Monday, January 30, 2012

Things are fine! Fiiiiine!

I realized recently that my last post kindof left things hanging. I feel bad about this, because ultimately I want the feeling around this blog to be one of positivity, and I think the whole "life sucks" then silence routine makes it sound like I'm still having a bad time of it.

But no. Honestly, in this case, no news really is good news. My tests came back clear & great, and I really should post an image of what my full body scan looked like. Kindof eerie and wonderful. But the important thing is, they didn't see anything creepy floating around in there. ("There" being my body.)

Since then, my life's been just like any other random person's. I take my pill every morning, but it's gotten to the point where it's completely routine. I don't really think about it or worry about it, and it happens. Blood tests have come back looking fine. I feel totally great, and have been going to the gym and getting all fit & buff. (Well, we'll see about that.)

My scar is getting better, too. Less red. I think it'll always flare up a little when I'm warm, but it's no biggie. I've never been that concerned about it.

I'm going in for a routine ultrasound check on my neck this Friday morning. I'll try & do better about reporting back about that. I'm maybe a little worried, but I have enough other things on my mind that there's not a lot of room for anything else right now. We'll see what happens, but I'm expecting clear results.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Emotional Weather Report

Here we are, pretty much in the thick of it. Exactly three weeks into my diet, starting my week of treatment, and I've got PMS. Sweet.

The diet is really so unfun, and I've totally been letting myself complain about it. Normally I feel like a jerk if I whine about anything - but I think it's allowed right now, and at any rate there's a point soon at which the diet will be over and all complaining will cease. Because I'll be too busy eating.

The ridiculousness of the situation is that it's a pretty darn healthy diet. It renders me effectively vegan, (tho I also can't eat soy.) But the kicker is that I also can't eat anything that might contain iodized salt. Since it's nearly impossible to tell for certain what contains it, and iodized salt is pretty much the worst thing I could consume right now, I can't eat in restaurants or eat anything that has "salt" anywhere in its ingredients list. This is everything sold in grocery stores. Seriously, I think there's a conspiracy at work by the salt industry. (Ok, not seriously. But why does everything have salt in it?! Crazy.)

Add to this the fact that I suck at meal planning even on a good day, and you may get an idea of the constant frustration I face. I'm fortunate in that I have a fridge full of fresh food, but somehow I never feel quite prepared to cook a tasty meal. I've muddled thru, tho - and this diet has gotten me & JB eating much healthier - we were eating pale overcooked food on a regular basis, now it's sauteed kale and homemade salsa fresca for us. Let's hope this all sticks. I'm sure I said something similar last time, but if this is the worst that life hands me, well, I'm one lucky duck. Forced to cook healthy food at home. Boo hoo. (I will say tho that my digestive system still doesn't approve. Probably because I keep throwing new foods at it. Bland food, bland food, FRESH FOOD FRESH FOOD! omg!)

On to this week's fabulous plans!

It goes a little something like this: Today, injection; tomorrow, injection; Wednesday, blood test and radioactive iodine pill; Thursday, full body scan to see if any thyroid cancer still lurks within me. The doctor has told me not to worry about this. I am worrying about this. How could you not?!
The injections are of Thyrogen - which, long story short, raises my TSH level without me having to go off my meds. Pretty simple procedure - two shots in my hip, two days apart. No side effects as far as I can tell, which is why so many folks love the Thyrogen option. I'm tired and cranky, but hey, that's an average day for me. I did want to point out that the literature the nurse gave me states: "Thyropin alfa (the generic name of the hormone) is synthesized in a genetically modified Chinese hamster ovary cell line." I think this means I have a bit of Chinese hamster in me. They certainly had to be tested on. Sorry, little guys. Truly.

Had to wait a while this morning for my number to be called, but: a) The nurses were all patient and friendly, b) they didn't charge me for the injection, and c) they made an appointment for me tomorrow so I won't have to wait. I do like Kaiser. Wednesday I give them my blood, then I walk over to Nuclear Medicine and swallow another radioactive pill. Less radioactive than last time, so I can go back into work right away. The next day they'll scan me, and then JB & I will spend the rest of the day in San Francisco looking at art. I can't remember how long I have to wait for scan results - I'm expecting sometime early next week I'll hear from the doctor.

I think I can eat delicious restaurant food on Friday. I'm hoping. But I'm also excited about cooking more at home - minus the worry that I'll accidentally eat the wrong thing. Medical drama - what fun!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

End of Year Updates

Yeesh, no posts since July? I don't feel particularly guilty as there hasn't been much to report, but I'd like to have a more consistent flow of updates here. Ah well.

Again, no news = good news. Nothing thyroidy going on as far as I can tell. But what brings me here is: I'll be having my second scan next month. This is a similar scan to what I had last November, with a few differences. The one thing that'll be exactly the same: I have to go on the low-iodine diet for two weeks prior to the scan. Joy. I have January 10th marked down as the first day for that. But the main difference from last time: I don't have to go off my meds. That's pretty cool I guess - they'll give me two shots to raise my TSH levels right before the scan. And less radiation than last time. No isolation!

