The Doctor wants to Check Your Hormones not your “Whore Moans”: You Only Make that Mistake Once

The Doctor wants to Check Your Hormones not your “Whore Moans”:  You Only Make that Mistake Once

Some days I feel like I could conquer the world, and even more so this weak lil’ Thyroid Cancer. But other days I feel totally lost in the finality of it all.

Yes, there will come a day (hopefully) that I am cancer-free. It is likely that I will get my voice back. The experts tell me that 90% of vocal cord paralysis self-corrects within a year. But the fact that I will take synthetic hormones FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE feels daunting and, quite honestly, depressing.

My relationship with hormones, up to this point, was based solely on the two days before my period when I’d cry thinking about how much I love my husband, while simultaneously questioning every life decision I’d ever made. You know, like women do.

In an effort to expand my understanding, I’ve joined several Thyroid Cancer support groups on Facebook. The consensus is that it usually takes 6-12 months to get your hormone cocktail just right, so you start to feel normal again. Problem is, I don’t know that I’ve ever been “normal.” It’s my favorite thing about myself. I’ve always seen the world a bit differently, a bit funnier and more fantastical than the average Joe.

My friends will tell you how I can laugh myself into a fit, finding humor in something no one else sees. Tears will stream down my face as I struggle to control myself long enough to share with them what I’ve found so dang funny. I was told once that I could survive solitary confinement because I’d be able to entertain myself to no end. I took it as a compliment.

Since my thyroid surgery, and the hypothyroidism that came with the delicate organ being removed, I’ve only had fleeting moments that I have felt like myself. As I write this, I’m only two weeks into my new hormone regiment, so logically I know things should get better as the hormones build up in my system. But I’m terrified that I’ll struggle to be myself.

When I spend time with friends, I’m quieter. Sometimes because my voice is tired. Sometimes because my body is tired. And sometimes because my soul is tired. I know they see I’m not myself. I worry they don’t enjoy my company like they did when I was a clown. I get self-conscious about how quiet I am (in comparison to the friend they knew pre-ThyCa). I worry that they worry about me. I like being the funny one. I enjoy an audience. Go ahead, judge me. I don’t know that I know what I am, if I’m not an entertainer. I get angry thinking that cancer could have taken that from me.

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Right now I’m on a dose of hormone the endocrinologist has selected for me based only on my height and weight. My height and weight! Possibly the two most arbitrary aspects of what makes me, ME. As time goes on, we will make adjustments based on my energy levels and mood. But there will NEVER come a point that we are done making adjustments. My body will change. I will age. This is something I will do FOREVER. Will this be the new thing that defines me? Will I become the friend with the Thyroid issue? Because I’m much more fulfilled being the friend that makes you pee your pants a little, the friend that makes you laugh when you feel like you could cry, the friend that always sees the good and the funny in every situation.

How will I define myself now? And way more importantly…Will I get a beard? ‘Cause I’d look terrible with a beard.

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Only about 3 of these sound like any fun.

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My Hospital Stay and the Active Shooter: A True Story

The night was a partially nude blur, but I was a bit more lucid the morning after my total thyroidectomy surgery. Around 7:30 a.m. a line of doctors in white coats came into my room. Some I recognized, some I did not. They looked at my incision and drain line, and then started in with questions about my pain, breathing and speech.

I still wasn’t able to talk much and everything that came out was a crackling whisper. I sounded like a chain-smoking phone sex operator. Or how I would imagine one sounded.

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I confessed that I remembered that they had visited me the night before, but I couldn’t recall anything we talked about or the results of the surgery.

My surgeon took a deep breath. He was about to have to remind little Timmy that Old Yeller was dead.

“The good news is that we feel confident that we were able to get all or most of the Cancer. We were also able to identify and retain 3 of 4 of your para-thyroid glands,” he said.

It’s my experience, that when someone leads with “the good news is..” then there is bad news coming.

“One of the major nerves to your right vocal cord was running right through the tumor, so we had to sever it,” the surgeon explained. “That cord is now ‘stunned’ and we will have to keep an eye on it to see how it recovers.”

“Well, DAMN.” I thought. “But at least they got the Cancer out.”

Throughout the day they would draw my blood every 6 hours to monitor my calcium levels. If all went well, I’d be heading home that afternoon.

Minutes after the docs left, I heard a call over the hospital loud speaker, “Attention Hospital! Code White! Building 1, 4 WEST.”

That was my building. My floor. My wing. What was a ‘code white’ again? I knew what a code blue was, after all, I own a TV. But a ‘code white’? Hmmm. Then it came to me. I’d just heard it in some training I had a work. Code White is an ACTIVE SHOOTER!

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I waited for the follow up “This is a drill!” But it never came. Just then a nurse and nursing assistant (the Navy calls them Corpsmen) came rushing in my room. They moved quickly to roll and lock a supply cart in front of my outer door, and a recliner in front of my inner door.

“Should we put her in the bathroom?” the nurse asked the corpsman frantically.

