The Words We Use

February 10, 2020

After the words came out of my mouth I wondered why I said it that way.  “What about the uterus? If you find cancer there, can’t you just take the whole thing out?”  Like it’s someone else’s uterus, not the one that housed my daughter for 9 months or the one that cycled with the moon like clockwork for most of my life. While talking with the surgeon today I used words like “THE bowel, not MY bowel…THE tumors, not MY tumors…THE uterus, not MY uterus”.

I was distancing. Seemingly, it was easier to think that these were someone else’s organs, someone else’s tumors rather than the organs that I was born with or the tumors that are calling my body home. There is safety with distancing. It allowed me to discuss with a degree of understanding the anatomy we were talking about. It also allowed me to assure Dr. S that yes, I am quite aware of what stage four means without blame or fanciful expectation. Once I got home though and sat with the information we had just received, it became abundantly clear; everyone today was talking about MY body. The risks and the rewards would fall squarely in my lap, quite literally.

It was a good consult. We wanted to see if a laparoscopic approach would yield a better tissue sample for clinical trial testing as well as getting a good sampling for developing a cell line. Jim and I heard much more than what we bargained for and our conversation on the ride home was sparse as we were both deep in our own thoughts. Dr. S is on board to do the surgery but we did get an education on the realities. Please refer to your Grey’s Anatomy episodes for visual reference, there’s a LOT going on in there. Many of you have asked “why can’t they just take the tumors out?” They can but only if they can get to them and only if my tumors are not adhered to other organs.

We all have about five feet of large intestine perfectly coiled inside our lower abdomens. Inside of my pelvis (and yours if you are female and still have all your parts) I also have two ovaries, one uterus, and a bladder.  In addition, all of us have abdominal muscles, various tubes, arteries, veins and other necessities for sustaining life. In a perfect world, Dr. S will be able to remove both of the tumors we can see from the scans. In case he can’t fully excise the tumors, he will try and get a larger sample than we have been able to get in the past.  Just to be clear, this is not a “curative” surgery but it could be a “pre-emptive” surgery to head off a potential bowel blockage emergency. If he can’t get to the tumors with the laparoscope, or if the tumor(s) are adhered to the intestines, he might have to resort to an open approach.  Time spent in the hospital could be just that day or several, depending on how much he has to do.  

Believe it or not, this is the stripped down version of what we heard today. Veering towards the positive, this is a good time for this particular surgery.  Yes, it’s an aggressive move but after weighing the pro’s and con’s, all indications, soul searching and expert opinions point to this being the best next step.  As far as scheduling is concerned, Dr. S is trying to get me in as soon as possible. The stars and schedules (his and operating room availability) are working on aligning.

Getting back to MY uterus, Dr. S has no intention of removing it. It stays with me.