Thursday, November 6, 2014

Goodbye Cancer!!

I can't believe I haven't updated my blog since my surgery.  There were times when I thought about it, but for some reason I just didn't do it.  Now here I am, six weeks out of surgery and almost ready to go back to work.  This season of my life is officially over.  And I have great hope for what is to come!

Going back to the Thursday of surgery, Mike and I got there nice and early in the morning -- 5:30 a.m.  It's a good thing I got to go back to sleep because mornings and I do not get along!  When the anesthesiologist came in he gave me the choice of having a thoracic epidural, along with my general anesthesia.  I was already told by one of my colleagues that if I was offered this I should take it.  It turned out to be a great decision as it eliminated the need for the morphine pump after surgery, and allowed me to be alert and not so groggy in the days following.  The surgery went as expected and lasted about 4 hours.  The only surprise for Dr. Larson was that my left ureter(where my kidney was removed 3 years ago) had scarred itself to the left ovarian artery.  He took the time to dissect the two apart, but after doing so realized that my left ovary "didn't look so good".  He made the decision to remove it.  In the end I gave up my uterus, cervix, left ovary, appendix, pelvic ligaments, and 35 lymph nodes.  Yep, 35!

My hospital stay was three nights, as expected.  Unfortunately the hospital has not fully converted to private rooms and they were quite full the first night so I ended up with a roommate.  Bernice was around 80 years old and had a hard time hearing.  As a consequence of that she and her husband shouted at each other, the nurses talked extra loud to her, and we watched the Nightly News with Tom Brokaw at volume 40.  Go ahead and put your tv on volume 40 if you want to get an idea of what it was like.  At one point after we had both turned out the light the first night, Bernice started shouting that she was getting out of bed.  Well, as I said, she was around 80 -- and on top of that she was in the hospital for a knee replacement!  Needless to say, I yelled back to her to stay in bed and immediately called for the nurse.  She seemed like a sweet lady and she sure kept me occupied that first day! The next morning Bernice went to the nursing home and I really dreaded getting another roommate.  That afternoon the nurse came in and wrote the name "Pam" on the white board, and shortly after they brought in another bed with a gal much younger than Bernice!  Pam had a friend named Renee with her.  Over the next couple of hours we got to know Renee while Pam slept.  She told us that Pam had a tumor(thankfully benign!!) removed.  I just remember feeling so bad for her as she was on a morphine pump and really out of it.  A short time later a private room opened up and the nurses came to get Pam to move her.  This time I was sorry to see my roommate go!  Although we saw Renee off and on the rest of my hospital stay, we didn't get to talk to Pam much.  When we left the hospital I felt a little sad knowing that we might never see those girls again.  Ranee lived out of town and I wasn't even sure I would recognize Pam again since she had been in bed most of the time I saw her.  Little did I know how wrong I was...

On Sunday Mike was able to take me home.  I was really tired, but otherwise I was feeling pretty good.  I was so fortunate to have little pain.  The gas pains I had after my kidney surgery never came this time. For that I was so thankful!  My biggest battle was nausea.  I dealt with that in the hospital when they tried to give my narcotics.  I decided to stop the narcotics, but the nausea persisted.  Luckily they gave me meds for it and within a couple of days it was gone.

On the Tuesday after surgery I was supposed to get my pathology results.  All of my tissues had been sent to be examined to look for any cancer cells that might have spread past my cervix.  If that was the case I would need to look at further treatment.  I didn't get a phone call on Tuesday and went all day Wednesday without hearing anything.  Finally at about 8:30 p.m. Wednesday night Dr. Larson called me.  He said that pathology had been going over everything "with a fine tooth comb", but they could find absolutely no evidence that the cancer had spread.  Praise the Lord!!  My treatment was officially over.  

The next couple of weeks were spent mostly resting and trying to recover my strength and appetite.   I was feeling pretty good and starting to get out to my boys' games and a few other activities.  But then just 2.5 weeks after surgery I started having very sharp pains in my right lower side/abdomen.  They would shoot around to the back.  It was a Sunday and as the day and evening wore on they got worse.  I went to bed with heat and took Tylenol and just prayed it would go away.  I was up off and on all night.  On Monday I called my doctor's office.  Unfortunately Dr. Larson wasn't in, but his colleague Dr. Johnson agreed to see me.  After a few tests Dr. Johnson felt it was probably a strained abdominal muscle.  I was already scheduled to see Dr. Larson for my check up the next day.  When he saw me he was less convinced of a muscle issue and grew concerned about my sole kidney.  He arranged to get an ultrasound done that Thursday.  The good news was that my kidney looked great.  The bad news was that I had a hemorrhagic ovarian cyst that had ruptured and spilled blood into my abdomen.  That explained the pain.  There is a chance I will have these again in the future, but Dr. Larson is hopeful they will not be as painful and will eventually go away.

Last week Mike and I were eating at El Mezcal when a familiar face walked in -- it was Renee!!  And I was pretty sure the girl with her was Pam.  I insisted we go over and talk to them -- it was a great reunion!  Pam looked great, although she said her healing was going slowly.  It's amazing how a simple hospital stay can create a bond between people!

Yesterday Mike and I went to Marshfield for my last post-op visit.  Dr. Larson was very pleased with my healing.  He plans to see me every six months for the next two years.  I am fortunate that the chances of my cancer recurring anywhere else is very low.  There is a 92% chance that I will be just fine.  I like those odds! But the best part of the day -- we walked out into the waiting room and there was Pam!  Now I count her as my friend :)

As I look back on this whole experience it's almost surreal that it even happened.  Because I didn't have to go through the months of chemo/radiation that so many cancer patients do I sometimes feel like I didn't even have cancer.  But the word is real -- and it's scary.  I am just so thankful that it was caught early and could be dealt with swiftly.  Let me get my public service announcement in for the ladies -- please be sure you have your Pap smears done!  October was Breast Cancer Month and although mammograms are also extremely important, I hope the other cancer screenings won't be neglected.

I don't know that I can ever thank everyone enough for all of the cards, text messages, phone calls, visits, gifts, meals, and most of all prayers.  It's so humbling to know that you all took the time to care!

As most of you know, my blog started 3.5 years ago as a kidney donor blog.  I am a huge proponent of organ, tissue, and blood donation.  Since my kidney donation I believe it is my mission in life to bring awareness to the incredible need for these donations.  This was a little bumpin the road, but it's time to get back to the original plan.  Last week I had lunch with Sara, her daughter Ashlyn, and Sara's cousin Kathy.  We are already planning our next project!  Stay tuned for what you can do to have fun while promoting organ donation!

1 comment:

  1. Wow, Jill this is an amazing story. You might be interested in a charity I just helped co-found. The American Living Organ Donor Fund, is, as far as I know, the first charity to focus exclusively on advocating for living organ donors of all types. To learn more, please see

    Sigrid Fry-Revere
    TEDMED speaker, 2014
    Co-founder, American Living Organ Donor Fund
    CEO, Stop Organ Trafficking Now!
    President, Center for Ethical Solutions and CES project manager SOS (Solving the Organ Shortage) project