A few weeks ago, I underwent surgery to eliminate all of the cancerous tissue in my uterus. Even though I was under full anesthesia, it was fairly quick as far as surgeries go, around an hour, and I was able to head home later that day. I was incredibly lucky and they were able to get everything without needing a full uterine removal or hysterectomy. The pathology was supposed to take about a week, but the doctor got it back two days later. I cried when they told me that the margins were clean and that unless the cancer returned, I would likely not need another surgery. I’m fully fertile and happily (Okay. Sometimes grumpily) able to menstruate. It’s my choice, again, what happens with my reproductive system.
There’s no reason to sugar coat the recovery process. There was a lot of cramping, bleeding, and I had absolutely no energy for about two weeks. Unsurprisingly, the surgery inflamed my other medical conditions. My nerve pain has been even more intense than normal. It took about three days to get my appetite back. The fatigue was overwhelming and I spent many days huffing and puffing after short walks. I would start sweating and be light-headed just making a meal. It took a lot out of me.
I had been planning to take an adventure-heavy road trip before my diagnosis. It was scheduled to begin ten days after surgery. My doctor signed off on my journey with the caveat to “take it easy” and “not stress your body”. I was able to follow the rules… mostly. Some adventures are worth the risk and I definitely pushed myself harder than I was supposed to at the time. The consequences were swift and aggressive. I began seeing clots in my blood. I found myself exhausted to the point of nearly passing out. A few migraines developed. And then there was the RASH!
That angry rash showed up exactly eleven days after the procedure. It started on my neck and moved down to cover my lower skull, chest, arms, and hands. Being out in different environments, I assumed that I had somehow gotten poison ivy or rubbed up against another evil plant. I knew that it wasn’t a reaction to food. When it started spreading, yet the person I was sharing space with hadn’t contracted anything, I began to wonder if it was a latent reaction to medication given during my operation. My OBGYN had assured me that they hadn’t used anything that was on my list of known allergens, but mistakes happen. I made some adjustments to my travel hygiene routine. Added OTC rash lotions, took extra antihistamines, wore clothing that coved it from the sun, and frequently used a cool cloth on the most itchy and painful areas. That all seemed to work and after seven days the rash had completely disappeared.
When my trip ended and I was finally able to catch up on some sleep, I had a conversation with my primary care doctor. It had been such a painful and itchy rash, there were blisters, and it spread in an odd pattern. I needed answers as to the cause. Knowing my medical history and seeing some pictures, he determined that the rash was a manifestation of stress. Both from my body undergoing the trauma of surgery and the mental weight of it. With all the symptoms we chronic sufferers face, I get my spikes up when I hear anything about the psychosomatic reasons behind a medical issue. Regardless of how true it is that the mind’s struggle can manifest physically, when you hear how your conditions are probably “all in you head” frequently enough, you become defensive of that answer. But yes, stress is a real trigger. It aggravates dormant symptoms and creates new ones. I already have a history of hives and rashes. My mind just activated the reaction this time. The answer made sense.
This month has taught me that it is so important to get outside of your head during heavy times. Being distracted and experiencing joy while waiting for test results, healing, and planning put me in the healthiest mental and emotional states possible. Frolicking in nature and problem solving issues that were not just about medical shit, gave me the space to heal and center myself. Following through on the adventure made the hard stuff more worth it and the simple stuff sweeter.
Now that I’m back to reality and out of my vacation bubble, I am able to look at my cancer experience in the rear view mirror. It’s still there. Kind of sitting off to the side. But, every month that my tests come back clean and every year that I only have to worry about my chronic conditions puts this nasty blip of time further out of my mind. I sincerely hope that you will get a chance to fully immerse yourself in moments that take your mind off your busted body. I know that I’m going to make it more of a priority. I look forward to finding and pushing new limits. Wherever you live and however you live…adventure awaits!