Saturday, August 11, 2012

My Sister

People who follow my blog regularly may recall that my sister has been battling uterine cancer for the past half year or so. Since being treated with radiation and chemotherapy, she has been in a holding pattern waiting for the date of her surgery to come. It was several days ago and she had a full hysterectomy.

The surgery went fine, but not without some peripheral issues thrown into the mix. They suspected she had type 2 diabetes because her blood sugar was 187, but her HbA1C test was 5. For those who don't know, fasting blood sugar numbers, which are considered "normal" as long as they don't exceed 100-110 (depending on who you talk to), measure one day. The HbA1C test measures over the last 3 months and is a stronger indicator. 

My guess is that the number was abnormally high because of stress, saline solutions with glucose that were given and somehow not factored into the situation, or the fact that she may have eaten some liquids within the time frame and no one realized it (or she forgot). I don't know, but I do know that a patient recovering from cancer doesn't need to have additional false information heaped on her while she's spending her first day with a big incision in the stomach and having had a bunch of her internal organs cut away. It is irresponsible, in my opinion, to even speculate to someone at that point in time. Do the test and be sure, but don't push her into another hole before she's had a chance to climb out of the one she's in.

The other bit of bad news they gave her was that they suspect she has sleep apnea. They did this based on the fact that she wheezed as she as coming out from under anesthesia. I don't know if a snore or breathing issue when you've been under general anesthetic can be interpreted so broadly or not. I suspect the answer is "not", and that they are diagnosing by her weight (around 400 lbs., possibly a bit more), not by anything scientific. 

The good news is that the cancer has been carved out along with her reproductive system. They discovered that she had a severely malformed uterus which was nearly in two parts as well as two giant cysts on each ovary. One was the size of an orange and the other the size of a grapefruit. She also has a conjoined kidney and there was concern that if anything went badly during the surgery, this single kidney may fail or be damaged and things would be very bad indeed. 

My sister has to do many more prophylactic rounds of chemotherapy, but this crisis seems to be coming to a close. As I have mentioned in other posts, I strongly believe she did not seek routine pap tests because of her weight (and economic issues) and the humiliation people often face when they are obese and visit doctors. The level of difficulty and pain she has endured could have been greatly reduced had this been discovered much earlier. The lesson to take away is not that fat people are at higher risk of cancer so don't be fat, but that fat people need to get the same level and type of treatment as those of average weight or they are at risk of dying from diseases that are detected too late. 


Sandy Daigler said...

I think you are right that being overweight discourages people from getting medical care. I avoided doctors for a good ten years for that exact reason. The shame and embarrassment are hard to explain to someone who's never been overweight.

Arwenn said...

I think there's also a problem sometimes with medical staff failing to see beyond weight - basically assuming that whatever is wrong with you is because of your weight and that weight loss should be immediate and your biggest priority.

It's this all-or-nothing mentality...I can't be healthy because I'm fat, just like I can't be happy because I'm single.