Friday, May 29, 2009

Shower time!

In the shower today, I got to thinking, as one does. I love a good shower, and it's one of the few times during the day when I am forced to concentrate without any distraction (besides soap.) Occasionally lately it's been a time where my mind just spins thru its catalog of worries for a bit, looking for something useful to hang onto.
I think I happened upon a helpful analogy this morning. A big part of my frustration this week has been linked to the fact that from here on out I will have to take a daily pill in order to function well. I can miss one or two days and make up for them, but ideally I will take a pill every morning, forever. Argh, right?
As I was standing there in the shower, I realized: My plan, without formulating it as such, has always been to take a shower every morning for the rest of my life. You don't see me complaining about that. In fact, I'd feel gross if I didn't. Granted, there are times where I can go days without a shower if forced to, but you wouldn't want to be around me. So. It's not the deepest insight in the history of brains, but it'll serve me well enough for now. Pill, shower, good morning.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Optimus Prime as a source of inspiration....?

It's absolutely ridiculous, but I can't stop thinking about one of the lines from the upcoming Transformers movie. In the trailer, Optimus Prime (at least I think it's him) can be heard intoning:
"Fate rarely calls upon us at a moment of our choosing."

Yes, it sounds like a messed-up Hallmark card, but it also really kindof sums up my feelings lately. Everyone's going to have something happen to them in their lives that's kindof crummy, at least, and devastating at worst, and you can rarely predict when this is going to happen. The best you can do is try and take that event, get through it, and hope to come out the other side the stronger for it. Ideally you can take what you learned and use that knowledge to help people who are only just hitting that brick wall of awfulness.
As of a week ago my thought process regarding this was pretty vague, just knowing that something was probably out there that wasn't much fun, but surely that was decades away. Now that something scary is knocking on my door ("the door of my life...." - can I get that on a card as well?), I'm having to reorganize some of my priorities and long-term vs. immediate goals. It's a wrenching process, but probably ultimately for the best. (Not the cancer, eff that, but the ways in which I'm being forced to excersize my brain and my emotional responses to things.) This isn't the worst thing that could happen to anybody, and for that I'm thankful: I have time to think about things, and the expectation that the worst that will come of this is a little daily annoyance in the form of a pill. And maybe I'll hit the jackpot & come out of this a wiser human being?
Thanks, Optimus.

Check out the trailer. Yeah, it's pretty much the story of my life from here on out. Especially the sand-bot. Or, no wait, the ocean-bot!

Transformer "Revenge of the Fallen" theatrical trailer from Bay Films/Michael Bay Dot Com on Vimeo.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Hurrah, Doctors!

Had my meetings today - both went well. My surgeon, Dr. G., seems pleasant, if a little intense. He warned me that I'd have a scar (about 2" most likely), which I was aware of (and not too worried about.) He had to tell me about the risks, which are always tough to hear about, especially the "we might nick your vocal cord nerves" part, but he did say the chance of that happening is "under 1%." Good! I'll get a call from his office in a week or so, and will then schedule my appointment - probably for around a month from now.
My second meeting was even more informative. Most of my stress over the past week has revolved around whether or not I'll feel like the old me after surgery and hormone replacement therapy. Dr. Budayr is such a wonderful guy: So laid back and cool with discussing any concerns. He pointed out that the methods he uses are designed to minimize any discomfort, and told me to stop reading all the stuff that's stressing me out, since it probably doesn't even apply to me. I knew this on some level already, but having a professional tell me that was helpful.
After they take out the thyroid they will immediately put me on a replacement pill, rather than just let the remaining hormone drain out of me, as I'd heard. This may or may not be the perfect dosage for me, and there may be a little tinkering, but essentially that will tide me over for about a month, while I heal from the surgery. They will then take me off the pill for a period of about two weeks (while I am also on a strict low/no-iodine diet) and then I get my first radiation scan! Can't wait! (It's pretty non-traumatic, actually, from what I hear. I'll swallow a radioactive iodine tracer, they'll do the scan, the end. Tho I will be radioactive for a while afterwards. Stand back!)
I'd been worried about going for an extended priod of time without thyroid hormone, and thus suffering the effects of being severly hypothyrodic. Read about it if you want: it's no picnic. But it sounds like I should be able to avoid feeling much other than the fatigue & sluggishness during the two weeks before the scan. Afterwards they will start me on a thyroid hormone pill that will be tailored to my needs (i.e. my body's rate of absorption, the way it interacts with my other hormones and chemicals. Everyone's different.) Dr. Budayr tells me I will not only feel like the old me after this is all settled, I may even feel better, since they tend to overcompensate a bit on the hormone replacement, which would result in marginally better energy & mental acuity.
All this news is a far cry from the doom & gloom I've been reading about. Obviously I still realize this is cancer, surgery, and the replacement of a vital hormone we're talking about here. But I've been so angst-ridden this past week, it's affected how I've felt all over. I feel much more at ease for now: I think I've got a better handle on what I can reasonably expect, and have a better concept of how to plan my future battles.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Meetings Tomorrow

