My Cancer Story: A Ladies Room Meltdown

Closed Door

When I found out in June 2014 that I needed a complete hysterectomy, I asked my oncologist if I should expect mood changes.

“Most likely not,” she said, “since you’re well into menopause. But if you do, they’ll start at three weeks. That’s when all your residual estrogen will be gone.”

I stood in the shower three weeks later, tears running down my face. This has been hard, I thought. I’m probably just reacting to all I’ve been through.

But gradually, as the weeks went by, my mood darkened and the crying increased. By the time Cliff and I arrived on Bald Head Island for a four day vacation in October, I was experiencing what I can best describe as a deep gloom. The gloom would sometimes envelop me for an hour or two; other times it lasted for several days.

Our first night on the island, we stepped into one of our favorite haunts, the bar in the Bald Head Island Club. Soon we were chatting with a couple celebrating their 53rd wedding anniversary.

Ten minutes later, the husband called out, “Heck, we’ve been married 53 years. We don’t need to sit with each other. Let’s switch places!” The wife jumped off her bar stool, and Cliff traded places with her.

The wife was quirky, sending out sentences that were difficult to interpret. I struggled to converse with her. I looked over at Cliff, laughing away with the husband. The tears started to roll. I slipped of my stool and headed for the the ladies room.

Now an important part of this story is that the ladies room at the Bald Head Island Club is just about the prettiest ladies room I know. A visit there makes for a festive bathroom trip.

But no matter. Not tonight.

I cried as I walked into the stall.

Open Door

I cried in the stall.

I cried at the sink.


I cried in front of the seahorse print.


And that’s when I knew.

If you cry in a beautiful ladies room while an eccentric couple and your husband gab at the bar, you are not a happy person. I like quirk. I love characters. I can make conversation with a flea, and I’ve never thought husbands and wives need to stick together like Velcro. This was not me!

Hormones (or lack thereof) had transformed me into a sad shadow of my former self. I needed help.

Photo Credit:  Thanks to my new friend Margot for the stunning ladies room photos!

(The story will continue in the next blog post…)



My Cancer Story: Scars!




For those of you who may face laproscopic surgery someday, voila!

Here are three of my five scars at seven weeks. Amazing the doctor inserted a camera and then removed ovaries, fallopian tubes, and lymph nodes through those slits.

Years ago, this would have been one huge incision that left behind a long scar. Thank you,  modern medicine!

When my doctor called at the four week mark, I talked about how sick I felt on and off for the first two weeks, which confused me since I experienced no acute pain. “With laproscopy,” she said, “patients sometimes forget they just had major surgery. We really move you around in there.”

Although the outside doesn’t hurt much,  on the inside you’ve been pushed and shoved and prodded and sliced. It’s going to take a while for your body to recover from the trauma.

As everyone warned me over and over again, REST IS BEST.

But as you’re resting, dream of  a beach somewhere, because if you want to reveal your midriff, you can do so almost scar free.

P.S. I actually have no plans to show my midriff again, at least not any time soon. This may be my swan song.

I’m pleased to be interviewed by fellow writer Melissa Buron. Read the interview here on her blog!

Melissa Buron


My Cancer Story: Getting Ready for Surgery


I’m a project person.

I like to be organized.

And I’m fond of shopping.

So I took on preparing for surgery with a touch of gusto. I was scheduled for a hysterectomy on July 8. A month earlier a biopsy had revealed endometrial cancer.

I bought a new nightgown.


Hospital Stuff

I found stretchy shorts. I wouldn’t be able to wear waistbands for a while.

And I picked up some other post-surgery items.

I put sheets on the guestroom beds, since I thought it best not to climb our long stairs for a week or so.

And I made the house as tidy as could be.

As the day approached, a sort of calm came over me.

Yet I had moments when my illness hit me anew. Our pastor sends out a weekly email with announcements of upcoming happenings at Hillsborough Presbyterian Church.


Church Announcement




I felt so good. How could I be sick?

The night before the surgery, I took a final walk on our brand new riverwalk. I had no idea when I’d be able to walk this trail again.


I talked to my girls on the phone, and to my mom (I didn’t tell her a word about my illness until after the surgery).

Got the blog set.

Packed my hospital bag.  Added a folder with my Living Will.

Gave my ID and medical card to Cliff to carry.

