Sunday, December 31, 2006

Day 2 off meds

Day two off my meds. I felt good all day yesterday. I ran yesterday morning. It was sad because I felt like it might be the last time I can run for the next few weeks, but we will just wait and see. I'm determined to continue to try to exercise as much as I can tolerate while hypothyroid, even if it's just walking around the block. Yesterday I made Adam promise me he would FORCE me to get some exercise every day and he assured me that he would throw me over his shoulder if that was necessary!! :) I also told him that I apologize in advance for my behavior over the next couple of weeks! -- if I say anything mean or snarky, or if I'm (more) cranky and intolerable (than usual), it has nothing to do with him and should be blamed on my hypothyroid condition!! The run was hard. I didn't feel poorly, but I definitely don't feel as great as I'm used to feeling while doing it!! But I completed about 4 slow miles. I'm going to try to get in the weight room today.

My heart rate monitor tells me that my fitness level (based on my resting heart rate, I guess?) is "Elite". It tells me my number is 56... that number is not even on the chart for women, which only goes up to 40 (anything over 40 is "elite"). Hm. I'm skeptical though and I think either their chart is foo-foo or the HRM is. The book that comes with the HRM also tells me some gobledegook about how walking for 40 minutes burns an equal number of calories and MORE fat than running for 30 minutes. Being the maker of HRMs, shouldn't they be aware that high-intensity exercise is superior for fat loss than low intensity aerobics?! According to this source and plenty of research, "HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) has been shown to burn adipose tissue more effectively than low-intensity exercise—up to 50% more efficiently!" Anyway, the HRM still beeps incessantly when I get my HR over 170, which is darn near impossible for me to avoid since I started taking the cytomel. I guess I will have to just turn off the sound - anyone out there have a Polar and know how to tell it not to beep without muting it?

As for the LID, I think I messed up yesterday because I ate some pre-packaged chicken that it turns out has a small amount of sodium in it. Any meats eaten on the LID have to be "fresh" meaning from the butcher, since prepackaged meats are often injected with sodium or soaked in broth and there's no telling if that contains iodine. I had just assumed that pre-packaged meats that say "100% natural, minimally processed, no preservatives" are safe for LID, but upon close examination, ALL of them at the grocery store contain sodium, sometimes as much as 30% of the USRDA!!!! Holy cow. The butcher at the grocery store we went to didn't have fresh chicken, only beef and pork, soooo... we drove all the way out to Fairfax to go to Wegman's to get REAL fresh chicken from their butcher, which cost an arm and a leg, but I guess I don't have much of a choice. Wegman's is awesome, by the way! It's like a giant Whole Foods - tons of organic and bulk foods, grains, etc.

We also went to Costco, which is where I normally buy fruits and veggies in bulk, and stocked up. I bought a bunch of eggs and hard boiled a pile of them yesterday. I may have cooked them too long... I had some (whites only) for breakfast this morning and it took forEVER to peel them - the shells did NOT want to come off... I can see how that's going to go as I get more hypo. I'm going to cook some more meat today and steam some veggies so I have some meals ready to go.

So far so good......

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Another Milestone

Another milestone in this journey today. I stop my thyroid replacement hormone and start the low iodine diet (LID). I'm going shopping today to stock up on eggs and fruit and veggies. I'm going to be cooking a bunch of fresh meat today too. I'm supposed to limit the amount of meat I eat to 6 oz... yikes!! What am I going to eat? Cause there's no cottage cheese, no whey protein, no soy and no egg yolks. I will probably be a little lenient on the meat restriction because I don't eat much else that needs to be limited. It's not a NO iodine diet, I just have to keep it under 50 mcg per day. Here's a basic list of disallowed foods.

