I was sitting on my deck reading the newspaper with my morning coffee. It was June 21, the first day of summer and my first full summer at the beach. The sky was almost cloudless, the water a brilliant cerulean blue and flat. An occasional wave rolled up on the sand south of the pier. I was jolted my from peaceful morning ritual by the phone ringing. Who would be calling me at 7:21 in the morning?
The voice on the line was my gynecologist. His first words were I have your biopsy results. He had told me at the hospital it would take approximately 5 days. This was barely 2. I flashed back to when I took my RN Board exams. Those that flunked were notified first. Those passing received their letters a week later. Had I flunked my biopsy? I suddenly realized he was still talking. “It really wasn’t what I expected, the cells are malignant. You have uterine cancer”. Needless to say, it wasn’t what I expected either. After eight years of exceptional care and monitoring every six months by him and his nurse practitioner, I was accustomed to hearing, “Everything’s normal”. He informed me I would need a hysterectomy by a Gynecological Oncologist and gave me the name of the best one in the south bay. He also let me know that they were very busy and not to expect to get an appointment for 2 -3 weeks. I was stunned, numb and unable to move. I didn’t even write down the name of the Oncologist. A few minutes later I realized I had put the phone down but hadn’t disconnected. It was going tu-du tu-du tu-du like the twilight zone, which is where I suddenly found myself.
That afternoon I called for an appointment. I’m a new patient, I need an appointment with the Dr. My gynecologist has referred me. Yes, I have insurance, old fashioned PPO. I can see anyone I want. What is the appointment for? I need a hysterectomy, I have . . . and I realized I could not say “I have cancer”. I mustered up I have been diagnosed with and the receptionist filled in my sentence. I’ll squeeze you in this Thursday at 3 pm , we like to get the cancer patients in right away. Cancer patient? My god, I’ve been labeled. I’m not me anymore, I’m a cancer patient, a statistic.
Only six days to wait. Six agonizing days. Much better than 2 -3 weeks. I soon became convinced that my Gyn had misled me in saying it had been found very early and my outlook was good. I just knew that when I saw the oncologist he was going to say, well actually, it’s fairly advanced. The day finally came, at 2p I received a call from the oncologist’s office. He was running late – come at 4:30. At 4pm another call, he’s still late – come at 5:30. I appreciated these calls, at least I wasn’t sitting in their lobby waiting and stressing. I finally got to see him at 7p and was immediately assured that it really had been found early. He also did hysterectomies with the new DaVinci Robot which allows for less blood loss, only a day or two in the hospital and a fairly quick recuperation period. A friend had her hysterectomy with the robot and her recuperation was incredible. This was definitely what I wanted, I did not want an old fashioned traditional hysterectomy.
I am single with two Pugs living in a 4 level home with no elevator or dumb waiter. My friends went into action making plans – move all necessary items to the first level, meals, dog walking etc. But I was assured with the Robot I would be up and around – in fact that I must be and the stairs would be great. I am self employed as well and with a business to run I could not face a 4–6 week recuperation.
There were a few scheduling glitches but then the day came. Dr. Mirhashimi performed the surgery. It turned out that in addition to the uterine cancer I had a humungous fibroid – almost the size of a grapefruit and a lot of scar tissue around the ureters and kidneys. Normally, they would have switched and done a traditional hysterectomy but Dr. Mirhashimi knew how adamant I was about the Robotic surgery and continued with it.
I had my surgery on Friday and although he said I could go home Saturday he preferred that I stay until Sunday due to the extensive procedure. On Saturday I walked around the floor frequently as instructed. My friends visited and accused me of not really having surgery. They said I looked too good and only had 3 one half inch incisions for the Robot’s arms.
I went home very early Sunday morning. So early that the pharmacy wasn’t open for my take home meds for pain. I had only received two doses since surgery so I decided not to wait for the pharmacy to open. My Pugs were happy to see me and I walked up the 4 flights of stairs with ease. I took a few naps that day and did the prescribed exercise every 4 hours and then, on Monday, I was back at work for 6 hours. By Wednesday, I was at 90% - working and driving. Friday, I returned to the gym for moderate paced treadmill walking.
I am still in a state of shock at how easy and uneventful the hysterectomy was. In a way, I felt cheated that I didn’t get the weeks of sympathy and attention that others had received but quickly caught myself. Positive outlooks and attitudes rule. Biopsies taken from the removed tissue confirmed that it was diagnosed early and I would need only regular monitoring –no chemotherapy or radiation.
I was essentially, cured. In a few weeks I will have my 1 year CT scan to make sure everything is still okay.