Took a shower with antibacterial scrub per hospital instructions. Talk about squeaky clean!

The very last project was taking off my nail polish.  Hospital rules state it has to be removed. One pedicure down the tubes.


Three weeks later, after the surgery, I sank into a bit of a funk. My oncologist said it’s normal. “You sail into cancer surgery with  blinders on,” she explained. “You do what you have to do. Later you stop and really reflect.”

And that was me.

I did what I had to do.

And got as ready as I could.

With the help of my husband and the well wishes of friends and family, I was off to UNC Hospital at five the next morning. Lights out!



Slammed into Menopause

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A post by blogger and landscape architect Amelia Grant:

Women in my family tend to go through menopause later than usual. My mother was 56 years old and claimed ,“It only took one day!” My cousin is 54 and my sister 57, and  neither of them have any symptom of ‘the change.’

Last year I was diagnosed with a fibroid the size of a cantaloupe and an ovarian cyst the size of an orange.

I was looking somewhat pregnant and feeling a bit, um, large. The gynecologist was none too happy with me when I, at age 51, said,“Let’s give the things a little time. Maybe menopause will naturally shrink them.“ (This is possible –estrogen causes them to grow and lack thereof causes shrinkage).  51 is the average age of menopause.

Needless to say, I found myself having a total abdominal hysterectomy 3 months later, as I was still producing plenty of estrogen and the things were getting bigger instead of smaller. I emerged from the surgery thinner and happy my ovary had not exploded .

Things were not too bad at first. I was (and still am) reluctant to take hormone replacement therapy.

However, one night I awoke to find more fluid coming out of my body than I had ever experienced. Primarily, my neck for some bizarre reason.

It was as if some gigantic pores had opened below my hairline; the pillow was soaked, and I had to get a towel and sleep with it.

Then I decided to start counting the hot flashes; it was exceeding 10 a day, most of them requiring a wipe down.  Living in South Florida and the time of year being Summer did not help matters. I called the gynecologist and asked for some help.

“Is your sleep disturbed?” they asked.

Only by waterfalls of mysterious fluid leaking out of my neck..followed by frozen clamminess.

I am not sure if disturbed is even the proper word. Defiled is more like it.

So, I got the horse dose of HRT in a transdermal patch. The patch does help but I am still not out of the woods and menopause has definitely lasted more than one day.

Amelia Grant is a very experienced Landscape Architect/Designer who a few years back left the big city of Atlanta for an idyllic life in a small town in South Florida. The ensuing experiences led to a blog and new found pleasure in writing and sharing information online.


She lives on the Treasure Coast with her husband, two retired racing greyhounds and a fluffy  white cat. Landscape design and consulting are her primary occupation with writing, gardening, and cooking as sidelines.

Amelia’s  blog,The Shrub Queen, may be found at


Hysterectomy: Leslie’s Story Part Three–After the Surgery

When blog reader Leslie Lockwood told me she was scheduled for a hysterectomy, I asked her to record her experience for Friend for the Ride.  She’s presenting her story in three parts.  This final post is a report twelve weeks post op. Thanks Leslie, for sharing your story!

Although I felt like writing it’s been a “wild and crazy” ride since my surgery 3 months ago, it’s really been more like “mild and phasey!”

Mild-Healing strictly from the surgery itself has been a breeze. I took the doctor’s advice and did nothing for two weeks.  I took my pain meds for about a week or so, then ibuprofen, and then nothing.  I went back to work after four weeks and was not exhausted at all (which is what my doctor had predicted).  And even now, except for the scars, I really couldn’t tell you I even feel like I had surgery at all.  I have no physical pain at all at the site of the surgery, I have good energy, am back to walking and Zumba, and feel pretty good most of the time.

*Phasey-Here are some new phases (at least I think/hope they are phases) that I am going through.  I am pretty sure that many are typical menopause symptoms.

 Sleeplessness-I feel like I am up all night.  I doubt that this is true, but from the time I turn out my light until the first time I wake up is usually 2-3 hours.  I then proceed to wake up several times a night and am almost always up before my alarm goes off.  In the past, I have had trouble falling asleep, not staying asleep, so this is really different for me.