Avoid These Foods and Additives

  • Iodized salt and sea salt. Non-iodized salt may be used.
  • Seafood and sea products.
  • Foods or products that contain these sea-based additives: carrageenan, agar-agar, algin, alginate, nori.
  • Dairy products.
  • Egg yolks or whole eggs. Egg whites are acceptable.
  • Commercial bakery products.
  • Red Dye #3. However, Red Dye #40 is OK.
  • Most Chocolate (for its milk content).
  • Some Molasses.
  • Soybeans and most soy products (soy sauce, soy milk, tofu).
  • Red kidney beans, lima beans, navy beans, pinto beans, and cowpeas. Other diets do not limit beans.
  • Rhubarb and potato skins.
  • Iodine-Containing Vitamins, and Food Supplements.

Limit the Amounts of these Foods

  • Fresh meats. Up to 6 ounces per day of fresh meats are fine on the low-iodine diet.
  • Grains, cereals. Up to 4 servings per day.
  • Rices.

So that's it. I'll be eating a pile of egg whites and fruit and vegetables until January 10. And hoping I don't gain weight beyond water weight. I'm less worried about the diet than about going off my medicine. I am so ready to be done with all the business of getting rid of the cancer (for now, at least!) - I just can't wait for next week to arrive.

It is, of course, sad that President Ford passed away; however, he expired conveniently just before a holiday weekend, and we now get not three but FOUR days off!! How lucky is that?

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Geared OUT! ... and some thoughts on acceptance

Mornings are hard enough without jet lag!! It's been rough dragging my behind out of bed. Those three hours make a world of difference. But once I got going this morning, I was super motivated for my run. I had all kinds of new gear to try out! I typically am a minimalist when I run - nothing but me and the trails and the rhythm of my heart and breathing. But I got a couple of toys for Christmas and I had to try them all today! I had my heart rate monitor, an iPod shuffle all loaded up, new technical running socks and a thermal shirt, and of course, my pepper spray! I felt serious. :)

The heart rate monitor has not endeared itself to me yet... The fault is mine -- I did only a basic skimming of the manual before I started off, and it kept beeping at me once I started running. I had to turn off the exercise mode, so it didn't record my time or HR. But I was watching the HR display, and it stayed between 160 and 175. High for me for a moderate run, but I felt good.

The shuffle is fun. It's so cute and tiny. It was nice to have a change and the music made the time go by faster. I won't use it all the time - especially when the trails are crowded, because you can't hear the bikers sneaking up on you. Some of them rudely blast by without any alert anyway, and it's doubly disarming when you don't hear them. There is one biker who sometimes - instead of calling, "Passing on your left," will yell at people who don't wear enough reflective gear (it's pretty dark at 6 am). Once he yelled at me, "Can't see you in RED!!!" when I forgot to wear my reflector vest. Sheesh! I've heard him yell similar things at others. Today he (I'm sure it was him, it had to be him!) yelled at me again, "Look at that sunrise!!" He's a chatty fellow. It would have startled me without headphones in... I almost had a heart attack, I think! The sky was pretty. Pink and orange and bright. I love seeing the sun rise in the mornings.

Thank God I can still run. Seriously, I am so thankful for that. I know I am fit and healthy, even though I complain about detraining. The reason it is so frustrating and bothersome is that I'm not choosing it - it's happening to me beyond my control. Like everyone, I can be hard on myself. Sometimes it's really a good thing - it makes me motivated, driven, and disciplined. It also has its negative and angsty moments. I do struggle to find balance in my life - it was a struggle even before cancer. And it is a different challenge now because finding balance and peace is also about accepting cancer and all its limitations. It's hard to stay positive when it's just happening to you.

At this point, I just want to say that I'm not trying to glorify my challenges and difficulties. I know people struggle with all kinds of things - there are way worse things that could be happening to me besides thyroid cancer. I know I am lucky, and believe me, just the experience of thyroid cancer has brought that home for me in a way nothing else could. Not a day goes by that I don't think about that - how lucky I am in so many aspects of my life and how thankful I am that I'm alive to struggle and hurt and be angsty and peaceful and joyful. But also, this is my experience. Lots of people say, oh it's the Good Cancer - it will all turn out fine in the end, etc. I know that's true, and people mean to be comforting when they say it, but in some way it belittles what I'm going through.

