Thank you so much for all the well wishes on my most recent post. I haven’t had a chance to go through & approve/respond to everything yet, but I’ve read every comment & it definitely helped buoy me through those first few shitty days after the cancer diagnosis.
One thing I didn’t mention in that post is that I caught a blood infection from the biopsy. So, every four hours, for all of last week, I would spike a 105-degree temperature. I actually went to the doctor specifically to get some antibiotics for the infection, but our wires were crossed & she thought I was there for the biopsy results. “I didn’t want to tell you that you have cancer on the phone,” she said. So it didn’t even hit me right away because I was so focused on trying to get treatment for the blood infection. By itself, it was bad enough that I honestly thought I might die. My kidneys were actually starting to shut down. So to be walloped with cancer on top of that…Not my all time greatest week.
I did eventually get antibiotics & am on the road to recovery. I’m mostly better now. I’m just trying to build my strength back up after basically not getting out of bed for an entire week. I lost eight pounds in four days. A few more brushes with septicemia, & maybe I’ll fit into the Deer & Doe size range, eh? Ho ho, I crack myself up.
I also have my first oncology appointment scheduled for this Thursday. I have to be seen at the University of Kansas Cancer Center, because I guess cancer treatment is another one of those pesky medical predicaments I keep getting into (like giving birth to premature infants) that cannot be accommodated in Lawrence. Luckily, we were able to schedule it for while Ramona is at preschool, & Jared doesn’t have to work, so he can drive me & help be my eyes & ears at the appointment, since I dislike highway driving & all the information might be a little too overwhelming for me to absorb on my own.
The nurse who scheduled the appointment was all, “We’re sending you an information packet. It should be delivered on Thursday.” I am not unfamiliar with seeing medical specialists, so I was expecting your standard medical history to be filled in & brought to the first appointment, maybe a map of the medical campus, perhaps a pamphlet or two: “Fun with Cone Biopsies” or “Is Surgical Menopause the Right Choice for You?”
Instead, I received an enormous, personalized handbook. Like, the cover was actually printed up to have my name on it. This shit is perfect-bound & the cover was professionally printed with my name! There are full-color portraits & dossiers on my personalized oncology care team–not just some shit with the head of gynecological oncology’s name highlighted, but like, full names & photos of the nurse & receptionist who will be working specifically with me. There are full-page, full color anatomical drawings specific to my cancer diagnosis. There is even information on a hotel the center works with, which provides free lodging to patients & their loved ones who have to travel more than 35 miles for treatment (hey, that’s me! The center is 43 miles from my house).
& so much medical history to fill out, as well as pages & pages of informed consent forms. The University of Kansas hospitals are teaching hospitals, so they really want their patients to get on board with providing disease samples & stuff. They’re always looking for the next Henrietta Lacks, I guess. Let me tell you, I do not love having to sign a form acknowledging that I recognize that “medicine is not an exact science” & that “no one has made any promises about the effectiveness of my treatment.” Like, obviously I know that from a logical standpoint, but also obviously, when someone is treating you for cancer, you kind of wish they would say, “I know exactly what to do & it will definitely work & you will live to be 97.”
Also on that topic, there was a distressing amount of information on the hows & whys of setting up an advanced directive (ie, a living will). Oh, hey, mortality. I wasn’t really expecting to confront you until I was over 40, but I guess we’re gonna do this thing now.
I am also already hearing some pearl-clutching from people being all, “Don’t let them take your fertility!” (since the standard treatment for cervical cancer is hysterectomy). *sigh* My cancer hasn’t been staged yet, so I don’t know yet exactly what treatment will be recommended. It’s possible that I’m one of the very lucky ones whose cancer was caught very, very early & it can all be removed with a cone biopsy. It would still be challenging for me to become pregnant after that type of treatment, & any pregnancy I achieve would be more difficult & at higher risk of miscarriage. I would also be at higher risk of a recurrence & would require a hysterectomy once I was done having kids. That would be a best-case scenario as far as fertility goes.
If this shit is staged at anything above 1A1, hysterectomy would be the baseline treatment. Radiation &/or chemo could be involved.
I feel like maybe people get confused about this stuff because it’s not terribly unusual to have an abnormal Pap, & sometimes when that happens, there is some treatment, like LEEP. That shit is no fun, but it doesn’t compromise your fertility. Unfortunately, we are beyond “abnormal cervical changes” here. This is Cancer Country. LEEP ain’t gonna cut it. I still kind of can’t believe it, which is why I’m being a little silly & joke-y here. Did you know that only 30% of all cervical cancer are diagnosed in developed nations like the U.S.? That’s because women in developed nations have better access to cervical screenings so abnormal cells can be identified & removed before they turn into cancer. I’ve never skipped my Pap. I’m all about trying to keep that area healthy. I have a speculum tattooed on my arm, for crying out loud! But I got cervical cancer. I don’t know if there was a warning sign that was missed, a doctor that should have been more aggressive with treatment after an abnormal Pap (I’ve had a bunch), I don’t know. It just doesn’t seem real.