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Wednesday, December 23, 2015

On Surgery and Cancer and Recovery

Jean Sexton muses:

I am afraid of everything involved in surgery: needles, blood, pain, lack of control, uncertainty. Yet there comes a time when it may be necessary and I needed major surgery. An entire system was not behaving appropriately and my doctor and I decided that since I didn't need those organs they could be removed; the removal would end the problems I was having.

Before surgery we had done everything within our power to check on the status of things. In-office procedures, scans, a more involved day procedure, and a CT scan showed no issues, but none of them were completely conclusive. While doing those I got an ECG which led to a stress test which showed my heart is healthy. I made arrangements for Wolf to be cared for during my night in the hospital, stocked up on easy-to-fix food and snacks, and stocked up on water. (I love Amarillo, but for someone raised on the sweet water of eastern North Carolina, the salt in the water in Amarillo is too much.) Everyone knew the plans to get me to the hospital on time.

And on time we were. The nurse realized I was in the middle of my worst nightmare and talked to the anesthesiologist who prescribed something that went into my IV and calmed me down. The side effect of amnesia really didn't worry me as I didn't want to remember. As people have told me, the surgery prior to mine ran a bit long and then mine ran significantly longer than planned.

The culprit? Cancer and lots and lots of benign tumors. The pathologist confirmed that the cancer was a slow-growing, non-aggressive cancer that had only made its way about 41% into the wall of the uterus. We'd planned on taking everything out, but now everything had to be scrutinized closely. In addition, my surgeon decided to take out all the lymph nodes that could be affected. This cancer had proven to be sneaky, and he didn't want it lurking in any glands.

After two weeks of worrying, the verdict came in. The cancer, while sneaky, hadn't decided to go on walkabout. There is a 3-5% chance of recurrence, but my doctor believes that I am on the low end of that, especially if I buckle down and lose more weight. That chance means frequent doctor visits for the next five years, but no radiation or chemotherapy. So my clock starts and by Christmas 2020 I should be a cancer survivor. Each Christmas I will have the best Christmas present of all -- my life.

Recovery has been slower than I hoped. Still, I know I have no patience (and the good Lord doesn't seem inclined to give me some RIGHT NOW), so I am trying to take it one day at a time. I'm on very little pain medicine now and that is to simply keep the ouchies down (I am not a fan of pain). I am back at work, part-time work for now, but I think by after Christmas I should be back full time. I should be able to drive by Thursday, just before Christmas.

Folks, the gift I wish to give to you today is knowledge. If your body (or the body of someone you love) starts doing something different, don't assume it is normal or decide to tough it out for your next doctor's appointment. Call your doctor. Tell your doctor what is going on and let your doctor make the call of "normal" or "check this out further." The sooner a problem is identified, the sooner it can be handled or stopped in its tracks. Remember that cancer isn't the death sentence that it used to be; there have been so many advances.

Finally, I want to thank my doctors (primary and surgeon) who have probably saved my life, all the nurses and technicians who put the human touch into my care, my ADB family who took on so much of helping me, my local friends who continue to help me with ordinary situations (who knew so many things weighed more than 10 pounds!), my family back in North Carolina who listened all the times I was frightened or bored after the surgery, and all my friends who through ADB's page on Facebook, the BBS, or social media took time to reassure me and rejoice with me on each little milestone.

And now we are at Christmas Zero on my countdown. I wish each of you happiness and health as your presents this season. And may your gaming be grand!