THE CERVICAL CANCER DIARIES: The Surgery

With this surgery, apparently you have lots of crazy gross things happen as you’re healing, like gross black chunks from the cauterization coming out, and I can’t use tampons or have sex until I am examined and cleared.

Mar 15, 2012 at 9:00am | Leave a comment

I've had two surgeries in the past week, but only one that I was expecting.  My planned cervical surgery was supposed to happen more than a week ago, but my doctor got really sick and it was canceled the night before. I was upset and had a mini meltdown.

Luckily, it was rescheduled for the following week, and it was done on Tuesday the 13th. It’s fine that the surgeon got sick, it was just crappy timing and it meant more waiting for me, and the idea of waiting longer sort of killed me a little bit.   

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 I went through the day when surgery was supposed to be in a Clerks "I'm not even supposed to be here" type of haze, and was depressed at the idea of waiting longer, and spent the evening binging on Chinese takeout with our housemate Colleen, something I wouldn’t typically do if I felt okay. I was eating really healthily and juicing, but delayed surgery bummed me out.

My dogs got into a scuffle last Tuesday, and I spent a good chunk of that evening in the emergency room because I stupidly stuck my hand in between them. Ruby tried to bite Indy and ended up latching onto my hand really hard instead. As in, I had my dachshund dangling off my hand.

You wouldn’t believe the number of people at the hospital who assumed I put her down after this. Who would do that?!

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I saw the hand surgeon a few days after, and she deemed my hand surgery-worthy, as it was showing signs of infection and was red, hot to the touch, and swelling. It started clearing up a bit by the time I went in to the hospital on Friday the 9th, but my surgeon still wanted to clean out my joints, so I had surgery as planned. 

Ruby seemed to think I needed a distraction from scary cervical surgery, so she latched on to my hand to make sure I had a practice surgery under my belt.
 
Anyway, back to my cervix! 

I had my cold knife cone biopsy surgery and it was fine. I got to the hospital a bit early, and there’s always a lot of waiting before any type of surgery. That’s really the hard part, because you end up lounging in a sexy gown and hospital slipper socks for a long while before they hook up your IV and about 10 people come in and ask you the same questions over and over. 

At least there was a TV, and my husband and I got to hang out together and watch some Fresh Prince of Bel Air. I finally got my IV in, which was pretty painless after the numbing shot I was given, and I went in right as the scheduled time. I wasn’t put under general anesthesia for the surgery, but was given a shot of something in my IV that made me woozy, and I remember shifting on to the operating table and laying my arms down, and then taking deep breaths and that was it.

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I woke up in recovery cold, but not in pain. I was ready to go home after about an hour. I instantly felt really relieved  knowing the surgery done and over with, and that chunk of my cervix was heading to pathology. The weirdest thing was that they had me in mesh undies with a giant pad in them. I am not sure why they use those underpants?

With this surgery, apparently you have lots of crazy gross things happen as you’re healing,, like I’ll end up with gross black chunks from the cauterization coming out, and I can’t use tampons or have sex until I am examined and cleared. I can’t lift anything heavier than five pounds for a while, which will be a challenge because I have a 17-pound dog who can’t go up the stairs or jump on the bed.

If I feel any sort of pain, it feels sort of like cramps in a lower spot than where cramping normally is, along with lower back pain. I haven’t really let it go beyond a slight level of discomfort.
 
 Apparently if you don’t look like a drug abuser and have some issues like a dachshund hanging off your hand or are having surgery on your cervix, you’ll get various prescriptions for a total of 75 tablets of Percocet. I’m not even joking. Why would I ever need that many? I’m taking like three or four a day at max if I have a lot of pain.

Also, I am having a hard time keeping track with my antibiotics, birth control, Percocet, Ibuprofen, vitamins and dulcolax. I can totally see why old people use those pill packs to keep things in order!

 The hard part now is waiting to find out if they got all the questionable cells with this surgery or what the next steps are if the margins aren’t clear. I should be able to call in and get that information over the phone from the surgeon’s office in about a week, and we’re scheduled to talk about it when I go in for a check-up in a few weeks. My doctor seemed more optimistic than when I saw him for the initial appointment, but maybe it’s his way of trying to keep me calm while I wait for my results.
 
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I am definitely blessed by having amazing friends and family. My father-in-law, John, took care of me after my hand surgery, and my mother in law, Connie, picked me up after my cervical surgery.  She also stocked my fridge with things I like for after surgery, like grape leaves and cooked salmon and macaroons from Whole Foods. I also got a pretty bouquet from my sister, and our neighbor Kate dropped off delicious lentil soup and biscuits that lasted a few days, which was sweet.
 
I would highly recommend Mount AuburnHospital if you’re in the Boston area and need any type of surgery, or if you need a primary care doctor, look for one connected with Mount Auburn. My hand surgery was at Somerville Hospital, because my primary care doctor is connected to the Cambridge Health Alliance, which was less nice. My care at Somerville Hospital was fine, the hospital is very dated and you feel like you’re in a time warp. Either way, my care was adequate and my hand is healing fine.

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 If this whole process has taught me anything, it's surrendering control and going with the flow.  That is so not my strength. I'm an office manager with a retail and coffee shop background; I plan things obsessively and like structure. When you suddenly have health issues (plural), you have no other option but to just roll with it. I feel more at ease knowing the doctors now have what they need to figure out what the next steps are, be it monitoring me every few months with colposcopies or more surgery

Until then, I wait.