So three weeks went by and I finally got in to see my oncologist. I was expecting the worst, and brought my sister with me for support, and we sat in the waiting room for over an hour as it turns out they are kind of busy in that office. Why is the last hour of waiting always the hardest?
We were brought back into the exam room and a nurse practitioner met with us. I was trying my best to be calm, and brace for all the bad things I was about to hear. She simply asked, “So what have they told you so far?”.
I was kind of thrown off, I didn’t expect that kind of a start. I explained about what I had heard from my doctor and she listened to me with a sympathetic look on her face. She made a couple of notes, and nodded along, and eventually left the room to get the doctor. I started to feel a little calmer now, not entirely sure why.
The doctor came in shortly after and introduced himself, and proceeded to go over the results he had from my doctor. He was going to do an exam that day but nothing too intensive, as I had already had that colposcopy. (So glad I didn’t need another one of those!) He told me that technically my condition was still considered PRE-cancer. I actually asked him to repeat that. Pre-cancer?? It might be okay???!
Since they cannot do the extensive testing to find out more, he was going to treat me as being in the beginning stages. He did not recommend waiting to treat until after the baby was born, however, as there was a high concentration of cells on my cervix. It seemed riskier to wait to treat and let the cancer possible advance more while we waited. He advised that he wanted to do a cervical cone procedure, and he wanted to do it now, before the pregnancy got further along and the risk to the baby would have been greater. A cervical cone is a minor surgery where they remove a cone-shaped portion of your cervix, and can be done as an outpatient procedure. It can remove the bad cells, and at the very least, it will give them a very clear picture of your cancer diagnosis and allow them to come up with a more accurate plan to treat you. I asked a few questions, most importantly would this harm the baby? He said that the risk was much higher years ago, and through recent advancements the risk is now minimal. The main risk to the baby would be the anesthesia, and that they would have to monitor both me and the baby very closely. He said the optimal time for the surgery is 14 weeks, and I was just about there, so there was little time to waste. The office would be scheduling my surgery for October 2nd, a friday morning, at Banner Gateway hospital in Mesa.
I felt like crying. We had a plan. He didn’t seem pessimistic about my cancer. This could possibly remove it all! And if not, this will tell us how to proceed from here and we won’t be guessing or speculating. I didn’t have to carry this on my shoulders anymore, these people are pros and they know what to do. It’s going to be okay. I’ll be able to keep the baby and we were going to be fine, I knew it.
Now to deal with surgery, ughhh. I’ve never had it, aside from getting my wisdom teeth removed in 2000. And that was a bit of a disaster, honestly. Surgery is one of my top fears, but somehow I felt okay to face it. I had the baby to worry about, it wasn’t about me anymore. Just do it, get through and it will all be worth it.
About two weeks later was the big day. Kane and I drove to the hospital and checked in, and we were both nervous. They took us back to the outpatient area, and a family was in the waiting room loudly crying and holding each other. Gulp. I tried to just focus on the task at hand, sign the paperwork, change into the gown, get the IV in my hand, wait for them to wheel me in.
My husband kissed me for good luck and held onto my wedding rings, and they brought me into the operating room. They started the flow of anesthesia and asked me about my most recent vacation.
“You don’t care about my vacation, haha…” I muttered as I drifted off.
Next thing I knew I woke up in recovery, and heard nurses rushing around me, saying, “I can’t get a heartbeat…” as they prodded my stomach with a doppler. They started talking to me and I almost immediately threw up from anesthesia. The nurse held a bed pan for me as I got sick, a fact made worse by them pushing the doppler harder and harder into my lower stomach, but luckily they did find the baby’s heartbeat and it was okay. I got sick again a couple more times (hey, I have a sensitive stomach), but once I was able to stop they wheeled me out into another recovery area where my husband was waiting.
We sat for a while until I woke up more, and after helping me get dressed Kane drove me home.
I was so relieved. It was over! The next few days were filled with me being sick to my stomach though, and I had a hard time keeping down food and water. I chalk that up to being in the early stages of pregnancy and getting sick when you are too hungry, but then being too sore and still sick from the surgery to keep food down. Kind of rough, but honestly the surgery pain wasn’t as terrible as I expected. Throwing up probably made it hurt worse than it would have, really.
About three weeks later I was driving home from work in rush hour traffic when my phone rang. It was the oncologist’s office with my results. I took a deep breath and prepared myself for whatever she was about to say.
“Hello Patricia, I just wanted to let you know that your results came back from your procedure, and your margins are clean.”
What the hell does that mean?
“That means the edges of the tissue we removed were negative for cancer.”
Does that mean the surgery got it all? Is the cancer gone?
“Yes, it appears that the procedure removed all the cancer cells.”
AHHHHHHH!!!! That was it? I was ok?? I could barely believe it! She advised that my doctor would go over the details with me when I had my follow up with him the next week, where I did actually find out my cancer was more advanced than they thought, and it was a very good thing we acted when we did.
But it’s over. Now I can just focus on growing a healthy baby, and the whole thing is no longer covered in scary dark clouds anymore. The future is extremely bright, no matter what happens. I am just so grateful that I found out all of this when I did, and I truly believe that this baby girl who is currently kicking around in my belly has saved my life. I never would have known I had cancer if it weren’t for the pregnancy. I am beyond thankful for the way everything worked out, and to my doctors and nurses, and to my family who supported me and most of all, to my husband. He was there for me and was so patient and loving and supportive through all of this nightmare, and now through all of the weird mood swings and cravings and aches and pains of a regular pregnancy.
So the point of all of this is, do NOT put off your yearly pap, just because it’s a little bit unpleasant. Take care of yourself and remember that no matter what drama you might be dealing with, your health should still take priority. And if you and your loved ones are lucky enough to be healthy, be thankful.