I’ve known since January that I would need to have surgery to remove my baby making department – or ‘patio over the garden’ as my friend Jack put it – but back then the surgeons were talking about in a couple of years. The plan was to take zoladex for two years to chemically shut my ovaries down, and then have the surgery once Ava was old enough to get her own dinner and not be the clinging mother limpet that she is at the moment. Well, zoladex made me crazy so they stopped it, and as a consequence I will be having the surgery to get rid of the baby garden in three weeks.
Although I’ve had plenty of time to get my head round this, I am scared. Of lots of things. But not as scared as I am of getting cancer again and never seeing Ava start school, or Holly graduate, or Sami decide on his sexual orientation, or Zaki play a game of FIFA without having a strop. The oncology surgeons have told me this is the best course of treatment for my age and my type of cancer. It reduces my risk of a breast cancer recurrence and eliminates any chance of cancer in my ovaries, fallopian tubes, uterus or cervix, because they will no longer be inside me. Considering I played chemo roulette and took on the odds so I could have Ava, I’m not prepared to gamble again.
So what am I scared of?
1 The general
Past experience of general anaesthetics has gone something like this: wake up feeling high as a kite in recovery, talk a lot, demand food, generally be really hyper for 24 hours… This is then followed by a sickening crash the next day when the adrenaline stops, the pain becomes a chore, and my emotions turn into a depressed mess of crying and wailing over the simplest of things. Last time I even cried because I couldn’t stand at the sink and do the washing up – as if I even like washing up! This depression goes on for a couple of weeks, and will be compounded this time by No2…
2. The medically induced menopause
I’ve heard that some people sail through this after the sudden and unexpected (to your body at least) removal of the ovaries. I’ve been warned by my surgeon to expect it to hit me like a freight train. They’ve also cautioned that as zoladex made me psychotic, so too could the sudden loss of my ovaries. I have to keep a close eye on my moods and thoughts, which is weird because last time I thought I was fine and it was Nate who noticed I wasn’t behaving in an entirely normal – for me – fashion. I thought I was dandy even when I was convinced I’d discovered the meaning of life and it was suicide. Alarm bells weren’t ringing even then. And Nate isn’t here anymore to tell me if I’m starting to sound a bit like I need to be locked up again. That is scary. I hope the antipsychotic meds I’m on work on menopause madness or I might end up being very eccentric and not knowing it.
I’m terrified I’m going to die on the operating table. This fear is fairly irrational but it’s rooted in a relatively rational fear of being out of control. My life will be in the hands of other people and one of them might be hung over. Then there’s those flesh eating infections you hear about that are rife in NHS operating theatres, the ones you read about in the news where Mr A went in for a gall bladder op and came out with no legs.
4. The catheter
I was told at my pre op that I will have to have a catheter inserted which they will take out the day after surgery. I’ve managed to get this far in life without ever having needed a catheter, but it’s not an optional extra, it’s compulsory. I’ve been told you can’t feel it, but I’m still a bit queasy about the thought of it – and of my wee hanging on the side of the bed in a little bag for anyone who comes to visit to see.
I hate hospitals, they are boring places. I’m not one of those people who’s like ‘I’ve just had surgery and I don’t want to see anyone because I haven’t put my make up on because I’m too high on morphine.’. I want to see all my friends and have a party in my bed. But people tend to shy away from visiting because they don’t want to encroach. You’re not encroaching, please come and see me. And bring chocolate. And wit.
So these are my fears. They may seem trivial but they are mine and they are real to me. But not as real as the fear of dying of cancer. They call this elective surgery, a term I take umbrage with but is technically correct. I am electing to have the surgery, despite my fears, because it’s the best course of treatment for me. I do have a choice, but I don’t feel like I do. So the baby garden will be covered by a patio, and if I dig deep enough, I may even be able to find the person I was before I started living in fear of a recurrence or spread of the cancer.