That being said, though, I have to reiterate that having cancer has made me realize how much grace I have in my life. Cancer can be a blessing in disguise. It has been for me. It has brought me closer to my family, brought my priorities into focus, and changed my perspective on life. And that whole bit about learning acceptance and self-love? Cancer is a special impetus for that. It becomes all that much more important and, in some ironic way, easier. Because (this is going to sound really cheesy) I realize that life is a gift, with all its warts and quirks, and every moment is precious, and I am thankful just to be here for it. So there - everyone needed a dose of Hallmark today, right?!

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Don't try this at home

I hope everyone had a very Merry Christmas! I'm back at home in DC now and all the magic of the year is over. It was a fun vacation and really good to see my family. Now I'm into the final days of feeling something close to "normal" before I stop taking my temporary thyroid hormone in preparation for the next phase of my cancer treatment - radioactive iodine (RAI). I will stop taking the Cytomel on Saturday December 30 and start a special low iodine diet that will ensure any remaining cancer cells will absorb the RAI and be killed off. On January 9, I will go get a tracer dose of RAI so they can do a scan of my body to see where any cancer cells might be lurking. The scan is on the 10th of January. Depending on the results, they will decide how big a dose to give me. I'm really scared to go off my medicine because it will make me really hypothyroid and I don't know whether I will feel bad or not. I'm also a little worried about the scan. I hope it will be "clean" - no metastases - and I can have a small dose of the RAI. I'm so very excited for all this business of getting rid of the cancer to be over with (for now at least).

Since I started exercising again about a week and a half after surgery, I have tried to get some exercise 4-6 days a week. I've managed to do 30-50 minutes of cardio 3-4 days a week and lift weights 2-3 days. I've lost a good bit of both strength and endurance in the weight room. I haven't been able to tolerate lifting as heavily or for the same amount of time. I haven't had any rhyme or reason to my training, it's just been whatever I could tolerate at the time. Or was in the mood for.

In some way it's like a weird science experiment. I feel very detached about it all, like I'm just observing the process as my body systematically detrains. I'm getting softer and fluffier. My metabolism is slowing as my muscle mass and activity levels decline. Part of me is Really Bothered by these developments. I've never been a rail, but I was leaner prior to the surgery, and stronger. I could eat like a linebacker and maintain my weight. Now... ugh. And the other part of me? The part that is tired? Does. Not. Care. At all. We have to nurture that part a lot. It's needy and fussy.

I'm already thinking about my training plan for the 10 miler... and a new routine in the weight room... Hmmm...

Sunday, December 24, 2006

The Exorcist Staircase

For the record, I do NOT like scary movies. The Ring freaked me out for weeks, and I watched most of that movie with my eyes closed (no kidding, I am a wus, I know). Seriously, all those evil vibes and disturbing visual scenes get in your mind and I don't want my head polluted with all that creepy stuff. No. In my world, I wake up and throw open the windows and the sun is shining down on the daffodils and every day a little bluebird is singing on my windowsill!! Haha...

Maybe it's because I grew up Catholic, but the Exorcist is the scariest movie of them all, in my opinion. I was a freshman in college the first time I saw it (my parents would never let me watch it when I was younger), and I actually made TWO of my girlfriends stay with me that night because I was so creeped out. We Catholics take evil business seriously. Heh.

When Adam and I went to church last weekend in Georgetown, we visited the Exorcist Staircase. You know, the one where Father Karras from the movie falls to his death?? Creepy! There were a few people running stairs when we were there -- a great idea if you can get over the haunting thought that you might "fall" down too...

Friday, December 22, 2006

I made it!! I made it!!

I'm just so proud of myself for conquering The Hill that I had to sit down and tell the internet that I Made It!! I really can't believe I ran up the huge hill by the Mormon Temple, but I did. I ran 4 whole hilly miles! Yippee. And my mom is such a champ, she ran it with me. :) Gmaps tells me that this is the elevation we ran -->

And that's only the outward part!!

You can see Sunrise Mountain in the back. I think this temple is visible from space...

