(Don’t worry, this will be a picture-free post.)
When my oncologist agreed with my Google-assisted suggestion that the hormone suppressing medicine they give post-menopausal women works better than the medicine they give pre-menopausal women for my particular brand of breast cancer, the obvious question was the best way to either put or keep me in menopause. Chemo had put me into what they call “chemo-pause,” but a lot of women’s ovaries start up again after chemo is over. I suggested that surely at my age (48) I had to at least be really close, but she said based on family history and medical background she would guess I had at least seven more years left before I would have naturally gone into menopause. The medicine they give post-menopausal women, which are called aromatase inhibitors, flat don’t work in pre-menopausal women whose ovaries are working. So we needed to be sure mine were turned off.
The first option was to have a shot to suppress my ovaries. This wasn’t a good choice in my mind for two reasons: one, my doctor said they still couldn’t be sure it would work and even if it did we would never know when I entered menopause naturally (so we wouldn’t know when we could stop the shots) and two, the shot would require me to go see my oncologist every month for the next 7-10 years. I like my oncologist, but I spend enough time there.
The other option was to have a bilateral salpingo oophorectomy, which is a pretty fancy sounding way to say they would surgically remove my ovaries and my Fallopian tubes. Clearly, at my age, I’m not using them anyway, so I chose that option immediately. Also, even though they don’t think there’s a link between ovarian cancer and breast cancer in the absence of the BRCA gene, it does remove the possibility that I’ll ever get ovarian cancer. My oncologist told me there was no real rush, but she wanted me to do it this year. (Me too, for insurance reasons.) I had to wait until treatment was over, and due to down time wanted to wait until after the marathon and the half-marathon I had already planned. But I needed to fit it in before the exchange surgery I also wanted to do this year.
So, two weeks after Wine and Dine, we checked in for a day surgery at the same hospital where I’ve had all of my treatment so far. I’ve had the same gynecologist since moving back to Dallas, but she hadn’t seen Tony since the last time she performed surgery on me almost 15 years ago, so we caught up over a little chit-chat. Then she told us what would happen and left while they prepped me for the OR. Luckily everything ran on time and we were able to start at 12:30 as scheduled.
Afterwards, she told me I was a “model patient” and that everything looked great. There was a small cyst on one of my Fallopian tubes, but she said that was normal. I found out today that the pathology report came back clear for all of the removed parts, so while I wasn’t really worried, that was good news. There was one issue with the surgery from my perspective though: I woke up from anesthesia wide awake, not groggy, still in the OR, freezing cold and in a ton of pain. My doctor had warned me that I would probably wake up with a severe hot flash, so I was glad that didn’t happen, but wow that really hurt. The anesthesiologist even told me “sorry about the pain, but you woke up a lot faster than I thought you would!” They gave me demerol and morphine until the pain eased up. Still, that was weird and I will be discussing it with my next anesthesiologist.
Compared to everything else that’s happened, for anyone who might be facing this surgery, it was really pretty minor. Three tiny incisions that are healed over already. I was cleared to run up to a mile today, two weeks after surgery, and I could have been back to work within a week to 10 days if not for Thanksgiving and the medical appointments I’ve had all this week. The hardest thing has been that I have been very, very moody. Part of that is probably coming off of pain pills and part of it is not being able to work out, but some of it is the change in hormones. My doctor says it should even out within a few weeks — whether or not that means I even out to being a jerk all the time remains to be seen!
Next up — the surgery I hope finishes my breast cancer treatment!