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Another Hurdle

I’m not at a good place this week. I admit it. I wasn’t even going to write this post, but I changed my mind and decided why hold back now?

I feel like I am sitting poolside, but the pool I am sitting by this time is the one called the pool of self-pity. One little nudge and I’d fall completely in.

The other evening I even had another one of “those meltdowns.” My poor husband wondered out loud, “What is wrong with you?” I had to explain to him I was simply processing again. Like so many times before…  

This latest round of processing has not been smooth sailing for me us. “I had no idea you felt this way,” he acknowledged. (Another reminder, our loved ones are not mind readers!)

Later this week it’s time for another big moment on this bad road trip (I will not call it a journey this week) I’ve been on for about a year now. It’s time for yes, more surgery. It’s time for my bilateral salpingo oophorectomy and total laparoscopic hysterectomy. It’s quite a mouthful to even say. But there, I said typed it. Besides being a place for me to safely share and vent, my blog’s purpose is also to inform, so here are Mayo Clinic’s links to the explanation of these terms if you are interested in learning about something you probably don’t really want to learn about.

This particular surgery will be of the “assembly line” variety. My doctors call it tag surgery, which really just means more than one surgeon is doing stuff. I kinda like my assembly line description better. After surgeon number one finishes up, surgeon number two will be stepping in to complete a few finishing touches on my reconstruction project. Many of you know exactly what this means. If you don’t, trust me, it’s probably better that way.

The fun just never ends.

I have consulted five doctors about this particular hurdle. I even put my plastic surgeon on the spot and forced him to throw in his two cents worth, although he did half- jokingly say, “Don’t quote me on this one, it’s not my area of expertise! He’s always such a wise guy. He did agree with the rest of them. Considering my cancer and my BRCA 2 status, they all concurred; this is what I need to do.

So why has coming to terms with this particular surgery been so difficult?

Wouldn’t you think surgery impacting your inner organs would be less traumatic than, say a bilateral mastectomy?

I have found this to not be the case. Deciding on my bilateral was “easy.” There was a tumor there after all. It had to go. I was BRCA positive so the breasts “had to go” as well. Once I knew I was parting with one it was relatively “easy” to say goodbye to breast number two.

Preparing for this surgery seems harder in some ways. These organs are coming out only because they represent potential trouble. They might be too receptive to new cancer cell growth sometime in the future. The key word here is might. They might be troublemakers sometime down the road.

Right now these organs are fine. I think this makes saying goodbye to them a whole lot harder. I have a whole new respect now for all those women choosing prophylactic mastectomies and oophorectomies.

Perhaps another reason accepting this surgery is harder is because these organs represent fertility and femininity and even though I’m done with the fertility part, my mind isn’t? After all, the mind is a powerful force to be reckoned with.

Or is it because it feels a bit like tempting fate? If something’s not wrong, don’t mess with it kind of thinking?

Or is it really hard because I’m facing the anniversary of my diagnosis in a couple of weeks? There are many heavily weighted dates looming ahead. Did I plan poorly? Should I have waited a while longer? (My oncologist and husband don’t believe in waiting here, that’s tempting fate of another kind they say…)

Is there a better time? And when might that be?

I’m not sure, but I don’t think there is. So…

I guess this is just another one of those things I must do. I must listen to my medical team and my family. I must put my trust in them; I don’t want regrets later. I want to get on with life and put this, too, behind me.

It’s just one more hurdle.

Still, I can’t help asking, “How much does cancer have to take from me? How many body parts must I give up?” How many hurdles do I have to make it over?

Of course, questions like these lead me right back to my little self-pity party. I don’t like this party much, so I’ll try not to stay long…

Time to get on with more hurdle jumping!

Have you (or has someone you know) had an oophorectomy or hysterectomy?

What was one of your life’s latest hurdles?

