Almost everyone has surgery at some time in their lives. We often hear of people having their appendix removed after having pains in their right side. And that is exactly what happened to me. It wasn’t a bad pain at all. In fact, when I had a physical exam several years ago, I forgot all about it until I was walking down the hall to leave the doctor’s office.
Just as we were about to part ways, she asked if I was sure I didn’t have any other problems that she should know about. And then it hit me. I had been having a pain in my right side, so I told her about it. So back we went to the examining room and she found a reason to say that I should get an X-ray to make sure it was nothing.
In fact her words were, “Let’s not stick our heads in the sand over this.”
And that’s where this story begins. My regular family doctor told me to schedule an appointment with a specialist she had in mind. Then, that specialist had her examinations and her further tests. Eventually, she asked me to come to her office during a time that wasn’t the usual office hours for her. In fact, it was in December and it was almost dark before I got there.
It’s not good news when you have to go during the hours doctors have open for emergencies. It was not what I wanted to hear. But there I was, walking in this very nice private office with lots of pictures of children on the walls. The way she looked at me as I sat down made me feel that things weren’t as they should be. What was she thinking?
The next thing I knew she was telling me that my surgery might be very soon, or maybe she could hold off until after Christmas. What had she said that I must have missed? All I knew was that the surgery depended on other test results that had not yet come back. So, when I left, I wasn’t sure what was next.
Since there was no phone call before Christmas, I hoped she was waiting until after the new year of 2003 had begun. By then, I knew it was to be a hysterectomy and it would be on January 14th. And, she was bringing in another doctor, just in case she found any cancer. Well now, where did that word come from?
And before I knew it, early one morning, my husband, daughter and I walked in the hospital and at the admitting desk we were told to take a number. What? George said that I was there for major surgery and I had to take a number? So, I did.
Then I was prepped and just as quickly I was rolled into the operating room. When the anesthesiologist came in, he said that I should give him my arm. When I put my arm out toward him, I remember saying “Your life is now in my hands. No, I mean my life is now in your hands.” And I was out before I heard his response to my confusion.
Much later, when I was conscious, I heard my daughter telling me I had 2 kinds of cancer. And, that I would have to deal with 2 different doctors for 2 different types of treatments. But, that I would do nothing for the next whole month because of needing to heal from this surgery first. Good, I had a month to do nothing but get well. It was a good month. I stayed at my daughter’s home for 3 weeks.
When I wrote a story about it, I called it “Carolee’s Spa”. I wrote about the great food I had to eat, as well as watching that farmer out the window working in the field feeding his horses in the snow early each morning. (It was really my husband out doing chores.) I wrote about taking middle-of-the-night walks around the island in the middle of her kitchen.
Also, about laughing through all the old “Golden Girls” shows at 6 p.m. while eating supper on a tray in her living room. Carolee regulated my medications very carefully so I wouldn’t get addicted to them. She knew that lots of people become addicted to drugs by first being on a prescription drug for medication. Then not wanting to go through the withdrawal pains, they get new illegal drugs on the street, and end up becoming totally addicted.
.Before I knew it, the month had passed and I was on my way to see the first specialist about my appendix. It was the best news ever. He said there was no reason to have any treatments for the cancer in my appendix, because he had gotten it all out. Yea!! So, then, on Feb. 14th, I was off to another hospital and an oncologist who specialized in the type of cancer of the ovary that I had. Yes, I had ovarian cancer. Not good news for anyone to hear.
The oncologist was sitting behind his desk reading from the many pages of my reports that had been sent to him. He was studying each page as he read. First, he said that I will have to have chemo and radiation, and then when he looked at the next page, he said, “No, you don’t.” But the next page made him say “Yes, you do.”
And page after page his words changed from Yes, to No and back again. All I remember is that when he got to the last page of my report, he said, that if I was his mother, he would not recommend that I have treatments. It would be too hard on me. And with that, he closed the book and sent me downstairs to have a blood test, and also added that I should go home and get well before going back to work. With all that good news, he gave me a prescription for something that would help me to sleep better.
We filled the prescription and headed home. I took time to call all my siblings to tell them my good news. But, a little later, after taking the new medication, I had all the signs of a heart attack! (Vomiting, sweating, terrible pressure on my head and chest, blood pressure over 200, tingling in my hands, etc.) We had to call the emergency squad and they took me right to the hospital.
While there, they found I had an allergic reaction to that one tiny little pill I had taken. It scared me to think that after all I had been through, that one little tiny pill would do me in. But, I was back home in a couple of hours and better by the next day.
That all happened on February 14, 2003. I had special blood tests every 6 months for 2 years. The good news is that I have been in great health ever since. I need to back up and clear up an important fact here. My pain was only in my right side. It was that pain that got me to the doctor who saw to it that I had a hysterectomy.
It was only when they operated that they found that my ovary on my left side was a 26 (the size of an orange) instead of a normal 2. The cancer was all encapsulated inside the surface of the ovary itself. It had not yet burst open. Therefore, it was caught soon enough that the surgeon was able to remove the entire ovary without any of the cancer cells getting outside of it.
In other words, I had absolutely no warning of having that advanced of ovarian cancer. None.! So, I often think back to the day I told my doctor about a little pain in my right side, and how lucky I was that she insisted I have an X-ray. My many thanks go to Dr. Judy Held.
Kay E. Conklin is a retired Delaware County recorder who served four terms. She graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University with a degree in sociology and anthropology.