On Tuesday 9th of December, I got into a taxi. I was driven to central London, ready for the 7pm screening of ‘Time’s Up, Bitch.’
Just to clarify, that’s ‘time’s up’ for my tumour, not myself. I had a radical trachelectomy, which is the removal of the cervix, surrounding tissue and lymph nodes. Oh and Mr Ind also scraped off the top part of my vagina as well, just to be safe. Whilst he’s in there, eh? This blog entry is dated the 13th of December, which means they didn’t lose me on the operating table. So I’m using my iPad and typing this out very slowly with my right hand, from my hospital bed. I didn’t have my left hand amputated by the way, there are just 3 cannulas poking out of it.
Before continuing with the black comedy routine, I want to say thank you to everyone who has read and shared my ‘Remember, remember…’ post. Incredibly, it’s had over 1,000 ‘views’ so far, (to be fair, half of them are probably Susan and Big Claire pressing the ‘refresh’ button) including somehow, 6 from Jamaica. I don’t know anyone who lives in Jamaica, but I’m loving it. Cervical cancer is highly preventable; let’s keep going and raise as much awareness as we can. Awkward motivational speech over. But seriously, thank you all. It means the world to me.
Anyway, as I mentioned in my first post, I had an E.U.A. (examination under anaesthetic) on Thursday 27th of November. I’m very lucky that through my job, I have Bupa Healthcare. Thank you to Big Claire, who, when I told her I had cancer, immediately signed me up. This means I am being treated at The London Clinic. The foyer alone is swankier than any hotel I’ve ever stayed in…to be fair the Ibis and Premier Inn aren’t much to go by. The Bear met me at Oxford Circus and we walked to the hospital, with him (eventually) carrying my bag. Susan met us there, arriving by taxi and pleased with herself that she’d discovered this lovely company called Addison Lee. ”Have you heard of them, Karen?” ”Yes Mum.”
Mr Ind, who is my new favourite person, saw us in the foyer and showed me to my room. You know you’ve gone private when the surgeon carries your bags. I was giddy with excitement at being in such luxury:
Mr Matthew Hacking, my very handsome anaesthetist paid a visit, and explained how long I would be asleep for (about 45 minutes) and that he’d be there to make sure that I actually woke up. Marisa, a very sweet nurse, gave me the outfit I would be wearing for the operation. It included this pair of rather fetching knickers:
By 2.30pm I was very hungry and thirsty, as I hadn’t had anything to eat or drink since dinner time the night before. I had set my alarm for 7 that morning, with the intention of eating and drinking something before the 8am cut off point. Obviously that didn’t go to plan. So I was ecstatic to see this:
A lady came in and told me that I would be able to eat dinner after the operation. I eagerly chose: vegetable samosas with a mint yoghurt dip, spinach and ricotta tortellini and a mini cheese platter. She hesitantly wrote on her order pad and said ”Are you sure you don’t want to wait and decide after you’ve had the procedure? You might be feeling quite sick after the anaesthetic.” She obviously hadn’t had time to get to know me. It would take a lot more than medication that induces unconsciousness to stop me from having a good feed.
I had to have a blood test, which I used to feel a bit weak even thinking about, but am now able to watch with curiosity rather than queasiness. I also had to give a urine sample. The nurse said the pot was already in the bathroom, so in I went, and ‘passed urine’. 10 minutes later she came back with a small sample pot, and apologised for thinking she’d already put it in the bathroom. Yep, I’d gone and pissed in the sick bowl. 3pm chimed, and Marisa took me down to the operating area.
The prep room was absolutely FREEZING. A very jolly nurse tucked me up with a warm blanket from the ‘blanket oven’. Yes, that’s right. The blankets have an oven. I was ever so cosy and made the hilarious joke “I won’t even need the anaesthetic”. However, Mr Hacking attacked my left hand with the anaesthesia needle, and soon I was feeling woozy and loudly proclaiming ”It feels like I’ve taken something!” I desperately tried to stay alert and keep my eyes open, to show I was cool and tough…but I must have conked out within 30 seconds.
Whilst I was out cold, (well, warm, because of the nice blanket) Mr Ind used thin tube-like telescopes to perform a hysteroscopy, which is an examination of the womb, a cystoscopy, an examination of the bladder and my personal favourite, the sigmoidoscopy, an examination of the rectum. If the cancer had spread, it would have gone to these places first, so if the three areas are clear, then I would be hopefully be suitable for a radical trachelectomy. This is still a very serious operation, but is preferential to a hysterectomy (removal of the womb) or a pelvic exenteration (removal of bladder and/or rectum and the reproductive organs).
After almost precisely 45 minutes (well done Mr Hacking) I woke up in the recovery room, feeling close to completely ‘normal’. I was wheeled back up to my room and gladly ate my dinner. Big Claire came to see me after work and we shared the cheese platter. She hadn’t met Susan before, but like every friend who meets my Mum, instantly adored her. Mr Ind came to see me after a couple of hours, and as he walked into the room I thought I might bring up my samosas. Whatever surgical procedure he said I would be suitable for, would permanently change my life, and it was just a question of to what extent. Of course I would have found a way to manage, but I really didn’t want to be told that I’d be wearing a poo bag for the rest of my life.
”Hello Karen. As I hoped, I have nothing to tell you. We couldn’t see anything anywhere else.” Well, I almost felt like I’d been told I didn’t have cancer at all. Excuse my language, but it was such a fucking relief. There weren’t any other tumours lurking up my arse, bladder or womb, just the one stupid lump, or to be medically correct, a poorly differentiated adenosquamous carcinoma, in my cervix. This is the face of someone who has received good news, but was recently sedated:
As Mr Ind left, he said my insides would take a few days to heal, so no sexual intercourse. Susan was gleeful to hear this, and I wasn’t fussed. Don’t get me wrong, I like a ‘good time’, but wasn’t exactly planning on swinging from the chandeliers that night.
I didn’t think I was in any discomfort, but then I went for a wee. I now think my face should be in the urban dictionary, next to the term ‘pissing razorblades.’ Deary me did it burn. As difficult as it is, I’d advise anyone to try and relax, and not tense up; a hesitant flow hurts just as much as a full throttle one, so you may as well just go for it and it’ll be over more quickly. There was a fair amount of blood as well, but that’s to be expected for a couple of days afterwards. Having a ‘bowel movement’ was also no picnic. Being constipated does not sit well with me. I am normally a 5-a-day girl at both ends (as in vegetables and poos, not acts of the sexual variety), so going over 24 hours without any bum action was not fun. Again, it wasn’t a pain free-experience and caused me to be late to meet my friend Tony at Soho theatre the next night. Luckily we’re close enough that I could say ”Sorry I’m late Tony, I was having a shit,” rather than pretend there were delays on the Northern line.
So, that was that. I’m leaving the hospital at lunchtime today, and will write up my experience of the radical trachelectomy and first few days of recovery when I get back to Hertfordshire, where Susan will be waiting on me hand and foot.
Apologies again for length of this post – but I’ve come to realise that I just don’t do ‘short and snappy’. Thank you very much for reading this.