Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Stage 1C

Two and a half weeks ago I had surgery to remove my ovary and tube and Abner, the tumor. At least, that's what I thought they were removing. I mean, they did remove those things. The left ovary, rather than the right, which is weird. And Abner is no more. Flash frozen and sliced, he's been run through a myriad of pathology tests and is now destroyed.

Side note: This is sort of sad, as Abner, the tumor, in a jar (with googly eyes) was destined for a life of adventure if only they had given him to me in a jar.


It turns out that Abner was not just any old tumor, but a granulosa cell tumor. All my research of this type of tumor proves that it is pretty rare, and even more so in a person my age. The tumor is a hormone (usually estrogen) producing tumor, that built up around my ovary, and as a little present, spread to my small intestine. They discovered that during the surgery, and were able to remove all presence of Abner, the ovary, and the tissue of the small intestine, before they closed me up.

From the research, it looks like all granulosa tumors are classified as cancer. This seemed at odds at what we had been told: that it was benign, and so I was pretty confused. However, when I went into my follow up appointment today, I was told that in fact, I am stage 1C. Meaning, stage one, ovarian cancer*.

Lucky for me, all the hard work has been done. The surgery removed all the cancerous cells from my body. The likelihood of it coming back seems to be low enough that the doctor doesn't think I'll have to do chemo, though, he will be presenting my case to a tumor board on Monday, and I'll hear back following that meeting to know how they recommend I be treated. (His nurse believes that the chemotherapist will recommend it.)

The chemo that I would be put through is not the type of chemotherapy you see on the movies where people are puking and hating their lives worse than they are hating the cancer. It's the "good chemo", and so, again, I say, I have been through the worst of it.

Which is why as everyone who so kindly comments for me to "stay positive" and that they are sending thoughts and prayers my way, I wonder if the Cancer Club of people who have really been through the ringer: the ones that have been fighting aggressive cancers for years with the "bad chemo" and surgeries and losing their hair, their strength, their money; the ones that have been through so, so much heartache and pain and misery . . . you know, those guys, are going to show up and say, "Stage 1? STAGE 1?! That's nothing! That's hardly cancer!" I would agree with them. And cower in my boots, and prostrate myself for their forgiveness for every time I intend to use the cancer card (like, such as skipping out on work today... #sorrynotsorry).

It's just a touch of cancer. And it's mostly gone. Chemo or not, I'm fine. The prognosis is about the same as every other healthy person who has to leave their house. So fear not, little ones. I'm still not worried, or nervous and you shouldn't be either. I'm not down in spirits and I don't need too much encouragement to continue being my regular old self. (Everyone likes a bit of flattery now and then, so please, continue to call me beautiful and witty and "a real catch" and all of that, but don't worry about needing to reassure me that I'm strong and I'll beat it--in my eyes, it's been beat already!--Abner, the tumor-foe is no more!)

*I had to Google a little further, and found the following:
Following is a description of the various stages of ovarian cancer:
Stage I - Growth of the cancer is limited to the ovary or ovaries.
Stage IA - Growth is limited to one ovary and the tumor is confined to the inside of the ovary. There is no cancer on the outer surface of the ovary. There are no ascites present containing malignant cells. The capsule is intact.
Stage IB - Growth is limited to both ovaries without any tumor on their outer surfaces. There are no ascites present containing malignant cells. The capsule is intact.
Stage IC - The tumor is classified as either Stage IA or IB and one or more of the following are present: (1) tumor is present on the outer surface of one or both ovaries; (2) the capsule has ruptured; and (3) there are ascites containing malignant cells or with positive peritoneal washings.
http://www.ovarian.org/types_and_stages.php

The Surgery

Ah, life. It never quite settles down like you think it's going to.

Two and a half weeks ago, I picked my parents up from the airport--a real treat to have them all to myself for the first time since I was 13 months old and blessed with a baby sister--and prepared myself for surgery. Huzzah! The thought of getting the overly large, fairly disgusting Abner, the tumor, out of my body was positive enough that I wasn't overly concerned or nervous. I had every confidence in my doctor, and the ideology that once Abner was gone, I could move on.

