Surgery No. 12: The final ovary (and no Bob Seger)

Jenny turned 40 in Oct. 2018. This is what she looked like on her first full day of being 40.

We don’t post often anymore.

Not that cancer isn’t a part of weekly thoughts or conversation. It’s just that cancer is not the center of our schedule like is was at the end of 2012, much of 2013 and parts of 2014.

But I posted about the ovary last June. I suppose the ovary is not directly related to her breast-cancer diagnosis from 2012, but Jenny’s body is complicated and definitely compromised since that day. Every decision — from the non-oophorectomy in 2014 to the hysterectomy in late 2016 to the scope in 2018 — is related to the original diagnosis in 2012. It’s been a long road.

She just turned 40, which is at least older than 2014 when she was 35. Her age has been a part of her decision-making all along. And this left ovary that she had remaining became the center of focus in the last couple years. Her goal: “Keep it as long as you can.

In the post last June, I referenced original goals of keeping the ovaries for as long as possible. I also referenced the fears she had about the potential of finding cancer in the scope. Last June’s surgery was multi-factored.

As Jenny wrote, we are praying for a good outcome in this scope — whatever that means today. There are varying degrees of good outcomes in this case. It means no cancer. It means keeping the ovary. It means finding the source of the pain she’s been dealing with every few months for the last 8 months. Most of all, it means no cancer. 

Let’s go back to the that secondary goal of keeping the ovary … That goal came from conversations with Dr. Misty Wayman (OBGYN in OKC), Dr. Stacy Moulder (oncologist at MD Anderson in Houston) and Dr. Aleda Toma (oncologist in OKC).

By my count right now, I count 16 doctors that we’ve dealt with during this journey. So Jenny is always trying to get consensus when she can. She likes to get a variety of opinions.

The decision to not have an oophorectomy in 2013 or 2014 is what led Jenny to Dr. Toma and away from her previous oncologist, who was recommending her ovaries be removed or put to sleep.

Who knows what the best path would have been? Maybe Jenny should have removed it all years ago. But the vast majority of her doctors did not recommend that path at her age. Even last June, keeping the ovary was a goal.

But last Sunday (Feb. 17, 2019), Jenny said it was time to get that ovary out. She meant it. I’d have done it myself if I could have.

She was in the Integris ER in Edmond in serious pain with the dreaded twisted cysts (ovarian torsion). Since those cysts were removed last June, she’s been pretty much pain free. On occasion, there have been a day or two of discomfort, but she’s been able to deal with it.

The traditional pre-op picture at Lakeside Women’s Hospital.

Not so on Sunday. She was in serious pain — a new record to put in the books as the most pain I’ve ever been in! She wasn’t smiling (like she was today) on Sunday. No smiles at all.

After a week of dealing with it — appointments with her new gynecologist, Dr. Valerie Engelbrecht at Lakeside Women’s Hospital; ultrasounds; blood work and consultations — we cancelled our weekend getaway to see Bob Seger and explore San Diego. Jenny really wanted that west-coast getaway, but she wanted to be pain free and get rid of that left ovary more than she wanted to crawl her way through the airport.

Instead, we rescheduled San Diego (and we’ll plan to see our man Seger in Tulsa in May) and scheduled surgery for today (Friday, Feb. 22).

Jenny hasn’t been able to walk this week — not very far anyway. She worked from home and tried to stay ahead of the pain. We thought it might get better, like it has other times the cysts have been there. It’s gotten a little better, but we agreed that she needed to be much better before we would fly three states away.

I told her that we couldn’t agree to go to San Diego and postpone the surgery a week unless she could complete a star jump Wednesday at noon.

She never executed the star jump. So we didn’t go to San Diego. In retrospect, Jenny declared that she wished she would have had emergency surgery at the Integris ER on Sunday.

Lakeside was a bit different than most of the places Jenny has had surgery. There were just some different procedures regarding when I could see her — both before and after surgery. I didn’t get to see her when they gave her the first dose of ‘relaxation,’ and I didn’t get to see her right after she woke up. It’s OK, though. They were very nice there.