I'm off for a pedicure! Oh heavenly vacation. How I love thee...!

Christmas in the Desert

Wow, it's really boring around here, no? More than a week since I posted last or checked in with all the bloggers I'm obsessed with - I've never met any of you, but I feel like I know you! I'm finally on break. Whew! This past week was a lot of craziness. We've had some people out on travel at work, which means more responsibilities fall on me... and stuff I'm not usually responsible for! Yikes! Talk about sink or swim. There were many times where our office director and his deputy were not even there and I had to just wing it. It's a steep learning curve at times! Especially when the issues I work on are getting a lot of international attention. :)

Plus, the holidays are insanely busy no matter who you are... but try it with cancer too! Hehe... I'm just too pooped to party. By the time I exercise, get ready for work, get my meals ready for the day, get to work, work, and get home from work, I barely have energy to feed myself, let alone spend some QT with Adam or log on to blogger. It is the sad truth :( . Every day, I compose posts in my head, usually while I am working out or when something interesting happens, but I never get the chance to actually write them! Hopefully now that I am at my parent's for a few days for Christmas, I can catch up on some of those posts!!

Lots of people were stranded at the airport yesterday because of all the crazy weather in the middle of the country. Luckily I had a direct flight to Las Vegas. But there was some sort of security breach at McCarran Airport in Vegas and I guess that's why it took them AN HOUR to get us our bags. Sheesh. Oh, and the STRANGEST thing happened as my mom and I were finally driving away from the airport. We came to a stoplight where there was some commotion and as we got closer, we realized that two guys had gotten OUT of their cars at the red light and one was STRANGLING the other one in the middle of the street!!!! AHHH! This city is no end of craziness, I have to tell you. It appeared that one guy had almost run into the other trying to make a left turn... probably he was drunk. But it was the guy who seemed to be at fault who was doing the strangling!! And there was some girl there too making lots of fuss. Good grief.

I finally made it home, and went to bed at about 8:00 (it's 3 hrs earlier here). Of course I was up at 3:30 this morning, but I made myself lay in bed till 5. Then I got up and had my coffee in front of the firplace and watched the lights on the strip, which you can see from my parent's house. I'm going to go run shortly, which always SUCKS the first time I do it on my trips home. The desert air is different. Oh, and my parents also live on the side of a mountain. Yes, I know, it's very pretty. Especially in the morning, cause the sun rises right behind it. Hence the clever name Sunrise Mountain. But it's uphill or downhill, there is no flatness. My knees! My lungs! Moan and Whine!

Speaking of cardio, Adam got me a heart rate monitor for Christmas!! It is a really good thing, cause I need to start monitoring my heart rate. It is ridiculously high for my level of exertion. Hopefully it will normalize once I start on my real thyroid hormone replacement... *fingers crossed* ... otherwise, I will have to - I don't even know... how I will train at high intensities I do not know. Thyroid cancer survivors run Ironman races, so peak athletic performance is achievable... I will cross that bridge when I get to it I guess.

I almost passed out on Sunday at the gym when I tried to do an interval. Not two, but ONE interval, people! I went up to level 9 on the step machine, which I don't even consider peak exertion. I felt ok. Then down to level 5 for two minutes. Good. Then back to 9 for 1 minute. Heart was POUNDING. Then back to 5. Heart rate was probably 180 + . Two minutes. Three minutes. Not recovering... getting nervous.... Level 4. Two minutes. My heart rate was NOT coming down. Better get off the machine, I think! But as soon as I did that, all the blood that was gushing around inside drained right out of my head and into my muscles. Whoops! I had to bend over to keep from passing out!! Sigh. My new friend Polar. I haven't tried it out yet, but I'll let you know how I like it.

Now it's nearly 7:30 finally and the sun is coming up so time to face the Hill. :)

I'm so excited it's Christmas in the desert!!!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Running, Adam and a Cancer Update!!

