January 27th – Life Changes – Total Hysterectomy for Ovarian Cancer

Leading up to the 27th they kept me quite busy. I had the two days before to get things done and figured out. On Tuesday I spent the bulk of the day at Siteman Cancer Center (https://siteman.wustl.edu) to complete scans, which would tell us if there were any other large masses from the shoulders down to the legs, and run through a ton of pre-op work and blood tests. I received a call on Wednesday from Dr. Hagemann, while I was driving, she told me she wanted to give me the news as soon as she could. The scans came back clear and the blood work was pretty positive as well, leading her to believe we were tackling this thing in enough time. Whew! That was a bit of a relief!

My brother and sister-in-law drove in the night before to help with the kids and sit with my parents during the procedure. The goal for the weekend was to occupy them enough to keep their mind off the fact that I wasn’t home. Saturday Olivia, Jaxson, Ethan and Emmett went to the City Museum, none of them had been before. They had a BLAST!! It is a unique place for adults and children alike to run and play – Kyle and Mel were convinced someone was going to end up with a broken bone by the time they left– ha! This also allowed for my parents to be able to spend time with me at the hospital as well, which was really nice.

I don’t think I slept more than a handful of hours the night before. We had to be downtown by 5:30am, which meant I needed to be up and going no later than 4:45am. My mind was racing – how bad was this going to hurt? What were they going to find when they removed everything? Was I prepared for the changes I would be going through? What if the cancer was found microscopically in other areas, what do I do then?  How would I adjust to the new “me”?  The list goes on an on, my head was spinning.

We arrived a little before 5:30am and let me tell you…they don’t mess around at Barnes (Barnes Jewish Hospital). I was up in pre-op less than 5 minutes of arriving, and they start exactly when they say they’re going to – the pre-op area was full of staff, moving a mile a minute. Well, now that I think about it, I was her first patient of the day – ha! Only one minor hiccup during the process – apparently having low blood pressure (below 100) doesn’t work so well with the pain management method they usually use…not fitting inside the box with this lovely thing I now have, seems to the norm.

They made a call to the chief of the anesthesia department to ask them what they suggested doing. I’d warned them that my blood pressure would drop to around 85/55 post surgery and wouldn’t come back up for a few days, based on past surgeries. The original course of action was to have been an epidural – epidurals make blood pressure dip even further and can’t be used with that low of a blood pressure. So, what do you do at this point? Catheter pain management inserted at the end of surgery near the surgical site – in my case, they were on either side of the incision. I think it was an ON-Q pain relief system and it stayed in for 2.5 days. I LOVED IT!!! I will ask for them again if it’s an option.

Now, back to the surgery itself…Dr. Hagemman arrived a little after 7am, as calming, upbeat and positive as ever. We went over last-minute details and when my parents could anticipate seeing me – 4.5 hour surgery, an additional 1-2 hours after that. I’ll be honest, I don’t know what time it was when I actually saw them, initially it wasn’t for long, but I was moved to a room fairly quickly. Once all of that was done, my anesthesia team rolled in, got the “good stuff” flowing and we were on our way – by the way, I had 3-4 anesthesiologist, this was in addition to my surgeon and her team and the team behind the microscopes analyzing what was being removed. As if that wasn’t enough, the surgery was taking place in the designated “pelvic” operating area so if she ran into any problems outside of her specialty she’d have access to an array of doctors that would be able to assist. Some of these things, I really don’t need to know – ha!

Everything went as planned, I came out of this surgery significantly better than the previous one. I still remember rounding the corner at the nurses station on the Gynecological Oncology floor and them all doing a double take – no way this is her, she looks really good for what she just went through…has to be her, we don’t have anyone near this age on the floor. I was able to put together a few words and said “thank you, I think”.   We’d still have to wait for the final pathology reports to come in, but Dr. Hagemann felt really good about the way things went and she still firmly believed the word “cured” would happen at some point down the road.

Word of advice – take your own pillows, blankets, etc with you!

The first night was a little rough, which is to be expected. I had a roommate for the evening, she was the nicest older woman, Carol. Her Ovarian Cancer had spread to other parts of her body and she was in for a blood transfusion. I had the bed next to the windows and made sure that when one of us wasn’t meeting with a doctor or nurse the curtain between us was open. I’ve been on the other side and it sucks looking at the wall! My side was lined with a wall of floor to ceiling windows, she needed natural lighting, and something to look at, plus it gave us the opportunity to have casual conversation if we chose to do so.

Every morning, 6am on the dot the doctor’s were at my bedside. First was the anesthesiologist, checking to make sure the catheter pain pumps were working properly, there were usually two of them. Next was my oncology team – the same four every morning checking my incisions, pain management, food intake, determining when I could go home.

Sonya has been there for almost everything – fitting she’d drive straight from the airport to check on me!

I had several friends and family visit throughout my 4 day stay. They brought flowers, and muffins and pastries for my family and other friends that would visit. The children came to visit me on Sunday afternoon and they did pretty well – this wasn’t the first time they’d visited me in the hospital, so they knew what to expect. Thankfully, the heliport was directly outside my window, plus the Central West End is in the flight path for commercial airlines landing at Lambert, so Jaxson and Olivia had plenty of things to entertain them.

By the time Monday rolled around, I was ready to get home! 3 nights and 4 days in the hospital is enough to make anyone ready to be home, plus things were beginning to pick up and became a little bit busier on the floor. I was finally discharged around 6pm and the recovery and waiting period would begin. Two weeks from Monday I’d be meeting with my team to find out the results and exactly what we’d be doing as far as a treatment plan went…two weeks, feels like an eternity, this was the longest period I’d had without any appointments, tests, etc. I thought Monday, February 13th would never arrive.

To my surprise when I got home, Mel (my sister-in-law) had crafted a welcome home banner for me with all the kids – if there is one thing that could bring a smile to someone’s face, this is it!  Although I didn’t have the children the evening I came home, there was something special there to remind me of them!


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