’t expect it to be this hard. “It” is my least-favorite part of the cancer “journey,” which is the uncertainty and the waiting. The uncertainty and the waiting are far-reaching and apply to many aspects of the cancer “journey,” whether in awaiting pathology results, trying to schedule an appointment with the litany of doctors involved in one’s care, or marking time on the calendar between the latest procedure and getting back to “normal.”
The uncertainty and waiting applied this week to my attempts to move forward on the long-ago planned but not yet executed oophorectomy. When this whole mess began, and by mess I mean breast cancer so rudely interrupting my otherwise happy, healthy life, I knew that I would at some point need to have my ovaries removed. Those two oval-shaped organs have got to go because of the estrogen and progesterone they produce.
Monday I saw an OB-GYN, let’s call her Dr P, who is part of my OB-GYN practice but not my doctor. She delivered Macy because she was on call when my little girl made her appearance into the world. I chose to see her this week because her reputation as a surgeon is stellar and she is known for her patients not having complications, something that appealed mightily to me, the reigning Queen of Complications. I’m more than ready to take off that crown and pass it on to my successor.
Anyhoo, Monday’s visit with Dr P wasn’t terrible but it introduced a fly into the ointment when she enlightened me to the fact that a laparoscopic oophorectomy wasn’t an option for me because of the abdominal incision on my belly from The Big Dig. This was something I hadn’t even considered and is another example of how much of what one needs to know along this cancer “journey” must be learned the hard way. Hate that.
So I left Dr P’s office on Monday trying to wrap my head around scenario #1: the idea of open surgery, which is most unpleasant to me, and that she won’t be able to use the existing incision but will require another incision, below the 17-incher I’m already sporting. That incision is healing so nicely, and is so razor-thin and in the process of disappearing altogether. The idea of messing with it and disrupting its lovely healing is not my favorite.
In discussing the shifting scenario on Tuesday with the cabal of Amys, my two dear friends whose previous medical professions have made them trusted members of my decision-making team, it becomes clear that while Dr P is a great surgeon, she may not be the right one for me. I’m not ready to give up on the idea of doing this next surgery laparoscopically, which means I need to get a second opinion. As much as my petulant self did not want to set foot in one more doctor’s office, and as much as my weary self hated the idea of making yet another appointment, paying yet another hefty co-pay, and trotting out my sordid cancer history one more time, I knew it needed to be done. I got lucky and there was an opening to see the second Dr P on Thursday. Perfect.
I already had a doctor’s appointment for Thursday, with Dr N to investigate the idea of getting a little nip/tuck for my bladder. If we’re going with scenario #1 and doing open surgery for the oophorectomy, might as well take care of the bladder, which is showing signs of wear & tear that will only get worse with time and my balls-out style on the tennis court. I really like Dr N and went from dreading the idea of the nip/tuck to seeing how it can seriously improve one’s daily life. And I love that Dr N called me the “perfect candidate” for this simple procedure. Hooray! “Perfect” and “simple” are two terms that have not applied to any of my cancer “journey” thus far. After all this time and a case that’s been anything but textbook, I’m the perfect candidate. That was satisfying on many levels. Dr N works with both Dr P and the second Dr P, so it appeared to be a simple case of choose which OB-GYN to do the oophorectomy, and Dr N would coordinate. I’m lucky that Dr N works with both of the OB-GYNs I’m considering, because he doesn’t work with docs in the med center, so lucky me: I have my choice of OB-GYNS and the fantastic Dr N right in my backyard. I left Dr N’s office with something that’s been painfully absent in my cancer “journey” of late: hope. I was hopeful that this next round of surgery was going to come together, despite the shifting scenarios.
That hope was summarily dashed when the second Dr P has yet another differing opinion on how to do this surgery. What was I thinking, having hope and feeling good about the direction I was headed? What an utter fool I was for believing, however briefly, that the tide was turning and for once things were going to work according to plan. Granted, the plan has changed several times in the short span of a few days, and with each new doctor there comes a new scenario for which I have to wrap my head around, but I actually felt good after the visit to Dr N and went into the visit with the second Dr P thinking this would all come together.
