One of the reasons I was paranoid that my birthday trip to Gettysburg might never come off is several of our trips in the past were shadowed. During the 2009 trip for my 55th birthday, my father lay on his death bed from complications of a stroke; he’d die before the month was out. During the 2004 trip for my 50th birthday, my stepfather lay dying of complications from Alzheimer’s. He also would pass within weeks. In both cases, family members insisted we make the trips anyhow, but we wondered if we’d get a summons to return ASAP as conditions changed (one or both of the Hooligans were along on these journeys; in fact, the 2004 trip was J.Hooligan’s first vacation).
Then, as I wrote here, Mom and I were in Gettysburg on 9/11. Trip interrupted.
Those weren’t my only visits, and I had many happy days in that town over the past 20 years, but circumstances have made me paranoid about doing Gettysburg as a birthday gift trip. I was stunned when Diamondqueen and Mom told me about my 60th birthday trip; I was overjoyed, but over ensuing weeks I started wondering what might go wrong to cancel the trip. Mom’s been having so much pain with her spinal stenosis condition; Diamondqueen has been nursing along her old dog Frank as he’s treated for lymphoma. We worried he might take a turn for the worse right before we left or, worse yet, have to be put down before Diamondqueen could return. Once your paranoia gets rolling, a million possibilities rise up to torment you.
The situation that did arise took me completely by surprise. I didn’t get healthcare restored until April 1 because of various enrollment confusions. I immediately made appointments to catch up on check-ups and tests I’d let lapse. One was a gynecological exam with a pap smear. I hadn’t had one for several years because my understanding was it wasn’t necessary if you weren’t sexually active.
However, last summer I started spotting. I honestly thought maybe menopause wasn’t totally finished with me after all and simply let it go. It stopped completely through the autumn months, then began again around Christmas. I would have had it checked then but there was this thing about not having health insurance as I’d expected at the first of the year. And I really didn’t think it was something to worry about.
The nurse practitioner who did my pap smear thought otherwise. She sent me for a transvaginal ultrasound before we even got the results for the pap smear. I went for the ultrasound next day. I learned early the next week there was thickening on my uterine wall, and the NP referred me to a gynecologist. I figured I was in for a D&C, but I also figured it could wait.
I was seeing my regular general practitioner that Wednesday for my general check-up. Right away he pulled his chair close to mine and said, “Some cancer cells turned up in your pap smear.” To make an already long story short, he referred me to a gynecological oncologist. I visited him two days before we left for Gettysburg, and he informed me he was pretty certain it was uterine cancer and scheduled me for a complete hysterectomy for tomorrow, 4/30. Yesterday the results of the endometrial biopsy he took during that visit confirmed the diagnosis of uterine (or endometrial) cancer.
From the first alarm bells from the doctor, I was adamant that we would make that trip to Gettysburg. The surgeon was fine with that, although I got arguments from Diamondqueen from the beginning. “We can reschedule!” she kept saying. But we couldn’t reschedule my 60th birthday, and I pulled myself through this rotten winter (before I even knew there were any physical problems) dreaming of spring in Gettysburg. The actual trip exceeded all my dreams and hopes, and I believe I’m going into this surgery in a much better frame of mind because of a string of deliriously happy days leading up to it. So there.
Physical limitations have dictated I have to have the old-fashioned kind of hysterectomy, with several nights in the hospital and four to six weeks of recovery. I’m counting, though, on being ready to go on the planned trip to Washington D.C. with Diamondqueen and the Hooligans in mid-June.
Hopefully the surgery will take care of everything. If not, I may face some radiation and even chemotherapy, but I’ll worry about that later. Ultimately, I know I’m going to come out of this fine. Kind of a strange way to begin my ’60s, but I wasn’t getting any use out of my uterus anyhow. And I really can use the rest.