Thursday, September 18, 2014

Good news, bad news, mixed news...

Some posts are harder to write than others.  It can be that there are a lot of interruptions,  or that the topic is detailed, or that the thought is complicated and writing isn't the same as having a conversation face to face.  This post falls in the last category.

To cut to the chase it turns out I have uterine cancer.  You can re-read the sentence if you need.  As many times as needed.  (If you don't want to more more detailed info, feel free to go the last paragraph).

The symptoms that took me to the doctor were subtle; feeling a bit as if I was getting ready for my period, some discomfort and feeling of fullness, a little bit of back pressure.  As well as a bit of very, very light spotting.  I'm thankful that I'm of the generational experience where I was able to research what those small differences might mean.

I visited my ob/gyn, shared my concerns, and I was sent off to have a transvaginal ultrasound.  All looked well save the fact that my endometrial lining was considerably thicker than average for a woman who has gone through menopause.

Next step necessary - a biopsy

I had an endometrial biopsy a week ago Monday, not a pleasant procedure by any means.  Medical procedures that include words like dilation, insertion, and scraping are words that make me cringe, but as I got closer to the procedure I kept reminding myself that risking death and choosing not to go through an unpleasant procedure really was not a choice.

The biopsy results clearly showed cancer cells. Because I am fortunate and have good health insurance, that same doctor called an oncologist.  A date was set for me to meet the oncologist and the rest has all been about calendaring and paperwork.

In my mind much of the above has been good news.  I have a strong sense of what's the norm for my body, I have access to medical information, I have medical insurance, and to date have been interacting with medical staff that has been as kind as they have been thorough.

The bad news?  Well, cancer is never a good thing to have. Nothing I'd choose to have, but here it is and I don't much like that I have it.  Knowing that I have cancer has me thinking in terms of life and death.  Life choices to be made with one's third age is never easy.

Mixed news, Having surgery -not my first choice.  Hysterectomy?  Not so bad.  I'm 62.  I can't imagine being a woman who would choose to become pregnant at this age.  I love my kids, love my grand daughters, but the "bearing another child" work shift is over.  Thank you womb, you served us well.

Which begins to get me back to the good news.  I know, I know, I can hear some folks saying, wait woman, didn't you just write you have cancer?  Well, yes, I did.

But good news is relative.  So...

In general uterine cancer has a really great survivability rate.  A friend of mine referred to it as a Ferrari of cancers.  I know that attitude plays into this equation.  While cancer is now a part of my life, it is by no means the whole of my life.

I believe that visioning and setting goals helps one to achieve and accomplish goals.  I plan to get better.  My mother-in-law is a breast cancer surviver of 28 years.  I think of her as my role model.

Next bit of good news is that the hysterectomy will be a robotic surgery.  Rather than the one vertical incision I'll have five smaller incisions.  I've had surgeries before so the idea of a less intrusive surgery is most appealing.  A recovery time of two to four weeks is a preference to a recovery time of six to eight weeks.

I'll have five smaller incisions rather than a much larger one.  I've been kidding around and saying that I have a preference for polka dots.

The mixed news.  It seems that my cancer is low grade.  Is this case less is better.  This in itself is a good thing, but we don't know the stage yet.  Not knowing about the outcome of something this serious is a hard thing for me to view as good.

If I'm lucky the stage will also be low. Meaning the cancer will not have spread or been particularly invasive.  That will also mean that the surgery will not include removal of lymph glands in the pelvic area.

Part two of this mixed news is that it will take a full week after surgery to have final detailed results.  It will be a long week.

So there you have it.  I've been diagnosed with uterine cancer.  It was discovered because I know my body and because I go to my ob/gyn regularly and follow recommended testing.  I'm having a hysterectomy a week from tomorrow and will learn whether or not they will have been able to remove all of the cancer.


  1. I am very sorry for that long week ahead. But you are right -- good and bad news is relative. On the cancer spectrum, this type of cancer is good news. Coincidentally, I had two friends with uterine cancer, and I still have those two friends, 20 years later. Neither has had any brush with cancer since. This is not to minimize, at all, what you and your family are feeling right now -- just to say, this is one of the only best-news cancers. Much love. And, should you need help with anything -- dogs, driving, whatever -- I'm at your service.

  2. I read this twice, the second time more slowly. I wouldn't have seen it until tonight if Karin hadn't alerted me.

    This is one of those situations where I reach out my hands and there's nothing in them. A hug, maybe. And a bowl of pasta, should you and James require it. I'm not far from you.

  3. Very sorry to hear this news, Roberta, but I admire your courage in speaking about it so honestly. As you say, even the Ferrari of cancers is still ... cancer. Which sucks.
    And yet so many people get it and are increasingly surviving it.
    I'm sure you are going to do really well and having caught it early I'm hopeful you won't have to undergo a lot of more trying treatments that, while saving lives, aren't exactly pleasant.
    Great, comforting and brave thoughts for you are in my heart right now. You and James and your whole family will get through this, I know. Will be in touch for more tangible help, too. :-)

  4. I'm so very sorry, Roberta. Such news brings us face to face with our mortality, doesn't it? You've been very brave to write this blog, and I'm relieved that there's such a good chance of survival from this type of cancer. It's contained inside a bag (the womb) that can be cut out with no ill effects on your health afterward. I'll be thinking about you, wishing you well.

  5. You have the love and support of everyone who knows you, Roberta. Hysterectomy? You just wait for the results and take it from there, one step at a time. Mine was at age 24, but that's neither here nor there. A positive attitude and a fierce belief that you will not be conquered by this are half the battle. It looks to me like you're off to a very good start. Keep on breathing, and give yourself permission to fall apart from time to time -- but only briefly! Everyone will be anxious to see your next post. I think blogging your way through this will be therapeutic for you and informative for everyone. I'll be thinking of you and James and the family. xoxo

  6. Roberta, we've only met once, but I know many people who think you're remarkable, and now I know why. You have a wonderful attitude, and that's going to take you far in this. Waiting to hear is awful - I'll be checking back to see how you're doing.

    I'm sending you my very best wishes.

    Janet Aird

  7. Although I know for most Americans we will meet heart disease or cancer sometime in our lives, I'm of course sorry to hear of your diagnosis. I've never had cancer ( and God 4bid never wi!!), yet I did "experience" the trials of cervical cancer alongside my mother. "Been there, done that" as far as I'm concerned!
    I hope the worst news of your cancer is already in the past & from now on the news will only get progressively better (or less "bad") toward the ultimate goal of the good news of being called "cancer free!"
    I pray you discovered it early, the prognosis will be in your favor, and for your physical/mental strength.