 Furnace-I feel like I have an internal furnace on at all times now.  This has been especially difficult to deal with because we had a pretty warm end of summer/start of fall here in Oregon.  For the first time ever I was ready for it to cool off.  Even now, it has hit the low 40’s and I am not thrilled to have the heat on or ready for the flannel sheets my husband keeps requesting.

Weight Gain-This one is tough to really know if it’s a result of my hysterectomy, because I have struggled with my weight for years, always wishing I was 10 or 20 lbs lighter.  When my cyst ruptured in June, I immediately gained 10 lbs.  I was confused that it didn’t budge, and decided just to enjoy my summer (picnics, desserts, wine,…) and worry about losing the weight after my surgery.  Well, this weight (in my middle for the most part) is stubborn!  I am currently trying a low carb approach and have dropped maybe 3 lbs but would seriously love to lose about 15 more at this point.

Pain-I had the hysterectomy because of the pain and spotting I was experiencing from endometriosis.  The spotting is gone (obviously with no uterus) and I love that.  I am also happy to report that the pain is mostly gone.  I say mostly because I still feel it now and then.  What I had was nerve pain on my left side and I have been told that nerves take a long time to forget.  I definitely feel better and am so glad I have gone from taking up to three ibuprofen for about two weeks of every month to rarely taking it at all.

So there you have it, my hysterectomy story.  Hopefully it is helpful to any of you contemplating having this type of surgery.  I know also that I can learn from many of you so if you have any advice regarding my “phases” please let me know.

*I went from the patch (seriously could not get the sticky residue off of my skin) to a 1 mg tablet of Estrodial each day.

Photo Above: Leslie laughing on a Disneyland ride, Mickey’s Carousel, during a trip they won in a radio contest.

Photo Below: Leslie and her daughter, hugging in the dorm!

Leslie Lockwood has been married for twenty-four years and is the mother of two teenage daughters. She’s a southern California girl who’s been in Oregon for the past eighteen years.  Leslie teaches music to preschoolers. She loves her book club, girls’ night out, and trips to the beach.

Menopause, No More Periods

Hysterectomy: Leslie’s Story Part Two–The Surgery

When blog reader Leslie Lockwood told me she was scheduled for a hysterectomy, I asked her to record her experience for Friend for the Ride.  She’s presenting her story in three parts.  This post recounts the first hours and the first two weeks following the surgery. Thanks, Leslie!

I awoke from my surgery to the best news ever-the doctors had been able to do my entire surgery  laparoscopically and  had left the colon alone because there was no endometrial involvement there.  What a blessing!  I immediately knew my recovery would be much, much easier than I had anticipated.

I stayed in the hospital overnight, but most of us know that is pretty pointless because it is impossible to get any rest in a hospital at all.  (When I had my babies, I was one of those moms who actually sent them-I know, shocking-to the nursery so I could get some rest and even then I didn’t sleep.)

Anyhow, I was hooked to an IV, had a pulse thingy taped to my finger, had the things on my legs to keep blood flow and prevent blood clots, and had oxygen in my nose.  Basically, I could barely move because I was so connected, it made it impossible to do anything but lie still. Add to that the fact that people are constantly coming in to check your vitals, give you pain meds, and take your blood (that guy showed up at 4:00 am).

I went home about 24 hours after the surgery.  I was amazed at how good I felt, sore, but good.  I settled into my couch with my water bottle, pain meds, books/magazines, and the remote control.  Family, friends, and neighbors had signed up to bring meals (many of them at my pre-hysterectomy party), so we were all set.

I had been given advice by more people than I can count, to rest, to take it easy, and to accept any offer of help that came my way.  So although that really is hard to do, I listened to my doctor, my friends and my body and did pretty much nothing for two weeks.  It felt almost decadent to be lounging on my couch, watching Netflix, enjoying meals from friends*, playing with Pinterest and Facebook on my Ipad, and even napping while a friend tidied up my home and organized my Tupperware cupboard, but I did it.

Yesterday was my two week check up, and I think my “vacation on the couch” has paid off.  I feel great, my wounds have healed, and I am now allowed to drive again and resume most of my normal activities**.

My next check up is in four weeks and at that point, we will discuss things like how I am doing being on Estrogen (I am on a patch right now because I now have no ovaries) and if my endometrial pain has gone away (I still have sporadic pain in my left side but it could be phantom pain).

