The other night I was watching the news and there was a report about a new cancer pill that patients could take, which is supposed to eliminate the inconvenient nausea, vomiting and hair loss that chemo causes. This caught my attention. What? No heaving vomiting? No hair falling out in clumps? No opportuninty to wear flattering scarves over the baldness; scarves that could mean only one thing – you had cancer? How would strangers know you were sick? How would they know you were special and possibly dying?
I had cancer once, over 10 years ago. It’s almost embarrassing really; cervical cancer just doesn’t have the cachet of say, bone cancer or pancreatic cancer. Cervical cancer is like having skin cancer; it’s easily removed and the death rate is pretty low. There was no chemo nor radiation, no hair loss, none of that. About the only real benefit to having had cervical cancer was the hysterectomy, so I haven’t had a period in a long time. I asked the doctor to keep my ovaries, which I wanted to keep for purely financial reasons. Being the skinflint I am, it only made sense for me to continue to make the estrogen myself instead of paying the greedy pharmaceutical manufacturers for their fake estrogen product for the next 15 years or so. He agreed but I’m a little surprised this option wasn’t offered to me, which makes me wonder if these guys are on some kind of kick-back program with the manufacturer of Premarin.
During the surgery to rip out the uterus, the ovaries have to be removed also. Apparently (and this is what continues to baffle me), the ovaries are re-attached to your body, right there in the gaping cavity left by the departed uterus. There they miraculously start up their little estrogen-producing process again, like a factory shipped overseas. It’s cool the way the body works, and I wonder if my ovaries would still do their thing if, for example, they were reattached in another area of my body – like the backs of my eyeballs or to the spinal column.
Over the years, my little overseas factories have continued to provide me with the female hormones needed to ward off heart attacks, without enduring the increasingly painful and heavy periods the rest of my peri-menopausal gender are having. Without these physical markers of impending menopause, I chug along pretty much unaware of what’s going on down there. Sometimes I think I’m having a hot flash, but most times I’m probably just sweaty. Sure I’m cranky – but that’s normal for me. As a result, I’m beginning to feel cheated out of the whole experience. Where’s my chance to be miserable? What happened to my chance to complain about having yet another period this month? Is this my fate in life – to just miss out on the things that others take for granted?
Yes, I’ve had cancer, but it was the non-lifethreatening kind. Sure I had major surgery, but missed out on chemotherapy and the opportuninty to generate looks of pity in strangers’ faces when noticing my head scarf. Now I’m missing out on PERI-MENOPAUSE and I’m afraid I may miss out on most of the menopausal symptoms too. And to top it all off, they now tell me that future cancer treatments can be relatively pain-free. So here’s what I’ve decided: If I ever have cancer again and they offer me this pill, I will say “No thanks. I prefer that you drip poison chemotherapy agents into my veins so as to cause the most pain and discomfort as humanly possible.” Go ahead, call me perverse. Or masochistic. I know you want to. But I’ll bet a little-bitty part of yourselves knows exactly what I’m talking about. You may even have your own head scarf picked out, just in case, like I do.