Tag Archives: vagina

Cancer Free!

The surgery itself went well. It went a bit longer than expected. They estimated 6-8 hours, and it ended up taking closer to 12. I lost a lot of blood and was given a lot of fluids to replace it (I came out weighing 18 pounds more than when I went in). But for the most part there weren’t any real complications.
The surgeons ended up doing exactly what they planned to do. I had a radical hysterectomy (including the ovaries)- which was no big deal since none of those parts worked after the initial rounds of radiation I did back in February. They also removed an entire chain of lymph nodes and some surrounding tissue, my entire vagina, urethra, and bladder. There was nothing wrong with the urethra or bladder, they just happened to be in the way. After they took everything out and tested all the margins to ensure they got all the known cancer (which they did, yay!), they did radiation directly into my body cavity, along my pelvic wall. This was an attempt to get any cancer that they couldn’t see. Then the urologist came in and rerouted my urinary tract. I now have a urostomy, which is a bag that hangs from my belly and collects urine. Here’s a pretty good explanation:http://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatmentsandsideeffects/physicalsideeffects/ostomies/urostomyguide/urostomy-what-is-urostomy
Then a plastic surgeon came in and recreated my vagina using the left half of my ab muscles and the skin that covers them. Imagine a six pack on my stomach. My new vagina is made up of the top two left cans in my six pack (from the outside everything looks normal down in my lady parts). They then had to stretch my skin to cover the missing part on my belly- and as you know, I’m not a large person, so there was a lot of stretching that had to be done! This was one moment in my life when I wish that I was a little chubby. Extra skin would have been super nice right then. I have a scar that runs down the middle of my abdomen from just between my boobs, down around my belly button and into my pubic hair.
As for recovery, things are going pretty well. I spent 16 days in the Mayo Clinic and a few extra days in Rochester after I was discharged. I was admitted to the hospital in StLouis a couple weeks after I got back for dehydration and constipation. I also got a blood transfusion while I was there. That was last week. Since then, things are going fairly well. My appetite is hit or miss and I have 15-20 pounds to gain. I’m down to about 115. In June, I weighed about 130… so there’s some perspective. I’m skinny and it’s driving me nuts!!! I sleep a lot, but I’m not taking my pain meds nearly as often as I was even last week, so that’s good. It’s slow going for sure, but I feel better every day and that’s a good thing.

As of today, I am cancer free. I feel cancer free too! I don’t know if you remember, but after my first round of treatment, I still had a feeling that it was in there lurking. I hope that this is the end of my journey with cancer in my body and that from here on out it will just be advocacy for me!

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Emotional Rollercoaster

Today was, hands down, the worst day emotionally so far.  Yesterday I went and did my pre-op exam and had a consultation with my oncologist. The consultation, unbeknownst to me, was actually an exam and a consultation.  Turns out you can still have a mild panic attack even if you’re on Xanax :-/  Not only did Dr. Mutch spring the physical exam on me, he went one step further and took the exam to an all new orifice.  Nice to meet you too, sir.  What was quasi-humorous, was that when I asked the nurse to stay in the room with me while I got dressed, she said, “I’ll stand on the other side of the curtain to give you some privacy.” What?! You just watched the doctor do a VERY thorough exam of my undercarriage. I think we’re past privacy.

I was still a bit shaky when we sat down in Dr. Mutch’s office.  My dad and sister-in-law were with me.  I will say that, initially, I would’ve rather eaten live cobras while standing naked on an iceberg than discuss my vagina with my father.  But there’s a lot of va-jay-jay talk going on these days, and I’ve come to terms with the probability that my dad already knows I have one… so… I guess it’s no big deal if he hears how my doctor plans to fix it.  Admittedly, it does make me cringe ever so slightly when he uses the word “vagina” and is referencing mine.  But he is an integral part of my support system, so I suppose a slight cringe every now and then is tolerable.

Right. So we sat across from Dr. Mutch for almost an hour as he went over  the various procedures (complete with sketches) that might take place.   That’s right, I won’t know if I have a uterus until I wake up from surgery.  I did love, though, that he shared my case with at least 2 other fabulous surgeons- one in his practice, the other at Memorial in New York.  He also presented my case to a tumor board.  My case, apparently, is super interesting given some important factors:

 1. Technically I have stage 1b2 cancer, which means, essentially, that it is confined to the cervix and is over 4cm in size.  And at 4.6cm it’s very close to 1b1 (a tumor that is between 2 and 4cm in size).

2. I want to have kids in a big time serious way.

He said that ordinarily with 1b2 cervical cancer, they would do a radical hysterectomy and call it a day, but given the 2 factors mentioned above, my case to have a trachelectomy (where just the cervix is removed and is generally not done on 1b2 patients) is a hot topic.  It sounded like all 3 surgeons would approach the surgery the same way:  Test the margins, if they’re clear, do the trachelectomy, if they’re not, do the hysterectomy.  And in either case, there’s a chance I’ll have to have radiation anyway.  I’m fairly content with this, given that he and 2 other surgeons said the same thing.  I have an appointment with my second opinion doctor on Tuesday, just for peace of mind.

So about today… I’m sad and angry and scared and overwhelmed.  I feel so out of control of my body.  Ultimately I know that all of this is happening with perfect timing and for good reason, but right now I’m in my bed, crying, and typing about it.  A less rational version of me would scream about how unfair this all is. And why me?  And why now? But I’m trying so hard to hold on to my spiritual beliefs. To stay strong and to know that eventually I will feel normal again.  That some of life’s experiences may not go exactly as I’ve always imagined they would, and that’s ok.  Tears make those concepts slippery, though. And right now, it’s very slippery out there.

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