While I like the fact that my recovery time will be shorter with laparoscopic surgery, any kind of surgery associated with cancer blows. Right now I'm struggling with it on an emotional level. I'm trying to find the right mindset for my surgery. And now, I finally get it. I understand how other women might feel as they wait for their surgery day.
I have this strong feeling of dread that’s been hanging over my head for weeks. I'm having surgery to have my ovaries removed. If menopause won’t come to me then I’m going to go and get it. Estrogen can be a wonderful thing, but when you’re 57 and a cancer ‘survivor’ then it’s possible to have too much of a good thing. I’ve been waiting for years for those ovaries to shrivel up and die, but no, they’re fighters. They’ve grown fond of me and won’t stop working for me. They’re the type of workers that every company would love to have.
So, decision made, what’s the big deal? Compared to the mastectomy I had in 2011, this is really nothing. I tell myself that, but still it seems different. I never really thought twice about my mastectomy. It was something that I had to do to survive. There was nothing elective about it. And perhaps that is part of the problem. I’ve elected to have this surgery, but it does have a life-saving component.
For the last six plus years, I have been taking Tamoxifen to help keep a recurrence at bay. So far, it’s worked for me with a few side effects. One side effect is a thickening of the uterine lining. For me, this is no big deal. It means that I get to bond with a gynecologist so that ‘we’ can keep an eye on things. This means I get to have regular pelvic ultrasounds to ensure there aren’t any polyps or any other evil things growing in my uterus. One of the rare but possible side effects of Tamoxifen is uterine (endometrial) cancer. The other potential side effect is a higher risk of blood clots. This is the side effect that scares me.
I’ve felt the excruciating pain. I’ve had the swollen until they are almost totally hard legs and feet. I’ve had what feels like Charley Horses that make you sit up and take notice when you’re sleeping. I’ve had the excruciating pain in my arms to the point where it’s almost unbearable to lift my arms. My father had a major stroke when he was 57 and my mother also has clotting issues. I figure it’s time to deal with this ticking time bomb. The problem is, I probably should have done something years ago when I wasn’t so prone to clotting.
So there, I think, is the crux of the problem. There’s a variable here that wasn’t there for my previous surgery. There’s a risk, like with any surgery, for a clot to form and cause a problem…a potentially big problem. On the other hand, there is the risk, if I don’t have the surgery that I may have two problems. I could develop cancer and I still could have a problem with a clot, even without the surgery.
And so, knowing all this, I have a sense of dread.
It does not help that one of the instructions in the booklet I received to get ready for my surgery is to only drink up to a certain time before the surgery and, if you haven’t already, get your will in order. While it’s true on both counts, the instructions to get my will in order struck a chord that I didn’t even consider when I had my mastectomy. I was in my ‘everything’s going to be all right until proven otherwise’ mode. It never even occurred to me that my surgery wouldn’t be a success.
Now I’m older, my life doesn’t seem quite as chaotic as when I first received my breast cancer diagnosis. I was not blind-sided. My upcoming surgery is not being rushed. In fact, I turned down an earlier date because it was too soon. I wanted more than two weeks’ notice. And now, there are less than two weeks’ before my surgery. During the week leading up to it, I’m going to get things in order. I have various appointments, including one with a lawyer about my will. I’m doing what I can to tie up loose ends at work. I even cleaned up my desk a bit. I told my boss that it was so that people wouldn’t think I was a pig while I was on leave, but part of it was because I didn’t want someone else to clean it up if things don’t happen to go according to plan. I know. I feel like I am being so dramatic.
Again, I tell myself that it is a simple surgery. Things go smoothly the majority of time. The risks are low, but still, there are those doubts.
I’m sharing my story because I believe that my doubts are the same doubts that many women have before their surgery (in some cases multiple surgeries). I’m just a little slow. In the meantime, I’ll try to get into cancer mode and believe that everything will be okay until proven otherwise. It’s worked for me in the past. I’m just realizing now how hard it can be to get to that place. I was lucky to have such a strong conviction the first time around. It’s a mindset. If I can do it once, I can do it again. I have to believe that I cleaned my desk for nothing. Truth be told, it was only a half-hearted clean. Someone would still be shocked at the amount of stuff that I have collected in my desk over the years.
So, to ensure that things go well and that I will be back at my desk, I plan on spilling some coffee over a few papers, just to be on the safe side.
Over 30-years of writing experience, over 10 years as a cancer survivor, and a lifetime purveyor of wit and laughter.
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