 

 

67 thoughts to “Another Hurdle”

  1. Oh Nancy, yes, this is a tough time. I’ve had one friend go through this, several with the bilateral mastectomy and two who had hysterectomies. (And as I type that I’m thinking, Wow! WTH???) It’s never easy, but all of those friends of mine are doing well. I’ll keep you in my thoughts and wish the best for you.
    Teresa

  2. Nancy,

    I know this is such a difficult time for you, and you are entitled to a pity party or two. It’s so hard emotionally to have these kinds of surgeries. It’s completely normal to grieve what cancer has taken from you. You are completely normal in your feelings.

    Going through cancer is really tough. It’s the processing, though, that is really, really tough. I’ve been through it myself.

    I had a prophylactic double mastectomy. It turns out my left breast was filled with precancerous cells. This was something my doctors and I didn’t know beforehand.

    I did the right thing, and you are doing the right thing.

    Surgery stinks and facing such serious medical things like cancer also stinks. It’s going to take you awhile to process all that’s happened to you over the last year.

    I’m still processing it, 10 years out. You never “get over it,” but you go on with life and try to cope the best you can.

    You’ll be fine. Just hang in there and do allow yourself to grieve.

    1. Beth, Thanks for your encouraging words, Beth. It’s funny how each major hurdle has to be processed isn’t it? I like hearing you think I’m doing the right thing. I sure hope so.

  3. I hope that you find a way to come to terms with this new surgery. Although it is hard to say good-bye to that feminine potential, you are making a decision that could save your life. I lost my best friend about a year ago to ovarian cancer. We met because we had both been through breast cancer. Because of family history, she was tested and found to be BRAC negative. But she was told and we both read, that there are still so many genetic markers that have not been explored. Good luck with the surgeries.

    1. Elaine, Thanks for your comments and I’m sorry about your friend. I agree, there are still many genetic markers still undiscovered… You’re right, I am making this decision only because it could be saving my life. Thanks for reminding me of that.

  4. Nancy, I’m so sorry. The fun just never freaking ends. I find that there is a fine line between acknowledging your negative feelings and getting lost in them. I think it’s really important to acknowledge them because they don’t just go away because we ignore them. And yes, I often worry that I have dipped into the land of Why Me? I think it’s ok to to take a dip in the pool, Nancy. Just get out before your skin gets all puckered.

    This line was like a punch in the gut to me. And I mean that in a good way.

    “How much does cancer have to take from me?”

    xoxo,
    Katie

    1. Katie, Thanks for your comments. You have such a way with words! I agree we need to acknowledge our feelings and I also decided to share mine which was a bit scary, but… I laughed when I read, “just get out before your skin gets all puckered.” I will try to do that! And, I think we have all given cancer quite enough!

  5. I had a hysterectomy – and not by choice – lots of fibroids and some had died off creating a huge infection. I think it is normal to be down when faced with more surgery and never ending road of cancer – ‘but wait there’s more’. I am at a life time total of surgery number 8 and probably going to have surgery number 9 in the near future for a knee injury. I feel I am as healthy as a horse headed for the glue factory.

    For hysterectomy support go to http://www.hystersisters.org – they have a wealth of information and online support boards I found very helpful. Hang in there and take it one day at a time. Good luck!

    1. Caroline, Thanks for sharing about your experience with this stuff. Wow, surgery number 9. You are ahead of me. Thanks for the site info. Somebody else mentioned that one too, so I’ll be sure to check it out. Thanks for your good wishes.

  6. Hmm. Sorry you’re feeling down Nancy, but I think it’s completely understandable. Your comments reminded me of when I had my oophorectomy (seven months after mastectomy)…. I remember thinking *exactly* the same as you ‘How much does cancer have to take from me?’ My surgery, like yours, was prophylactic; all the doctors felt it was the *right* thing to do, given my highly ER+ tumour. But still… yes, I know… sigh… Added to all your anniversaries coming up I’m not surprised you’re having a dip in the pool, but you’ll come out for a cocktail at some point. Hope that’s sooner rather than later… and don’t let you skin go wrinkly!
    Sending good wishes for your surgery. Best, Sarah x

    1. Sarah, Thank you for commenting and for understanding. Yeh, the cocktail idea, good one. Just how wrinkly do think would be too wrinkly?? ha.

