Biographical Non-Fiction posted January 10, 2019

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Cancer Doesn't Care

by Ideasaregems-Dawn

It was more than eighteen years ago; March 9, 2000 in fact. That wasn't the actual date I got the news, but the date of my surgery, and after many previous operations, I was truly frightened. To be anesthetized again was my achilles heel. I have some issues with breathing, for one thing.

But cancer doesn't care. It doesn't care if you've never smoked a day in your life, it doesn't care if you've been parentless since you were a teenager, it doesn't care about your social position, your age, your skin colour-- cancer doesn't care about anything but destroying healthy tissue.

And we couldn't be sure it WAS cancer, but I had to consent to having a complete hysterectomy in the event that the lab results were malignant. No definite diagnosis made going into surgery even more difficult. Mine was a brilliant surgeon, but his bedside manner was about as warm as a cobra. Somewhere in the back of my mind something wriggled around, trying to worm its way into conscious thought. Eventually it made it, but long after the operation was over.

But I don't want to get ahead of myself in the telling -- it's too important. All the way up to the operating room I had to be cajoled into having the surgery. Thank heavens for compassionate nurses, that's all I can say. And once I was over the operation itself, I was able to be grateful that my doctor WAS such a skilled surgeon. A friend had been diagnosed at almost the same time as I -- a much younger woman -- but she didn't make it. (May she RIP.)

Both of us had ovarian cancer. But let me give you a bit of backstory... Nearly thirty years prior, I'd had so many problems with pain and bloating every month that doctors had operated to try scraping the womb as a means of helping. The procedure is commonly called a D&C. I had them -- four times! And then, one doctor, to whom I will be forever grateful (in addition to the one in 2000), removed the neck of my cervix when he found pre-cancerous cells at my annual check-up. (Young women - PAP smears! Annually! I can't stress that enough.)

That particular operation almost cost me my life when the internal stitches ruptured, but that's a story for another day. It was, however, the end of that marriage. (Another part of that story for another day.) It brings me to the unease I had, however (in addition to the abject fear) over having to consent to have my ovaries removed while I was still on the table. I went through it alone, at least the first part. My Mom was already dead and buried. Mother passed away at the age of forty-nine. We never did have those conversations about menopause that most women have with their mothers.

I got off lucky, in more ways than one. Not only was the surgery a breeze, the surgeon was able to remove all the cancerous cells and assure me I would not have a recurrence, that the odds were infinitesimal it would ever return. My operation happened at noon, and by five o'clock I asked the nurses to remove the morphine drip that kept me waking up, gasping for air (the previously-mentioned breathing problems, known as sleep apnea, triggered by a reaction to morphine). I was out of bed, moving around, pain-free, and stayed that way.

Three days later I was released from hospital and on a tour bus to Casino Rama every day that same week. (Insert laughter here -- pure joy because that was one heck of a bumpy ride all the way -- a one and a half-hour trip just one way, and I never had to take anything but a couple of Tylenol. Off work, I wanted to enjoy my free time.)

But menopause and I were strangers. That had been the thought trying to rise into consciousness when I had the pre-surgery interview with my surgeon. I had little information to go on, and would have asked questions, had it occurred to me. Though I learned in the following months -- man, did I learn. Thanks to a familial history with cancer, I was unable to be prescribed any kind of hormone replacement, and six months of hell followed -- night sweats, mood swings, inability to sleep more than one hour at a time, and suddenly, I no longer looked twenty years younger than I was. I had truly aged overnight in appearance.

Yet I still had to be incredibly thankful -- I've since learned some women never STOP having those symptoms, right into their eighties and beyond. Imagine! And after all, I'm still here. That has to count for something, right?

All kidding aside, one of my clients at the time had her church pray for me before the surgery. It brings me to tears every time I tell the story. No one will ever convince me I didn't receive a whole lot of miracles.

Cancer doesn't care, but God does.

Feel free to join me in prayer for all those suffering right now.


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