The second scan was mostly an optional deal. My doctor says I show all signs of being cancer-free (I almost typed "scanser") so would probably be fine going on my merry way. Regular blood tests would show if anything was starting to look different in my system. But a scan is more sensitive, and given my past history with second tests proving critical (the second fine needle biopsy is what detected the cancer after the first came back clear) I think I'll feel much better being thorough.

So the last week of January will be full of adventure. Blood tests, shots, radiation pills, scans. At least I'm familiar with the procedures, aside from the shots. Will report back as things happen.

One interesting non-medical development this week: I realized a book I started reading (an awesome book, by the way) was written by the man giving the TED talk in the sidebar there on the right. ("Daniel Gilbert's TED Talk on Happiness.") That talk was immensely helpful to me after my diagnosis: it reaffirmed my belief that we all make the best of our situations, and that even when things seem completely dire we have the innate tendency to feel pretty pleased with things, eventually. Trust me, this is GREAT NEWS to someone newly diagnosed with cancer.

So, yeah, this book is basically the TED talk in longform. The author is a clever writer, and the book is a fun read . Give it a shot if you like sciency facts about humanity. No, it's not a self-help book, but if you're like me maybe just reading about how the brain works is a little therapeutic.

More details to come in an upcoming post, which should happen within a few weeks. It's been lovely to be able to fully enjoy the holidays this year (as opposed to last year, when I was feeling all poopy from worry and such). And I'm told that if this scan comes back clear (as is the expectation) I don't have to have any more! Yes, blood tests into forever, but that's no biggie.

p.s. re. my last post, my scar is still red and hasn't seemed to change at all. Frustrating. But ultimately I'm ok with it. A constant reminder of.... I don't know. Something. Important.

Monday, July 5, 2010


Ah, July. This time last year I was going bonkers with worry; so glad that time has passed. I took the day off on May 19th (re. my last post) and had a fantastic time doing wonderful & fun things. I think I'll take July 30th off as well. I doubt I'll make this a yearly tradition (that seems a little morbid), but I'm feeling the desire to mark the one-year point for diagnosis & surgery, and can see no need to deny myself this.

Given the lack of health-based worry in my life right now, there hasn't been much to blog about. To bring things up to date: I did email my surgeon, including a photo of my scar (the same one attached to this post). His response was a little frustrating, given that I was expecting to hear something along the lines of "Yes, it's a bit reddish, but it'll fade with time." Instead of saying that, he first mentioned that the scar looked raised, and that if I wanted I could come in and have them inject a steroid into it to flatten it out. Then he said the redness might be permanent, but the steroid injection might improve that, too.

Thanks, dude. All I wanted was to hear was that it's not so bad, since I happen to not be terribly concerned about it myself, and instead I got new things to be semi-worried about. I choose to remain calm. It really isn't raised much at all, perhaps the photo makes it look worse that it is. And as to the redness, I've never heard of that being permanent, just taking longer to fade. I'm going to continue with the sunscreen, and start using more vitamin E on it. We'll see.

Now I need to get another blood test. I'm actually a month late on doing that - I got a reminder call the other day. Part of my procrastination has to do with trying to get enough vitamin D in my system - I forgot for a while to take those vitamins, and I was worried it would show up as a deficiency in the test. I think I'm sortof feeling tired with the tests at this point, too. Not worried, just not wanting to think about it. Dumb of me, and I have plans to get blood drawn tomorrow or the day after. Interested to see what the results are: I've been better with the vitamin D, and have been taking an extra half-pill of the thyroid supplement once a week.

I feel completely the same as ever, so hooray for that.

Here's the image I emailed:

Looking at this photo again, I can see why the surgeon thought the scar was especially raised. It's not as bad as it looks. Hard to take a good scar portrait!

Sunday, May 9, 2010


So, had my meeting with the doctor a couple weeks ago, and it went pretty well. We talked TSH and vitamin levels. It turns out he hadn't ordered my Vitamin D levels to be checked during my last blood test because it takes a while for changes to show up. (Tho I feel like a couple months should be long enough...) He says he will have those levels checked next time I get a blood test, in June. As to my TSH, well, it still wasn't low enough, apparently. It's actually just about perfect for most people, but for someone who recently had thyroid cancer they want the levels to be below zero, basically, as this supposedly helps prevent the cancer from returning. But they don't want it too low, because then I'll become hyperthyroid and get all nervous & jittery. His solution: take an extra half-pill once a week and get tested again in June. He warned I might start feeling short-tempered and have trouble sleeping, but no problems yet.

He did think my scar looked redder than it should for how long it's been since my surgery. I have tried to keep in covered in sunscreen, but do admit to not putting any on when the weather's been grey & cloudy. Maybe that's a mistake. But it was starting to make my neck itch. *sigh*.... I definitely didn't go into the sun without protection - it helps to think of your scar as a tiny vampire that needs to be shielded from the light. Pro tip, there. Anyhoo, I don't have an explanation for the redness, and my doctor suggested emailing my surgeon, perhaps attaching a photo for reference. I still need to do that.

