Archive | August, 2011

If my clothes could talk…

26 Aug

Today I felt great. Really great. Like, normal great. I had my TSH level tested, and my results are in…0.1. That’s a suppressed level, which means that I got the right dose of Synthroid the first time! Hooray! (I am fully aware that this can fluctuate, but for now, I’ll take it!)

I felt like me today. And then I went into my closet. At first I just took a few sweaters off of hangers and put them into a donation pile. Then a pair of jeans. Then three suits. And then…

“Bye-bye” pile

As I created my waist-high pile of old clothes, I remembered wearing each and every piece. If my clothes could talk, what would they say? Let’s take a guess.

“Remember me? You wore me constantly. You wore me to both the Pat Benatar concert and CMU Homecoming. That means I am comfortable and made you look skinny, respectively.”
“You picked me out to wear on your first date with Andy. You were pretty nervous, and sweating a lot. Remember when you sprayed all of that body mist in the Germania bathroom? Bad idea. You’ll never get the glitter stains out of my armpits.”
“You were totally supposed to wear me to your 10-year high school reunion. It’s not MY fault that you never lost that last 10 pounds. Look at me! I still have my tags on! Put me back in the closet. Now.”
“I am sooooo tiny. I just love to wave around in your face to remind you that I used to fit you. But I also remind you of your honeymoon and hitting the midnight buffet on New Year’s Eve when everyone else was having champagne.”
“I am the most expensive pair of sweatpants that anyone should ever own. And no matter how hard you tried, I never made you look like Carmen Electra.”

Ultimately I parted ways with most the clothes of my past. It was liberating. If I ever gain or lose a bunch of weight, I will happily go shopping. Today is the 15th day of the rest of my cancer-free life. And guess what? I feel fantastic.

14 days post-thyroidectomy

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Waiting

20 Aug

It’s been 9 days since my surgery. That’s pretty hard to believe. In some ways, it seems like I just got home from the hospital. In other ways, it seems like it’s been forever. I am feeling pretty good. So good, in fact, that my fatigue sort of slaps me in the face sometimes. It’s been wonderful to rest. There are few things in the world that I enjoy more than having a cup of coffee in my recliner with my living room windows open. That’s what I am doing at this very moment.

Andy bought me this recliner 2 weeks before Mary was born. When I got home from the hospital, I watched movies with her resting on my lap…right here. I rocked her in this chair at 2:00 a.m. on countless occasions. The first day after my maternity leave, I rushed into this chair to nurse her at 5:01 p.m., before I even took my shoes off. I read books to the girls in my recliner, and it’s where I close out every day before bed…sometimes with Haagen Dazs Chocolate Chocolate Chip.

Baby Mary in my recliner – August 2009

I was sitting in this chair when I got the phone call from Dr. R, telling me I had papillary thyroid cancer. And I am sitting in this chair while I recover. I guess I am having all of these nostalgic feelings about my recliner because I don’t have a thyroid anymore. My body’s hormone reserves are all used up, and I have to sit in my recliner and wait for my Synthroid to kick in. In a lot of ways, it reminds me of how you feel after you have a baby. The hard part is over…but you’re tired and emotional, and you just don’t quite feel like yourself. I shouldn’t complain – I have zero pain, and my incision looks pretty great. Now it’s just waiting.

1 week post-thyroidectomy. Waiting for the yucky glue to come off.

Waiting for U of M to tell me what my calcium levels are…
Waiting to hear when I will have to start the low-iodine diet…
Waiting for my scan, and then waiting for the results…
Waiting to feel normal…

9 days post-thyroidectomy – looking better!

I am grateful. I know in my heart that my cancer is gone. And I also know I will be back to normal next week. In the meantime, I will rest in my recliner and wait, and I will remember to be grateful for both the moments and the people in my life.

My Thyroidectomy Story

13 Aug
I made it!

Here I am, two days post-thyroidectomy (with central lymph node dissection). I am feeling GREAT. I mean, almost normal! I know I need to take it easy, and I do notice that I get a bit overwhelmed easily, but that is to be expected.

I arrived at the hospital on Thursday at noon. I took two Xanax to relax, but I think I took them way too soon. They just helped me nap on the drive to Ann Arbor, and had worn off when I needed them the most. At 1:30, they took me to pre-op, and fear set in. Not about surgery, but about that darn IV. Anyone who knows me knows how I am about blood and needles (NOT GOOD). I cried a lot, and Andy distracted me. We talked about how adorable Mary is when she smiles, and that got me through the first poke. Naturally, the nurse botched the IV port, so I had to go through it all a very painful second time. That was the most painful, nerve-wrecking part of this whole process. Once that was over, I was all smiles.

Ready to go under!
Andy kissed my thyroid goodbye, and the last thing I remember is explaining my middle name to the anesthesiologist. I woke up very confused, because I saw that the clock said 5:45 p.m. That meant the surgery was really long, and I was worried about Andy and my dad who were in the waiting room. I tried so hard to stay conscious, but I just couldn’t. It didn’t really hurt that badly…I just felt nauseous and thirsty. The rest of the night was only tough because I was in a large recovery room filled with other patients, with just a curtain separating me from a very annoying fellow patient who loved the sound of her own voice. By the way, if anyone knows a 40 year-old junior high school teacher from the Tri-City area who just had a very gross, personal surgery that she loves talking about in great detail, please send her my best.