Thank you to everyone who has posted comments or emailed me! I love hearing from all of you. :-)

I ran again this morning. It was Fantastic! Really, it was. I was able to complete the four mile course and only walked up the one enormous hill. My heart rate seemed to stay down at a normal level. During a brief cardio session yesterday I had a hard time keeping it out of the high 170s! That is inappropriately high for moderately paced cardio. I was doing the same machine at the same intensity the day before surgery and I had a hard time getting my heart rate ABOVE 150!!!

I felt 80% better from when I ran on Sunday. Except for my peroneal tendon, which decided to be fussy. When I got home, I put this stuff on my ankle called GCHQ. It’s like icy hot. Adam’s dad, who is a large animal veterinarian, sent it to me when I first injured my tendon. It really seems to help, although the package says: “For high performance animals.” Like horses. Ok, or I guess that could be me!!! Haha! I think it’s safe… the only ingredients are menthol and mate, whatever that is. I can still feel the cool tingling effects!

Speaking of Adam, he did something really, shall we say Not Smart yesterday! He was making a big pot of chili and decided to see how hot he could make it before he couldn’t stand eating it. While that seems not smart, that’s actually not the Not Smart part. He chopped up a bunch of those little red chili peppers – the super caliente ones – and dumped them into the mix. Then, with chili pepper residue on his fingers -- he doesn’t remember doing it -- but he must’ve stuck his finger in his nose because it started to burn and his left nostril started to run uncontrollably! He thinks he also inadvertently scratched his, um, groin, if you will. When that started burning, he ran and jumped in the shower. Good times.

On a more serious note, Adam and I also had a “State of the Union” last night. He asked me whether I plan to break up with him once I get better. You see, we almost broke up a few days before my diagnosis. There have been some rocky points in our relationship in the past, but this time it was For Real. I was going to blog about our “almost breakup”, but obviously it was OBE (Overcome By Events) when I was diagnosed with cancer. So was the breakup. As soon as I was diagnosed, he was just there for me, like nothing had passed between us about ending our relationship. I admit I did feel guilty about it at the time because I was the one who wanted to end things, and I felt a little like I was taking advantage of his good will just because I got sick. At some point I let go and just let him love me and be there for me. And my affections for him grew.

It’s not that I didn’t adore him… there are many reasons why I thought it best to end the relationship. Not the least of which is that he is in the Navy and he’s moving in September to Hawaii for two years. And my life is here in DC right now. I have a fun, exciting job at the State Department and I’ve worked really hard to get here. I’m not saying my career is my number one priority, or that I plan to work for the government forever, but I can’t see myself leaving it so soon. At some point I want to have a family, and I wouldn’t mind taking a less interesting job then, if it would be less demanding and give me more time to care for children. But right now I’m having a ball making a difference, as they say!

I know it really upsets him that I refuse to commit to making our relationship work no matter what. I know he wants me to say that I love him so much that I am willing to make whatever sacrifices are required for us to be together. But if I’m not going to leave DC yet, that leaves us with only one option – long distance. For two years?! I don’t know, it’s a tough spot. Before, I decided that if I wasn’t going to make a full commitment, then it made sense to move on. I agonized over it a lot, and it was giving me serious heartache. Lately I have been absorbed by having cancer and I haven’t thought much about the future. I’ve just been trying to make it through each day, week. But he's been thinking about it, and it's added to his emotional drain.

One of the comments I received was to go easy on yourself and others during the early, difficult days of thyroid cancer. The part about going easy on others struck a chord with me. I’m feisty and demanding when I’m not sick, so you can just imagine me now!! Poor Adam takes the brunt of it. And he sees me at my worst and has to hold me up sometimes. He told me he is emotionally drained. He said it’s kinda scary seeing me so fragile and dependent. Normally I am strong willed and extremely introverted; I don’t need anyone to hold me up! So it seems. I’m sure it’s even harder on my dear mother. My mom and I are very close and I know she feels everything for me.

All sad stuff aside, I have been feeling very positive the last few days. I saw my endocrinologist on Monday and he wants to give me an outpatient dose of the radioactive iodine, since my tumor seemed to be pretty contained and hadn’t metastasized. That is scheduled for the 10th of January, and I will get to start my real thyroid medicine on January 14, and be feeling better by February!! Just in time to train for the Cherry Blossom 10 miler on April 1!!

