Thursday, November 30, 2006

Visions of Dumbbells...

Last night I was dreaming about the gym... I was lifting weights - doing squats! Haha. I got a runner's world magazine in the mail too and it made me all nostalgic (*sniff*). I'm feeling like it's about that time, though. I don't know about running or lifting yet, but definitely some exercise beyond walking is in store for me in the next couple days. Today is 8 days, and things are healed enough, I think, to raise the old heart rate for a spell! Laughing, sneezing, and coughing give me this disturbing sensation that my neck might split open and everything will pop out! - yeah, it's really not comfortable. So I don't see myself training with the 40# db's just yet! What will probably happen is I will pedal on the bike for 20 minutes and then that will be ALL of my energy for the day - haha! I haven't weighed myself, so I have no idea whether I am gaining weight from sitting around all day long or losing weight from not really being able to eat properly for several days. Probably the former, considering that in spite of not really getting to do the whole Thanksgiving thing this year, I did get the best part - dessert! Warm pumpkin pie and vanilla ice cream went right down the day after surgery, and I must say it was the BEST thing I have ever tasted after eating nothing but broth and jello in the hospital. Jello? Is nasty. But pumpkin pie... mmm...

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

I'm alive and well! :-)

I am feeling much better today - every day I feel better. Saturday I walked around the block twice! It was really exciting. Yesterday we walked more. At first I could hardly even walk down the hallway on my own. Anesthesia is some freaky stuff. I think most of it is out of my system, but I can still feel it coming out when I move around a lot, it's like poison coming out of my muscles and pores. That stuff really does a number on you. I didn't throw up, though. They gave me the anti-nausea stuff.

I'm not in much pain any more, really... discomfort. The stiffness and soreness in my neck and shoulders has been worse than the incision. And swallowing. Everyone said swallowing would be difficult and painful because of the breathing tube. That probably had something to do with it, but I think it's mostly because of the surgery itself. My swallower still doeesn't quite work properly. It took a few days before I could eat solid foods, and I'm still eating mostly squishy stuff!! I'm just taking Tylenol for the pain during the day though. I couldn't stand taking the percocet... it is too narcotic, it just makes me so out of it. And queasy and woozy. I just take it at night. Hopefully I won't even want that anymore soon. Like maybe tonight.

I told my mom I wanted to go to the gym yesterday and pedal on the recumbant bike! :-) She vetoed that idea. Sunday I was super tired by about 4, but I felt pretty good all day yesterday, considering. The other thing is my voice gets really tired easily and I can't talk for very long or loudly. Darn!

Wednesday was ... unspeakably difficult. But everyone going in to the OR was SO nice and good to me. Thursday was not such a hot time either. It is really scary being so fragile and helpless. I couldn't even sit up on my own. And there's all the things about surgery no one tells you that you start to discover once you come out of the stupor a bit... like I had puncture wounds on my chin and jaw and the back of my head and across my chest from where they STAPLED the sterile dressing on me during the surgery. You can see some of the punctures in this picture. The incision looks pretty good - clean, no bruising. That yellow gunk is betadyne. I have no idea why they didn't clean it off before I came out of surgery. I have been scrubbing on it with alcohol and it still doesn't want to come off. And glue too - all around my hair line and chest and chin. And bits of tape and bandaids all over my arms from having blood drawn and the IV and the monitors. !!

Anyway, I could go on, now that I'm starting to write about it, I could probably write a book. I'm sure I will have more to say about it later. I go back to the surgeon on Thursday and she said if the bandages haven't fallen off by then, she will take them off, and I will also find out the results of my pathology report. The surgeon said she didn't see any obvious evidence the cancer had spread beyond the thyroid - they took a couple of lymph nodes that looked swollen to test. They could just be swollen for some reason other than the cancer. We will see on Thursday!

This is me in the hospital, taken with a cell phone so it's pretty blurry... my mom is on the left.

All the emails and phone calls and cards and flowers from friends and family have been a real source of strength and positive energy for me. I'm learning how important it is to keep up a positive attitude - it's so easy to get overwhelmed! Mom and Dad and Adam have been especially amazing through this and I can't imagine what I would do without them. They have been spoiling me endlessly. If it wasn't for the icky-ness and soreness and that whole cancer business, I'd be doing pretty well right now...! Back rubs, ice cream in the middle of the night, and someone to cook for me! :-) This is me with Adam. He has been unbelievably sweet to me through this whole week!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Thoughts and prayers

It seems unreal that this day is upon me now - it had seemed so far away. In spite of the emotional rollercoaster of dealing with a cancer diagnosis, in some way it has all felt unreal - like some bad dream. I am having surgery on Wednesday morning at 9:30 am EST. I am scared and nervous.

But I'm also hopeful and I'm already anxious to get back to my "normal" routine, and to feel like myself again. I know I will never feel like the person I was two months ago, but I trust that this difficult time is a bridge to something else, even something better.

I have been praying most of all for the grace and peace to endure this calmly, and with strength and trust in Light and Goodness. I also pray that after the surgery, the worst will be behind me. It is possible that the cancer has not spread beyond the tumor -- or not much anyway -- and I will have one radiation treatment and be done with the mess. Please hold this thought in your hearts on Wednesday, that it may be so.

Everyone's emails and phone calls have meant so much to me, and I hope you can understand if I have not responded. On the good days I have not wanted to talk about it, as if that might make it less true. On the bad days, it has sometimes been a struggle to remember to breathe, much less speak, even to friends and family. I have felt everyone's prayers and love, truly, and I appreciate everything.


