Friday, August 7, 2009


I'm feeling quiet and thoughtful this afternoon.

I had an appointment this morning to talk to the gynecological oncologist and discuss getting my ovaries removed. Evidently, it's an easy procedure. They do it laparoscopically, it takes about an hour, I would be put under completely (to allow for the least tension in my guts), but it's still an outpatient surgery. I have never had abdominal surgery and my ovaries appear to be healthy, as well as small from having been suppressed for the last year, so I am a particularly routine case. Women who have had the surgery report about a week of feeling just kind of "ungh", then maybe one more week before they really feel like picking anything up (hear that, seventy-pound Spackle? You'll have to get yourself into the back of the car for a little bit), but there's no major pain, and, since I've already had them suppressed for the last 14 months or so, I should not feel any of the menopause symptoms as my body adjusts to the lack of ovaries, because, well, they're essentially gone already.

This is a good time to do the surgery (that is, after my next trip to Idaho at the end of September), particularly because I'm not on chemo, which can make healing take longer, and risks of infection higher. Since my ovaries respond well to medical suppression, which I could evidently be on indefinitely or until natural menopause takes over, there is no medically crucial reason to get them out. It seems like a good idea to keep the estrogen out of my system, though, and I could have another 20 years of it, so it's got to be one or the other.

The problem with medical suppression is partly that it's yet another drug—and this one an uncomfortable shot in the ass—but mostly it's that it's on a monthly schedule—meaning I'd have to be in the clinic every four weeks—and the Herceptin protocol I began as of yesterday is on a tri-weekly schedule, meaning that, with the combination, I would have to be at the clinic almost every week anyway. Years ago, Dr Livingston had me on a different suppression regimen, which I was able to get every three weeks. The one I'm on now, the pharmacists won't allow that. For all I know, they wouldn't allow it with Zoladex (the old one) now either.

I know this is surprising to you all, but I don't actually like hanging out at the clinic that much. I would like to stop going there so regularly. I used to complain about the 3-week bungee cord that kept me tied to Seattle. It wasn't a steel cord—I could stretch to a bit longer than 3 weeks every once in awhile. But my life was definitely in 3-week intervals. I would love to have that back for awhile. As long as Ian is on the ridiculous schedule of the American working stiff, with technically only two weeks off in a year (well, with comp time and whatnot he gets about 3), there's no need for me to have more than 3 weeks at a time.

None of this at all even approaches the true meaning of getting my ovaries out, though, which is that, once and for all, no turning back, I will lose all ability and all potential ability to reproduce.

This is proving to be surprisingly harder to deal with than I thought it would, particularly when last year it seemed I was a hair's breadth away from dying, and no one, NO ONE, would ever want me to try to get pregnant with my history. Logically, I don't even want children anymore. I don't think either Ian nor I would've survived the last year if we'd had to care for anything even a teensy amount more needy than a dog (and we had a lot of help with them), and kids are in a completely different universe of neediness. Even excluding my cancer past and the possibilities of future recurrences (which, of course, I can't after 10 years and four bouts), I'm 36 years old now, I'm set in my ways, and I like having the bulk of my time to call my own.

That said, without being a rabid "I will only find meaning in my life if I have children!" sort of person, I always assumed I would have kids. We picked out a name for a girl, and would occasionally discuss boys' names, without really reaching any sort of conclusions. In the past few years, I've thought a lot about parenting, and I still catch myself in certain situations thinking "Oh, I'll have to teach my kids about this!" or "I can't wait to share this place with my kids!" We even designed our future house with two kids' rooms. They are now extra guest rooms, because the fact is, there will always be children in our lives.

I have not been kidding (ha ha) about the baby boom in my friends' lives this year—there are, like, a dozen new babies who are going to come to "summer camp" at our place on Orcas to do all the things our cousins had to do on my family's farm—planting and weeding, feeding animals and cleaning stalls, riding, collecting eggs, splitting wood, canning and freezing vegetables, and whatever other country things we can think of to subject them to. I am confident that I will be a perfectly adequate parent figure in the lives of these children, the offspring of our extended circle of friends and family.

I am also confident that I will enjoy my time on the farm without the kids, as I enjoy my time here in the city. I truly do not feel that I am missing out on some great mystery, even though I know I am. My life is full.

Ian, bless him, would've liked a kid, but has never really cared if we have children.

All he wants is me.


allyson said...

I can't wait to send our kid to Orcas! You're going to be the best auntie ever. Love you both.

xo A

Robert said...

My experience growing up was that my parents' brothers and sisters (and their spouses) wound up doing some pretty heavy-duty parenting for my sisters and I. I can see that your niece and her parents will be blessed to have you both as her aunt and uncle!