In and out, disappearing and reappearing. I do that, from time to time. I’m attempting to get a decent buffer here so that I can write steadily, produce steadily, and yet if I have to take a day or three to handle life’s little explosions, you’ll get content enough to choke a horse.
Here’s the long and short of it:
About a year ago, (a little under, to be precise) I had an atypical pap smear. No big. Happens to 99% of women at LEAST once. Anything from an infection to a tampon to penetrative intercourse (to name a few things) can cause such a result. The thing is, it’s happened to me repeatedly, so I didn’t bother with a follow-up. My doc bugged me about it, but I ignored her, as I do.
My doc calls me and says “I made an appt for you. You HAVE to go.” Then I was told I had to go back in for a colposcopy — where they don’t just scrape, but cut out a tiny portion of the cervix to more thoroughly examine it. I had two sites showing what they considered ‘dysplasia’ or ‘cellular changes’. Did that — not comfortable, but not the worst thing I’ve ever felt. The doctor wrote out on a scrap sheet of paper all the stages that cervical cells can go through, starting at the top with ‘normal’ running all the way down to the bottom of the page with ‘cancer’. She crossed out ‘cancer’ and said, “That’s off the table. You don’t even need to worry about it.”
I get a phone call while driving my wife and son somewhere. Home Depot, for a school project, I think.
“I feel so terrible,” my doctor is saying. “It’s cancer.”
Cancer? But I’m 35. How the hell can I have cancer? Whatever. I don’t really have a breakdown — in fact, we make fun of it. We make light of it. We throw an ‘It’s Cancer!’ party and invite a couple dozen people. It’s potluck and board games and karaoke, and we all have a great time. It’s not real, because there haven’t been surgeries. There’s no radiation or chemo… I’m not sick. I feel fine.
Aside from a 30-second freakout in a grocery car park wherein I grab my wife out of nowhere and hang on to her like I’m drowning on dry land, gulping for breath like a fish out of water, just before we make a long drive to visit good friends, I’m fantastically upbeat about the whole thing.
Summer — I undergo what’s called a Cold Knife Conization, because I can’t have a LEEP because I have not 1, but 2 types of cancer (…jackpot?) and the cauterization effect of the LEEP can cause cell change in its own right, and make the biopsy hard to interpret.
It’s not a fun procedure, and I’m a little wigged out, but they give me awesome drugs, and then it’s all over. A rather large chunk of my cervix is gone, but hey, it was mutinous anyway, so fuck it.
A week or less later, the GYN-ONCON calls me and says I’m in the clear! They got out all the cancer in just the biopsy. The margins of the portion taken are CLEAR and that means it’s GOOD and GONE and YAY!
I spend a bunch of time eating and drinking and indulging, because if that’s not a good enough excuse to just LIVE, then I don’t know what is.
Somewhere in there, the first OB/GYN calls, the one my primary LNP sent me to, the one who said it couldn’t be cancer then had to tell me it was. “Get a second opinion,” she says. “Please. There’s no way it’s all gone.”
I don’t want to listen to her, but I get a recommendation for a second GYN-ONCON and we head down to meet her, bringing along the slides of what had been taken out of me a some weeks before.
My blood pressure is taken, a urine sample, blood work, all kinds of stuff. It’s still all very abstract. And then someone asks me “How do you feel about a hysterectomy?”
“I don’t care if you make it into a purse,” I say. “I’m not using the damned thing.” Turns out it’s a good thing I got a second opinion. Remember how I had 2 kinds of cancer? The first kind sticks together. If you scoop all of it out that you can see, you’ve gotten it. The second kind is trickier. Even if you get all of it that you can see, it may have buried itself well below the surface, without a trail down to where it’s hiding. You might not see it, but you could still have it!
Phone calls and planning, check ups, pre-op, and a little more fear this time, because it would be nice for this to just be OVER really, instead of be a great big rollercoaster.
October 22, 2013, they remove my uterus vaginally, via a laparoscopic procedure. I forget to ask the surgeon to snap a smartfone pic of my innards, though she’d promised to do so if I could remember to ask. It’s probably (hopefully) the only time it’ll ever happen, but I suppose that’s okay. The DaVinci robot was awesome-looking, and I mean it literally. I was filled with a sense of fear and awe, looking at it, this giant mecha-spider that would be piercing me in five different places.
The stay was hard, because they had me without food from Monday early morning until Wednesday morning, due to diet restrictions. They wouldn’t let my wife stay in the room with me. They injected me with Benadryl, thinking I was having an allergic reaction to something, and it made me unfathomably sleepy until about 11pm when my wife had to leave to check in to the suites they have right near the hotel, for family. I had a lot of pain, but I also had a lot of drugs. I don’t remember anything concrete about the next week or so.
I get a phone call from my GYN-ONCON, who tells me the surgery was a good call — I had more cancer brewing in me. I had cells changing into that second kind of cancer, and it was further inside the cervix. Could they have found it later, with another smear? Yep. Could they have missed it. Yep. What’s that all mean, then? Well, without a cervix, uterus, or fallopian tubes, I could still get ovarian, though it’s quite unlikely (did you know, most ovarian cancer begins as fallopian cancer?) and vulvar cancer is still a possibility. Cancer’s just a bitch like that. I can’t cervical or uterine cancer though, so that’s good, at least.
I finally go back to work, but I’m still exhausted for weeks.
Holidays! Everyone loves holidays. So food. Much family. Very presents, to quote the latest, as it were. Happy New Year!
Last Sunday, Groundhog day? I broke my goddamned foot. Proximal third of the 5th metatarsal on the right foot. Broke the same place on the left foot a couple years ago. Dumb luck and clumsy ass. It is called a ‘Jones fracture’. Ugh.
I am well, dear readers. I really am. I’ll take a broken foot over cancer any day. I’ve had a second round of XRays and the orthopedic surgeon says he already sees signs of healing (probably fracture callus formation and/or hyaline cartilage formation) which is very good, because this particular site of the human body can decide (due to very poor blood flow) to just NOT heal, which could require surgical pin placement, or ultrasonic bone growth stimulation (which sounds like playing heavy metal at my foot until it Wolverines) and SO…
I have a peg leg, in the mean time, which is awesome, and helps me get around. I have a son I can make fetch and carry things. I have a wife who is trying very hard not to yell at me when I attempt stupid things around the house, because by god, I apparently want to break all the REST of my bones. I have a job, and friends, and a warm house and a million other blessings. And a broken foot. Now all I have to do is wait.
Apparently, I appear to be out of ‘Fast Forward’s.
Jesus Christ, you clumsy cancer-ridden mess, I’m glad you’re better. That is a harrowing story and I’m amazed that you can tell it so matter-of-fact and with some humour, but I expect nothing less. Be well, Jones – I sincerely mean that. My regards to you, your wife, your family, all, I’m sure it hasn’t been a great turn. And I apologize for selfishly bugging you for writing, I know nothing about your life – but I’m glad you’re okay. Now fucking write me something.