Remember George Jetson? And his ill-fated stint on the treadmill? And him begging his too-cute-for-him wife to get him off the crazy thing? I know how George feels. I’ve never been a fan of the treadmill in general, much preferring to get my cardio fix outside or slog my miles on the elliptical, but this figurative treadmill I’m on now is the pits. Stop the ride, I want off.
I mentioned that I have a heavy issue on my mind and wasn’t sure what to do about it. Yesterday was intended for settling the issue and making the necessary plans to move forward. Instead, it was a craptastic example how nothing goes as planned or as expected on this damned cancer “journey.” Having just come off a week of antibiotic hell after my latest reconstruction revision, craptastic was the last thing I needed. And yet, in typical cancer “journey” fashion, it’s got to be as complicated as humanly possible.
Yesterday started with a trip to the dermatologist for ye annual mole check, and that visit ended with 2 shaved-off moles being sent off for biopsy and the unceremonial removal of 7 or 8 skin tags. Being a melanoma victim, I’m pretty serious about any weird-looking spots on my skin and don’t hesitate to point out ones that need to be lopped off. Like the Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland, I say “Off with their heads.” I was a walking Band-Aid when she got done with me. Then I headed straight to my next appointment, stop #2 of 3 on the Monday doctors’ tour, which should have been a simple fact-finding trip but ended up being an exercise in frustration and confusion.
Here’s the deal: when I was first diagnosed, way back when in a time that now seems like another lifetime entirely, I knew that at some point I would need to have my ovaries removed. The oophrectomy, in addition to being an outstanding Scrabble word, was a foregone conclusion. Think about it: ovaries produce estrogen and progesterone, both of which provide the fuel for my kind of cancer. Cut off the fuel supply and starve the cancer and eliminate any hope it may have of coming back.
Then the post-mastectomy infection reared its ugly, ugly head, and I wasn’t well enough to undergo another surgery for quite a long time. (Some certain people who read this blog don’t like to see mention of said infection, which I totally get, but it’s kinda vital in the chain of events, so let’s all just suck it up and read on; it was a fluke infection for which no one can be held accountable. File that one under “shit happens.”) Moving on….Then once I was well enough after the infection, I was sick to death of sickness and near-deathness, so the idea of another surgery was most unpalatable to me. I wanted and needed — and deserved, dammit — to get back to “normal” for a bit before going under the knife yet again, so the oophrectomy was postponed. But it remained a constant, a “when” not an “if.”
My stint back to “normal” was short-lived, however, because once I was recovered enough from the mess last summer, it became apparent that we needed to go ahead with reconstruction asap in order to give the now-healed chest wall a vascular system. That poor chest wall had sunk and had been sliced & diced & excised enough times that it needed fresh blood as much as Edward Cullen and his crew does. So the next step in the unscripted and not-nearly-as-exciting-but equally-dramatic-as-Eclipse saga that is my life, we commenced with The Big Dig and relocated blood vessels from my belly to my chest. After a long-ass surgery and a Hades-esque stay in ICU, the blood vessels bloomed in their new home and all was well. With my highly skilled and kick-ass surgeons, the Drs S, The Big Dig was a screaming success and I seemed to be on the right track.
Revision #1 in August and Revision #2 last week were successful as well, thanks to the original Dr S, who never ceases to amaze me with his surgical talent and artistry. That man is pure genius in the OR. Can’t recommend his work highly enough.
Having survived all these surgeries brings me to the here & now, which is the pursuit of the oophrectomy. Yesterday’s visit to the OB-GYN was a fact-finding mission for a surgery that I know in my heart of hearts I should have. Then the OB-GYN throws me a nasty curveball by questioning why I want to do this.
“Want” isn’t the word I would use for my feelings toward the oophrectomy, but I understand that it is elective compared to an appendectomy, say. But no, I don’t want to do it. I need to do it, and I’m being responsible by volunteering for it. But I certainly don’t want to do it.
Almost as much as I don’t want to have my carefully-thought-out plan upended. I listened carefully as the OB-GYN explained the permanence of removing one’s ovaries, the risks of the surgery, and the menopause it brings on. I’m there, I get it. I’m young for breast cancer and for removing my lady parts, but I’m way past childbearing and have been in menopause for the last 18 months, so I am well-versed in the hell that it is.
She spent a lot of time explaining that surgical menopause is abrupt and intense. Instead of the body gradually decreasing the amount of female hormones at its own pace, it’s like an on/off switch. One day you’re normal, the next day you’re in menopause. I’m still not sure what part of my 18 months of chemically-induced menopause she didn’t get, but suffice to say it was like banging one’s head against the proverbial wall. Bang! Bang! Bang!
Some days there’s not enough alcohol in the world to cope with these detours and speed bumps on the cancer “journey.”
(Ooooh, I think I feel a tshirt slogan coming on.)
The mess of the OB-GYN appointment continued when she was finally satisfied that she’d drilled the cons of the surgery into my head enough to examine me. She determined right away that doing the oophrectomy laproscopically (i.e., through my belly button instead of via an incision) won’t work because of the abdominal scar from The Big Dig. She thinks there’s too much scar tissue and the skin on my abdomen is too tight to allow her to maneuver laproscopically. This is one opinion, and a perfect example of why a pro-active patient solicits more than one. Nothing about my ab scar is unusual or unexpected, just makes a laparoscopic procedure trickier.
So the option to not doing the surgery laparoscopically is making another incision. She wants to make another incision, below the existing 17-inch racetrack. Another incision. Now I’m thinking there aren’t enough cuss words to cope with these detours and speed bumps on the cancer “journey.”
(A companion t-shirt, me thinks.)
A most unsatisfying appointment.
There was just enough time for Amy and me to grab lunch before moving on to my next appointment. And yes, by lunch I mean drinks.
My next appointment entailed removing the two sets of stitches from Revision #2, which I expected, instead of removing them with tweezers or little scissors, there was a blade, which I did not expect. The downside to those super-tiny, uber-tidy mucho-skilled plastic surgeon stitches is that they’re a bit harder to remove than conventional, Frankenstein-style stitches. The blade was like an X-acto knife on steroids, and after the day I’d had, it scared me a little bit. But the good doctor held my hand, soothed my jangled nerves, and tut-tutted over me like the kindest of caregivers, and the stitches were no more. You can barely spot where they used to be because the incisions are so small, and the human pincushion lives to see another day.
But what about those ovaries? What to do about those?
The saga continues.