“No!” He answered her. “We just need to close the blinds and be quiet.”

The Corpsmen, who had instructed me earlier to call him just “Steve” turned off my bed alarm and finally addressed me in a whisper.

“This is probably nothing, but we need to take precautions. Someone reported a man with a gun at the end of our hallway.”

“You have GOT to be shitting me!” I thought. “I’m like the walking, talking (or whispering) embodiment of Murphy’s Law!”

Within a few minutes my phone was ringing and beeping with calls and text messages. The report of an active shooter at a high-profile military hospital had made national news. My family and friends from al over the US were trying to contact me to make sure I was OK.

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My husband, who had just arrived at the hospital, was told to go back to his car in the parking garage and wait until the “all-clear” was called.

Steve sat casually in the recliner barricading my door. You could tell he was fresh out of training, maybe 19 or 20 years old. He was a nice looking young fellow of average size, but he talked like he was the hulk.

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“I HOPE someone tries to get in here,” he said. “I just feel like fighting.”

The nurse sat across the room, fidgeting and nervous.

Lucky for me, I’d just received a healthy dose of pain meds. I looked over at Steve, decided I was relatively safe, and drifted off to sleep.

The hospital remained on lock-down for 5 ½ hours before allowing the staff to return to their rounds under the protection of armed guards at the end of each wing.

It was another hour after that before the hospital as a whole was back open for business.

A few un-spent rounds were reported, but no shooter was ever found, and no one was harmed.

Unless you count my husband, who may have been scarred for life. He spent the entire 6 ½ hours in his car at the top of the parking garage just waiting to get in to see me. Between us, he peed in a Gatorade bottle and shit in a Ziploc bag. For reals. You can’t make that shit up! Pun intended.

In the end, it was one of those weird blessings that I stayed in the hospital. That afternoon, my calcium levels plummeted to a near dangerous level, right about the time I would have been released from the hospital. More on that next time!

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Reunited!

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My Thyroidectomy Surgery: Why 12 People Got to See my Cooter

The biopsy results answered just one question, the big question. I HAD CANCER. But like with most thyroid cancers, it would take surgery to truly see how big, what type, and how aggressive the cancer was. Had it spread? Was it in my lymph nodes? What other treatments would I need?

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I would have a total thyroidectomy, removing the tumor, all of my thyroid, and any surrounding lymph nodes that looked “suspicious” (wearing dark hoodies and trying to act casual, I’m guessing). My surgery day was March 22, 2016. It was a tough day that started the night before when I had to stop eating at 9 p.m. For the 15 minutes that spanned 8:45-9, I ate like a prisoner on death row, scarfing down their last meal. I feverishly rummaged through the kitchen pantry like a bear in a campsite.

The next morning the hanger (hungry-anger) set in early. I spent most of the morning in silence, a merciful gift I bestowed upon my family. I didn’t even have to report to the hospital until 11 a.m. When I arrived, vitals were taken, pee and blood was given (by me…for labs), and I changed into my hospital gown and slippers.

Side bar: I understand that the fashion industry doesn’t have much interest in giving the healthcare wardrobe a make-over, but this thin blue and white striped get-up has been around since the early 1900s. If not before, how was this standard not changed post WWII?! You know who loved the use of these striped jammies? HITLER! It’s reminiscent of nearly every pic I’ve ever seen of prisoners in concentration camps. I move to have hospital clothing changed to…. damn near anything else!

And why can’t I keep my underwear on? They made me take it off and go “commando”… for NECK surgery! (Just let that sink in a second) What could go wrong that they need access to my vagina?

“Well ma’am, unfortunately a major artery was nicked during your daughter’s neck operation. Sadly, she did not follow instructions to remove her panties before surgery. Without immediate and direct access to her vagina and anus, we were unable to help her and she bled out. We are very sorry. But let this be a lesson to other women who try to cover their beavers, in an effort to maintain some sense of control and dignity, during major surgery.”

Any who, it would be HOURS before I was called back to the pre-op area. Once back I was visited by the anesthesiologist, who looked about 16 years old. She ensured me that despite my LONG history of nausea and vomiting after general anesthetic, she had cooked up a cocktail of anti-nausea measures to avoid this.

“We’re basically going to throw everything at you but the kitchen sink,” Lil’ Miss Doogie Howser, M.D. tells me. “We were even able to get a new pill, special ordered just for you, that is top-of-the-line.”

“I hope it’s a chewable,” I thought, STARVING.

“Before you go back, I’m going to give you a little something to relax you,” she said with a wink. “It’s just going to make you feel like you had about two margaritas.”

“Soooooo, it’s going to make me feel like I need ‘just one more’ margarita?” I confirmed.

I was rolled back into the operating room, instructed to think “happy thoughts” and I faded away.

The surgery took more than 4 hours. I awoke in the recovery ward in pain and struggling to open my eyes. A nurse asked me my pain level, but when I tried to speak, nothing came out. So I just shot up one hand gesturing my pain was a 5 out of 10. I pointed to my ring finger, hoping the nurse spoke “drugged up” and knew I was asking for my husband.

