I was back in the hospital after having my ovaries and fallopian tubes already removed?preventive surgery my doctors had recommended after I was diagnosed with the genetic mutation for breast and ovarian cancer. There was only a rare chance they would find anything wrong, but they did.
"All of a sudden the number of cells starts to increase and you see a real heaping up of the cells," said the doctor, explaining a pathology slide on screen in his office.
Doctors found a pre-invasive cancer in the lining of my fallopian tubes. All the purple you see on my pathology slide, I could barely pronounce my actual diagnosis, much less understand it, but I knew that because of my genetic testing, they found it early.
"You had a serious tubal intra-epithelial carcinoma, or what is commonly called a cystic lesion," said Dr. Richard Barakat, Memorial Sloan-Kettering.
And so, this time, my surgeon at Memorial Sloan-Kettering would have to do a staging operation, take out my uterus, my cervix, abdominal tissue and some lymph nodes to see if any cancer had spread, that was tough.
"It hurts, but it's not so bad. I just have to come out of this for a day or so, so I'll spend the night in the hospital and then we wait, we wait," I said in the hospital.
Dr. Barakat said, "And again you're waiting, another week to 10 says to find out if there's any spread, I'm sure it was very difficult."
Thankfully the cancer had not spread, but there was some debate over treatment initially, my oncologist still recommended chemotherapy.
"Most of them, when we see this, it's small, it's on one tube and unusual about your situation, is that both tubes were involved and were involved quite extensively," Dr. Carol Aghajanian, Memorial Sloan-Kettering, told me.
Because my case was rare it was time for a second opinion. I came here to Boston to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute where a second oncologist recommended against chemo.
"The cells are not behaving invasively, there's no evidence that they traveled, you had very extensive surgery," Dr. Ursula Matulonis the institute told me.
Thankfully, the two doctors talked and others at cancer centers around the country weighed in, my chemotherapy was cancelled. The whole time, my sister, Deborah, was trying to help me keep it together.
We grilled them. Between a reporter and a litigator, I think we were covered. We let the doctors have it.
What I now know, is that doctors have been looking at genetic cases like mine more and more closely because there is a theory, that many cases of ovarian cancer, actually start in the fallopian tubes and what if, by the time my daughters grow up, there is no need to remove ovaries to prevent ovarian cancer?
"We're not there yet. I'm not trying to suggest it's safe to just take out the fallopian tube and leave the ovaries behind, but it's certainly worth looking at," said Dr. Barakat.
And if anything is abundantly clear it is the value of genetic testing, can it be overwhelming??? Yes, but if you have a family history of breast and ovarian cancer, if you're like me, and you've already had breast cancer, talk to your doctor and don't wait.
I'm 44 years old. I was going to wait until I was 45 to have this done. If I had waited, what would've happened?
"I suspect you would have had advanced ovarian cancer," the doctor told me.
I could've died. The doctor told me it would have taken my life.