I can say now that I am feeling really good, almost back to normal.  I am glad to be on the other side of this surgery.  So far I have not grieved my uterus and ovaries at all.

I definitely won’t be missing the periods or the spotting I had for weeks at a time.  I am excited to plan my 25th anniversary beach vacation without having to check a calendar and cross my fingers and hope and pray that I won’t be bleeding at that time.  I truly feel a sense of freedom and excitement and I look to my post-hysterectomy future!

*My doctor had advised me not to eat too much.  It took me about a week to get my appetite back so I listened to him and just made sure I had a little food with my meds and took a few bites each night of the lovely dinners we received.  Added note for those of you who go through this: I took two Colace every day for about 6 days and drank lots of water.

**No lifting, baths, hot tub, or sex. (I still have my cervix, but it was stitched up and needs to heal.)

Photo Above:  Leslie, her husband, and two girls grinning for the camera. Leslie thinks this picture was taken at the Balboa Peninsula in California. She loved going to the arcade there as a kid because you take a ferry from Balboa Island.

Photo Below:  Leslie, her husband, and her youngest daughter.  Leslie’s oldest daughter is now away at college.

Leslie Lockwood has been married for twenty-four years and is the mother of two teenage daughters. She’s a southern California girl who’s been in Oregon for the past eighteen years.  Leslie teaches music to preschoolers. She loves her book club, girls’ night out, and trips to the beach.

Hysterectomy: Leslie’s Story Part One– Before the Surgery

When blog reader Leslie Lockwood told me she was scheduled for a hysterectomy, I asked her to record her experience for Friend for the Ride.  She’s presenting her story in three parts.  This post recounts the symptoms and medical advice that led to the surgery.  Thanks, Leslie!

As I look ahead to a few days from now, I’m really not sure how I feel.  You see, I am about to part with my uterus.  I guess I’m ok with that.  No more bleeding or spotting 15 days a month….  No more pain (endometriosis)…

Until recently I thought I would never have a hysterectomy.  They were for people of my mom’s generation, or people with health issues.  Not me, I was pretty sure I’d be hanging on to it forever.  But here I am today, about to have surgery soon, and  I am pretty sure that  I am in denial about this whole experience.

Here what lead me to make the decision:  Until the last few years, I was a pretty healthy person, with rarely even a cramp each month.  Then one day I had this pain that I thought surely must be appendicitis; it turned out to be a ruptured ovarian cyst (talk to anyone who has had one, the most excruciating pain ever).  I had it happen twice before the doctor scheduled a laparoscopic procedure and took out my ovary.

When they took my ovary, they discovered that I had lots and lots of endometriosis.  Interestingly, right before I had my ovary removed, I had this pain in my side and shooting down my leg– this has continued every month for 1-2 weeks.  I often have bleeding or spotting accompanying this.  But I did not want a hysterectomy, so I decided to try and deal with it.

When it wasn’t getting any better ,they put me on The Pill.  I continued to have bad pain and yet another ruptured ovarian cyst (on my remaining ovary).  I have figured out that constant pain is exhausting!  I was tired all. the. time.  (Me, the diagnosed insomniac since age 10, has to take a nap each and every day.)  So after my last trip to the ER for the ruptured cyst, I went to my doctor.  He basically said to me, “It’s time.”

Now that the time has come, I have tons of questions:  *Will they take my ovary?  *Will they put me on estrogen?  What will I feel like?  *What will the recovery be like?  Is this really going to happen?  So much is unanswered at this point.

And still, I wonder if this is really what I should do?  I have actually felt ok in the last month and a half since that cyst ruptured. So now what do I do? Do I discount the 2.5 years of pain, bleeding, etc. because the last month has been ok?  Or is it sort of like when you can’t stand your hair, schedule an appointment, and then get tons of compliments (before you even have your hair cut)?

I’m not sure.  Time will tell.

I am hoping and praying that I made the right decision.

*This part really is an uncertainty because the doctor will not know what he has to do until he get in there with the scope and sees how much damage the endometriosis has done.

Photo Above:  Leslie as a baby!

Photo below:  Our guest blogger now.

Leslie Lockwood has been married for twenty-four years and is the mother of two teenage daughters. She’s a southern California girl who’s been in Oregon for the past eighteen years.  Leslie teaches music to preschoolers. She loves her book club, girls’ night out, and trips to the beach.