Bald 'n Sassy

Life is for the living. Live simply. Expect less.

Archive for the tag “hysterectomy”

Cervical Cancer – My treatment, my story (Part 2)

It’s 11.18pm on Friday night.  I decided to continue my story on my cancer treatment.

So I left off where I had to have my hysterectomy surgery.  I made great recovery post operation that I was discharged 6 days. This was the third week of November 2008 when I left.  Boy, was I eager to get home.  Don’t get me wrong, the nurses at Mount Alvernia Hospital here in Singapore looked really great care of me. And I was also happy that my mum was able to fly from Sydney, Australia to help and look after me post surgery.  I needed my mummy at this stage.

I spent the next several weeks recuperating at home.  My mum being the very traditional chinese mother cooked all the right foods that would aid my recovery. According to my mum and many other chinese mothers’ firmly believe certain foods can help and while others I must avoid.  Take for example, chicken liver cooked with some ginger and sherry replenished the blood loss.  Another good example is specific breed of fish cooked with some chinese herbs could speed up the healing of the scar.  On the other side of the spectrum, consuming prawns and other shellfish would irritate the wound and this would slow down the healing process.  Even consuming soya sauce can darken the scar.  Yes, it is very old wives tales but there is some truth in traditional chinese medicine (TCM).

The 4 weeks healing period was also filled with follow-up medical appointments.  It was also my time to consult the specialist to plan out the radiation treatment. Endured all the pre radiation scans and test. I was blessed to be referred to a great oncologist situated at Mount Elizabeth hospital.  He sat down and walk me through the entire process from how it works and targeted radiated area. I even got to view of the scans of my womb post op. 28 was the magic number assigned to me – this was the number of radiation sessions I had to complete.  I would be radiated daily from Monday to Friday starting 5th December 2008.

When the day arrived for my first radiation session, it took a little longer as the nurses had to use a permanent marker to mark on my pelvic area.  These markers will be used to align the machine to make sure it was precisely targeted.  It took about 10 to 15 mins to be radiated.  While the machine rotates to radiate my front and back of my pelvis, I remembered looking around the room and saw there some posters of fishes and corals on the walls to ease the patient’s tension.  The first session went smoothly and the great thing was that it is pain-free šŸ™‚

One of the side effects, I felt from day one of my radiation was fatigue.  Since my session is scheduled in the morning, I would be very tired just after lunch.  As nurses guided me, I took a nap when this happens.  As I progressed along the radiation treatment other side effects I encountered included pubic hair loss, darkened skin where it is radiated and diarrhoea.  In addition to no shellfish and soya sauce intake, I had to change my diet to a low fibre diet to reduce the tummy side effects.  Oh what fun!

Aside from the western treatment, I decided to complement my radiation with some TCM.  The TCM doctor recommended to take some ginseng and cordyceps to minimize the side effects of radiation.  TCM is a mind-boggling and you have to combine the right herbs is not easy.  So I bought a premium grade ginseng and cordyceps.  I would alternate between 2 herbs where it would be simply brewed with water.  You could say drinking the brew was a necessary “caffeine intake”.  Some chinese medicinal herbs don’t always have a pleasant smell and this is a deterrent for me.  If it taste awful, it would take me a little longer to finish drinking the brew.  I force myself to drink simply because it is meant to be “good for me”.  Luckily the ginseng and cordyceps had a nice after taste that I didn’t mind it all.

Come to 3rd week of January 2009, I successfully completed my 28 sessions of radiation.  I asked my oncologist if I get a certificate of achievement for completing all the sessions.  He laughed at me and said that he will work on that.  To this day, 2 years later, I am still waiting for my certificate.

Another round of CT scans and other tests were conducted not long after radiation to see if there was any signs of cancer cells still lurking around. Results looked great.  I was declared that my cancer is in remission.  Yippee!  Now I can return to living my life.

Next step was to pass the 5 year mark to be declared cancer free.

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Cervical Cancer – my treatment, my story (part 1)

As mentioned in my earlier post, I have promised to share what kind of treatment I had to undergo for cervical cancer.  Before any treatment went ahead, a biopsy was initially carried out to confirm its cancerous.  Once it was confirmed, the next step was to establish what stage my cancer. Based on CT scans results indicated that the cancer was localized and didn’t spread beyond the cervix.  This meant my cancer was Stage 1 and can be treated.  The best course of treatment as per my gynaecologist is to have a radical  hysterectomy where by my entire uterus and the upper part of my vagina is surgically removed.  The medical term for this is Wertheim’s hysterectomy.

The surgery was scheduled 1 week after my diagnosis.  During all the initial tests and scans done, I was alone. I broke the news to my family once the results was confirmed. No surprises that it was an immense shock.  The slew of usual questions cropped up “What happened?”, “How did this happen?”, “What happens now?”.  When I think back,  I should have prepared a FAQ.  I had to repeat countless times.

You may think all this time, what was I thinking?  To be honest, I had stayed cool, calm and collected.  Yes, I had my moment alone where I broke down and cried.  I even posed the questions “What now?”.  This alters my life in more ways than one. I programmed my mind that I had to stay focus and let the doctor’s do what they need to do.  I did not allow this disease get the better of me.

When the surgery day came, I jumped into a cab and took myself to the hospital. A family friend met me at the hospital filling out the necessary paperwork. My sister was coincidentally in Europe on vacation and returning on the day of my surgery.  I didn’t want her to cut short her trip.  I re-assured that everything will be ok.  My boss at the time also showed up at the hospital to lend his support.  Surgery took place in the afternoon.  It is expected to last at least 3.5 hours.  Before I went under the gas, my gynaecologist said to me “No fear, ok”.  I replied “No fear”.

I remembered waking up feeling very groggy from the anaesthesia.  At the same time, I was in so much pain.  I could hear voices but barely make out the faces of people around my bed. I could hear my sister’s voice telling she was there. I kept murmuring that “it’s so painful” over and over.  Morphine has already been administered but I was still in excruciating pain.  It felt like an eternity before I fell asleep.

The next day, the doctor came around for post op check.  He explained that he sent another biopsy sample for further testing and discovered some of the cancer cells has spread into some of the surrounding lymph nodes.  Results showed that it wasn’t Stage 1 anymore.  It has moved up to Stage 2B.  In addition to the surgery, I had to include radiation as part of my treatment.  I will separately blog on the radiation treatment.

As most women would understand, a hysterectomy means the choice to procreate ends right here.  Of course for some, this is a personal choice.  But it my case it was necessary.  For me, I felt saddened when my free will to have babies in the future is no longer available.  I love kids! I am great with kids and always possessed great maternal instincts.  I had to mentally accept that bearing my own children was no longer a choice. Looking back, some parts of me have some regrets for not having kids sooner but I have to move forward in my life.

What did I learn at this stage of the treatment?  I just told myself “This is another hurdle I had to overcome”.  I have to stay positive and strong.

Till the next post, good night from me.

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