12 hours post-surgery
By 5:00 a.m., my countdown to escape began. I kept giving big smiles to the nurses and saying I was ready to get my IVs out, but every time they agreed, I would get sick and they would put me back on the disabled list. I was in a very nauseous state when Dr. G checked on me, and unfortunately, I let an error slip me by. He said he would get my Cytomel, a short-acting T3 thyroid replacement drug, instead of Synthroid, just in case I needed radiation. Before my surgery, we had already agreed that I would get a Thyrogen injection if I needed a scan or an RAI treatment. But Dr. G was already gone before I had the strength to articulate that I wanted Synthroid. I didn’t want to mess around with the ups and downs of switching meds. It took me four hours to get the Synthroid approved, and we never could get it filled at the hospital. By noon, I had enough of my talkative, obnoxious neighbor, and I basically got dressed and discharged myself. I kept my stomach empty, and took my first 125 mcg Synthroid at the Saginaw Rite Aid. My advice to others…get your meds all worked out before surgery. I should have known better!

I slept perfectly last night. I haven’t slept that well in years! I did wake up with some tingling numbness in my fingers….bad sign, and indicates low blood calcium. Dr. G told Andy that he had to move my parathyroid glands a bit. I obviously want more detail about that, but I probably won’t be able to get it until my follow-up appointment on September 6. In the meantime, I am taking six Os-Cals and two Calcitrols every day. I am all done with pain pills…I really feel fine!

Sympathy band-aids from my girls
Thank you all so much for your thoughts and prayers. I really felt them, and they certainly worked. I am well on my way to the end of this journey!


Dear Thyroid

10 Aug
Dear Thyroid,
We only have a few short hours left together. It’s strange, I have cursed you for the last 18 months of my life, and today I feel I need to thank you.
Thank you, dear thyroid, for the last 33 years. Thank you for keeping me warm as I skated on the backyard ice rink that my dad made for me when I was just six years old. I was never too warm or too cold to enjoy every day of my childhood. You even worked overtime on Easter when I would eat a dozen Cadbury eggs. You kept up with me, blessing me with a good metabolism and enough energy to compete for Queen Schoolyard Socialite. I have always slept easily and peacefully, with you on my side.
As I aged, I never knew your name, never knew what you did for my body. Both of my pregnancies were a breeze. I lived my life with energy and enthusiasm. You never stood in the way of my fertility, as other thyroids might have done. I have two daughters who are perfect in every way. And you were there all along…in the background…chugging away. I will never know when the years of hard work began to wear on you. You grew a little larger after my first pregnancy – a silent cry for help. You were too kind to plague me with symptoms as I dealt with new motherhood. You went into overdrive, giving me what I needed to get through 365 sleepless nights with my firstborn daughter. You made me a warm, loving wife and mother. I was juggling it all so perfectly, but I was never doing it alone.
After my second daughter was born, you needed my help. There was a 9 mm papillary carcinoma on your right lobe. So you helped me put on a few extra pounds that wouldn’t budge. My bones were aching. My hair was brittle and falling out. My natural enthusiasm became a deliberate effort. I had taken you for granted, and suddenly I was struck with how much I owed to you. Thank you, dear thyroid, for fighting for me. Thank you for knowing just how to get my attention. Because of your diligence, my treatment will be minimal. My thyroid cancer journey will be a short one.
I want you to know that I fought for you too. I fought dismissive doctors and nurses. I fought through expensive supplements, dozens of ultrasounds and a botched biopsy. I fought for 18 long months to get you noticed. Because of all you have given me, I knew that my symptoms were not just depression, as my first physician asserted. I knew it was more than just low B-12, as my second physician excitedly diagnosed. I knew that you were not functioning as you once did, despite my normal lab ranges. I want you to know that even as I cried about your disease, I was grateful. Because of our fight, my loved ones know more. You taught me that my instincts are good. In just a few short hours, I will try to replace you. But you can never be replaced. You are my thyroid. And I owe you my life.

Surgery Update

9 Aug

Today was my surgery consult with Dr. G at UofM. I was very impressed and he put me at ease right away. He did a second exam and ultrasound, and concurred with Dr. E that everything in my thyroid and lymph node area looks perfect except for the only tiny spot. We discussed the pros and cons of robotic surgery, and I actually decided against it. The only real advantage would be the location of the scar (underarm vs. neck), and I should have the same recovery time with a traditional thyroidectomy. After the surgery, I will start on Synthroid (not sure of the dose yet), and will receive the pathology report five days later. After I heal, I will have to do a low-iodine diet for 2 weeks, and receive a Thyrogen injection to make me hypothyroid enough for a whole-body scan. I am excited that I can get the injection, because that means I won’t really have to go through the awful side effects of thyroid hormone withdrawl. Again, if all assumptions turn into truths, I will be back to normal in 1-2 weeks. No additional treatment necessary.

“Would you like to have the surgery on Wednesday this week?”
“Uh, that’s tomorrow.”
“Okay, we can do Thursday.”

So, here I am. I have one day to wrap up things at work, do all my laundry, plan and shop for Mary’s 2nd birthday, get groceries and finish all my medical paperwork.

Wish me luck!