For the record, surgery totally sucks. My dreams of one day getting an internal bra are currently on hold, as I'm not certain that I will ever be able to reconcile myself to elective surgery.

Funny story: We had to be at the hospital ungodly early--6 a.m.!--and so as we were hustling out the door, and I was grabbing things I thought I would need in the hospital for my one night stay, I misplaced my phone. I knew I had several people to update, but could not find it anywhere and didn't have time to lose. We got to the parking garage at 6 a.m., and by 6:15 a.m., I was in the prep room changing into my beautiful gown and hairnet, and wondering what to do with my glasses, when my mom stands up and finds my phone in her back pocket!! I had slipped it in there before going downstairs to get something at home. You might have had to be at the hospital in the wee hours of the morning to find it funny, but truly, I thought it was hilarious.

All the TV shows and movies always show people counting backwards from 100 or being told to think of a happy place before they go in for surgery. But that's not true. The residents came in and made sure I knew what was going to happen, the anesthesiologist came in and explained what his role was going to be. We discussed that everything was going to go well, and only the worst scenario would involve an epidural and complete hysterectomy, and then I was wheeled out the door and promptly forget everything until I was in the recovery room.

Coming out of anesthesia is weird and not very fun. I could overhear the nurses saying something about my left ovary being removed, but had no way to ask, "Um--what the heck??!" since it was supposed to be my right ovary. By the time I got my eyes opened, I tried to focus on the clock to see how long I had been out, hoping that would indicate whether or not I had needed the epidural or not. But the clock was spinning on an axis, the same as though I were on a very fast Ferris wheel. I couldn't get my eyes focused, and for some reason, that made me cry. Actually, I was just leaky and weepy anyway. Not in pain, not uncomfortable...just confused and crying.

A nurse was near me, keeping a close eye and I managed to ask a few questions, "Was there an epidural?" "Are my parents OK?" and "Why the left ovary?" There wasn't an epidural, the surgery had gone well and there was just a surprise with which ovary had been enlarged and needed to be taken out, but everything was good. And my parents were OK. She noticed my tears and told me that it was normal for me to cry--that often happens with female patients coming out of anesthesia. She told me something that men were prone to do, but for the life of me, I can't remember.

At some point, I was taken to my room. I vaguely remember going into the elevator. My parents were there waiting for me, where I said--still crying--that they took the wrong ovary. I could hear the worry in my mom's voice as she was like, "WHAT?" but didn't have the control left to explain that it was intentional and that it was OK. I fell asleep after that, I think.

You can imagine that having a six inch incision is not a fun time, and it isn't. Especially if some of the meds make you nauseous and throw up. And if you cough. Or laugh. Or move. The first pair of nurses on shift had me control my pain meds as I felt I needed them, which was sort of a crappy move on their part, as there were then lulls in which I was hurting pretty bad. At one point, I was in so much pain and they had come in to give me meds, but they asked me what the scale of pain I was in. I asked them to clarify and they told me to classify it from 1-10. The problem with that is, what classifies as a 1? What's a 10? (Look up Brian Reegan's sketch on the ER, and you'll understand.) I didn't feel like I was dying, I hadn't given birth, or had a leg severed off. I imagined those were the tens. So I said a five. I'm certain they thought I was the biggest whiner. Then they asked what my tolerance level was and I just said, "Not this!" It was agony! And really, that was the worst of it. Except when I puked a few more times. That was pretty awful too, but once I figured out it was the IB Profin that made me sick, I stopped taking it and was fine.

My parents stayed with me during the day, and then left at night. My mom thought I was being a huge baby and told my sister who told me. Rude. I loved when Thelma, the best nurse, came on shift, because she knew how to control my pain and when she was in charge, I never lagged for meds and was kept nice and comfy.

They had me up and out of bed and walking around the next morning. It hurt so much to get in and out of the bed, but, it didn't take too long before I was up and walking circles around the hospital floor. Sometimes with my mom and dad, and sometimes by myself while they stopped at home and got some food. The TV didn't work, but whenever I took pain pills, I was passed out for a few hours at a time, and so that was easy for me to avoid.

