Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Elephant In The Room

I guess sooner or later I have to blog about my cancer update, so I might as well make it sooner.

As I mentioned in the 411 post, I had my one year post chemotherapy scans in April. A scary prospect (actually I was very nervous) but everything was fine. Dr. A is off to research sickle cell anemia for the next four years so Dr. B will oversee my case with help from Andrea, my nurse practitioner. As Dr. A said, I am basically on autopilot.

The first port removal surgery was scheduled for May. I was considering a 25 mile ride three days after they scheduled it, so cancelled it. Janeen (in charge of scheduling for Dr. W - my surgeon) scheduled the next one for the end of June. Three days before I left for Montana and my whitewater kayaking trip with First Descents. For awhile I thought I could pull that one off, but in the end, I didn't want to be the girl at camp who just had surgery. So I cancelled it again. I knew July was shot so I told Janeen I would call her back when I could find a couple of good days.

My next scan was in July, two days after I returned from Montana. To my great disappointment, Dr. A did not graduate me to scans every six months and instead requested that I stay on a three month schedule for my entire second year of remission. It’s more annoying than anything else. Every three months, I am reminded that I had cancer. And then I get three trips to the hospital to make sure I remember (one for blood work, one for the scan, and one for the post-scan follow-up).

I had my scan and then three days later went back to Farmington to see Andrea for my results. I was pretty confident that the scans were clean and didn't call the day afterwards for the results this time. The stress does start to diminish! And although my scan gave us nothing to talk about, my visit with Andrea was extremely informative.

Andrea was very surprised that I was still being scanned every three months. I said, "Maybe it’s because I was Stage IV and Dr. A is more worried about me relapsing." Andrea said, "You were only Stage III, didn't they tell you?" Wait a minute, back up! Apparently when Dr. K at Hartford Hospital messed up on the bone marrow biopsy and told me I was Stage IV and then Farmington fixed biopsy results, no one told me that I was really Stage III. They were probably more worried about getting rid of my cancer then telling me what stage I was. Now, I had all of the staging information and could have figured that out myself when I knew it was in my bone marrow but never did. Honestly when Andrea told me that I was only Stage III I was elated and felt like ten years had been taken off my life. I don't know why it was such an incredible weight off of my shoulders but I wish I had an appointment with Andrea two years ago where we had nothing better to talk about than recapping the past!

Andrea also said that I could go back to work the day after my port removal. "Piece of cake, get it out."

So I did.

The surgery was August 24th. I got a morning surgery this time. No more ten hour marathons in the pre-op room. My nurse arrived and my friend (and nurse from the port insertion surgery) had told her to take good care of me. My anesthesia resident arrived; she used to live on my road. Then my surgical resident arrived, we showed horses together in 4-H as teenagers! It was great to have Jill there, I had not seen her in years but a familiar face in surgery is very comforting! Then Dr. W (my surgeon) arrived and explained the procedure. Piece of cake. My anesthesia doctor arrived and a good friend of hers has Hodgkins right now so she was very glad to see that there is light at the end of the tunnel. My anesthesia resident came back and I was surrounded by six people, her comment was, "you are the most popular patient in surgery"

They did not actually put me all the way under during surgery. I heard them talking, I felt pressure as they stitched me up and at one point when they were talking about me bleeding I opened my eyes and tried to look. All I saw was the blue cloth they had over my head. But I did ask Jill about the bleeding later on. It was just around my stitches, nothing to worry about. I was coherent enough to move myself off of the operating table and after half an hour in recovery walked out of the hospital. And I did go back to work and milk cows the next day. Jill told me to take three days off but Andrea said I could go back to work the next day. In hindsight, I should have taken Jill's advice! Jill also gave me a prescription for a pain killer but I never had it filled because she said if I used it, not to drive a car. I tried Tylenol but discovered that Advil is much more affective for serious pain.

And that’s it, one of the most boring cancer updates of my life and I love it! My next scan is in October and I also meet with Dr. B after that scan. Andrea said that I could ask him about the every three month scan and that he might graduate me to every six months. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that he does.

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