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525,600 Minutes

11 Aug

Today marks one year since I lost my thyroid, and my cancer. 365 days. 525,500 minutes. How do you measure a thyroidless year?

Before my surgery, I was terrified of gaining 50+ pounds. I was already struggling with reduced energy, and I thought I would become non-functioning. I was afraid I would have a terrible, ugly scar. I thought I was saying goodbye to my fertility. I was worried that my voice would never sound the same. I didn’t want to end up with breathing problems that would prevent me from running. Deep down, I thought they might open me up and find more cancer. I prayed my personality wouldn’t change and I wouldn’t end up with chronic depression. I thought I wouldn’t be a good mother anymore. I thought my marriage might suffer. I was worried about my career. I thought saying goodbye to my thyroid meant saying goodbye to life as I knew it.

I thought I would never be the same. I was right.

My surgery was a piece of cake. The best decision I could have made was choosing an endocrine surgeon who does thyroids all day long. You literally have to squint to see my scar. No complications. No surprises either; he took the cancer out, and it hasn’t spread or returned. My voice sounds exactly the same. I can still sing to Mary before bed, and I can still hold private radio concerts in my car. Just last week, I got to see Coldplay, singing my cancer anthem, up close and personal. No one at the Palace of Auburn Hills was screaming louder than I was.

My surgery was so non-eventful, that I interviewed for a new job just 10 DAYS after my thyroidectomy (wearing a necklace to hide my fresh incision). Despite all odds, they hired me, and I have never been happier in my career. I’m doing something I love, and working with fantastic people.

I can still run. In fact, in May, I ran a 5K a full minute faster than I did before my surgery. My daughters don’t think any differently of me…they still like to run around outside and get really sweaty…”to look like Mom after Zumba.”

Having cancer actually made me slow down and appreciate my beautiful family even more than I did before. It forced me, the ultimate caretaker, to let someone else take care of me. There were times this year when I was overwhelmed by how much I am loved. I don’t think I would have been able to experience that without really letting my husband take the wheel. And if we decide we want to have another baby, we can. At my one-year appointment, my endocrinologist gave that choice back to me.

Over the last year, I’ve struggled to feel like myself. There have been days where I’ve slept 12 hours and still wanted a nap. I take four different vitamin supplements a day to make up for the deficiencies my thyroid left behind. And I can’t lose weight to save my life. One year later, I am 12 pounds heavier, and 25 pounds more than “normal.” I’ve tried to accept it, but I can’t. So I will keep fighting, playing around with my medication, counting calories and exercising. In the meantime, I am actually learning to be happy in my life without being happy with my weight.

So how do you measure a thyroidless year? When I measure the joy in my life against my pain, I came out ahead. I am winning the war. I am surviving. There is light at the end of this tunnel, and I know I will achieve “normal” someday. Maybe next year.

To quote Chris Martin, “You can hurt…hurt me bad. But still I raise the flag.”

I ran two 5Ks this year, and followed up one with a 2K run with Ellie.

Andy and me before the Coldplay concert in August 2012. No scars visible.

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Thyroid Cancer Scan Playlist

18 Jul

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Tomorrow is the big day – my first thyroid cancer whole-body scan. In true fashion, I am more worried about having to be in a small enclosed space than I am the actual results. I am pretty claustrophobic and I HATE needles and blood, so I am not exactly a dream cancer patient.

I have created a playlist for my iPod to help me zone out. All of these songs have special meaning for me, but most are relate-able for fellow thyroid patients.

Every Teardrop is a Waterfall – Coldplay. I am a huge Coldplay fan, and this is my cancer anthem. Maybe I’m in the black. Maybe I’m on my knees. Maybe I’m in the gap between the two trapezes…

Running to Stand Still – U2. Throughout this whole experience, I always feel like I am running to stand still. Besides, this song has one of the best Bono “Ooooohoooo” choruses ever.

Under the Stars – Morning Parade. This is just my favorite song right now. I love to crank it in the car on a warm summer night. Happy place.

Grace Like Rain – Todd Agnew. Usually I like to keep my Christianity and my music separated, but this song is my exception. I have a spiritual experience every time I hear it. It heals me.

Just Like Heaven – The Cure. This is a timeless, great song. One of my all-time favorites. It puts me in a good mood no matter what is going on around me.

Friday Night Lights Theme. I am not in this giant tube. I am in my favorite chair eating ice cream and Friday Night Lights is about to start. There’s Coach Taylor. And Tammy. Matt Saracen. And Julie. Jason Street and Lyla Garrity. And then finally Tim Riggins. Clear Eyes. Full Hearts. Can’t Lose.

In Your Eyes – Peter Gabriel. My favorite movie is Say Anything. It’s been my favorite movie since 8th grade. Is there any happier place than Lloyd Dobler and a boombox?

#41 – Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds Live at Luther College. Before there was Coldplay, there was Dave Matthews Band. I was obsessed. Two seconds after this song begins and I am back on CMU’s campus, drinking a Bud Light and laughing.

Rearviewmirror – Pearl Jam. Before Dave Matthews, there was Pearl Jam. It’s time to leave my thyroid cancer in my own rear-view mirror.

Breathe Me – Sia. This song was in the Six Feet Under finale. I didn’t even like that show that much, but the finale really moved me. I remember telling Andy that moments in our lives pass too quickly and we will grow old before we know it. I was so, so right.

Fix You – Coldplay. I sing this song as a lullaby for both of my girls. It’s an amazing song. And I, too, have lost something I can’t replace.

Alive and Kicking – Simple Minds. That’s right. I’m still here. Alive and kicking.

Since U Been Gone – Kelly Clarkston. Ode to my cancer. The night before my thyroidectomy, I drove around my neighborhood and belted out this song, just in case I wouldn’t ever be able to hit the notes again. Guess what? I still can.

The Sound of Settling – Death Cab for Cutie. After three weeks on this low-iodine diet…I have a hunger twisting my stomach into knots…

Stop for a Minute – Keane. This is a song for my over-analytical inner-self. Sometimes I feel like it’s all been done. Sometimes I feel like the only one. Sometimes I wanna change everything I’ve ever done. I’m too tired to fight and yet too scared to run. And if I stop for a minute…I think about things I really don’t wanna know…

Lost? – Coldplay. I have to end my scan reminding myself that just because I’m losing, doesn’t mean I’m lost. And just because I’m hurting, doesn’t mean I’m hurt.

The U of M nurse told me that if the nuclear medicine doctor gets a good scan tomorrow, I can skip Friday’s scan. Here’s to hoping I get the all-clear and I can order a giant Starbucks caramel macchiato by tomorrow afternoon!

Want to buy this playlist on iTunes? You can get it here.