Archive for April, 2010

Yay!

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

Well that was a nice surprise!

I got a call from the BCCA today telling me my LEEP is scheduled for Tuesday May 11 at 10:30am – WAY sooner than I expected based on yesterday’s confusion.  That makes me pretty happy!

I’m also happy that they booked me for a general anaesthetic just like last time.  I know it’s overkill, because really these procedures take almost no time to do, but I’m very twitchy and anxious, and need to be sedated/unconscious for this stuff or it’s just a hellish experience for everyone.  When I last discussed with the doctor, I agreed to try a local with sedation, but I’m actually really relieved that they’re just opting to knock me out.

Frank will be my ride & take care of me while I recover.  The immediate recovery (from the anaesthetic & whatnot) is very quick and fairly painless… a day or two of loafing and I’ll feel fine.  The wound will take 4-8 weeks to heal, but it’s not very noticeable or painful at all during that process.

The only downside is that the date collides with a nice social/dinner plan that was booked for that evening, but it’s worth rescheduling so that I can get the surgery over with.

Wish me luck!

Waiting

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

Well, that’s annoying.

I was pretty sure the doc said they’d call me with my next LEEP surgery date, but they’ve never taken this long to get back to me before.  I wondered if maybe I heard wrong & I was actually supposed to call them to get the date.  As it’s been nearly two weeks since my pre-op discussion and I hadn’t heard back yet, I decided to call in & see if I was supposed to be waiting, or calling, or what.

Blessings on the receptionist, who was clearly confused but still patient and helpful….and blessings on me for not saying “WTF?!”  Apparently, she couldn’t find any note anywhere indicating that I was supposed to have another surgery, and she can’t book me without a directive from the doctor, so now I have to wait.

She’s  gonna call me back “probably next week” she says, so that’s going to push my surgery to later than expected.  They’d originally said mid-May, but with this time loss, I’m probably looking at early June.  Hopefully it won’t collide with when Frank’s out of town 🙁

…grumble

Edumacation

Monday, April 19th, 2010

As you may expect, we’ve fielded a few questions this week about my cervical cancer, and I thought it might be useful to write a post about it here.

When we see/hear the word “cancer”, we usually think of tumors, hospitalization, radiation, chemotherapy, weakened bodies and bald heads.  But in truth not all cancers are like this.  “Cancer” is kind of a catch-all term, but there’s a much deeper nitty-gritty to classification, and there can be a lot of variety in the behaviour & treatment of different types.

The early stages of cervical cancer tend to be limited to the cervical area, and doesn’t spread, so the treatment is just a straight-up “cut it out” procedure.  In advanced stages, cervical cancer can become invasive and affect neighbouring organs, lymph nodes, etc – and in those cases, a more aggressive surgery is needed, plus radiation/chemo to kill off what they can’t reach with a knife.

Lucky for me, we caught this really early, so I won’t need any radiation/chemo.  The LEEP should cut out the offending cells, and they will keep a close eye on me for at least a year to make sure that nothing new grows back.  There are all sorts of statistics about whether it will grow back, but with good screening and prompt treatment, it can be controlled, and is not life-threatening.

Also, I am fortunate that cervical cancer doesn’t tend to have any outward symptoms, at least in the early stages, like mine.  I don’t feel sick or weak, and don’t expect to.  The LEEP surgery is easy (far easier than the cryosurgery I had a few years ago), and has a very short recovery time.  When I had my first LEEP in February, I was quite surprised that I felt “normal” within a day.  Of course, it takes much longer than a day for the cervix to heal from the surgery (4-6 weeks), but for the most part I didn’t feel it.

Perhaps of greater impact than the physical details are the emotional and psychological ones.  It takes a great deal of effort and patience to get through all the appointments, release forms and discussions.  And, if I were not also trying to get pregnant, this would be a much simpler and easier process.

Hopefully that answers some of the questions you might have.  I’m not at all squeamish about answering questions, or talking about my experience/treatment, so please do ask if you want to.

The Story So Far…

Thursday, April 15th, 2010

Over the last few years I’ve periodically blogged about my health & fertility, and recently, Frank & I decided to create a blog specifically for it.  It can be a pretty heavy topic, and I don’t feel that weaving it into my standard daily blogspace is the right venue.  That said, we have many friends who want to be kept up to date, and it seemed having a separate, dedicated space was a good choice.  So welcome to our new blog, a space to focus on Team Roberts’ ongoing battle with (in)fertility and cervical cancer.

To catch you up….

Fertility, Part 1
Frank & I got married in 2002, and started trying to conceive shortly after.  After about a year of no babies, we talked to our doc.  We did a first round of basic testing (blood/hormone tests, sperm counts) which all turned out fine.  I also had a hysterosalpingogram, which is a rather unpleasant test that checks for blockages in the tubes.  This was also fine.  So the basic tests revealed nothing – we’re both perfectly healthy, sperm counts were excellent, my blood/hormones were doing the right thing at the right time & there were no blockages.  Despite both of us appearing to be perfectly normal, there was still no babies.

The next step was to take it to the UBC Fertility clinic, but time gets away, and I had anxiety about being poked & prodded, and we kept holding out for it all to just happen naturally.  During this time, we saw a naturopath and TCM (Traditional Chinese medicine) practitioner, did acupuncture & special diets/supplements, but again without any positive results (ie: still no babies).