“He will be waiting for you in your room,” she said.

By now my pain had increased to an 8, which I relayed via hand signals.

“I can give you something, but then you have to wait another 20 minutes to go to your room,” the nurse threatened.

Like the champion I am, I pointed back to my ring finger and refused the drugs.

Once back to my room I was comforted by the sight of my husband, but the pain was getting out of control. The staff worked quickly and administered a healthy dose of morphine. I could feel it rush my veins and I was immediately BURNING up! I ripped off all my blankets and tore off my gown. In my altered state I had forgotten about the no-panties rule and sat there, legs spread wide and boobs hanging out like an aboriginal tribes woman, as no less than 12 people cycled in and out of the room providing care.

The next day, my husband would tell me how he tried several times to cover me up, but I’d refused adamantly.

“Oh my, gad! Everyone saw my goods?” I asked him.

“Oh yeah, and your ‘bads‘,” he teased. “But I’ve walked around the ward and seen the other patients… You’ve definitely got the best bush on the floor.”

It was the sweetest thing anyone had ever said to me. (Tear)

As my pain came under control the nausea hit hard. I was going to throw up. Though I tried to speak, just air came out. I motioned to my husband to hand me a nearby bucket, both arms stretched out in front of me. He thought I wanted a hug and came in for one. Terrible timing, to say the least. I spent the next hour or so vomiting uncontrollably as the medical team worked to tame the nausea.

I know the surgeon visited that evening and told me the surgery findings, but I remembered nothing and was able to ask no questions.

I sent my husband home to be with our son and spent the evening under the care of an incredible nursing staff and VERY attentive med-tech. I’m confident his extra and thorough visits were all about providing the utmost in patient care and had nothing to do with the free boob and cooter shots I unknowing provided throughout that first night.

I would find out more about my surgery, and it’s unfortunate complications, the next day.

But more on that next time.

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The Results are IN: You DO have Cancer!

I was driving my 4-year-old son to daycare just days after my Fine Needle Aspiration (FNA) thyroid biopsy, when I got a call from the doctor’s office. The results were in.

I pulled over right away to give my full attention. Because safety is always FIRST in my book. Not because I was driving on a military base and didn’t want a huge ticket for being on my phone.

To add a little understanding and background, FNA biopsy results come back to you numbered 1-6. This isn’t how a medical journal would describe each category, but this is how I simplified them in my brain:

1 – Not enough material was collected to make a determination of any kind. Somebody done messed up the biopsy! (Insert stink-eye here)

2 – The tumor or growth is benign. It ain’t no thing, but a thyroid wing!

3 & 4 –  You definitely got something going on there, but we can’t be sure it’s Cancer. Your cells are looking funky though.

5 – You have some VERY suspicious cells, so it’s probably Cancer. So you best get your mind right.

6- Oh, it’s CANCER! It’s the Canceriest Cancer! No doubt!

After the socially required niceties of “Hello” and “How are you?” my doc went right in to it. MY results…a big fat 6.

“Well, it’s what we expected. The thyroid nodule tested positive for Cancer,” he said.

“WE?!” I thought. “Whom is he talking about ‘WE’? Because WE didn’t think it was Cancer a week ago. I thought WE thought it was a 1-in-4 chance. WE thought that meant it was a 75% chance this wasn’t Cancer.”

But all I said was “OK. What’s next?”

The next phase would be a pre-op appointment, a few labs, and scheduling the surgery to remove my entire thyroid, the tumor, and any surrounding lymph nodes that looked suspicious once they had me open.

First, of course, I would have to share the news with my family and close friends. My first call was to my husband. We were both completely calm as we discussed the next steps.

“How are you? Feeling wise, I mean.” He asked me, always a man of few words.

“I don’t know. I’m just in ‘GO mode’ with a little ‘take care of business’ wrapped in.” I told him. I was in shock and a little numb.

After we hung up I looked up to notice I was parked in a 2-Star General’s parking spot. Opps! A military police officer was looking my way. “Try me!” I thought, as I imagined the conversation we would have as I told him I pulled over to take a call from my doc that I have CANCER. “Ooooo, the Cancer Card. I’m already feeling the perks.” I’m nothing if not a silver lining kind of gal.

My next call was to my sister, who happens to be an oncology nurse at a leading Cancer hospital in Florida. (I know, right! Convenient.) She didn’t seem the least bit surprised.

“When you told me the nodule had it’s own blood supply, I kind of figured,” she said.

Damn! That makes at least two people who knew I had Cancer before I did.

“Why didn’t you tell me?!” I asked her.

“Because that’s not something you want to be wrong about,” she said.

As punishment, I made HER call our Mom with the news. Haha! Got you, sucka!

The next two weeks would be a whirlwind of paperwork and preparation. So much stress and so much to do.

March 22, 2016 would be my total thyroidectomy surgery, but more on that next time.

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