I had a lot of visitors, which was pleasant and some were unexpected. It was a perfect way to pass the time between hazy pain pill naps. A couple walked around and passed the sacrament to LDS patients on Sunday and I went to their sacrament meeting in my hospital gown and blanket with no bra on. It was a half hour. And simply the best. Maybe we should revisit the whole three hour thing? They had two talks and the sacrament in half an hour with a "come as you are" attitude. Utterly brilliant.

After that, I was discharged from the hospital. Which my parents were very happy about. They were practically chomping at the bit to get out of there and be somewhere where they could get some work done, instead of watching me lie around in pain. I made it home, and really, just took a pain pill, slept, walked, slept, took a pain pill, then slept for about two days. Then I was sleeping a little less, and watching more TV, and occasionally walking. And mostly watching my parents blow through a to do list like crazy.

I was still coughing while at home, which was pretty awful. And we watched comedians and Miranda, which made me laugh so hard I cried, and then I cried just because it hurt to laugh. Oi.

By the time my dad left, almost a full week later, I was feeling much more the thing. So my mom and I were able to accomplish a lot the whole second week I was in recovery. Including, taking lots of naps and watching all the pilot shows that came on TV.

Really, I think that is the key to recovery: TV and sleep. And more sleep. And, surprisingly, getting up and walking about.

It was so wonderful to have my parents here to help and get me through this. For as many offers as I had for people to take care of me, I don't think I could have comfortably relied on them as I was able to my parents. I am so SO grateful they were here. It almost makes me want to cry again! (Apparently I do that a lot.)

My mom left on Sunday, which sucked...but what can you do? I was fit and ready to go back to work, and so there was not much more I could do--no relapse I could truly threaten--and she had to get back to real life as I did. Siiiiiiiiiigh.

If anybody hears of a job my dad would be perfect for in Utah, please let me know immediately. I would like to have them closer to me.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Unknown

I've been pretty calm about the whole surgery thing. That is, until today. Today I've been freaking out a little bit. Not of the surgery itself, really.

I'm not an anal planner and I can typically--as they say--go with the flow. But with surgery scheduled for Friday, and me having ZERO knowledge of what is going on or what to expect, I am in the middle of a meltdown.

My parents are flying standby. (Their choice. I've had offers for people to BUY tickets for them--did I mention that my friends are amazing, generous people?) With standby tickets you DON'T KNOW if and when you will arrive to your destination.

So come Friday morning, my parents may or may not be here for the surgery. But that's fine because I DON'T KNOW when my surgery is. Just that it is on Friday, some time in the morning. I also DON'T KNOW how I'm going to react to the anesthesia. Or how long I'm staying in the hospital. Or how long recovery will take, or how worthless I'm going to be while recovering. Or how I'm going to be affected by the surgery physically or emotionally.

I DON'T KNOW what I'm going to do with myself for two weeks while I'm off work. Or how much this is all going to cost me in the end. (Twenty percent of a most outrageous sum, most like. . .) I DON'T KNOW if there is still fluid in my lungs, though I suspect there is since my cough isn't gone; which means that I DON'T KNOW if that's important or not. Because shouldn't my lungs be in full working order before they put me under and do unmentionable things to my insides? I guess out of all the things, this will be answered tomorrow, since I'm headed back up to the doctor to have it all looked at again. Yippee.

I'm so clueless about all of it, and it is making me batty and moody and emotional. And, I don't like it all already. I didn't realize that I was so scared of the unknown. I mean, I have mini panic attacks every once awhile about the future and how things aren't going exactly as I thought they should. But those usually pass... Usually.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Alumna Failure

In July, I moved from Salt Lake City to West Jordan. With the move came a ward change, naturally. Matti and I had the fellowship committee stop by our house . . . twice. In one night. It was fine, really, but anyone who knows me knows that I am not good at the small talk. Last night, I went in for a "get to know you" interview with one of the bishopric members. 

