CoffeeBeer >> Warts & All >> Moon In Cancer

July-November 1992
Page 2

The Intense Wait

Saturday Week 4:

I awoke still in good spirits. M seemed very stressed as did my mother who kept phoning. I tried to be tranquil and witty in order to calm them down a bit. (I believe the morphine-laced Tylox I was taking helped me somewhat.) When I woke up Sunday morning I started to worry about what my lab results would say. I was very sleepy but I couldn't sleep.

Monday Week 5:

M went to work and I tried to keep myself occupied with putting labels on the tapes we sold as a home business and other minor tasks around the house. Doctor H had said that the results would be back maybe Monday afternoon but definitely no later than Tuesday. By 1:00pm Monday afternoon I started to get pretty agitated. By the time M got home from work I couldn't hide my extreme anxiety anymore. M rented a video for us to watch to keep our minds off of things.

Tuesday Week 5:

By Tuesday we were both nervous wrecks. M stayed home from work that morning so that he could be there when I got the news. I had a hair appointment at 2:00pm and was hoping I'd find out the results before I went. M and I spent the morning staring at each other on the sofa until I suggested that we work on getting a tape order ready. We would go over and put labels on things and then it would be done and we would go back to the sofa and sit and look at each other and be nervous again. We were becoming rather hysterical and laughing about stupid things. I finally phoned Doctor H's office. The bubble-brained receptionist told me she'd seen my results sitting on Doctor H's desk but since Doctor H was with a patient now she'd have to phone me later. I told her that she needed to phone me by 1:45 because I had a 2:00 appointment.

M told me I should have told her I had a 2:00 appointment with the mortician to pick out a nice headstone. We were wondering if when the lab sends back results, if the results are bad enough would they enclose some complimentary toe tags?

About a half hour later Miss Styrofoambrain called me back to tell me that oops, she was mistaken. Those weren't my results on Doctor H's desk after all. Maybe my results would arrive in a little while.

Shortly after that the nurse phoned to tell me my results probably wouldn't be back until tomorrow. She asked me if Doctor H had told me that sometimes it takes five days for them to come back. I angrily told her no, Doctor H didn't say anything like that. She told me they'd be back maybe Monday afternoon or else definitely Tuesday! I started crying and telling her that my husband and mother and I were all under pretty hideous stress and that this was pretty awful. When I hung up and told M he couldn't believe it.

At 1:40 somebody phoned back to tell me that Doctor H had asked the lab to hurry, and that she would phone them tomorrow morning to get a verbal report. so I left to walk down the street for my hair appointment. At 2:05 the nurse phoned and told M that Doctor H had asked the lab to hurry, and that she would phone them tomorrow morning to get a verbal report. M told her somebody had just phoned and told us that. She was very confused.

As soon as I got to my hairdresser's I told him that I'd been under a general anesthetic a few days earlier. He told me a perm probably wouldn't take because the chemicals currently in my bloodstream would counteract the chemicals in the perm solution. I was almost crying at that point. He looked at me and added, “Are you going to be all right?” I said, quite honestly, “I don't know.” He offered to wash my hair at least, and then he fooled around with it for awhile. And he didn't charge me.

Tuesday evening M and I were so sick of being stressed out that we decided to go out to eat. When you're worried and tense and can barely function, sometimes your brain and body get tired of the constantly agitated state and want to go on a mini-vacation. I didn't have much of an appetite and I was still physically recovering, so we walked down to a local Thai restaurant and had some soup and vegetables. I had a glass of wine, the first alcohol I'd had since early Thursday evening. It made me pleasantly sleepy and warm.

The Lab Results

Wednesday Week 5:

M and I both awoke early, tense again. We sat around for awhile wondering when Doctor H was going to phone. Finally at 9:30am I phoned her office. Nothing yet. A short time later Doctor H phoned me. The first thing she said was “It's not invasive cancer.” Then she told me she wanted to see me to talk about treatment, so M and I made an appointment for later that day.

At 2:00 we arrived at Doctor H's office. The waiting room was packed with lots of content-looking pregnant women. I guess nobody else in here has cancer, I thought to myself.