Cancer, Part 1
In the summer of 2006, I had a pap that returned unhappy results.  My cervix was showing pre-cancerous cell changes that would require treatment.  In the fall, I received cryosurgery to remove the bad cells, which was an incredibly unpleasant experience, but the pre-cancer was gone, and we could get back on the bus to babyland.

Fertility, Part 2
This scare woke us up a bit, and through 2007, I did two things.  1) I spent a lot of money on my awesome psychologist.  We did a year of somatic/self regulation therapy to help me manage the anxieties that I knew would come with freaky medical pokey stuff.  2) I got on the horn to the UBC Fertility Clinic.  We repeated the blood/hormone & sperm testing (all still good), and in the summer of 2008, I underwent the dreaded laparoscopy and while I was under, they did a hysteroscopy too.  The hope was that they would see some reason why I wasn’t getting pregnant, but again, everything was perfectly normal.  No sign of anything wrong at all.  It sounds ridiculous to be disappointed by a “normal” result, but I had so wished that they would see something broken so that they could fix it.  With nothing to “fix” the options narrow down to two choices.  Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) or In Vitro Fertilization (IVF).  Both require a lot of poking, a lot of money, and I was angry at the universe and didn’t want to be poked anymore.  So I sulked into my cave to hibernate and didn’t act on anything.  I didn’t even call the doctor back after I recovered from the surgery.

Cancer, Part 2
I stayed in my cave for about a year.  In October of 2009, I had another pap return scary results; the cells were changing again.  These cellular changes were more severe and more widespread than last time, and I was referred to the awesome doctors at the BC Cancer Agency.  Instead of cryosurgery (a treatment that is no longer recommended in BC), they removed the bad cells via LEEP which allows them to retain the removed tissue for further testing.
I had the LEEP in February, and before I was fully recovered from it, the cancer-doc called to tell me that they found a “small cancer” in one place along the edge of what was removed, and that I would need further treatment.  Possibly another LEEP, possibly a partial hysterectomy, depending on how aggressive we wanted to treat it.

Frank and I have spent the last month talking seriously about what to do.  Of course, a partial hysterectomy would mean that I couldn’t carry my own pregnancy, if we ever succeeded in conceiving.  A more conservative treatment (at first) would buy us time to give IVF a shot, but that could also mean that the cancer could come back later, perhaps worse, perhaps during a pregnancy – both terrible scenarios.  We’ve heard all the horror stories, and we’re not interested in having me take a premature dirt nap, but we also didn’t want to give up on babies unless there really was no other choice.

Today
And now you’re caught up.  Today was a big day.  Frank and I went to see the cancer doc this afternoon to discuss the treatment options for my “small cancer”.  We asked her the big questions about risk and whatnot, and of course she can’t predict the future, but she believed that doing another LEEP with the intention of preserving my fertility is a reasonable and safe option.  If I were older or not interested in babies, they’d recommend just taking it all out, but in light of our age and parenting goals, it’s reasonable to keep it in check with LEEPs for a little while.  That said, there’s realistically only so much flesh they can cut away, so if our IVF attempts fail and the cancer returns, then I think the writing will be on the wall for us.

Next Steps
I’ll be collecting another referral to the UBC Fertility Clinic from my GP, and in about a month (mid-May), I’ll be going for another LEEP.  Assuming that the LEEP goes well, the timing could work out that I’d be seeing the fertility doc by the time the next LEEP is healed, and we could be underway for IVF by late summer.  The only thing that could ruin the plan is if they get in there to do the procedure and they discover that it’s spreading or getting somehow worse enough that it would require a more aggressive treatment immediately.  But we’re going to hope that doesn’t happen. 🙂

Once the LEEP is done, and the results are showing me cancer-free, we’ll proceed with an IVF attempt.

In case you are terribly worried, please let me assure you that there have been heaps of progress made in the area of women’s cancers, and although this is of course, serious, it’s not going to kill me.  Cervical cancer is very treatable, and I have a lot of confidence in the good folks at the Cancer Agency.  Rest assured that we don’t plan to make any crazy decisions that would put my life at risk.

If you want to keep up, I’ll be posting here, with updates, notes, feelings… all that bloggy jazz.

Thanks for reading, for your love, your support, and for being the super-awesome beings that you are.
Hugs & stuff,
Crank and Flaire

A couple blogging together… How sexy is that?

Thursday, April 15th, 2010

So Claire and I have been going through some challenging times lately (I’ll let her expand on that a little, when she’s ready) but it seems that she felt that having a space dedicated to sharing the details of this little journey online made sense, so it falls to me to set something up.

As it happens, I registered the domain “crankandflaire.com” eons ago, and it has never been put to any good use since then. It was always intended to be the site about the two of us together rather than either of our solo exploits. Even the name speaks to that, although I’ll let her also tell the story of that another day.

So here we are. After a little noodling around with the setup shortly after New Year 2010, I got a lovely little standalone WordPress install rolling on our webserver… And now it looks as though this thing might even serve a good long-term purpose. And if that wasn’t already an adequate outlet for my geekery, I’m currently tapping away at this post from the dedicated WordPress app on my iPhone. Neato!

Hopefully we will both have lots of interesting stuff to share here real soon. Hugs to anyone who might take the time to read this!

Oh and just for fun, here’s a shot of me in my sporty blueness, which is an easy thing to include when the vehicle for your blogging happens to be a cameraphone. 😉