So, it’s official…I’ve been approved for surgery! It’s amazing, surprising and terrifying news and, to be honest, I’m still in a state of shock.
My scan results are better than expected and so, whilst I was made aware at the point of my diagnosis that stage four cancer is often inoperable, the surgeons now all agree I’m in a position that they can do something. Hence my mixed emotions!…I can’t help but think of the many people with cancer who will never meet a surgeon or have the opportunity to have their cancer removed and feel so grateful for this blessing and opportunity. In the same breath I’m also anxious of what surgery involves and the associated risks and recovery. I also, once again, feel lucky to live in a place where I am entitled to free healthcare and that my treatment plan is not restricted by finically decisions – a luxury denied by many on a similar journey.
During my blood transfusion I met with a surgeon, a Macmillan nurse and my oncologist. Together they each played a part in explaining my scan results, the surgery they plan to do, my recovery and the long term implications. They were thorough and, once again, I felt completely involved in my treatment plan.
Together they explained that given my scan results – which show my cancer has shrunk in all areas of my body and at a rate faster than they had expected – they are going to do more surgery than the standard hysterectomy usually associated with ovarian cancer.
As a result, they explained, they will be conducting ‘major’ surgery. The simple addition of the word ‘major’ filled me with a million thoughts and questions but together we went through everything in great detail.
Because their ultimate aim is to remove as much disease as they can they will perform a full hysterectomy, potentially remove part of my bowel, remove my whole omentum (the fat layer in front of my bowel), remove parts of my peritoneum (the sack that contains my internal organs) and potentially remove part of my diaphragm. They’ll also remove some abdominal lymph glands for good measure. …or in other words ‘a heck of a lot’!
I’ve included a very helpful image from Macmillan Cancer support’s “Understanding Cancer of the Ovary” booklet which highlights these body parts (pg. 13).
As the peritoneum encases all of the organs in the abdominal cavity, a specialist team of surgeons will conduct the operation and take their time exploring all the ‘nooks and crannies’ that cancer cells can hide in. This means that the operation could take about 10 hours.
Finally, due to the specialist team and subsequent care I’ll require, the operation will not take place in the same hospital I receive my chemotherapy but, instead, will take place in another hospital 2 hours from home. Whilst this isn’t ideal for visitors, I’m obviously all in favour of going where the best team and facilities are…and also encouraged that many people have assured me they are willing to travel to visit!
Such major surgery does not come without risk and the surgeon also explained the complications they could face during surgery. I’ll not go into these extensively but will instead just give one example which is potentially my lung could puncture whilst they work on my diaphragm, causing me to wake with a tube in my lung. This is something my body would repair itself in time.
My operation will be taking place very soon and, in the meantime I will be having lots of appointments to allow me to meet the surgeon conducting the operation, have a pre-assessment, and meet the specialist nurses involved in my aftercare.
I also, obviously, will plan as much in advance to enure that my time in hospital (and afterwards) is as smooth as possible – for instance making sure our pets are looked after and buying a digital tablet and loading it with films!
Once I have returned home from surgery I will restart my chemotherapy treatment in a bid to ‘mop up’ any cancer that remains following my operation. I expect this to be a difficult time as my body will be already weak and recovering from surgery when hit with more toxicity from the chemotherapy. However, I am prepared for this and know it is a necessary part of my treatment plan.
For now, as I wait for my surgery date, I need to ensure I am as strong as possible – emotionally as well as physically – by spending time with loved ones, walking my dog, enjoying fresh air, getting plenty of rest, meditating and eating well.
Love and light, Fi xx