Today was the big day - heading to the specialist's office. I was full of emotion.
I found my way to Duke Hospital's Campus. It's a huge campus full of different buildings and garages. I found where I was to park and began the long walk to the clinic. I was actually surprised by the beauty of the place. It's all spires and dark brick like a fantasy castle, but the most modern of interiors. I followed the detailed instructions (follow corridor to the beige elevator, up the ramp, past the first clinic to check-in). Soon, I found where I was supposed to be.
I began the check in process and started to cry when the attendant asked me how I was today. I responded that I was checking in at the Cancer Center, so I wasn't doing too well. He handed me a box of tissues and told me to take what I needed. I sat and waited.
The nurse was so nice. She took me back and did all of the standard preliminary examination things - took my temperature and weight and checked by blood pressure. Then, I waited in an exam room.
Duke is a teaching hospital, so the next person I met was a resident. He was very kind and asked me a ton of questions. He did a clothed physical exam of my abdomen. I joked that the radiologist said it was like I was 18 weeks pregnant. He said it was more like 28 weeks. That was pretty shocking. He left and returned with the doctor - a woman younger that I expected. From there, it was time for the physical exam.
It's always a weird thing to be naked in front of other people. It's especially weird to be splayed out on a table in front of 3 people (resident, doctor, nurse) with 2 of those people examine your insides. They could not find my cervix at first. My uterus was so distended that the cervix was up and to the left. They felt around, made their mental notes, and told me I was done. The female doctor said she did not believe in talking to people about the prognosis while they were naked, so they left me to dress.
When they returned, the first thing the doctor said was that she felt it was a low probability for cancer. Phew!! She believed it to be a fibroid - a very large one. It would have to be removed surgically. Was I available the following Friday for surgery? Everything went so quickly after that statement. She went over the plan - remove one ovary and have it checked for cancer while I was still in the OR. It would be a quick exam, followed by a complete pathology later. If there was cancer, the uterus would be removed as well as the lymph nodes. My mind was flooded and I couldn't think straight. I asked what it would mean for my job. She said 6 weeks of medical leave. How could I leave work now? We were just starting our fiscal year end and the auditors would be arriving the next day. I really didn't have a choice.
I was signing release forms and reviewing the surgical plan. I was receiving pamphlets about how to prepare for surgery and special drinks to take the day of. I was getting phone numbers and being told when different departments would call me. I was told what to bring to the hospital - something I had never needed to know. I was quickly dismissed from this exam and sent to get my blood taken. It was done.
I returned to my office around noon. I had to tell my supervisor that during the worst time of the year, I would be out for 6 weeks. I had to check with HR and find out what needed to be done. I had to call my husband and tell him he needed to take next Friday off. It was all a blur of action. I tried not to think too much about it and just keep moving. There was much to do in just 8 days.