Cancer #3: Finally, Some Good News!

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Cervical surgery apparently takes about eight weeks to recover from, and in the meantime there wasn’t a lot that I could do except go shopping! For a doctor.

I chose my old doctor because he’s supposed to be good for pregnancy. I liked his approach, he seemed really cautious and listened to me very carefully during my pre-pre-natal visit. However, when he kept pausing our discussion about my biopsy results to pick up calls from women who had just delivered, I thought that maybe I should change offices.

It was kind of hard to cut the cord with him, because one treatment led into the next so seamlessly. It wasn’t until after the surgery that I was able to leave.

There were a few mistakes that he made with me. He told me I could exercise immediately after the surgery, which would have put me at risk for hemorrhaging. Luckily I was able to double-check him via the internet and my great-aunt, who is a gynecologist practicing in another state. Both confirmed that this was very bad advice which could have landed me in the ER.

He also told me that the odds of a full recovery, even with cancer up to the margins, is 95%. The NIH, and my new doctor, say otherwise. By the time he quoted me that statistic I knew I couldn’t put much trust in what he was saying, so I wasn’t too let down to find out that this wasn’t the case.

I was really fortunate that my rabbi was able to ask a knowledgeable professional who I should seek care from, which is why I visited Dr. Kate Ohanlan’s office last Monday.

The practice is in Portola Valley, outside of Palo Alto. The area feels really secluded despite the fact that it’s a short drive to Stanford and University Ave. The offices are set off the road in a forested area, and the naturalist architecture has the feel of a wildlife reserve.

Inside, the waiting room was spacious, and it was only me and one other woman there that morning. I liked the fact that I didn’t have to wait forever to get an appointment, and yet the doctor obviously wasn’t triple-booked.

After the physician’s assistant did height/weight/blood pressure and gently chided me about misrepresenting my height on the intake form, she went over my medical history, including family. She was very sensitive and attentive during that whole process.

Then I got to see the doctor, who I instantly loved. She is sharp and compassionate and attentive…Really great! She explained everything carefully, and I finally got some answers to my questions that I trusted.
The very good news that hadn’t been communicated to me was that the cancer hasn’t gone beneath the basement membrane. In other words, it hasn’t metastasized. More specifically, I’m almost certainly not going to die of this! I think I’m in the book of life for 5775, huge relief.

Okay, to be honest, I hadn’t thought I was going to die before, either. Statistically it looked unlikely from what I was reading, so I hadn’t seriously been mulling it over except for during that first weekend when I had no idea what was going on. But anyway it was nice to get that question mark fully and completely out of my mind.

The further good news is that despite the cancer being up to the margins, I have a 66% chance of spontaneous recovery. That is 2/3! As Seth Rogen says in ‘50/50’, an excellent cancer movie, “If we were in Vegas, you’d be the safest game in the house!” It is two times more likely for me to recover than to not recover.  Yes!

The final good news is that although my old doctor took a sizeable portion of my cervix, he did what was needed to be done, and didn’t mess up. Hurray for non-botched surgeries!

The bad news is that he neglected to do some endocervical scraping while I was under. This could have been used for further testing to see how far the cancer had spread into the endocervix. (That's the part of the cervix that's closer to the uterus.)

Regardless, my new doctor says the next step would be the same whether he had done the scraping or not. I need to do what should have been a repeat endocervical scraping in mid-November. In the meantime, there is nothing to do but wait.

My spirits have improved dramatically since I saw the new doctor. I have a little spring in my step again! I know that’s a cheesy thing to say, but it’s literally true, I don’t feel like I’m dragging my feet from one place to the next anymore.

I wasn’t able to exercise as normal for the first two weeks while I was healing. I had to take half-classes of Bar Method with 2 lb weights, and walk instead of run for cardio. In the third week, I went up to 45 minutes of Bar Method with 2 and 3 lb weights. Now I’m alternately running and walking and taking full classes of Bar Method, still with light weights.

Being recently off anti-depressants and unable to run was tough. I’m pretty Type A, and I like to get all of my excess anxiety out with cardio. Lacing up my sneakers and feeling my feet thump down on the pavement feels really good in a primal way, sometimes I get sick of it, but after the break I’m thrilled to be back. I can also tell that I’m in a better mood because when I was depressed about this stuff I filled my running playlist with Radiohead and Joy Division. Now that I’m back to normal that seems like a miserable soundtrack, so I deleted it all from my iPhone without thinking twice. Back to Kpop and hip-hop jams!



Smiling again!

Marina Gafni

Marina Gafni is a 28-year-old speech pathology student. She lives with her husband in San Jose, CA.

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