I am scared.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Moving forward

I just realized it's been a couple weeks since I posted! Time flies! This past week has been hard for me because I have been limited in my ability to EXERCISE!!! As if it's not enough to be dealing with CANCER, I injured my peroneal tendon on Saturday/Sunday and I've been hobbling around all week. On Monday, I was horrified when I woke up and I could not even WALK. Seriously, I had to crawl to the bathroom and then I crawled back to bed and cried because what the heck am I going to do, I can't even drive myself to the doctor!!!! After pulling myself together, I got out of bed and practiced putting weight on it until it was loosened up sufficiently for me to limp around. I then spent FOUR HOURS at the clinic waiting on X-rays, etc to rule out stress fracture. The nurse practitioner I got stuck with did NOT know anything about sports injuries. I kept telling her, it's my peroneal tendon, just give me a boot or something so I can walk around, cause I gotta go to work and the State Department, have you seen it, it is freaking huge. Of course, they gave me a CANE (I didn't want crutches), but did not have a walking boot, and I left and spent the rest of the day on the couch feeling sorry for myself. I've gradually gotten better, and now I can walk almost pain free, although I can tell there will be no running in the near future - it feels testy and weak. I will probably have to wait till I recover from the surgery before I can run again :( SO SAD. Yesterday I was so desperate for some exercise that I went to a pool nearby to swim laps. The last time I had a tendon problem - illiotibial band syndrome - I swam too. I used to swim competitively, so I know how to do it, I just don't cause it's more trouble than running.

Anyway, as for the surgery, it is next Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving. I found a surgeon I really like and I feel really comfortable with her. However, I am filled with anxiety about the surgery and beginning this process of getting rid of the cancer. I've never had surgery before, so going under freaks me the hell out. And then I will wake up without a thyroid, which also freaks me the hell out because there are horrifying symptoms I read about with hypothyroidism. I am trying to just trust and be calm and not worry about things that have not happened yet and might not ever happen. I'm totally planning on being in the gym pedalling on the recumbant bike a week post-op, so hopefully I won't lose too much fitness or strength, although I am expecting a pretty significant set-back. In a way, it will be exciting to get to work my way up again. There will be new muscle to build, new miles to run... new goals to achieve.

Sunday, November 05, 2006


Understandably, I have not been myself lately.

Sometimes I am ok. I am able to focus and work and dream and laugh as if the world is mine and I have a limitless future. Just as a young 26 year old woman should feel. Most of my life is ahead of me and I have many things to do and see, and time enough to accomplish it all. As if nothing can hold me back.

Other times, the thought of cancer growing in my body washes over me, the same way that a wave of nausea rolls through you. I am thrown back into a narrow focus, an obsession with the immediacy of the disease and the treatment. I feel enormous fear - to the point of panic even. I feel my own mortality.

I feel mortality all around me, in others; I see through different eyes. I know it is extremely unlikely this will actually kill me if treated properly, but it has the power to do so. It is an uncomfotable closeness to death. In reality, we are all as close at every minute to death - as close as we are to life.

Luckily, I have already had life experiences that led me to question "why me?" Why me, Lord? I have been angry at God and questioned Him. If there is a benevolent God, why does he allow people to suffer? What have I done to deserve suffering? Why do bad things happen to good people?

I have come through that darkness to realize that suffering is what makes us human, and makes the human experience worthwhile. Suffering has an ironic power to bring out our strengths and our better selves. It is the contrast that allows us to feel the sweetness of "not suffering". I do not have to fight that spiritual internal battle again. I have already forgiven God.

But I have not yet forgiven cancer. My anger is directed toward my cancer. I really like my life and cancer is going to change it. At least temporarily, and intermittently for the rest of my life, cancer is going to take away from me the things that I love. It is going to make me weak and unable to exercise, to run, to lift weights. It is going to make me tired and unable to work. The radiation may make me ill, and it will make me unable to taste food for weeks. Being severly hypothyroid might make me gain weight, lose my hair, change my appearance - I might be puffy with flaky, yellow skin - thyroid eye disease, lifelong calcium deficiency, unable to speak... There is a host of other possible complications that may or may not happen to me. I just have to wait to find out. The anger and fear are paralyzing, but the worst part is not knowing what the challenges of this disease will be for me.

Somewhere in my mind is the knowledge that no matter what, I will go on and live a full and happy life - things will be better in the future than they are now. But I can't deal or integrate my new challenges until I begin the journey of becoming cancer free. I can only wonder - what does this mean? What will it be like? Will it happen to me and how will I live my life if it does? How will I function, how will I go on? Will I be able to do all the things I want to do in the future?

The idea of a temporary inability to live how I want to each day while I recover makes me sad and angry. The idea of all the possible inabilities or losses in the future is paralyzing. It is too overwhelming, too much. I try to keep reminding myself it may not even come to pass.

Yesterday I read a book by M. Sara Rosenthal- The Thyroid Cancer Book . She talks about "the passion of cancer" and how feeling our mortality is the most powerful way to feel our lives. The one thing none of us have enough of is time. If we were immortal, life would be meaningless. Feeling our mortality and feeling our lives are two sides of the same coin. It is more than just living well or living content... it is living with passion, with urgency, with the fullness and wonder of grasping at what is barely ours to know.

Meantime I am trying to retain a sense of normalcy while I can. I pray for peace in my spirit and heart, and for acceptance. And when I am not paralyzed by fear - when I am running, for example, and I am centered in my body which works miraculously to propel me over the trails by breath and blood and skin and bone - I am thankful.

i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky;and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun's birthday,this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings:and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any--lifted from the no
of all nothing--human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

-e.e. cummings