It is fitting that I am pondering my life after cancer right now: My older child is officially a kindergartener today and is about to lose her first tooth. There was a time when I was not sure I would ever be able to say a sentence like that.
As I said in my previous post, I have been cancer free since 1990, but there is a little more to it than that.
First of all, my husband and I have moved quite a lot over the years, so each time we move I have to find a new doctor and explain my entire health history to him or her, and then wait to see if they will overreact and order a bunch of tests I probably don’t need. So that in itself is a huge pain in the ass.
Second, in 2001 I was having some discomfort in the area of the (huge) scar on my abdomen, which turned out to be a hernia for which I had surgery. The hernia was caused by scar tissue, which is the issue I had years ago with the two bowel obstructions.
Third… Third would be classified as *other* I think… I will expand on this one.
After my husband and I had been married for a few years, we decided we’d like to add to our family. I had NO idea if I could have children. There was no real way to tell. Technically, I should have been fine because I have a working ovary, a working fallopian tube, and a uterus. However, there was no way to know what the scar tissue inside of me had become and how it might interfere with the process. Also, there were concerns that the chemo could cause infertility, but no way to know for sure without trying. So after nearly a year of “trying” – including taking my temperature and making charts and whatnot – there was still no pregnancy. My doctor decided to try a round of Clomid and if that didn’t work, he would do the somewhat invasive tests that make sure the fallopian tube is open and those sorts of things. Well, we didn’t need to do that. That one round of Clomid did the trick (with a little help from me and my husband).
So: Great! Yay! I was pregnant! Awesome! Scary! All that first time parent stuff!
The first trimester was fine. I was nauseated most of the time, but it was fine. I was still working, even though my job was pretty stressful. Second trimester started fine, too. We even traveled to Costa Rica. But in the second trimester I did decide to leave my job because of the stress – physical and mental. It just wasn’t worth it to risk the pregnancy and I planned to be a stay at home mom anyway. While I was still in my second trimester – a few weeks after I had quit working and on the weekend of my birthday – I got very sick and was throwing up. We went to Labor and Delivery to have me checked out and the doctor decided it was probably just a bug. I went home hoping to recover, but instead of getting better I got worse. So we went back to Labor and Delivery to see what was going on. One of the things that was going on was a little preterm labor, which was definitely not cool. They gave me medicine to stop that. I was also having quite a lot of abdominal pain and throwing up a lot. Turns out these are the symptoms of a bowel obstruction – a condition I was unfortunately familiar with… Just not when I was 23 weeks pregnant.
Not so great.
I was admitted to L & D after my doctor came to this realization, and from that point I think there must have been a lot of creative problem solving going on. I’m just guessing that bowel obstructions during pregnancy aren’t too common. What I am NOT guessing is that it is an urgent situation, for both mother and child. And it is a problem for which there aren’t too many solutions.
The first attempt to remedy this was to drain everything that was stuck in hopes the obstruction would open up enough so that I would not have to have surgery. (In case you don’t know, when the bowel is obstructed, it literally blocks your digestive system. My blockage was again caused by scar tissue.) The way to “drain” it is to put a tube down your nose into your stomach. While you are awake. It is exactly as fun as it sounds.
Although this attempt did relieve some pressure and make me a little more comfortable, the blockage remained: I would have to have surgery. Again. And at 23 weeks pregnant. There was no other option. This is the way I remember it anyway – I was hallucinating a lot thanks to the demerol they gave me for the pain. I also remember there being a lizard in my hospital room, but I am pretty sure that didn’t happen.
So obviously our biggest concern about the surgery was the well being of the baby and the effect general anesthesia would have on her when given to me. The doctors told us that it would just make her go to sleep. And really we did not have a choice – without surgery it was likely that neither of us would make it. So, surgery it was. Almost 16 years to the day since my first surgery to remove the tumor from my ovary.
It was a successful surgery, by the way.
The surgery did the trick, but now I was recovering from major abdominal surgery with an ever growing belly. BUT all was well! I felt very blessed to be in the situation I was in when it could have easily gone the other way. I was really just hoping to make it to 37 weeks with no (further) complications. And I really wanted to have a natural childbirth… My surgeon thought I should have a C-section, but my OB saw no reason for that – Thank God!
Our first daughter was born two days before her due date. Born completely healthy and with no medical interventions. And she started kindergarten today.
|My beautiful, healthy kindergartener.|