Last night I had the first dream ever of actual cancer. In my dream I was rubbing the back of my neck and felt a lump there, and I just felt this weariness, this sense of resignation, that I was growing tumors and I knew that this would go on and on and on until I eventually died. I wasn't sad or scared, it just felt like resignation.
I woke up and realized that I need to stop saying out loud, "Now that I know my body grows cancer." I may have grown cancer once, but that doesn't mean I'm destined to always be disposed to it, right? I can still send my body messages that it rejects insane overgrowths of cells, that it calms those crazy bastards right down.
I also need to be honest and realistic- my body did grow cancer, and while that doesn't mean I'm ever meant to have it again, I will be responsibly vigilant. I met with my OB/GYN on Friday (I guess seeing as I don't need an OB anymore, I can call him my GYN? lol) and we had a great talk. I was worried I'd have to sort of 'sell' him on what I want, and why I want it. Why, after 12 years in his care, I have these worries, I don't know.
We talked first about risk factors. My mom had her ovaries out when she was 24ish. Her mother was adopted, so we have no family history there. My paternal side of the family doesn't have any reproductive issues that I'm aware of, but I've had PCOS since I was 15 and I've had a benign tumor removed from my ovary in 2002, and just always wondering if something untoward is going on in my innerly bits. I figure of all the things to keep an eye on, let's pay attention to the ovaries.
He agreed. He said that my history doesn't predispose me to ovarian cancer but that the majority of people who get it are in that same boat- not predisposed to it. We talked about testing for it and he said that when providers discover ovarian cancer, it's already stage 3 cancer. I was taken quite aback by that statement, so much so that it made me cry when he said it. I rest so much comfort on the fact that my cancer was simple, that it had not even spread to my lymph nodes, that it was "Stage 1". Finding out you have ovarian cancer at a Stage 3 scared me right down to my toes.
He saw the tears and explained that it doesn't mean a life sentence- that you can find a Stage 3 that is very easily removed and that with chemo, the prognosis is great, and you can find a Stage 3 where none of that is true and the worst case scenario is realized. It's a spectrum, essentially. You don't find a Stage 1 unless you're removing everything for another reason and it's discovered in the pathology. That made sense to me, a lot of people don't know they have thyroid cancer until they have their thyroid removed for some other reason and it's discovered that same way. Women with ovarian cancer generally have symptoms that bring them to the doctor, and it's the fact that it's advanced cancer that causes the symptoms, which is why it's found at Stage 3 and not sooner.
So we talked about testing and he is not a fan of the CA-125 test at all. Frankly, I don't want a false positive. I have had my being changed enough hearing the words, "Yes, it's cancer." I don't need to hear it again - once you've heard it, even if it proves to not be true, you can't undo what it does to you. So even if I know it's possibly a false result, why put myself through that? He suggested an alternative is to have an ultrasound of my ovaries annually. Well, that sounds reasonable! He said that we can observe changes and while it's not perfect, it's less stressful than a faulty blood test.
(I was thinking as I was hearing this, if I was a man, what kind of tests would they have for me? I bet they wouldn't be settling on the poorest screening tests in the entire world for a cancer that kills women like crazy, if I just had a penis. Gahh!!)
So I'm scheduling an ultrasound. Going to try to make it happen before I leave, and we'll just see. I don't expect we'll find a single thing, I feel totally fine (haha, so funny that I continue to say that! lol I felt fine and I DID have cancer! Feeling fine means NOTHING!) so I'm not worried that anything is going on, I'm just grateful to have a supportive doc who gets it, who I didn't have to try to convince. So, so grateful.
I talked with my brother tonight about therapy and some of my feelings and he had some great insight for me about the family, my expectations, and their possible perspective on things that really helped me shift some energy. What he said resonated and I feel a little better about things- and I feel like while I'm not going to change what I'm doing necessarily, I don't have to think things that are just thoughts and not facts, and I don't have to sit here feeling hurt. It's not a perfect answer right now but it's a huuuuge step in the right direction. That's what I needed.
It's funny how readily available the sadness is sometimes about this whole experience. For I'd say, 95% of the time, I am moving forward and while still in kind of shock that it even happened, I feel really healthy emotionally, very balanced, and that I have good perspective. 5% of the time I'm just hit with this incredible sadness and I struggle feeling ridiculous. I always think, "What if I was someone else, would I just shove it aside? Ignore these feelings? Am I being dramatic for letting myself feel it? What would Barbara Hererra say, would she threaten to come up here and shake me again? ;) I do NOT want to wallow. I have no time for that (literally- NO time!) But at the same time I want to honor these feelings as they arise and just let them wash over me, cry, take a deep breath and pull back into the busy traffic of my life. So that's what I do.