Beyond the TSH level & scar redness, my doctor thinks things look great. He said the nicest thing he ever has to me: "As far as I'm concerned, you're done." I show all the signs of someone who has successfully beaten thyroid cancer. Naturally noone can be sure, but he feels any futher worry would be unjustified. I'll see him again in a year and I will need to do the scan again, but not for a while, and I think that'll be my last one. Maybe? My stomach aches are happening less often and the pills are not a worry. I still frown at them occasionally and do feel a bit sad when I refill my pill case weekly, but hey. It's not so bad.

What is a Big Deal is that the first anniversary of my diagnosis is approaching. Kindof feeling creeped out by that. May 19th was when I heard the news over the phone, and that day and moment are forever etched into my brain. Fortunately I have plans to go to a show that night, and I expect to have a great time. But I think I'll still feel weird all day.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Limbo (not the game)

Another brief update here to mention that my endocrinologist hasn't gotten in touch with me. Which isn't as uncool as it might sound, since I actually have an appointment with him this coming Monday. (The first in several months, only the 2nd since the surgery.) I had just assumed that he would touch base with me before we met. Eh.

So Monday morning I get to ask any questions I have, tho at this point I don't have many. I may ask about a few random symptoms. (I don't actually list every single symptom on this blog, which is for the best I think since it's probably boring and possibly unrelated to thyroid issues, anyway.) I never got any vitamin D test results this time 'round which just drives me crazy - isn't it natural to expect that after starting a new supplement to correct previous test results?!

Oh well. Off to see a movie tonight - watching "A Single Man" at the Castro. I've seen it before, but can't pass up the chance to watch it in those surroundings.

Sunday, April 11, 2010


Yikes, four months since my last post! Well, for the most part, no news is good news - nothing has seemed interesting or traumatic enough to write about lately, and that's a good thing.

Only two complaints: Since the radiation treatment I have had more stomach aches than I ever recall having before, but it's really hard to prove that the two are connected, and it's nothing crippling - just the occasional sharp pain. All I can say is that I hardly ever had stomach aches before December, now I have them a couple of times a week, regardless of the food I eat. (Tho I do feel I've been having them less often lately.) Secondly, something that had cropped up in my past (once before my thyroid drama, once right after surgery) has come back to annoy me: my lips are super chapped all the time and peel like crazy. Maybe it's stress-related, maybe hormonal, I don't know. But again, it's mainly an annoyance, and I probably should just make an appointment with a dermatologist.

I mention these relatively minor things to point out how little things have changed with me in the eight months since my surgery - the eight months I've been without a thyroid and have depended on my daily pills. I don't love taking the pills, but I never expected to, and it's certainly become a habit - so much so that I still fear forgetting sometimes. It's such second nature to take a pill first thing in the morning that sometimes I can't remember if I did it or not. Oh, human brains.

In early February I took my first blood test since the RAI therapy, and the results weren't totally ideal. For the first time ever, it showed less-than-optimal thyroid hormone levels. (As a reminder, the RAI scan came back clear, so theoretically I'm cancer-free: the blood test mostly gives me an idea of thyroid stimulating hormone [TSH] levels, thus guiding how much medication to take.) My doctor wants me to be under 1.0 uIU/mL, but I showed a level of about 7.5 (my highest ever pre-drama result had been 1.9, and after surgery I was at 1.22) - so I had to up my thyroid medication dosage. That was frustrating, since I'd gotten used to coasting along at an ideal TSH level. I started taking 125mcg in February, and made plans for another blood test after a couple of months. (For better and worse it takes forever [i.e. several weeks] for TSH levels to change.)

That next blood test happened last Thursday, and so far results look good. My TSH level is at 0.51 so I expect to not have to change my medication. Tho maybe that's in the "too low" range - I don't know. I haven't heard back from the doctor yet - I expect that email will come in a day or two. My vitamin D levels were low in my previous blood test, so it was recommended I start taking supplements. You can imagine how thrilled I was to start taking another pill. (Not very.) I haven't seen any results yet re. vitamin D from this blood test, and I'll be bummed if the doctor didn't order that - I want to know if this supplement business is making any difference, dammit!

But again, I have felt more or less fine & normal throughout all of this. Some days I'm tired, some days I have a bunch of energy, and ultimately the most direct link I can find to any of this is that I need to get plenty of sleep if I want to feel good. I know, what a revelation. I'm constantly amazed how how well my body has been able to adapt, to surgery and to random amounts of radiation and thyroid medication being thrown into it. Some of it might be positive mental vibes, but I think I was really lucky to get this particular model. Keeps on ticking! Which is good because I'm sure life has plenty more in store for it.

I'll update again once I hear back from my doctor.

A delicious Sunday breakfast at home in March. Baked beans, eggs, toast w/ mango marmalade.