  7. I’ve known many women who have undergone an oophorectomy and/or hysterectomy and all seem to go well. Yet that doesn’t mean its fun or easy or something that doesn’t stir up emotions. You’re entitled to every emotion you’re experiencing, and it wouldn’t be healthy if you were to stuff or deny your feelings. So visit the party and revisit it as many times as needed. Just try to stay a short while each time. Pretty soon you’ll be looking for brighter parties to attend! Thinking of you Nancy!

    1. Becky, Thanks for taking time to comment. I know you’re right, so many women do this and come out fine. Still it’s hard to give up more “parts”. Thanks for thinking of me.

  8. Nancy – I’ve done the oophorectomy and had a double mastectomy (Also BRCA2+). The oophorectomy wasn’t hard at all. The mastectomy was pretty easy for me mentally but it was a drain physically, and then I had expanders for 15 months (uncomfortable). Just had the final swap on the expanders in February!

    Thought things were going great and they told me they found brain mets, so that is my latest hurdle and I’m losing my hair for the third time in less than two years.

    Hang in there, indulge in the pity party for a bit then get on, get over this one and rest until another comes your way. At night before we go to sleep my kids and I try to find three good things from that day to think about before bed. Some days it is tough but we find them.

    Peace and healing to you.

    1. Ashley, It means so much to me you took time to comment here considering all you are coping with right now. You are amazing. I think it’s sort of strange how easy the mastectomy decision was, for me anyway. Glad to hear you finally are rid of those darn expanders. Ugh. You sound like one amazing mother there, I love your bedtime idea. I have been thinking about you and will continue to hope for all positive outcomes for you. Thanks again for sharing and good luck. Peace and healing to you as well.

  9. Oh Nancy, I know just how you feel. I too, am BRAC positive and had my ovaries yanked just two weeks after my double mastectomy. (if you want to read the experience it’s page 83 of my blog). You are definitely allowed some self pity. And if I was anywhere nearby, I would come over and we could have a good cry together.

    I know it seems like the ordeal is long and hard. It’s mentally taxing as well as physical. I’m glad your hubby is supportive, this can be a time for you to grow together as a couple. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. Keep your eyes fixed on the light.

    I will be praying that all goes well.

    Dianne Duffy

    1. Dianne, Thank you for sharing about your experience and for understanding; yanking your ovaries, that sounds harsh! ha. I will try to stay fixed on that light! What is your blog address? I was trying to get there, but I must be doing something wrong??

  10. I know Nancy – it just NEVER ends. I was having a CT scan a couple of weeks ago and the tech very nonchalantly says “So do you have a uterus?”. Firstly I couldn’t believe how run-of-the-mill her tone was in asking me this like it was nothing, but then I had to really think about the answer. Turns out I do, but that’s about it. Not really sure why I’m hanging onto it, but for some reason when they wanted to take it out, I just couldn’t go through with it. I felt like “they” had their “pound of flesh” when I gave up my breasts and ovaries. The whole process is just devastating, physically and emotionally, but I can offer the same mantra that I always tell myself….”You’ll ge t though this”. I know words can’t make things any easier at this point, but I would rather term your “pity party” a natural part of grief. Grief over loss. This loss and all the others. So cry it out my friend, but do remember that you are not alone. We’ll be here for you.

    1. Anna, Thank you for coming by and commenting about this. I can’t believe someone asked you about your uterus in such a cavalier tone. I totally understand about why you wanted to hang on to yours. These are our body parts after all, and it is a big deal parting with them, even the “flawed” parts. And thanks for being here. Everyone’s support means a lot, even more than I would have thought…

  11. Oh, Nancy, I feel for you. I really do, having just gone through some of this. I didn’t remove the uterus, so I can’t speak for that except to say, you’re doing the right thing. I was in the same funk, as my mom used to say, about removing my ovaries last month. So worried about it being the right move, worried about the aftermath, so many questions and you know what I felt most when it was all said and done… relief. Something I was so worried about, all that estrogen, was gone. I even stopped questioning how much cancer was going to take from me. That’s an answer I don’t have.

