Square onePosted: November 17, 2011 Filed under: breast cancer, cancer fatigue | Tags: cancer diagnosis, MD Anderson, missing mom, Nido Quebein, oophorectomy, postaday2011, psychological effects of breast cancer, square one, the Big Dig 7 Comments
“Your present circumstances don’t determine where you can go, they merely determine where you start.”
Thank you, Dr Nido Quebein, for telling me that. After the rough start I had last week, I was disheartened at the idea of starting over — from Square One — in finding a surgeon to do my oophorectomy. I needed a little attitude adjustment and Dr Q’s lovely quote provided just that.
Here’s the thing: my cancer “journey” has been long, complicated, circuitous, and seemingly endless. What is essentially a rather simple cancer that should have been easy to eliminate turned into a wild game of “how much can you take?” Just as I thought I was nearing the end of my “journey,” with what could be my last revision to reconstruction, the game became more intense and complicated and pretty much blew up in my face.
The next step of my “journey” should have been quite simple — have a routine procedure to remove my ovaries and eliminate the hormone production that fed my cancer. It’s outpatient surgery and rather easy compared to what I’ve endured thus far. But rather than being simple and working according to plan, it got hairy and I got overwhelmed. The idea of yet another doctor becoming involved filled me with dread, and it was like I was back at the beginning of this “journey,” newly diagnosed and jumping through hoops, frantically doing what’s needed to get to the next step.
Here’s where we are now: after standing on my head and reciting the alphabet backwards while juggling flaming batons, I was granted an audience with the lovely lady who schedules appointments for the next doctor in my ever-expanding roster. Oh happy day, after trying for 4 days to get through to this lovely lady, success was mine! I learned that this doctor only has office hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays because she’s in surgery every other day. Makes perfect sense, as she is a GYN oncology surgeon at the world’s #1 cancer hospital. What doesn’t make sense is why her staff doesn’t seem to be around on those other days. But apparently that’s not my concern and as long as I jump through the right hoops, maintain my headstand and keep those flaming batons twirling, I will eventually get what I need.
Silly, silly girl.
You’d think I would have learned at some point on this wretched “journey” that even when one does all the right things, and completes all the required steps, one still does not get what one needs.
When a human voice finally appears on the other end of the line, I think I’m going to actually schedule an appointment. I’ve cleared my schedule to accommodate hers. I am ready and willing to appear in her office at MD Anderson whenever she can see me. It’s the absolute last thing I want to do, mind you — see another doctor about another surgery. To add insult to injury, factor in the psychological warfare involved in knowing that this next doc works in the same facility–and in the same department–where my mom sought treatment for her cancer, and her “journey” didn’t exactly have a happy ending. Not even close.
Nope, scheduling an appointment isn’t that easy. First, there’s the prerequisite litany of questions: name, address, phone numbers, email address, birthdate, insurance carrier, group number, ID number, policy holder’s DOB and SSN. Then comes the question of what’s your diagnosis? When I replied, breast cancer, the lovely lady not so lovingly informed me that this office doesn’t deal with breasts. Duh. I patiently replied that I understand that and know that this office deals with the more southern ladyparts, but because of my breast cancer, I need to consult with this doc on an oophorectomy. Seems clear, right? Then the lovely lady wants to know why I want to have my ovaries removed.
Because I’m bored. Because it’s been too long between surgeries for me. Because I miss the prick of the IV desperately searching for a vein in my tapped-out venous system. Because I’m lonely for the company of people in scrubs & white coats. Because I’m hankering for the smell of Betadine and the commotion of the OR. Because I long for the feel of the plastic mask on my face as I lie completely naked under a bright light in a room full of strangers. Because I’m hoping to lose a few lbs before the holiday glut and think the all-day vomiting that inevitably comes to me after anesthesia is a good diet plan. Because I haven’t spent enough time recuperating from surgery while the world around me marches ever onward.
If there’s a contest for most horribly worded question, this lovely lady would win it, hands down.
Once again, I’m called upon to gather my composure and marshal my manners to answer. I resisted the mighty temptation to give her a smart-ass answer and calmly replied, because my oncologist recommends eliminating the source of the cancer-causing hormones. I wonder if the lovely lady could tell I was answering her through tightly-gritted teeth and with fists clenched as I battled the urge to make her ears bleed from a long, colorful line of cuss words. I wonder if I should have told her that when you’re diagnosed with cancer at age 40, with elementary-school-aged kids at home, and when your own sweet mama died an anything-but-peaceful death from cancer at the still-young age of 67, you’ll take whatever steps are necessary to increase your odds against this savage killer.
Lovely lady went on to inform me that I would need to provide documentation of my breast cancer being ER+ and PR+ (estrogen and progesterone positive), along with a host of other documentation. I would need to provide pathology reports from my breast biopsy in April of last year, when the idea of becoming a cancer patient was the last thing on my mind. And go ahead and throw in the pathology reports from my bilateral mastectomy and the paperwork on my last Pap smear, too. Wait–don’t forget to have Dr P, the OB-GYN who referred me to the GYN oncology surgeon, send his notes as well. After that, and after verifying my insurance, the GYN oncology surgeon will review my case and see if there is sufficient evidence to proceed. Lovely lady promised to call me back and let me know where I stand.
Ok, so more hoops to jump through, more due diligence on my part. Luckily I’m a rather fastidious cancer girl, and I have a very thick pink binder containing copies of everything the lovely lady requested except the Pap report and Dr P’s notes. Two phone calls and one online consent form later, that information is en route to LL.
Hurry up and wait.
After making the phone calls and gathering my records, I faxed 24 pages of the juiciest details of my breast cancer. All the nitty-gritty deets about tumor markers, mitotic index, prognostic markers, lymphovascular invasion scenario, anatomic pathology diagnosis, sentinel lymph node results, tumor size, and Elston-Ellis modified scores. It’s a fascinating read. And a wonderful trip down memory lane, just as I think I’m putting a little distance between myself and the cancer show.
I’ve done my part, now I wait.
Hey there… email me if you want the name of my doctor. I am in Houston and my OB is pushing me to get my ovaries taken out but my Oncologist says it isn’t necessary. She is just waiting for me to say the word. I absolutely love her for a host of other reasons that I think you would too. I had breast cancer in 2008 and a bilateral as well.
You tell such an engaging tale it’s frighteningly easy to get caught up in the details of the story (such as lovely lady’s winning phone manners) and lose sight of the fact that this is your life and a happy ending is not guaranteed. If you ever want to unleash that “long, colorful line of cuss words” in a safe environment just let me know. I’ll listen.
I’m surprised you didn’t have to bring the broomstick of the Wicked Witch of the West. But I guess your brain, heart and courage have gotten you this far. Just watch out for the flying monkeys.
This makes my head spin! I can’t even imagine what it is doing to yours. Stay strong. xoxo
I’m so sorry you have to go through all those hoops. I hate having to get all that paperwork together and go through bureaucratic hoops. It’s bad enough having the cancer. But you will get through. You have the spunk to make it happen! XOXO, Jan
I absolutely love your snarkiness towards the “lovely lady”. I totally understand why you held it in, but so wish you could have let it out – she deserves every bit of it! Seriously, taking the ovaries out turned into a “want to”, rather than a “need to” question again??? after what you had already explained to her?? Argh!!
Oh, how you make me laugh. Thank you! What else can we do but find the humor? You do that so well, and in spades.