Big Choices: A Second Surgery

The day after I published my last blog post, I did what many folks do two weeks after a surgery… I went to my post-op appointment. I was pretty excited as I was doing well, walking better, continuing on my path of healthy eating and based on the findings during my surgery in late August, I was feeling hopeful and confident. I did have questions for the doctor about strange changes occurring in my body and what I learned was I was going through normal post hysterectomy fluctuations. What I was not ready to hear was that the doctor said I needed to have a second surgery. Second! What? What I then heard was that only so much pathology can be achieved during surgery. Post-surgery pathology is very aortic-lymph-nodesthorough and takes the organs that were removed and dissects them to review every millimeter. The first thing they found was what we expected, a very small non aggressive cancerous tumor, in my endometrial lining, that only invaded the wall of my uterus by 2mm. But, they also found some cancer cells in another portion of my uterus wall that invaded the lymphatic highways which travel to the lymph nodes. Therefore, the doctor wanted to make sure the cancer cells had not spread to the lymph nodes and this required a lymph node dissection of the paraaortic lymph nodes in the lumbar region. These are the sentinel lymph nodes; those that if the cancer had spread, it would show up here. Picture above is from Wikipedia.

Now, based on my age, the early detection of the cancer, the fact that it was not an aggressive type, as well as the small size of the tumor, I had really good numbers. I had an 89% chance that nothing traveled to any lymph nodes. But, the 11% risk, that remained, 11-percentwas just over twice the amount of the standard risk and therefore, a lymph node dissection was needed. I was shocked as was my partner. I said that I needed to think about this. I had concerns. I would be on disability for another 6 weeks and thus, recovering again. A second surgery came with another set of risks from having to remove lymph nodes and what I would later learn about, lymphedema and physical therapy.

The doctor and his staff understood my reeling thoughts and even my anger, but they were also solid in their beliefs of needing to know it had not spread even if it was only an 11% chance. They asked me to get back to them the following week with my decision. In that following week, I went back and forth with my thoughts. I talked to a couple of friends who have had cancer and what they thought about me choosing not to go through with the lymph node dissection. Their reply…. DO IT. The top reason was, if cancer had not spread, I will have a piece of mind that would not be experienced otherwise. The second reason is that, since this detection was so early, the amount of treatment would be less and I would be able to nip this in the bud sooner than later. I also discussed this with other cancer survivors and thus, I chose to go through with the second surgery.

second-surgery-prepOn October 5th, I had my second surgery. It took just under three hours. I went into it with the intention that nothing would be found. For 3 weeks before the surgery, I meditated to be calmer and to visualize me coming out of the surgery clean and clear. I continued to take the various herbs and supplements I learned would be helpful for my immune system and of course I had to stop taking them a week before surgery as many of them thinned the blood. This second surgery was harder on my body. It was the same type as before, a laparoscopic / robotic surgery reusing the 5 incisions from the hysterectomy. But, since I still had not recovered completely from the first in regards to the anesthesia and because they had to move around my intestines to get to the lymph nodes, recovery has been harder. I don’t have the same energy at the two week mark as I did after my first surgery.

On October 11th, my partner drove me back to Kaiser in San Francisco to learn the results of the post-surgery pathology report. When the first doctor came in, I said I had some new questions about things that were happening in my body and I would share them as soon as I heard about my “good news.” She replied back “you do have good news!” and she handed the pathology report to my partner as she began to examine my incisions. No cancer was found!!! Woooo Hooo! And there was that relief that comes with being told I was clean and clear. Had cancer cells been found, treatment of chemotherapy and radiation would be the next step. I am very, very grateful for knowing that we caught this very early and very grateful for my OB/GYN, Dr. Judith Hennessey of Kaiser, San Rafael, CA for knowing the early signs and encouraging me to have the uterine biopsy.

Through physical therapy, I am learning how to give myself lymphatic drainage massageslymph_system_solaris_1200_wide every morning to help my body absorb the lymphatic fluid from the torso and thighs which was building up due to the loss of a couple dozen lymph nodes. I am also learning exercises to do every day that helps the body move the fluid better. I am learning that I need to be patient with myself. I need more rest and especially after taking a walk. I am learning to go with the flow as sitting and lying down for long periods of time are not comfortable. Walking every few hours, even short little treks out to the yard, are needed. My short term memory will get better with time. It can take up to 6 months for anesthesia to dissipate from just one surgery. So to help with this, I am reading and writing to stretch the brain muscles and I am continuing to eat what is needed to stay healthy and boost my immune system for mind and body. Image above can be found at this website.

In the bigger picture, my friends, family, and health care providers are saying that I lookhealth-breakfast good and that I am doing well for all I have been through. I truly believe that since I was caring for myself with health, organic foods and supplements before both of these surgeries, I really gave myself an upper edge in my recovery. They can’t tell I am just two weeks out of my second surgery by looking at me. Inside I feel it though and I know what it takes for me to perform normal tasks. Yet, the comments are good to hear and they let me know I am on a good path.

beef-bone-broth-jarsSo…here I am, on my continued journey to health and healing and what I want to say to anyone, no matter what you are healing from, whether mind, body or spirit, is to eat healthy!  Stay away from processed foods. Eat those dark green veggies. Eat foods that reduced inflammation in the body. Drink bone broth and water and walk every day!!! Don’t think you can go without taking good care of yourself. Comfort yourself with things that benefit the body and what builds up your immune system. Most diseases of mind and body are preventable and we usually don’t know it until it is in our face. We all have the power of choice and we can choose to do the nurturing, preventative thing for ourselves… for our lives.

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