ovarian cancer

Approved for Surgery: Chemo 4 – Day 10

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).

 
The extent of this surgery means that I will spend some time in intensive care and/or high dependency. It also means that potentially I’ll be in hospital for a month receiving specialist care.

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

Uncategorized

Stage Three Ovarian Cancer*

The next morning my parents arrived and it was wonderful! They had been in Spain when I had to tell them the news and had spent over 24 hours driving back (with little to no sleep acquired only in service station car parks) since my diagnosis and I have never been more happy to see them!

I may be 30 years old but let me tell you, when you hear you have cancer you are instantly a 6 year old wanting a cuddle from your parents…I don’t care how old you are!

The nurses kindly let us sit in a side room together and we talked for a couple of hours about my diagnosis and the questions they had. I am in awe of their strength for me as I can only imagine what was going through their heads but, as ever, they respected my positive outlook and stayed optimistic and strong throughout our chat.

Again, I repeat that the hardest part of a cancer diagnosis is telling the people that you love that for some unknown reason this devastating illness has now selected you.

After my parents left my husband and I were met by an oncologist and macmillan nurse to receive my full diagnosis.

They explained that my cancer had spread to stage three. This meant that it had spread out with my pelvis and was now in both of my ovaries, my womb, my peritoneum (the membrane that surrounds and keeps my organs in place) and my omentum (the fatty membrane that covers the front of my bowel). I’ve included a very helpful image from Macmillan Cancer support’s “Understanding Cancer of the Ovary” booklet (pg. 13) incase, like me, you hadn’t taken all this in during biology at school!

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They explained that this diagnosis meant that I would need to have a full hysterectomy as well as having my peritoneum and omentum removed and that this would involve a team of up to 6 specialist surgeons in one operation. They also explained that I would need chemotherapy and because of the aggressive nature of my cancer (feisty like me!) they would be starting with chemotherapy before surgery and repeating the CT scan after three rounds of chemo. Yay more dye in my wrist – note sarcasm!

They went on to explain that the CT scan had also shown a small collection of fluid in my right lung and that this would need to be drained to be tested for cancer cells. If this did contain cancer cells then I would be diagnosed as stage 4 because the cancer would have spread to organs out with my abdomen. It goes without saying that this was a lot of information to take in but I can honestly say that the clarity that it was explained in by the oncologist and the support of my Macmillan Nurse made it all the more easier to take in.

**warning the following may be graphic for some**

I was told that I would need to have the fluid drained from my lung and that this would need to be done straight away. This was to be done in the respiratory ward of the hospital where a Dr used an ultrasound on my back to locate the fluid and then inserted a needle into my lung through my rib cage and extracted the fluid using a syringe. Remember I said the dye going into my wrist for the CT scan was painful? Yeah that ain’t got nothing on a needle in your lung with no pain relief! Wow is cancer a painful process!

After the fluid was collected the Dr put it in three vials for me to take back to the ward for the lab to screen. I took these on my lap as I was being wheeled in a chair between wards. Now I’m going to be gross but they were warm and that was just weird! Yeah I know that the fluid had come from my body but oddly I just didn’t expect them to be body temperature- although it sounds kinda obvious as I type it!

**graphic description over**

After that ‘experience’ I was free to go home with my suitcase of drugs! A crazy concoction of pain relief and anti-sickness medication. Something none tells you when you get cancer….you need a huge handbag(!!) for all the notebooks, leaflets, medication, books etc you will need to carry with you at all times! Oh but you won’t have the strength to carry it so you will also need someone to do that! Haha. So my poor husband is on official pink/yellow/orange handbag carrying duty!

When I got home my awesome hubby wrote a motivational quote on our kitchen blackboard that will be my mantra as I get through this:

I have cancer. Cancer doesn’t have me.

That night it was pure nirvana just to be in my own home and own bed and able to get a good night sleep. The little things in life (that we are all often guilty of taking for granted) are really all that matter in the grand scheme of things…

love and light, Fi xx

* I was diagnosed with stage four cancer two weeks after my initial diagnosis of stage three.