    Be well, you’ll feel better when it’s over. Hopefully, recovery will be (somewhat) easy. Your online support is thinking of you. Please keep us posted. Get out of the pool.

    1. Stacey, Thanks for commenting on this topic you know about quite well. I remembered your “funk” and went back and reread that post. It does help to realize others have felt the same way. I think I will be feeling that relief when it’s over, at least I hope so. Thanks for your great support, Stacey. I know once again you get it. And I had to laugh at your last sentence…I will try to get out and stay out! And you know I will keep you posted.

    1. Katherine, Thank you for taking time to comment. I appreciate your kind words. And if I didn’t tell you before, it’s worth saying again anyway, I think your blog is great and the title is perfect.

  12. I have done the lathroscopic hysterectomy as a preventive measure. I was surprised how easy it was to recover from. I had everything taken out per my OB/Gyn’s recommendation. Being metastatic, I wanted to increase my chances of living, so I looked at it as a proactive action I could take so I can be around for more years. When I look at that way, I can see that I’m adding, not taking away.

    1. Tami, Thank you for commenting. I’m glad to hear about your “easy” recovery. You look at things the right way; I need to do the same. Thanks. I’ll try to think more like You!

  13. oh, Nancy, my heart is aching for you and so remembering my days before my hysterectomy and oopherectomy. I shed so many tears…I remember writing letters to each of my children and sharing how special each of their births were to me. (This did help me emotionally.) Praying for you!

    1. Kim, Thanks for being so understanding. I’m going to read that blog post you wrote about it again. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and what you did, Kim.

  14. Nancy, every time I read one of your posts I first want to cry for the pain and conflict you are going through, then secondly, I so very much admire your willingness to share your thoughts with others. (That is probably not grammatically correct, but I’m tired!)
    I had to have my uterus removed when I kept doubling up in pain. I had a non-cancerous tumor stretching my uterus. When I woke up, my dr. said, “Sharon I’m so very sorry, but I had to remove your uterus.” I said, “Great! It never worked right anyway!”
    Then a few years later, on Christmas Eve, more pain, so severe that Dale drove me to the hospital right then. Another surgery, and they removed my ovaries. Each time, they told me ‘No cancer!” So I felt very fortunate.
    I can walk by the feminine product aisle in the grocery store and say, “Ha! I don’t need YOU anymore!”
    We adopted two beautiful, wonderful children, and I’ve never looked back. I still have a mammogram every year, and so far, no cancer.
    Thanks, for letting me ‘talk’ about this.

    1. Sharon, Thank you for your kind words. Sometimes I think I might share too much but… My, I didn’t know you had been through all of that. Thanks for sharing those memories… I’m glad you decided to “talk” about it. As you can probably tell, I think talking about this stuff is helpful for oneself and hopefully for others as well.

  15. Totally agree with Katie. The emotions come; we need to let them, it’s a part of healing. I myself am waiting to start chemo after a single mastectomy, and as the date looms nearer, I’m getting more edgy. I wish you good luck and a speedy recovery!

    1. Tuesday22, Thank you for taking time to comment here when you are dealing with “stuff” of your own. I don’t blame you for feeling edgy. Good luck with everything and I’ll keep reading your blog to see how you’re doing.

  16. Nancy, this is a huge thing, and I think you’re entitled to grieve & feel apprehensive. It’s not even just what these organs symbolize. It’s the very real consequences of losing most of the estrogen left in your body, even after menopause. The docs sometimes tend to act as though estrogen is the enemy, when it’s estrogen-positive cancer that’s the enemy. The sore joints, the lost focus, the memory problems, the fatigue, those things are all real.

    Take good care of yourself & get lots of rest. No matter how small the incisions, it’s no small thing for the body to adjust to have internal organs removed. Be careful about lifting & overdoing it. You’ll be okay. And you’ll be around to blog for a long time. And that’s a good thing.

