Thursday, August 1, 2013

My Cancer Story

Last school year was the year of cancer.  I had my annual birthday mammo and PAP smear, because what better way to celebrate one more year than getting a flattened boob and the "slight discomfort" in that other female area?  Well, this year, things went a bit different when my gynocologist left a message on my cellphone on the Friday before the three-day weekend of Labor Day.  After a tense weekend, and another tense week where I left many unreturned messages to his office, he explained that I had abnormal cells.  Not to worry, however, because it is so common and he would simply remove the abnormal cells with a LEP procedure.  A LEP, in my layman's terms, is like a melon baller that scoops out the bad cells.  When I went in for my LEP, the doctor didn't do it, saying that it wasn't a candidate for this procedure.  I needed a biopsy.  The abnormal cells were precancerous.  Okay...

I had a biopsy on a Wednesday in mid-October.  I had told my assistant principal that I would be back in on Friday, but something told me that morning to stay home one more day.  And then the doctor called, asking me to come in because he had forgotten some post-operative instructions.  Uh-huh.  I was extremely doubtful of his pretense, and of course, my instincts were right.  I didn't have to suffer the typical hour-long wait; I was seen immediately.  Double uh-oh.  He told me I had cancer.  I remember writing this down on my notepad: "I have cancer", as if I might forget this nugget of information.  He then took out a medical diagram of the cross-section of the female reproductive system.  You think you understand everything down there, but once a doctor says the word "cancer", nothing makes sense anymore.  I couldn't locate the cervix on the drawing, nor remember what the purpose of it was, other than it dilates during birth.  I couldn't understand why the cells that were precancerous after the PAP had suddenly become very-much-so-cancer.  My husband accompanied me the next day to get the important information.  I needed a radical hysterectomy. 

That weekend, I googled cancer and learned about stages, and scary things like survival rates.  It was frightening.  My mother told me that I wanted a laproscopic procedure, because the healing time was reduced.  My onocologist (saying that was new) said I had stage IB cancer.  That was good news.  And I would need a laproscopic radical hysterectomy.  To quote my sister, a hysterectomy was okay because "that thing's been nothing but trouble".  I needed to get a PET scan, to determine if the cancer had reached my nodes.  The PET scan was an absolute delight!  Yes, it involved not eating for a day, and being pricked many times to find my vein, and drinking vile radioactive iodine water, but I was put in a room with a reclining chair, a blanket, and a television, ALONE.  I felt like I was at a spa.  The PET scan came back "pristine", meaning that the tumor they removed during the biopsy probably was all that was necessary to treat the cancer, but the doctors were still concerned that it may be in the nodes microscopically.

So, the hysterectomy was on.  Since I had a stroke four years prior, I needed clearance from my PCP and neurologist.  The neurologist sent me to his Doppler tech, who detected a heart murmer, so I needed to visit a cardiologist.  Finally, it was the day, my mother was here from Michigan, I had taken my meds and prepped my colon, out the door at 4:30 am, and they discovered a UTI.  It was a no-go.  Another round of clearances, and finally, a week before Christmas, my surgery went off without a hitch.  And, on New Year's eve, my onocologist told me that the lab did not find any cancer in the nodes, and I was cancer free.

Lovenox, nurses visits, having to get help to get out of bed; it was just a bit too reminiscent of my last convalesence.  Foley bags were new, though.  But, on the plus side, I did get to drop off and pick up my daughter from school, and in doing so, I met a great many of her classmates's parents.  We even found a Daisy troop!  All in all, if it wasn't for the burden of fearing imminent death, cancer was relatively easy.  I realize this is not the case for everyone, but the recovery, and again I'm speaking for me only, was far easier than for my stroke. 

So now I'd like to formally go on the record that I no longer want to try everything once.  Some things I do not need to experience include:

  • cardiac arrest
  • hostage situation
  • scrapnel wounds
  • irritable bowel syndrome
  • plane crashes
  • flesh eating disease
  • pulverized bones
  • gunshots
  • nail gun through brain
  • whatever is happening in this picture

This list is not comprehensive, of course.  I just needed to put that out there.


  1. Hello Linda! What a trooper you are! I hear you loud and clear. I have immediate family members who have had up close and personal introductions to cancer and it is just plain Horrible. I have a strong belief in the grace of God and likewise does one of those stricken and although it has been a challenge to keep this disease in perspective, it has been a whole lot easier when you have God in the picture. I am sure that a lot of people are struggling daily with this disease and have not been as fortunate as you in the outcome. God doesn't tell us why this happens to so many of our loved ones, but He does tell us to press into Him to find our Hope.




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