I have two important meetings scheduled for tomorrow: First with the surgeon, then with my endocrinologist. I'm going to try to get a list going, so all my major questions are on one page, since I would otherwise no doubt forget some key point. I'll ask about the option of getting a 2nd opinion, tho I don't really see how I can ignore an initial diagnosis of "You probably have cancer." Even if I got a result back saying all was clear (unlikely), I'd still wonder if I was doing more harm than good to my body by ignoring that first diagnosis. I think I know what the doctors are going to tell me, based on what I've heard from people who have been thru this process, but rather than speculate now, I'll wait until I get the lowdown tomorrow, and will list the highlights here.
So far the worst thing about all this has been the stress of imagining what might happen. Logically I expect that this time 6 months from now all will be well and I'll feel stronger for going thru this experience. But right now I'm just sifting thru a lot of feelings - mainly anticipation of all the things that could go wrong. A dumb and useless thought process, but impossible to avoid completely. Check out Daniel Gilbert's TED Talk link to the right there for an idea of what I'm using to battle these insecure thoughts. It's helping. So is making myself eat even tho I'm stressed out and have no appetite. Next step: keeping my body exercised so it's better prepared to weather the coming storm!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Let me introduce the situation.

So to start with, here's the big news.  A week ago (Tuesday May 19th) I was informed over the phone that I most likely have thyroid cancer.  Woot!  
Some backstory:  A few years back (maybe three or so) I noticed a lump in the front of my throat that hadn't been there before.  "Hmmm," says I, "Perhaps I should have that looked at."  My regular doctor saw nothing wrong at the time (which is about when I should have fired him) but when I next saw him, around a year later, he agreed that there was an obvious lump, which turned out to be a nodule on my thyroid.  Apparently these are quite common, and often nothing goes wrong with them, they just sit there on your thyroid, not doing much.  Regardless, my doctor referred me to an endocrinologist, a lovely man named Dr. Amer Budayr.   Dr. Budayr performed a fine needle aspiration biopsy of the lump, and tho I was nervous about the procedure at the time (you lie on your back while the doctor sticks a giant needle into your throat), it really ultimately wasn't so very bad, and the results came back within a week - no worries, nothing wrong.   A follow-up appointment was scheduled for a year later, i.e. a couple weeks ago.  I felt much more at ease with the whole needle situation, and I was so calm that Dr. Budayr gave me two organic lollipops!   Hooray!
Last Tuesday I got the call - there's some suspicious activity in the cells of the nodule.  The folks at the lab have diagnosed the activity as indicative of papillary thyroid cancer, and my endocrinologist recommends surgery to remove the thyroid.   It's hard to describe the feelings that hit me when I heard the news:  A general sense of horror and helplessness, even tho the doctor assured me that thyroid cancer is incredibly treatable and in people my age the "fatality rate is 0%."  It's still cancer.  And when I have my thyroid out, I will have to supplement the missing thyroid hormone (which regulates one's metabolism along with other things) by taking a pill every day.  That alone is enough to make me super frustrated.  I've never had to rely on medication for anything other than birth control, and I've always entertained the possibility of being able to pick up & leave (town or country) when the mood strikes - now that's much less of an option.  Additionally, mortality becomes so much more tangible when you think about having to take a pill every single day, for the rest of your life.  
So my week since hearing the news has been a roller-coaster of emotions:  feeling that "I can totally beat this, it could be so much worse" interchanged with "oh my god, oh my god, oh my god this sucks!"  I can be a stressy-cat, and this is kindof a stressful situation, so it's been a time of talking myself out of obsessing over things that I really can't change right now.  Attempting to inform myself has been a priority, but searching for info online has been semi-helpful at best.  (I suppose that shouldn't be a surprise.)  I see a lot of people venting on various forums about how crappy they feel - and while that's not unusual for the Internets, it's absolutely terrifying and unneeded for a newly diagnosed person such as myself.  I finally found some useful fact-filled sites, and have gotten some wonderful book recommendations, so I'll do my best to share those with you.
The purpose of this blog is to share my experience.  For you to read if you're curious, for me to reference later on, and for anyone else dealing with thyroid cancer to scan and maybe pull some useful info from.   Yes, there will be venting, but I'll try not to complain for complaining's sake - if I'm feeling poopy and want to write about it, I will hopefully have something of substance to add to that post.
I will attempt to be coherent and provide photographic illustration when I can.  
Definitely feel free to add comments or email me with questions.  This is scary, no lie, but I have a wonderfully supportive family, an amazing boyfriend (who didn't sign up for this, but is a total champ for rising to the challenge) and lots of people willing to lend an ear.  And hey, it's gotten me to start a blog, something I never thought I'd do!  (Yay?)