A papercut illustration of a female reproductive system with an ovary being lifted away

Hysterectomy, Hormones, and Hope

To the men in our community, you might want to keep scrolling on this one.

Since beginning my oral chemo in 2017, the ovaries and THAT whole ordeal have been a bit off and didn’t really appreciate the toxicity very much. Thanks to four-month CT scans we knew every little move the pesky little things were up to - growing cysts. So, off to the gynecologist I go.

Surgery to remove one ovary

In June of this year (2020), he recommended that due to my history that we might should remove the one ovary that demonstrated cysts while the other was fine and would continue producing hormones. I didn’t want surgery, but I felt comfortable with my doctor’s advice and agreed to the robotic procedure. After all, this doctor found my lung cancer from a previous female problem.

The procedure was fine. I wasn’t uncomfortable and returned to daily life within a day. I was very pleased and ready to be done with going to multiple doctors. Not so fast though…Literally two weeks later, I go back for my four-month CT scans of head, neck, chest, abdomen and pelvis, and cysts show on the other side.

The radiologist notated the other side “resolved.” Well, yeah! It’s gone, I thought. My oncologist and I got a chuckle out of that one. So, we start over! Should I be concerned about this side? My oncologist said to watch and wait! So we did — only to learn that these pesky little things were growing rapidly. My OB/GYN kept a regular watch on me and after it reached 5 cm, he suggested full hysterectomy. Wait! What!

Considering estrogen after a hysterectomy

I had already discussed the use of estrogen with my oncologist and he verbalized his opinion of not wanting any cancer patient to be on estrogen for numerous reasons and of course the main concern breast cancer. My gyn chuckled when I discussed with him the conversation between my oncologist and me and he of course didn’t see the issue as long as I keep a check on my body.

Yikes! I was stuck in a place of making the best decision for myself. My gynecologist handed me a month’s supply of estradiol topical gel and said start this after your first shower after surgery. I go home and look this medicine up. I see all sorts of things that scare me and was horrifying to read. Stroke, blood clots, CANCER to name a few. We are already susceptible to blood clots as lung cancer patients and I definitely do not want to have a stroke. Are the risk factors worth it to not be moody and hot?

Deciding to try estrogen gel

Three days after surgery I didn’t even like myself. I don’t know if the body works or doesn’t work that fast, but I was ill, emotional, and burning up. My poor husband was bundled up like we were in Alaska and I was so hot. Thankfully, we had a cold snap and I could go outside. So, I decided that I would use the gel and see how it went. I finally cooled off a bit but didn’t feel anywhere near stable emotionally. I not only had major surgery but was grieving the loss of a dear friend and the list goes on.

I thought since I had a follow-up in a few weeks, I could use the hormone and discuss concerns and any side effects that I might experience. If I don’t use it, I won’t know. I am still very leery. Many suffer from hormone deficiency and make the best of it somehow, and I realize I am not the only one to walk this path.

Fatigue

I am about four weeks out from surgery and my energy level feels like that of a giant sloth. In the beginning, I thought it was just from surgery and that my body was working hard to heal and while that might still be the case, it takes all I have to pick up my home. Cooking dinner is a chore, making the bed, running the vacuum, and please don’t get me started on cleaning the bathrooms. No amount of B12 or caffeine combats this beast. I was already fatigued from my oral chemo tablet, but this is a brand-new kind of tired. I have heard that it doesn’t get better and to exercise and eat better.

While it might seem that I am complaining, I absolutely am not complaining. My cysts were simple cysts and benign. So much could have gone wrong during that surgery and I could be dealing with another cancer on top of my lung cancer. While lung doesn’t usually metastasize to ovaries, I could have literally spent this holiday season planning how to treat a second cancer along with my lung cancer.

Thankful despite difficulties

I am thankful even though I was frustrated about going to the operating room twice within 6 months for essentially the same procedure. My doctor is solution-minded. Those pesky cysts might have turned into something worse, but now they are gone and we don’t have worry about something when it’s quite possibly too late.

I am thankful. Hope remains. So much could be wrong inside of my body right now but it’s not. I will tackle the emotions and the hot flashes somehow. If you have any suggestions for me, comment below and I will definitely listen. Here’s to never giving up!

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