    Many hugs.

    1. Kathi, Hi and thanks for commenting. I appreciate your encouraging words and the advice too. And you’re right, sometimes the real enemy is forgotten here. You’re very wise! Hugs back.

  17. I can so identify with you on this Nancy, and you are right about it being processing. We have to let this work its way through our minds. I also find that there is a huge disconnect between the rational and the emotional side – just because I KNOW something and understand it clearly, does not mean I like it or feel okay about it! We need the pity pool to wash away the fears and help us get through the process of dealing with these massive hurdles, taking care not to get too wrinkled indeed!

    I have just written up a post which chimes quite a bit with yours – it will be on just shortly

    Big warm hugs from across the ponds
    P
    xx

    1. Philippa, I agree with you, processing is really huge, at least for me. I have had to process each new hurdle. And that disconnect you speak of, you are SO right. There is a tug of war of sorts that goes on in the mind. Looking forward to that post. Thanks for your kind message and the “hugs”, Philippa.

  18. Nancy,
    I’m sorry you have to go through this. Wish I could give you a hug. Sometimes we just have to ride that sadness wave until it washes out and allows the happiness tide to come back in. Take care of yourself.

  19. Emotions are all part of this process, ask me, I am an expert at the “instant meltdowns” you have a lot to deal with. Wishing you speedy recovery, take good care of yourself.

  20. Nancy,
    I had my 2nd mastectomy after I learned I was BRCA+, but it didn’t bother me because I was still in a position of power over cancer. I could significantly reduce my risks of cancer in the other breast by being proactive. Fortunately, I had a complete hysterectomy a few years before because of fibroids, so I didn’t have to face that issue like you are. I hope you come to the point where you feel empowered by your choice. It will not change the feminine side of Nancy and hopefully will take one more thing off your plate to worry about.

    You’re in my prayers now that I know about your upcoming surgery. Keep us posted sweet friend.

    XOXOXO,
    Brenda

    1. Brenda, Yes, one more thing off my plate is how I am looking at it. Actually, if I count the pieces, it’s five more things off my plate! Thanks for commenting, Brenda.

  21. Well, my surgery (which is exact same as yours) is scheduled for Sept 13… just 2 months after chemo is completed.

    I have the same fears as you, and being 35, I often wonder if I’m doing the right thing in choosing to go this route.

    I still think yes, but it’s a lot to ‘choose’ and I too, am more attached to my inner organs it seems than I was to my boobs.

    My boobs were trying to kill me, not a hard decision to make to have them removed. My ovaries, and everything else inside, seems healthy for the moment, but I don’t want to take any risks.

    I will be thinking of you, (and following your posts closely) to see how it all goes… I need to learn from you what to expect…

    M.

    1. Michelle, Thank you for reading and commenting. All of these decisions are huge aren’t they? I’m sorry you have to be making them too. I’ll keep reading your blog to follow your take on all this stuff. Sounds like you are being very proactive, which I think is wise. Thanks for thinking of me. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions about anything, not that I have answers, but I can offer support.

  22. Oh Nancy, this is so hard. I don’t know anyone who underwent those procedures you are facing. But I remember that my breast cancer support group had younger women who were struggling with these issues back in 1996. I don’t know if they followed through. They were still fertile and some had no children yet, so it was very hard on them.

    Very little has changed, I see, since then.

    My prophylactic mastectomy in 2003 was a difficult decision. The breast, perfectly healthy, was removed just in case the cancer might decide to come back there. It had already come back again in the other breast, but there was no guarantee it wouldn’t switch to the counterlateral one.

    And I nodded my head when I read your words about friends and husbands not reading our minds. That is a big, frustrating challenge I experienced.

    My thoughts and prayers are with you on this “road trip” not of your own choosing.

    XOXO
    Jan

    1. Jan, Thank you for your understanding comments. Yes, none of these decisions are easy ones to make as you know. I bet you are glad you made the decision you did in 2003. Thanks for you thoughts and prayers, Jan. They mean a lot.