M and I both went back into Doctor H's office to talk to her. She told us that I had adenocarcinoma in situ in the glandular cells of my cervix up close to my uterus. She said that she had done just a partial D&C of my uterus, but that the lesion seemed to be isolated and not spreading around. She also said, however, that these kinds of lesions can jump and skip places and appear in other places. I still don't understand how she could be sure that the entire uterus was okay when she only took biopsies here and there.

She also kept saying that it isn't cancer. But the definition of adenocarcinoma is "a malignant tumor". Now, doesn't malignant mean "cancerous"? I mean, we aren't talking "benign" here. I feel as though the doctors have turned the word cancer into a verb. Apparently invasive cancer means "cancer" and noninvasive cancer means what I have, what she kept calling "severe dysplasia" or "severe precancerous cells" or "a precancerous lesion". She appeared to be saying that cancer isn't called cancer now unless it's moving into other organs and you're probably going to die unless chemotherapy works a miracle. So does this mean that doctors no longer consider there to be such a thing as cervical cancer or lung cancer or stomach cancer? I mean, if the cancer is just in one organ, then it's not invasive and therefore not cancer, right?

I suppose that this is either just lexical nonsense or else doctors are trying to use the word cancer less often so that they won't upset their patients.

Doctor H then told me that my two choices in this matter were the following: either come in every three months religiously for a colposcopy and more scrapings, or have my uterus removed. But she told me the problem with the first option was that she really wouldn't be able to see what is happening with this adenocarcinoma because it's up there where she can't see what's going on during a simple office visit. So why does she even suggest this choice? It seemed she was implying it's a bad choice simply because I'd have to come in for a doctor's appointment every three months. Hey, that sounds like a much better option than having my uterus whacked out, personally. But if they can't watch this lesion, what's the point in checking me every three months? I mean, if I suddenly start getting Class III or Class IV pap smears, then probably my "noncancer" has finally "cancered" by becoming invasive, and I'm in real trouble then. Then maybe they'd have to do a radical hysterectomy and go even further with radiation or something. Of course I don't want that to happen.

Oh, my, my. So a doctor will pour all of this information out to you and then immediately ask you if you have any questions. Of course you don't; you're so overwhelmed with information that you wouldn't know where to begin. It's always thirty minutes later, after you're out of the doctor's office, that you think of all the burning questions you need to ask. So do I have cancer or what? If you want to open me up and take out an organ that's quiet dear to me, I want to know that it's for a valid reason. If I have a malignant lesion in my cervix that could start spreading to other organs and become fatal, then by all means take it out! If I've just got some unusual cells that might not do anything and might very well just clear up, then let me keep my periods, goddamnit!

I phoned my friend T who just had a hysterectomy to ask her how she felt. But she was one of these people with fibroid tumors who had horrid agonizing periods all her life which she always dreaded. She had them take out her uterus and her ovaries, and now she has to take hormones for the rest of her life. But she says she feels great, obviously because she doesn't have to be faced with this hideous torture every month. So I think she was the wrong person to ask.

Doctor H seemed to think that since I'm not going to use my uterus to have a baby, I really don't need it anyway. Maybe my best friend E is the only other person on earth who can empathise with me on this point; but I just happen to be very attached to my periods and my cycle. I always seem to have a period during the full moon. Sure, I've had some rough years with premenstrual tension, but since we moved to Seattle and I became more physically active my PMS is minimal. I love the feeling of starting a period, the weakness involved for a few days, and the wonderful peace and well-being that envelops me when the period finally ends. That wonderful feeling for a week out of every month is well worth having to buy "corks" and all that. I don't want to lose that feeling! I've been having periods since I was 11 years old, and I had planned on having them until menopause, which probably won't hit me for another 15 years. I'm rather emotionally attached to all of my female parts. I feel like I have a special relationship with the moon and them. It's not just mythological; there really is something going on there.

Strangely enough, on Tuesday and Wednesday nights there was a full moon. And on both evenings as I was falling asleep, I noticed that little stringy black clouds kept obscuring the moon...

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