Thursday, November 13, 2014

Pregnancy and a Cancer Scare

I've been wanting to write a post like this for quite a while, but life happens. First of all, I'm now 9 months pregnant.  Eek!  I'm not really sure where the time has gone, but yet it has seemed like a long, miserable journey as well.  I guess it depends on the day.  I am not one of those people who love being pregnant.  In fact, I'm quite the opposite.  I think with my first to term pregnancy I was just so happy that I was able to continue in a pregnancy that didn't end in a miscarriage like my first two.  Pregnancy problems run in my family so I was concerned and really tried to "enjoy" or more like, embrace, my pregnancy with Baby E.  I had horrible back and rib pain but was still able to remain active.  I ran until I was 33 weeks pregnant and did some light yoga and weight training up until the end.  This pregnancy went from embrace to endure.  I know that sounds terrible, but with this second time of making it past 12 weeks I became more aware of the things I don't like about pregnancy. I'm not going to get into all of that now because I don't want to seem like an ungrateful whiner, but I do need to delve into this pregnancy a little bit more.  You see, everything is different about this go-around.  And here's why...

The C Word
When I was pregnant with E, my doctor had made mention of a small cyst on one of my ovaries.  No big deal.  A lot of pregnant women get them and they eventually go away on their own.  Fast forward almost three years to the beginning of this pregnancy and the cyst was still there or a new one had formed.  Again, I didn't think much of it until the ultrasound tech explained that it was about the size of my fist and couldn't understand how I wasn't haven't weird symptoms from it.  I've been having weird stomach problems for the last few years but I just chalked that up to my gluten and lactose intolerance.  The next time I met with my doctor, he addressed the cyst issue.  He pulled out the ultrasounds to show me the grey matter that was scattered throughout and that a normal cyst would just be clear liquid.  He said he had no doubt in his mind that this was a form of tumor, but whether it was malignant or not, he couldn't tell.  He actually said, "I can't look at you in the eyes and tell you that you do not have ovarian cancer.'  As I became numb to his words, he listed my options for surgery and the short time window we had to perform it because of the growing baby inside.  He also said that we could wait until my scheduled C-section at the end of my pregnancy to remove it but I would have to know that if it was cancer, 6 months could be the difference between my life or death.  I left his office and walked downstairs to my husband's office and repeated to him what I just heard and showed him the ultrasound of my now-tumor.  There I was, 30 years old with a two year old and another baby on the way and the most amazing husband and life going so perfectly...

Next came the research.  Shockingly, I had a lot more symptoms of ovarian cancer than I had originally thought.  Did you know that ovarian cancer is one of the most deadly forms of cancer because there is no reason to have your ovaries checked unless you are having symptoms, which in most cases, is too late at that point? So yes, this was all very Debbie Downer and I would have moments when I was watching B and E play in the living room and would have to leave so they wouldn't see me crying because all I could think was, "He is the best dad.  If one of us has to go early, I'm glad it's me."  Which then leads to thinking of all the wonderful things in E's life that I could miss out on.  I wish that I could say that if I was told that I may or may not have cancer that I would be strong and not let it get me down, but it's really one of those things that you can't say how you'll react until it happens.  I had a lot of fear in those days.  We went back and forth between risking the pregnancy to remove the tumor then or risk everything else by removing it later.  Luckily, we were able to use a few connections and have my ultrasounds sent to main gynecological oncologist in the state of Idaho.  He had emailed my husband that afternoon and said he hadn't had a chance to look at my ultrasounds yet but most of the time in cases like this, they wait to remove the tumor at the time of delivery.  About an hour later, I get a phone call from this specialist who is supposed to be the best in the state and the second he starts talking to me, I get scared.  He asks me questions about my family's history with breast/cervical/ovarian cancers and why it wasn't removed after my C-section with Baby E.  He even tells me that there is one part of the grey area that if it isn't cancerous now, it very well could be soon.  Scary.  Very scary.  I asked him what I should do and he gave me the doctor answer of giving me the options when I cut him off and flat out said, "If I was your wife, what would you tell me to do?'  "Remove it now."  Two weeks later I was in a room getting prepped for surgery.

So why the negative attitude and certainty that the news I would get would not be good news?  Well, I have this thing with dreams.  I've always been a very vivid dreamer at night and I remember the craziest details and some of these weird dreams would come true.  For instance, several years ago I had a very disturbing dream about an ex-boyfriend out of the blue and the next day, I had an email from him talking about how unhappy he was with life.  One time I had a dream where I was staring at this shape that was made out of two different shades of white.  That was the whole dream.  A couple of weeks later I fell off of a ladder while painting the ceiling at my sister's house and it was that exact shape and the two different shades were where I had painted and not painted.  Weird, right?  So in high school I had a recurring dream.  Well, nightmare really.  Every time I had this dream, I would wake up crying and in a cold sweat.  This dream was that I was married to a tall, handsome, blondish, successful man that I never could see his face and I was in a hospital bed when the doctor comes in and tells me that I have ovarian cancer.  I didn't even know that ovarian cancer was a thing then, I just knew the dream terrified me to no end.  Obviously there is more to the dream but that was the gist.  12-15 years later and I was afraid that that dream was going to be a reality.  When you have such a powerful recurring nightmare like that, you don't just forget it when a doctor looks at you and says that you may have ovarian cancer.

Everything went well.  They did have to remove part of my ovary to avoid blood loss and they had to go ahead and put me under general anesthesia because I guess I started moving on the table.  They reopened my C-section scar and checked out both ovaries and flushed out my stomach so they could check out my lymph nodes as well to make sure there were no abnormalities.  The baby is fine.  They sent the tumor to the lab and the spot that they thought was cancer, wasn't.  In fact, my doctor told me it was a strange gelatinous thing that he had never seen before but the tests came back not cancer and that's all I really care about.  :)  Phew!

The photo on the left was before surgery and the one on the right was after. No wonder I started "showing" so early! It was just my tumor.

To learn more about ovarian cancer and what the symptoms are if you are baffled like me as to why ovaries are not things to be regularly screened like breasts and cervixes, go HERE.