Short version: I am in no immediate danger. Yay!
Long version: this gets a little complicated.
The follow-up was mostly good news. I am healing up nicely it seems, right on pace with what is expected. My activity restriction has officially been lifted, so I’m clear to start working out again which is nice. The stitches are still mostly intact which is a bit strange (they’re the dissolving kind), but nothing else appears to be out of the ordinary.
The margins on the removed chunk came back negative, which is a huge win. For those not familiar with the terminology, that means they couldn’t find evidence that we cut through any cancerous areas, meaning the likelihood of having left something behind has dropped significantly. Had it come back positive I’d be going in for a second surgery by the end of September, so not having that hanging over me is a big relief.
That said, I do have to have a hysterectomy. So that sort of sucks.
When they did the analysis of the chunk of tissue they removed, they found a second type of cancer cell. Without getting overly technical, I essentially had 1 that spreads faster but is easy to spot (this is what triggered everything), but I also had a second one (we’ll call it FBS because that is an acronym for how I feel about the situation) that is incredibly difficult to detect (and often gets missed) and is more likely to spread to other organs, but does so incredibly slowly. Usually FBS spawns the first type, which is really the only hope for catching that it exists.
The standard treatment when this type of cell is observed is hysterectomy. No individual tissue removal, no partial hysterectomy, straight up full on “take it all out” is the standard. The problem I have of course is that this also doesn’t usually show up until you’re in your 40’s so removing your baby-maker is a lot less likely to impact your life choices. When you’re 27 and just finally getting settled into life that decision has a little bit more weight to it, so my doctor is not exactly jumping to get that scheduled.
FBS is multifocal and glandular, which is why it’s so dangerous. It has no central point of origin, so it can pop up in multiple places at once, and it does so in deeper tissues (though at first it is strictly limited to a single organ, which is much better than multicentric). For example, they found 3 different growth centers for it in the small section they removed. Those could be the only 3, but it is far more likely that they are just part of a party taking place further up my insides. Since you can’t really detect it until it pisses off other cells enough to generate the first type of cell (and there’s no guarantee that will happen before I reach the point that the cancer is spreading to other organs; apparently the lungs are a popular vacation spot), the only real way to protect yourself is remove everything it could possibly be hiding in before it decides to pack its bags and check out other places to reside.
I have to go back for testing every 6 months for a few years, then go to every year testing until I either get a positive result or I decide my uterus has done its duty and the time comes to retire it. The super crappy thing about FBS is that a positive result is truly positive, but a negative result is not truly negative. All a negative result says is this really ominous “you’re safe…for now. See you in 6 months.” The moment I get a positive result, it means things are definitely progressing and it’s time for surgery round 2.
I guess the silver lining is that there is almost no scenario in which I will have to do radiation or chemo. Granted, it’s weird that there’s no option, but they are absolutely not options I would choose if the choice was presented to me. Surgery is a known quantity, and while it’s a crappy quantity, you know how to plan for it.
So, yeah. There we are. There’s nothing else that can be done by myself or any doctors until my next check in January (that’s technically 5 months, not 6, but my doc is going on a mission trip to Kenya for all of February and March), so I’m just trying to stick to the whole “why worry?” mentality I’ve been going with. I mean, I’m worried, but I’m not worried. The best way I can describe it is like driving a car: you know in the back of your head that at any given moment something could go wrong and you could crash and die with no warning, but you don’t actively worry about it every time you drive. It’s sort of a thought that’s in the absolute back of your mind, and maybe every once in a while you have a sudden realization you’re essentially in a giant death trap, then you just sort of go back to your daily life.
Since there won’t be anything new to report for a while, I’m hoping to maybe get back to posting about things that aren’t, you know, life altering. Thank you for all the well wishes and support friends 🙂
I’m going to be abnormally serious here for a moment. If you’re here for humor or don’t like reading about lady problems, I’d leave now.
A year ago I had an abnormal PAP result. It was classified as a mild case, which is pretty much code for “you may have had some pre-cancerous cells, or maybe someone sneezed, we don’t really know”. My doctor was not overly concerned about it and said she saw no reason to do any further testing, but that we’d repeat the test in a year.
3 weeks ago I did my repeat test, expecting everything would be fine and rainbows and butterflies. What I got, however, was a phone call informing me that not only did the test come back abnormal a second time, but it was now classified as a moderate case. While this could still be a false result (apparently this is a really unprecise test, which does not instill a lot of confidence), it’s much less likely.
The increased severity combined with it being my second abnormal result means that I have to do further testing to check for cervical cancer. The next step is what is called a colopscopy, which pretty much takes all the uncomfortableness of a PAP and makes it last 30 minutes. Considering I feel really awkward with the normal lady doctor appointments, someone staring up my lady bits with a microscope and really bright light is a level of awkward I can’t even put into words.
I had that appointment earlier today. Despite the reason I was there and my level of complete terror going in there, the doctor actually made me feel relatively relaxed before we got started, and made sure she kept constant communication about what was going on and what she was looking for while she was doing it. The microscope was even hooked up to a TV, so if there was anything she needed me to see she could just put the visual up there. Side note: the innards of your lady bits are super unattractive, but kind of interesting.
It was incredibly uncomfortable, but I’m happy to say that even though the PAP had come back pretty abnormal she couldn’t find anything remotely concerning enough to warrant a biopsy. We talked about what may have caused the abnormality to show up in the first place (hint: apparently stress can actually trigger enough of a change to get flagged, thank you terrible workplace environment) and I have to go back in 6 months to redo the PAP just to see what’s up, but as of this moment I’m apparently free and clear from the dreaded “C” word.
Let me tell you, you have not felt relief until someone tells you that you might possibly have cancer, you get to chew on that for 3 weeks, and then you get told that you’re fine.
I think I’m going to have my first good night’s sleep in almost a month tonight.