He was a pretty nice, but it was all small talk. He asked how many singles wards I had been in. I never thought to take the time to count--but I guess it's something like, nine? Ten if you count the home YSA ward, though, I wouldn't. Since I attended that ward more when I was 17 than when I was 18 and never actually had my records transferred there. Nine different wards in the ten years I've been in Utah. That's more than I would have thought, considering I lived in The Neighborhood ward for nearly three years. . .. 

Anyway, when I told him that I had gone to BYU, he was like, "Oh, really? You went to BYU and you didn't leave with a husband?"

"Nope. I didn't," I said in order to say something.

"Did you try?"

What?

What kind of question is that? And how am I supposed to answer? "Well, I stood on the corner with a billboard sign every night, but no one was really responsive." Not really knowing what to say, I felt the need to explain or defend myself, which afterward, I was kind of ticked about. Because there's absolutely no reason to feel ashamed about how my life has turned out thus far. 

"I did try--or I tried as best I could while working full time and going to school full time. And trying to find a chance to sleep somewhere in between." Honestly, my social life in college never really picked up steam until the final semesters when I lived at the Omni and actually had time to make a friend or two. My dating life has yet to pick up, but, there's only so much I can do about that.

So, just to be awkward, I told him, "Besides, gay guys love me. My friends' husbands tolerate me. But single guys? They don't seem to like me much."

He didn't know how to respond to that, so we talked about his son instead. . .. 

Over all, the ward doesn't seem a bad sort. Everyone seems friendly. The ward is run pretty efficiently--we already have visiting teaching assignments and home teachers and they are working on getting us callings. There are plenty of activities. He asked me if I attended activities often and I told him that I didn't know how to respond to that. If I said yes, they might put me on the activities committee because I like activities (I don't, really) and if I said no (the truth), then they might put me on the activities committee in order to try and force me to come to things. I did not see a winning answer. Luckily, he changed the subject. 

*          *          *          *

In other news, a lot of people have been asking for updates. I'm--still--a little torn about how much detail to put out on the web. But it is much more efficient to just tell everyone at once here than individually. 

I have no problems talking about the fact that Ab, the tumor, is on my right ovary. But as soon as I say "ovary" people feel like they have overstepped, or I worry that I'm over-sharing. I'm sure if I talked about Ab being on my right elbow, no one would bat an eye. Including me. (Although, let's be honest, a 10 cm, baseball-sized tumor on my elbow would be really gross.) Regardless of delicacy, Ab and said ovary are scheduled to come out on Friday, the 19th. That's a week from tomorrow. 

The waiting is what is killing me. 

Everything else is fine. I'm trying hard not to think about what it means to be one less ovary. Like, it probably doesn't matter, but it's still different than having your tonsils or gallbladder removed. I can function fine without one ovary. I can even--theoretically--still have as many babies as I want with one ovary. (But only if I can do it by myself, since my insurance doesn't cover "infertility" treatments.) Still, there is a sense of loss that I'm largely ignoring and not thinking about more than I have to. I'll deal with it all once it has finally happened. Maybe when they cut into me, they'll see that Ab wasn't as destructive to my ovary as they thought, and it can stay. Maybe this particular ovary is what has been the bane of my very existence since I was 13 years old, and the removal will solve all my other problems. Maybe this is God's way of prepping me for what is shortly to come! Or maybe, this all just really sucks. Or it could be a combination of the two or whatever.

In the meantime, I've been trying to research what exactly my recovery is going to entail. Since my parents are flying in, I want to be up and moving and doing things. I want to show them the mountains in the fall! and have my dad fix up my house! And, I'm not sure how it will all be accomplished, given I'll likely just be in bed. Boo. That doesn't sound fun at all--except for right now, I wouldn't mind climbing back in my bed and taking a smallish nap or two.

Thanks to everyone for their kind thoughts, prayers, and support. Y'all are more worried than I am most the time, so... you know, chill or something. :)
 


Friday, August 29, 2014

News to Start the Weekend

Got a phone call and then this email:

Shelli,
Pathology results on your pleural fluid are: No malignant cells identified.
Enjoy your weekend.
Audra

That's good enough for me to go off and enjoy my Labor Day weekend. I'll have to wait until next week to find out about surgery and options and what's next. But for now, it is enough.

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