I can’t tell you how happy it makes me that I don’t have to be isolated in the hospital! I will still have to be isolated at home for a couple of days, but that is way better than being in the hospital!!! Of course, all that depends on the results of my initial scan. As long as no distant metastases show up on the scan, I’ll be good to get my RAI dose and go home. If something weird shows up, I’ll have to go into the hospital. Good thoughts!!!

Wow, this is really long! Congrats to anyone who made it this far!!!

"Do not pray for easy lives. Pray to be stronger men! Do no pray for tasks equal to your powers. Pray for power equal to your tasks." - Phillips Brooks

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

2006 Cherry Blossom 10 Miler

I just registered for the Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run on April 1!! Eek! That means I will have less than two months to train for it... I'm shooting for my radioactive iodine treatment during the second week of January, and it will be a couple weeks after that before I'm up to par to start training in earnest, so it will definitely be a challenge! But I was easily running that distance before my surgery. It will give me a good goal to work towards for getting back in shape after all this cancer mess!

Sunday, December 10, 2006

I ran!

I ran this morning! Outside! It was glorious! It also sucked! I was afraid I wouldn't remember how to do it. Was I creaky? Yep. Was I slow? As cold molasses! My lungs were burning from the cold air. I cannot tell a lie fitness friends. It was hard. And now, at 5 pm, I feel as if I ran at least twice that distance. I am toast. But run I did.

Yesterday was a wash. I had kind of a rough day. I did nothing positive for myself. I didn't even get a shower until about 7 pm. I intended to run yesterday, but instead I did big fat nothing. Literally. I sat on the couch all day and surfed the 'net and read. I didn't drink all my water. I didn't have any of my magic healing tea. I didn't take my supplements - acidophilus, flax oil and astragalus. I didn't eat lots of fruits and vegetables. I didn't exercise.

Instead? I talked myself into finishing off the home made cookies and sitting on the couch ALL DAY. Why I ever let myself talk me into this is beyond my understanding. The conversation is usually the same... yesterday it went something like this:

Rational me: "I'm feeling kind of low. You know. Feeling a little sorry for myself. I just wish someone or something could make me feel better. I need comfort. I know I should go run, but that sounds hard, and I just want to be comfy right now."

Voice in head: "I know. You've been through a lot. You look tired. You have cancer for pete's sake! You should just take it easy. And you deserve a treat too. Like one of those cookies. Those look good, and it'll make you feel better to just eat a warm cookie and curl up on the couch."

Rational me: "Yeah, you're right. That's exactly what I need."

[Voice in head wins out and multiple cookies are consumed while very little movement occurs.]

All you fellow fitness freaks will know before I tell you the obvious and inevitable outcome of these events. Does this make me feel better? Yeah. For about 20 minutes before the sugar high wears off. And then? I feel worse. It never fails! Why Rational Me can't remember that a few hours after committing to the cookie/couch combo, I ALWAYS end up listless, puffy, cranky, weepy and self deprecating is a complete mystery.

By the end of the evening I was feeling really sorry for myself. Doing my best Eeyore. I had a good hard cry - the first since the day of my surgery. And while I don't think I needed to sit in a sugar stupor all day, I will say that I needed a good hard cry...

Despite my firm believe in positive thinking and the importance of attitude to health and wellness, and my deep desire to meet the challenges of this disease with grace and a smile, it is still a grieving process. Grief is a natural response to loss, and cancer is certainly a loss. It changes our very sense of self. At times, we feel empty, unmoored, fragile, like we might spin apart at any minute -- as if a part of our self has been ripped away. The process of grieving takes over our spirits, and crashes around inside us -- in our hearts, stomachs, heads. And there's nothing to do but surrender to it, and experience the depth of whatever emotion takes hold.

