Carol F., Pennsylvania, USA: I know there are many, many more questions, but these are the ones that came immediately to mind:
1. Does your doctor have a specialty in Gynecologic Oncology?
2. What type of hysterectomy will I have? (radical, total, abdominal, vaginal, etc.) What are the pros and cons of each for my particular cancer?
3. How many times has your doctor done this type of procedure?
4. What is the doctor's experience with complications? What should you expect? (It's never fun to think that things can go wrong, but you need to know.)
5. Do you anticipate that I will need transfusions? If so, can family donate blood?
6. Is there anything you can do for me pre-surgically to help with anxiety (assuming that's a problem)?
7. How long will the surgery take?
8. Are you going to remove my ovaries? Do I have a choice? What are the pros and cons?
9. Will I have a "Foley" catheter? This is a means of draining the bladder giving it time to rest while you recover. And, you can go home with it, if necessary. Actually, it sounds unpleasant, but is really, really helpful, as it allows you and your bladder time to get much needed rest.
10. Do you use drains and how do you decide? (I didn't have these, but I know some of the ladies have.)
11. Are you going to do "frozen sections" of nodes during the surgery and from where will the nodes be taken? What happens if one or more of these nodes is found to be positive?
12. Will this cause me to be at risk for lymphedema? If so, what steps can I take to avoid it?
13. What kind of impact will this surgery have on my bladder/bowel?
14. What happens to my vagina? How will the surgery affect me and my relationship with my husband?
15. What kind of pain relief will I have? There are various choices available.
16. How long will I be in the hospital? And, if I need to stay longer, how can that be arranged?
And, don't be afraid to seek a second opinion with another doctor before making a final decision.
Cathy B., Ontario, Canada: If I had to do it again, this is what I would include in my 'pamper pack': A baseball cap....to shield the eyes from the lights for napping AND, after a few days in hospital, used to cover "bed head"! Also: a backscratcher of sorts, your favourite body lotion, wet naps (for a refreshing 'lift' to the skin), mints, goodies (to share with the 'nice' nurses?), short straws (sometimes hospitals only have long ones which are hard to drink from lying down), walkman/tapes, socks if your feet get cold in bed, and of course, slip-on slippers.
Katie, California, USA: Having my sister with me made my hospital stay much more comfortable. Her quiet presence really helped me through this difficult time. She was the one visitor I didn't feel compelled to entertain and I didn't feel uncomfortable about letting her "do" for me. She sat at my bedside, reading, during visiting hours, and was there to help me get out of bed, comb my hair, wash my face...all the little things the nurses were too busy to do. I don't know what I would have done without her.
Jax, Massachusetts, USA: Take slip-on slippers! It was the first thing women on the Internet told me. Since I'd never had abdominal surgery, I only realized how important that advice was when I tried to walk after my surgery.
You might consider not answering the phone the first day. Get the word out you're going to be mighty tired for a day or so and will catch up with everyone later.
Sue D., Pennsylvania, USA: Make sure you take your sense of humor! Laughter can really help ease the fear and anxiety of cancer treatment.
Here's a tip passed on to me by my cancer buddy Gina. She explained to me that her "Invincible Bunny Slippers" got her through several surgeries. She knew that no one would ever be caught dead wearing such goofy slippers! ;-) So she wore them throughout her treatments.
When I was diagnosed, she advised me to go out and get my own. The special shopping trip I went on to find just the right slippers gave me my first chuckles since my diagnosis. When I found Wylie Coyote slippers (shaped like the head of the Loonie Tunes cartoon character) marked "100% fuzzy," I knew I'd found my slippers: No matter how many times ol' Wylie misses Road Runner, he never stops trying. What a survivor!
The only problem with my slippers was that Wylie's nose stuck out so far that I kept tripping myself the first few days after my surgery when I wasn't very limber!
So get some crazy fuzzy slippers of your choice -- they just have to make you and everyone around you smile. Other that that requirement, anything goes!