Dr. Valerie Engelbrecht

We arrived at 10:30 a.m., on schedule. They called Jenny back. Then Jenny’s parents, Bill and Linda, arrived. We all were able to go back and sit with her as we waited for the doctor to be ready.

At 12:15, she walked back to get that ovary out. By 1:36 p.m., Dr. Engelbrecht came to talk to us. All is good. The ovary was already dead. It wasn’t in good shape. There was ovarian torsion and it was attached to her colon. Not good stuff. Dr. Engelbrecht understood why she was in so much pain.

By 2:05 p.m., we were able to go back to see her. She’s ready to go. A couple shots of pain meds, and we were on our way by 2:40 p.m.

Another surgery. Another success. And we’ll always remember the Bob Seger concert we didn’t attend.

The story of the ovary is finally over.



Surgery No. 11: The scope and the good news

I didn’t get a photo of Jenny waiting for surgery today like I normally do. But this is how she looked … just like she looked on April 13 at the Tenaciously Teal fund-raiser. She looked graceful and strong, like always.

Jenny posted this weekend about the ovary and the cyst and the pain and the scope. So here we are at OU Medical Center early on Monday morning to find out what’s going on.

As Jenny wrote, we are praying for a good outcome in this scope — whatever that means today. There are varying degrees of good outcomes in this case. It means no cancer. It means keeping the ovary. It means finding the source of the pain she’s been dealing with every few months for the last 8 months.

Most of all, it means no cancer. 

Any other outcome would be just another thing for Jenny to deal with.

Continue reading

Cancer roller coaster

I last posted a little over a year ago about what it feels like to be on the the “other side” of cancer.

“Every single ailment you have – a headache, a weird pain close to the cancer site, a dizzy spell – you immediately go to a recurrence in your head.”

Last fall, I had a really bad pain in my left side which, after a trip to the ER thinking I had a kidney stone, turned out to be a rupturing cyst on my one and only remaining ovary. A couple months later, it happened again, then again. Continue reading

The weird feeling on the ‘other side’ of this fight

Jenny at the Tenaciously Teal event in Oklahoma City on April 28, 2017. PHOTO: Charlie Neuenschwander Instagram:

Jenny is always beautiful. But she, along with 12 other women, shined especially bright on April 28.

Jenny participated in a fund-raising fashion show event for Tenaciously Teal — Carepacks and Cocktails. It was an outstanding event, and we were blessed to be joined by family and friends there to support one of the stars.

Jenny doesn’t like the spotlight, so she was uncomfortable with all the attention, but I think she had fun (see the professional photo — please click to enlarge that photo!).

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The saga continues…

So, if you will remember that in my update blog a couple weeks ago, I talked about not being able to breathe on Day 1, 2 and 3. After that, I wound up with this dry cough that would never become productive. I thought I might have caught a virus or something.

Two and a half weeks after my surgery, that cough was still there and becoming more and more pesky. I couldn’t get through sentences without coughing, and the cough would sneak up on me so covering my mouth was near impossible. After spending a day in meetings coughing all over everyone, I decided to see if my family doctor could give me a cough suppressant or a steroid…or something so people wouldn’t think I was coughing flu germs all over them!

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Hysterectomy pathology is in

I waited as patiently as possible all week for the pathology to come in. By the end of the week, my patience had faded and my worry had fired up. On Thursday, I spent a long time researching whether benign tumors/cysts were ever smooth. Dr. Wayman described mine as smooth (unlike cancer), but was it impossible that it was cancer?

I remember when I went for my biopsy right before my diagnosis, and the nurses were talking amongst themselves. I heard one say, “Is it vascular?” and the other said it was. It was code for something…I was sure of it. They left me alone in the room right after that, and it was all I could do to not jump off the table to get my phone and start Googling “vascular mass in breast.” Was vascular good? Bad? Continue reading