  23. Here I sit, no uterus, no breasts and only one ovary. My heart goes out to you. I would do it all over again in a second. Believe me it was the best thing I ever did. I never felt any less of a woman after the operations. I would do anything possible to cripple cancer. You WILL win, keep the faith! You are lifted up in prayer.

    1. Susan, Thank you for your encouraging words. I really appreicate that you took time to share about your experience and I hope you are doing well. I’m also glad to hear you have no regrets.

  24. Nancy, I feel so bad that you are so eaten up with worry and concern….
    I have had both and it was the best thing in the World. Ever. 9 days later I went to Hawaii to celebrate. Seriously. It made LIVING so much easier. Please take care my friend. It will be okay. I promise.

  25. I think you figured out why this was upsetting you pretty well. And, it would upset anyone, I think. You are taking out organs necessary to the functioning of a woman. Not that you won’t function fine without them, I’m not saying that. But, it will be different.

    I am taking tamoxifen, an estrogen blocker. My other alternative was surgery but I chose not to do that. (I’m not BRCA +) I’m not crazy about the tamoxifen side effects, which I here are the same as the ooph SEs. But, a cancerous gals gotta do what a cancerous gals gotta do.

    The thing is, you drew the bad card, but you can still play them well. And, you are. And, will continue to. Process away.

    1. Ann, Thanks for coming by and commenting. I appreciate your thoughts. Yes, a cancerous gal does what she must, as you know all too well yourself. Sometimes one just wonders what will be enough.

  26. NANCY! I am alive! HOORAY! This is the first day I have had to sit down in front of my computer to check my blog in weeks. I’ve been thinking of you so much though, and I wanted to let you know that!

    We are entitled to a pity party from time to time, and yours especially is expected in this circumstance. What I tell all my blog friends is to just allow yourself to feel however you need to in these moments. And getting it off your chest often times always it to fill with happy thoughts and supportive words from encouraging friends instead 🙂 XOXO

    1. Sami, Thanks for reappearing, Sami! I’m anxious to hear what you’ve been up to. Thanks for thinking about me and for your support. It means a lot.

  27. Nancy,

    Of course it’s been one of those weeks! None of us – growing up, starting our careers, falling in love — have taken a course in AWFUL DECSIONS/Breast Cancer 101.

    I’m so sorry. My prayer is that you feel supported, loved and at ease with the decision you’ve made. With you every step of the way.

    With love,
    Jody

  28. Hi Nancy. Your wonderful post spoke to so many of us who wander by the Self- Pity Pool and Party Room from time to time. I have a different perspective on this that you might find interesting. I have not been tested, and my BC at Stage 1 gave me the choice and I chose lumpectomy. I ended up having four so far, but I’m still ok with waiting and watching.
    20 years ago when I was 35 I had an oophorectomy due to hemorrhaging cysts causing uncontrollable internal bleeding. I had my 2 kids, no more planned and so when I woke up without an ovary, I was just happy to be alive, and to not have cancer, which is what my docs expected to find. I have never looked back, it happened and I healed. It’s interesting to me how the difference between having the choice and not having the choice affect us psychologically.
    My philosophy is, if you made a level-headed, choice based on science and research, and you know inside its the right thing, it’s better to have it behind you, rather than ahead of you.
    Thinking of you during this tough time, but il. Bet the decisions you have are the right ones.

    Jane

  29. Yes, this decision is the most difficult. I think it’s even harder because they lack good ways to really know what’s going on there. Breasts, on the other hand, are easier to screen and read what’s going on. The two are often tied together though after a bc diagnosis, something I don’t think a lot of people know.

    1. Lopsided blogger, And I bet there won’t be much discussion about Angelina Jolie’s decision about this surgery. Not as much “fun” to talk about. Thanks for stopping by.

  30. Nancy you are human, we’d all go back and forth with our decision weighing the pros and cons and we don’t all do things the same.

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