I Asked For Less Doctors, Not More

I have a stubborn bump on my eye that won’t go away. It’s been there for almost two months but I just couldn’t seem to pick up the phone to make another appointment to sit in another waiting room to see another doctor.

Finally last week I went to see my primary care doctor about it. She looked at my eye and asked how long the bump had been there. I told her two months and she said I should have come seen her sooner, because now what she thought was a stye had hardened and I might need to have surgery to remove it. I knew that I should have visited her earlier, but the stye showed up as I was having my ovaries removed and I just couldn’t deal with one more thing.

After looking at my eye, my doctor told me that I should go see an ophthalmologist, since the stye had been there for two month. She gave me a referral, a prescription for erythromycin and I left the office.

I got into my car and immediately started crying. I know it’s just a stye. It’s really no big deal, right? But when I heard the word ‘surgery’, I immediately flashed back to my mastectomy. It was like PTSD. Something as simple as having a stye removed sent shivers down my spine and made me flashback to being in the hospital going under the knife. 2014 was supposed to be a surgery-free year. WTF!

So today I went to see the ophthalmologist. She was actually a wonderful woman who was very smart and caring. I sat down and she told me that what I have is not a stye, but actually a chalazion, which is a small lump on the eye. She said they’re most often caused by stress. She asked if I was experiencing any stress. I just laughed.

You mean the stress of having breast cancer? Or the stress of having a mastectomy? Or the stress of going through chemo? Or the stress of radiation? Or the stress of having my ovaries removed? That kind of stress?

Then she told me she was an 11-year breast cancer survivor. So she understood. She went through the same thing. Then she said, “there is life after breast cancer.” I smiled. I knew I’d have a good cry about that one later, in the privacy of my own home.

She gave me a prescription for steroid drops that she thinks will help make the lump go away. She said we could do surgery to remove the chalazion, but we should try the drops first, unless I wanted to do the surgery. I said, no thank you, I’ve had enough surgeries.

Fingers crossed that the drops work and I’m done with what is hopefully just a minor annoyance.

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Could It Really Be…An Uneventful Doctor’s Appointment

Last Friday, I had an uneventful doctor’s appointment. Let me say it again – I had an uneventful doctor’s appointment. It feels weird to write it. Kind of a foreign concept to me at this point.

Last Friday I went for my first doctor’s appointment of 2014. The appointment was with my gynecologist for my annual exam.

We spent the first part of the appointment with her asking me how I was feeling since having my ovaries removed. How were my hot flashes? (Not great but bearable.) Was I having any pain? (Thankfully, no.) Was I having any vaginal dryness? (Again, thankfully no.)

Then I asked her a series of questions. I will never menstruate again, right? (Right. I knew the answer to this, but just wanted to confirm it before throwing away all my tampons.) What about osteoporosis? (Since I’m at a higher risk for osteoporosis from having my ovaries out, I should eat more foods with calcium or take a supplement.) Since I don’t have ovaries, I don’t have to worry about an unplanned pregnancy, but I should still protect against STDs, right? (Yes, condoms are suggested.) Do I need to continue to do ultrasounds since I still have a 1% chance of ovarian cancer, even though I removed my ovaries? (Thankfully the answer to that was no! Even though you can get ovarian cancer that starts in the uterus, the symptoms will show up in the early stage. Doesn’t seem fair that I remove my ovaries and can still get ovarian cancer, but ok. I also can get breast cancer again even though I removed both of my breasts. But that’s another blog post for another time.)

My gynecologist then told me she wasn’t going to do a breast exam, which I said was fine since I have a regular check up with my breast surgeon at the end of the month. I told her that I have a rash on my left breast, which is my breast cancer breast, but it’s only been there for a few days. Rashes are a warning sign for breast cancer, but I’ve had these on and off over the last year. My doctor’s attribute it to perhaps a reaction to the chlorine in the swimming pool. I told my gynecologist that I’d talk to my breast surgeon about the rash.

Then it was time to get into the stirrups for the vaginal exam. I laid down and my gyno put the speculum in place. She started examining me, then looked up and said, “You’re going to hate hearing this, but there’s a mole on your labia.” I told her that this mole has been there for over 10 years and we biopsied it 10 years ago and it was benign. She said, “Phew. OK, good.”

She finished the exam and said she’d call me with the results of the pap within two weeks. If the test came back normal, she didn’t want to see me again for another year. Fingers crossed.

I got dressed and got out of there as quickly as possible before she could tell me anything else. I know I should continue to be vigilant about my body and anything unusual. But I just want some time where there are no more tests. Where there are no more doctor’s appointments for a while. Where no one is touching me and prodding me. Where no one says, “I see something I don’t like. We need to look at this closer.”

I know you’re never really “done” with cancer. Every week I hear about someone who has a recurrence of some type of cancer. So I do carefully listen to my body and will call my doctor the moment something isn’t right.

But please, could I just have some peace and quiet for a while.

Time For My First Doctor’s Appointment of 2014

This Friday I’ll have my first doctor’s appointment of 2014.

The appointment is with my gynecologist for my annual exam. Two years ago, I would have said the appointment is *just* my annual exam. No big deal. But since my breast cancer diagnosis, just isn’t really in my vocabulary anymore.

I’ll be going to see my gynecologist for the first time since my oophorectomy. It’ll be weird to sit in those stirrups when there’s so much less to look at with no ovaries.

And doing a breast exam with fake boobs….that’s still strange for me too. I can’t feel anything in this area, so its bizarre to have hands on my body with no sensation that this is happening.

They say someday I’ll get used to my new body. Not sure who *they* is, but I’ll believe this when I feel it.

I’m trying to stay calm about this appointment. Since my oophorectomy two months ago, I reduced my risk for ovarian cancer from 15% to 1%. So that should tame my worrying – *should* being the operative word.

It’s hard not to worry about cancer when you’ve had it and you read about so many other people having recurrences. I guess once you’ve had a cancer diagnosis, there’s really no such thing anymore as a routine doctor’s appointment. Another part of my life I have to get used to.

Wishing For Less In 2014

2013 was a busy year for me. Finishing treatment for breast cancer, monitoring every other month for ovarian cancer, surgery for possible ovarian cancer and dealing with the emotions of all of this.

For 2014, I’m hoping for less.

Less doctors’ appointments.

Less surgeries – actually hoping for a surgery-free year, or several years.

Less scans (and less scanxiety).

Less phone calls, emails and texts to family members and friends that start with, “Well, the doctors see something else that they’re concerned about. I have to have another test to find out more.”

Less worrying.

Less pill taking – 1 year of Tamoxifen done, 9 more years to go. But who’s counting?

Less hot flashes.

Less aches and pains.

Less sleepless nights.

Less naps to make up for the fatigue associated with cancer treatment.

Less tears – although some, not many, felt good to get out.

Here’s to less in 2014.