I absolutely love, love, love the second Dr P. I loved him before officially meeting him when I overheard his phone conversation with a patient as I was escorted into an exam room. I have no idea what the reason was for the phone call, but he exuded care and concern with that patient via phone, and although I don’t know any details it was clear he was finding a solution. He is everything the first Dr P is not: warm, energetic, full of personality, an outside-of-the-box thinker who was genuinely interested in finding the best solution for me. He agreed with the first Dr P about my belly not having enough wiggle room to allow for laparoscopic surgery, and he introduced yet another troubling facet to this already-troublesome situation: if we do open surgery, whether using the existing incision or making another one, there’s precious little room to close that incision. The skin is just too tight–too tight to allow the area to be inflated for surgery, and too tight to close after surgery. He was also adamantly against open surgery because of the infection risk.
But the second Dr P isn’t giving up, and he hatches a new plan. Scenario #3: consult Dr K, a GYN oncology surgeon who does robotic oophorectomies.
I didn’t know such an option existed. Again, learning the hard way. And by the hard way, I mean the most exhausting and mentally taxing way. I told the second Dr P that as much as I appreciate his obvious care for the best possible outcome for me, I’m a bit on the Type A side. I’m a planner, I like things to go according to plan, I dislike change, and I do not shift gears well. In the span of 3 days, I’ve gone from laparoscopic; to a whole new incision; to using the same incision; to not favoring open surgery; to re-exploring laparoscopic; to nope, it won’t work logistically; to robotic surgery.
That wears me out.
I worked hard to wrap my head around the second Dr P’s plan. I really tried to embrace scenario #3, even though it meant adding another doctor to my roster. The second Dr P was sympathetic. He understands that I don’t want to get another doctor involved, and that I thought I had a plan and now everything is topsy-turvy. He reminded me that it’s worth it to see yet another doctor because he truly believes the robotic surgery will give me the best possible outcome, and with a shorter recovery time to boot. Sounds win-win, right?
Except that, just as I’m shifting gears clunkily and going along with this plan, another *&@%^ complication arises: Dr K, the doctor who would do this robotic surgery, is leaving the country — tomorrow — for 6 weeks.
Shoot me now.
That was it. I’d had it. I marshalled every ounce of self-control I had in order to avoid bursting into tears right there. And I am not a crier. Especially not in front of other people.
The second Dr P’s nurse, Maria, saw my distress and said, let me catch Dr P when he comes out of the exam room to see what else we can do. Thank you, Maria.
So she caught the second Dr P and told him that Dr K was unavailable for 6 weeks and that if this already-mentally-unstable patient has to wait that long to even see if scenario #3 will pan out, she may go bat-shit crazy and take us all out in a to-the-brink umbrage from which there will be no survivors.
The second Dr P called Amy and me over to the nurse’s station and hatched an alternate plan: use another GYN oncology surgeon who does robotic procedures. Thank goodness I live in a city that is ripe with specialty surgeons. But alas, both Dr K and Dr B, the second GYN oncology surgeon, work in the med center, which screws up my plan to incorporate Dr N into the surgery. Great googlie-mooglie, the idea of finding another urologist to do the bladder surgery –when I felt so good about Dr N doing it–was altogether too much to think about. I’m really on the brink now.
Sweet Maria offers to call the second GYN oncology surgeon’s office and make the appointment for me. At this point, she could have strapped me into a lunar module and sent me on a one-way trip to Mars. My brain was beyond fried so I blithely nodded my assent.
Would you believe that surgeon’s office was already closed for the day? And is closed on Fridays, so I have to wait until Monday to even see whether I can get an appointment. Cue the to-the-brink umbrage. And the beer for dinner. Five doctors in this week–and more to come–and I’m no closer to having an answer.
This brings us back full circle, to my least-favorite part of the cancer “journey,” which is the uncertainty and the waiting. I’m uncertain about which scenario will play out, and I’m waiting to get an appointment with yet another doctor, who I fully expect will come up with yet another scenario. Here’s one thing I am certain of, and there will be no waiting on this fact: I’ll be having beer for dinner again tonight.