(This is a continuation of the story about coming to term with my miscarriages and my brush with cancer.)
After the results of my Pap smear came back as “abnormal,” my doctor did minor procedures known as a colposcopy and an endocervical curettage – where the doctor takes a tissue sample from the cervix and the endocervical canal (between the cervix and uterus) to check for pre-cancer or cancer cells. During a colposcopy, the doctor will spray the cervix with a vinegar solution which turns the abnormal cells white. At my colposcopy appointment, when the doctor sprayed my cervix, he told me that at least half of my cervix was affected and that he was taking samples from several areas. A week or so after the biopsies, I received another dreaded phone call. The results of the colposcopy had come back and the doctor was referring me to a gynecological oncologist.
At my appointment with the gynecological oncologist, the doctor told me that my test results showed that at least 2/3 of my cervix had level 3 precancerous cells, the last stage before full blown cancer. I was rather numb after hearing the dreaded “C” word so what I remember is kind of sketchy. I was given a couple of options to remove the cancer cells. The first option was a procedure where the doctor numbs the cervix and uses a laser to burn off the affected cells. The next option is called cryotherapy, which freezes the abnormal cell. Since my cervix was 2/3 affected, these procedures would probably have to be done more than once to get all of the cells, so this was not the best option. The other option was a hysterectomy to remove the cervix, endocervical canal, and the uterus.
While I was heartbroken over the thought of not being able to have children, especially since I was hoping to have children with my new boyfriend, I had known that I would probably have to have a hysterectomy since I was 16 years old when I started having a lot of female trouble. My mother was with me at the appointment and after a brief conversation, I decided that the hysterectomy was the only option. Given the amount of pain I was in, the doctor scheduled me for the first opening in his surgery schedule, November 21, 2011.
The hysterectomy was done as a robotic laparoscopy, where 5 small incisions are made on the stomach. The healing time is a lot faster than the old fashioned hysterectomy where the woman was cut across the stomach. I had a total hysterectomy, which removes the uterus, cervix and endocervical canal. (A partial hysterectomy removes just the uterus and a radical hysterectomy removes the vagina, uterus, cervix and endocervical canal.) The doctor also removed my left ovary and fallopian tube, which had a lot of scar tissue from the large cyst that was removed when I was 16 years old. The ovary and fallopian tube had a few small cysts when the doctor removed them. My right ovary looked normal so the doctor left it in hopes that it would produce enough hormones that I would not have to be on hormone replacements. The tissue removed was sent off for testing. While I was given pain medicine to keep from getting too sore, I really wasn’t in as much pain as I was with the miscarriages. The evening after the surgery, I was up and walking the halls of the hospital. I was eager to get home to my boyfriend, my cats, and my bed. The next morning I was able to go home but was told to take it really easy for several days and to wait 6 to 8 weeks before having intercourse. Taking it easy is something I am really good at so there wasn’t much concern about me over doing it right away. After a couple days, I was feeling so much better that my boyfriend had to keep reminding me to take it easy.
At my check up with the doctor, he told me about the test results from the tissue samples. The pre-cancerous/cancer cells had spread to the endocervical canal and the uterus, as well as most of the cervix. (Hmmm … could this be why I was in so much pain for over 2 years?) The doctor also told me that he had never seen anything like my left ovary. On top of scar tissue and cysts, the ovary had calcified. (Another reason for the pain I was in?) The test on the ovary tissue came back as non-cancerous. The doctor didn’t really tell me anything else other than he was able to remove all of the pre-cancerous/cancer cells and I would be able to return to my normal daily activities after the incisions on my stomach had completely healed.
It took a while for my stomach incisions to heal due to some minor infection. Physically, I healed completely … emotionally, I am still struggling. My one remaining ovary decides to work at random times, which keeps my hormones unbalanced. I have had issues with depression for most of my life and the fluctuating hormone level has a very negative effect on my emotional state. Coming to terms with not being able to have children really hits me hard at times. I still have dreams of holding and nursing a healthy baby, of playing with a little girl with strawberry blonde curls and bright green eyes, of rocking a little boy to sleep. Being around people with children, especially babies, is almost too much for me to handle most of the time. I honestly think the pain is worse now than it was right after my surgery. I have pretty much isolated myself away from friends and family members who have children in an effort to save myself some pain. People who do not know about my surgery will ask when my boyfriend and I are going to have children … it absolutely breaks my heart when I have to tell them that I can’t have children. I question whether or not I should break up with my boyfriend. It is really not fair to him to never have children just because I am not able to. Is he staying with me because he feels sorry for me? I feel like I should be alone so that it is not a burden to anyone else.
As the depression gets worse, so do the suicidal thoughts. It is a daily battle – sometimes hourly battle – to not hurt myself. I am already seeing a counselor once a week but I can’t tell that it is getting any better. I don’t have the money to get back on the depression and anxiety medicine. I have even considered checking myself into a hospital to get help but I am not able to do that and keep my newspaper route, which is our only source of income at this point. My only outlet for my emotions is my writing. By telling my story, I hope to help other people who are going through similar problems.