Don’t Say It’s Ovary

Don’t Say It’s Ovary

Sorry about the title of this post, which was meant to update you on last week’s total hysterectomy, when doctors removed my uterus, cervix and yes, both ovaries. I cannot resist a bad pun centered around a movie or song title, so it’s a good thing the whole ordeal is over or you may have been subjected to a flurry of posts with titles like “Come on Ovary,” or “Ovary the Rainbow.”

The surgery went well. I don’t remember a thing from the time the anesthesiologist shook my hand until I awoke in recovery, with my doctor smiling and giving me a thumbs up: No cancer.

We did not think the growths on my uterus and ovaries were anything but benign fibroids, but it’s good to have that confirmed.

The next morning, my doctor had told me a little more: “Your uterus was the size of a small turkey,” she said. She actually had photos of the surgery, which she whipped out proudly, the way I used to show off my daughter’s baby pictures. They’re pretty gruesome fascinating. She said she’d get me a copy after she’d finished scanning them and adding them to my file. I may use one for my Facebook cover photo.

I ended up spending two nights in the hospital. I have to say: the nurses are heroes. They took good care of me, even though I was cranky from the pain and the painkillers. That said, I’ll be very happy if I never have to experience surgery or recovery again.

But that’s not likely, is it? I’m pushing 60 and my life is bound to follow the same pattern I watched as my grandparents and parents aged. My days of unflagging good health are coming to an end. Maybe not next year or in five years – but I’m pretty sure there will be at least another issue in the next decade that will require some hospitalization. And I’ll probably be just as big a baby about it as I was about this one.

In the meantime, the recovery from this hysterectomy is going a lot smoother than I expected. Before going in, I kept comparing it to the c-section I had 18 years ago, and there were a lot of similarities. But one week after the c-section, I was more or less bedridden… while today, I am sitting at my desk and writing this post without the benefit of painkillers.

The ease of the physical recovery is a little bit misleading. I have been warned not to resume my usual routine too quickly, not to push myself into doing anything strenuous like housework. Um, I’m okay with that. Besides, I don’t have a lot of energy. My husband, who has been amazed at how easily I’m moving around right now is just as amazed that I’m not bored yet with basically just laying around and watching television.

This is where members of my family will shout, “Do you even know Donna?” Laying around and watching television is what I do best. And that’s what I’ll continue to do — for the next week, at least.

Over and Ovary

Over and Ovary

I am having a hysterectomy tomorrow and I’m not feeling good.

Physically, I’m fine. I am not in any pain, and ever since I entered menopause, I’ve barely thought about the uterine fibroids that plagued my life with heavy periods and dangerous anemia. They were supposed to shrink after my periods stopped, and most of them did.

But a few have continued to grow, and that concerns my OB/GYN very much.

I’ve taken a couple of blood tests to ferret out signs of cancer, and both came up clear. I’ve visited a City of Hope oncologist (at the direction of my OB/GYN), whose first reaction upon looking at my scans was, “Why are you even here?” He thinks the growths are benign. BUT…

“You don’t want to be sorry you didn’t take it out when you had the chance.”

He didn’t spell out what he meant by that, but of course I knew.  I was in the freaking City of Hope offices, waiting along with patients who really did need his expertise. Cancer is something I don’t want to think about — but once the possibility has been raised, it’s like a scab you can’t stop picking at. I can’t help it.

I have amazing, strong, wonderful friends who have faced life-threatening illnesses with grace and courage.

No one will ever say that about me.

I’m pretty sure I DON’T have cancer and my reaction to the news that I would need this surgery was something akin to Kubler-Ross’ stages of grief: I’ve tried lots of denial, anger and bargaining — and have been pretty depressed. But instead of finishing up with acceptance, I think I’ve rolled back over to denial, anger and bargaining.

I DON’T WANT TO DO THIS.

I’m afraid.

I don’t like doctors. I don’t like hospitals. And although it seems counter-intuitive, I find it easier to face tomorrow’s events without knowing too many of the details, because if I know all the things that could go wrong, that’s what I’m going to be thinking about.

That’s why when folks offer me advice and links to articles I should read, thank them and turn away.

“Lots of people have this procedure. For your doctors, it’s routine,” my family says.

“You’ll be happy when it’s all over,” say friends who have already been through this procedure. I believe them.

I remind myself that I don’t actually need my uterus and ovaries any longer, that it will be a relief to put an end to monitoring their growth with uncomfortable ultrasounds every six months, that once these organs are out of my body, my doctor will be able to prescribe hormones to deal with my hot flashes — and wouldn’t that be wonderful?

Originally, the surgery was going to be laparascopic with the use of robotics — but the oncologist put the kibosh on that. Some of the growths have calcified and they are really kind of huge. So it may turn into something more akin to a C-section.

I’ve been through a C-section. I can handle a C-section.

Except that time I had a C-section, I got to come home with a beautiful baby, which made it a lot easier to deal with the pain and recovery. I find it ironic that this is happening just a couple of weeks after that child has left home for college. This time, all I get is the removal of a lumpy, misshapen uterus and ovaries that may or may not have something growing on them.

My doctor called me this morning to remind me of all the things I need to do before I show up at the hospital tomorrow.

A good friend took me to a nice lunch today, which was essentially the last solid food I’ll eat until tomorrow night. I’m grateful.

And afraid.