learning new words ….. omentectomy

(image from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Omen)

As well as the enormity of dealing with being told you have cancer, cancer brings with it a whole new language to learn, and words to get tongue-tied with.  One of my favourite (umm not sure 'favourite' is entirely appropriate) is omentectomy, which immediately made me think of Damien and 'The Omen'.  My next thought was what the hell is an omentum and how can I have hung out with this body of mine for forty one years and have not a clue that I even had an omentum? I find medical words hard to pronounce, but they are put together like lego blocks, making their meaning slightly more easy to understand. The suffix 'ectomy' comes from the greek εκ-τομια meaning the act of cutting out or in medical terms the surgical removal of a specified body part; as in appendectomy, removal of the appendix. Wikipedia has a list of all the possible 'ectomies' that can be done - who knew there were so many body parts that can be removed - ouch! The name omentum stems from the embalming practice of the ancient Egytpians, who would assess a persons 'omens' by looking at the structure of the the organ that we now call the omentum.

So I learnt that an omentectomy was not the removal of the 'Omen' from me (but considering the nature of ovarian cancer 'The Omen' would be a suitable name for it).  Instead an omentectomy is the removal of the omentum; a sheet of tissue, or more correctly a layer of two membranes, containing  blood vessels, nerves, lymph vessels, lymph nodes and fat that lines the abdomen.  The omentum, or to give it it's correct name the greater omentum (there's a smaller one too), lines the stomach and other abdominal organs.  The omentum is not the first organ that comes to mind when you think of a body part, and in a similar vein for a long time surgeons/medics didn't give it much of a thought or have clue as to what it did or why we have one.  It is now known that the omentum acts as an abdominal bouncer or body guard; it plays a central role in defending the abdomen from infections by sealing off infected and inflamed areas; providing a rich source of leukocytes (or white blood cells), the cells that can seek out and destroy bacteria, and promoting  healing.

With ovarian cancer the omentum is removed as ovarian cancer cells have a predisposition to migrate (or to give cancer cell migration it's proper name - metastasise) to the omentum; it's removal firstly helps to stage the cancer (i.e. are there metastatic cancer cells already in the omentum) and secondly provides a therapeutic benefit as it can decrease the possibility of the cancer cells spreading from the ovaries via the omentum to other organs such as the stomach and intestines.  Removal of the whole of the greater momentum is called a supracolic omentectomy, which is ironic as I since had an awful bought of colic after my omentectomy! The long-term impact of having an omentectomy is not fully understood; reviews that I have read caution that careful consideration needs to be given before it is removed - which for me just adds to the sense of foreboding and seriousness that, as my omentum-free intestines grumble away, comes with a diagnosis of ovarian cancer. 


  1. hi there, I just wanted to say that I found your blog from instagram (I'm very much an instagram novice!), and have been reading it and finding it very moving and inspiring. Your knitting is so lovely too x

  2. Hello flea & bear
    Thank-you for the first ever comment here! I have such mixed feelings about this blog, I tend towards introversion, so publishing all these words on a public forum is a paradox to me and yet it has helped so much to write down all the thoughts swirling around in my head. Being diagnosed with cancer has made me look inwards so much and I hope that my words are not too introspective x

  3. I have mixed feelings about my blog too - what to share, how much, how personal to be about my life and feelings etc. I have persisted with it because I love looking back at what I've done and remembering all the little moments that are so easily forgotten. Somtimes I think I should write more but I'm quite private and don't feel that comfortable telling the world everything! I guess everyone is different. Your blog is honest and moving and not introspective at all, it's lovely to read and if it helps you to write your thoughts down then that's got to be a good thing:)x

  4. Your blog is lovely flea & bear! Yes, it's so easy to forget the little things - recording them and creating memories to return to in the future is a wonderful thing. It's a hard balance - how much to share - I love reading your posts : - )

  5. What a fascinating feeling of connection. I am a knitter too, albeit fairly novice. I had ovarian cancer ten years ago. I know I am one of the lucky ones. I had an omentectomy. My son, along with all my family a stalwart support, but by nature laconic and funny said "think of it as a bonus mum, like free cosmetic surgery". Interesting and true blog. Glad I have found it.

  6. Hello Elizabeth and fellow omentector (not sure if that is a real word ;-), thank-you for your comment. How long have you been knitting for? Glad to have been found x

  7. I learnt to knit as a teenager and wasn't very good at it. Came back to it about five year ago, not coincidentally when I gave up a hugely demanding job in order to have more time and more freedom. I'm much better at it as an adult, more patience I think. Mind you, I still tend to prefer small garments and projects!

    1. Having time to create and craft is good for the soul! Knitting definitely teaches patience, but I love the process of knitting - there are so many beautiful patterns out there to choose from!