Fix your eyes on God and do not talk about what is invisible,
So that he may place another look in your eyes.
It is in the vision of the physical eyes
That no invisible or secret thing exists.
But when the eye is turned toward the Light of God
What thing could remain hidden under such a Light?
Although all lights emanate from the Divine Light
Don't call all these lights "the Light of God";
It is the eternal light which is the Light of God,
The ephemeral light is an attribute of the body and the flesh.
...Oh God who gives the grace of vision!
The bird of vision is flying towards You with the wings of desire..


Saturday, December 09, 2006

Last Year's Christmas

Amyella's picture with Santa and her dogs reminded me of when we put antler ears on our golden retriever Rosie last Christmas. She was NOT happy about it, and tried immediately to bite them off.
The automatic setting on the camera captured her in action with the most evil expression on her face!!!

We finally got her to sit still for the picture, but the look on her face is priceless. She looks totally defeated and pissed at the same time. We were laughing so hard we almost couldn't get the picture!!Normally she is terribly sweet and docile...

It's all in your head

I went to the gym every day this past week except Friday! Admittedly, I didn't do much, but I was there! In the weight room! It's a good thing I didn't do anything crazy my first day back in the weight room like WEIGHTED WALKING LUNGES, cause then I'd really be sore.... of course that's what I did. Cause I'm all over it, I'm hard core! I...? Am invincible! Not to be confused with invisible... I only did two sets of 10 with the 20# db's. I was thinking, I'll just do something easy and see how I feel. The next day I could hardly sit down! You know the feeling. It was like the first time I ever lifted weights. I have lost some strength, but it's not too disappointing. It seemed like I could handle the same load, but not the same volume. Whereas before I would do several different compound exercises plus a bit of isolation work on bi's & tri's, etc., this week I was just doing one exercise, and that made me sore.

My plan is to try running today! I prefer to run outside, but I'm not sure about that. First, it's 21 degrees outside! And second, it seems safer to try it on the Dreadmill for the first time, just in case ... I don't want to get out there and not be able to complete the run and be stuck, sweating and cold a couple miles from home.

My recovery is going well, but I'm starting to feel the effects of not having a thyroid. My body is definitely out of whack. I think it knows that it was violated and is now lacking a CRITICAL gland. It's pissed, I think. The first few days I was taking the Cytomel, I felt fine. Great, in fact. But I think my own levels of thyroid hormone have dropped off now and I'm relying on the cytomel. It's temporary and short acting, and I can really feel it when it's time for another dose. The things that seem to make my symptoms worse are calcium supplements, too much dairy at one time (probably the calcium content), sugar, soy, and stress. I get tired, cranky, headache, can't think, focus, concentrate, and it's really hard to do tasks I've done a thousand times before. At work, I have to really think, ok, what do I need to do with this, what is this, or what is this person asking? It's scary. And depressing. I have mood swings where I just get completely overwhelmed and sad. I have to deal with this for the REST OF MY LIFE. And right now, it seems like I might never feel normal again. I am really trying to maintain a positive attitude. I believe that is so important, both in terms of health, and in life in general.

While I was recovering last week, I read Spontaneous Healing by Dr. Andrew Weil. He has some interesting ideas about how the body is able to heal itself, even from terminal illnesses in some cases. He talks about cases of spontaneous remission of all kinds of diseases and afflictions, including cancer. He also goes over different things you can do to increase your body's ability to heal itself. I already do many of the things he recommends. Although, he recommends people eat almost no protein (yeah, ahem... not this girl!) because it is harder for your body to digest and process and your goal is to free your body's systems for healing rather than filtering out all the toxins we put into ourselves. So obviously, organic foods, nothing processed or artificial, no sugars or dairy. He recommends various herbal supplements, meditation, visualization, and relaxation. And he also goes into how critical a role the mind plays in health and wellness.

