More has happened this past summer in the cancer department than you’d think. Spoiler alert: all false alarms from a
paranoid overly cautious oncologist, and I remain cancer-free.
This post includes words like
“pelvis,” and “labia.”
I get to visit my oncologist every six months. I start by getting a blood test the day or so before the appointment. (I have learned the hard way not to get wasted off my ass the few days before this blood test, as that will alter my liver numbers… ahem.) There is a cancer marker in your blood, which is the primary thing she’s looking for; but it’s a pretty comprehensive test and she’ll kindly tell me if anything else is out of whack. One time my protein numbers were low – no idea why, but let’s have a steak.
The other key item she’s watching for is my hormone levels. I have not had my period since a week after my first round of chemo, way back during the Year of Cancer in 2016; but that did not mean I was fully in menopause, hormonally speaking. This matters because pre-menopausal women with the type of cancer I had are typically put on tamoxifen, but there is another class of drugs called aromatase inhibitors (“AIs”) that are apparently more effective in general (and with fewer side effects), but ineffective in pre-menopausal women.
At a previous office visit a year or two ago, Dr. Cancer said, sort of out of the blue, “Well, you could have your ovaries removed if you wanted. Then we could put you on the AI drug.” I was like, whaaaa? Sure, why not! Just toss those babies out, who needs ’em! Estrogen be damned! I did not opt for this procedure.
Anywhoo, this past spring, I apparently graduated into “wise woman” status and am officially post-menopausal. Instead of tamoxifen I am now taking an AI called anastrazole. As I write this many months later I continue to have no major side effects – maybe a little joint soreness; or maybe that’s from my Orangetheory-At-Home workouts, who knows.
One of the down sides of tamoxifen is that it can cause endometrial cancer. So as a final hurrah as I switched meds, Dr. Cancer wanted me to go on one more hot date with the camera dildo, also known as getting a pelvic ultrasound. The previous time I had this procedure done I was horrified: the male technician performed the procedure in a darkened room that was basically a closet in the basement of the hospital. Wham bam thank you ma’am you’re good to go. This time at least the room was nicer and the technician was female, but I still felt like we should have started with dinner and conversation maybe.
As luck would have it, the technician or radiologist or whoever looks at these things “saw something.” Tamoxifen also causes thickening of the uterine wall, so it could have been that; but Dr. Cancer never takes a chance so she sent me to a lovely OB to get a uterine biopsy. FUN!!!! While Ms. OB was poking around down there, she saw something strange on my labia and decided to biopsy that too. DOUBLE THE FUN!!! The uterine biopsy was extremely unpleasant while it was happening but then it was over. The labia skin biopsy had a more lasting impact with a lovely reminder every time I peed. (Once I got home the memory smacked me: the labia thing was a mole that I’d had removed while giving birth. They biopsied it then. Nothing to worry about. Doh!)
Fast forward to my subsequent appointment with Dr. Cancer after I’d been on my new AI drug for six months. I’d been experiencing minor but chronic headaches. I’m prone to headaches, and these responded quickly to Advil, so I was not super worried, but I did assume they were caused by the change in drugs. As you would expect, Dr. C. takes no chances, so off I went to get a brain MRI. Yep, you read that right – a BRAIN MRI. For some very minor headaches. Covering all the bases.
Side note: the MRI technicians have had to remove the little metal nose shapers from all their masks. This is COVID-19 times, remember?
Ok so here’s what happens when you get a brain MRI: They put your head into a metal box and then give some hammers to a preschool class to bang on the metal box as hard and loudly as they can. At least that’s what it sounded like. Oh, and the kindly MRI technicians are playing relaxing music for you, which would be nice, except for the fucking drums banging on your head.
Long story short: I have no endometrial, uterine, or weird-ass skin cancer on my labia. I have no brain cancer. The headaches went away around early August or so. Life goes on. What will Dr. C think of next?