Dr. Weil discusses his disillusionment with the traditional medical model and its pervasive pessimism and complete disregard for mind-body or wellness approaches. He thinks this indifference toward mind-body interactions is peculiar to American society. In many other countries, especially in the East, doctors are more inclined to view illnesses of all kinds as having a psychosomatic component. Belief in healing power can be a key to success. There is ample evidence of the placebo effect in medical research, and plenty of anecdotal evidence of belief in healing having powerful effects. I admit, that's one of the biggest reasons I chose the surgeon I did. She was the only one of the three I met who looked me in the eye and said, "We're gonna cure you." And believed it herself. Neither of the other two would even say, "You're going to be ok, we're going to take care of you and make you better."

Another correllation between mind and healing is total acceptance of self and one's illness. Dr. Weil says, "Most people do not go through life in an accepting mode. Instead they are in a state of perpetual confrontation, trying by the imposition of will to shape events and control situations... such an attitude is directly opposed to the way of life, and those who cling to it are doomed. Acceptance, submission, surrender are a mental shift that may be the master key that unlocks healing."

I've encountered the idea of the importance of the mind in shaping one's experience of life in other areas, notably in achieving goals. I started to get interested in the idea from reading fitness authors like Tom Venuto, and motivational writers like Tony Robbins and Steven Covey.

"The ancestor of every action is a thought." Ralph Waldo Emerson

"Man is what he believes." Anton Chekhov

"They can because they think they can." Virgil

In the world of fitness, the mind is recognized as a critical element in achieving goals - visualization, will, and belief are all necessary to running farther or faster, lifting more, losing fat, etc. I think the same is true of health, wellness and healing. Not that I'm saying you can just think yourself well, but as Tom Venuto says:

"If you are getting more of the same negative results in your life - such as the same health problems, or the same body fat continues to return even after you lose it, then you have probably been un-consciously running old negative programs and re-inforcing them with negative thought patterns.

Guess what? You're already using this force every day because you cannot turn it off. Whatever you are thinking and picturing in your mind repeatedly on a daily basis is already on it's way to you, so it's simply a matter of HOW you are using it, not IF you are using it.

What do you say to yourself every day? Do you say, "I am becoming leaner, healthier and more muscular every day?"... or do you say "I am a fat person - Ive tried everything, nothing ever works?"

The fact is - you can think yourself thin and healthy or you can think yourself obese and ill. Maybe not in the literal sense...but most certainly as the critical part in the chain of causation..."

Maintaining a positive attitude when dealing with something like cancer is a real challenge. I still haven't forgiven my cancer yet. It is still a thief. I am working on the acceptance thing, and taking each day as it comes - trying not to get overwhelmed. I think once I get past the radioactive iodine treatment and I get on my regular thyroid medication, it will get easier.

"In order to discover new lands, one must be willing to lose sight of the shore for a very long time."

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Exercise and Thyroid Cancer

First, I added the pictures from yesterday, so scroll down and check them out (not for the faint of heart)!

When I first started this blog, I didn't intend for it to be a blog about thyroid cancer. I wanted to blog about fitness and health and life in general because I love reading other fitness related blogs (some of which are linked on the left) and I found the idea inspiring. Since my diagnosis, I've blogged about my cancer experience, and I plan to write more about it in the future... as well as more about health and fitness! (It's NOT all about the cancer!!) I hope that someone out there going through thyroid cancer will find their way here and that my experience and the links I put up for thyroid resources will help. If you don't know anything about thyroid cancer, you can go here to satisfy an initial curiosity. You can also go here and get a badge for your website to show your support for cancer research.

For me, talking with other survivors helps immensely in dealing with all of the emotions and questions. I found a couple of women who blog about health, fitness and thyroid cancer, (if there are any others out there, please email me and I'll add your link!!) and I even got to speak with one of them before my surgery. Danniela Nichols - IronSunshine - is an amazing Ironman triathlete and thyroid cancer survivor. You can read about her competing in IM Wisconsin last year here, and watch a video interview here. I emailed her and she called me and spoke with me about her experience. It really helps to talk to someone who knows what you're going through, especially if they have the same lifestyle you do. The fact that she is an athlete dealing with thyroid cancer is an inspiration to me, as anyone who's been reading here knows I've been terrified about what having cancer and no thyroid means for my fitness lifestyle.

Danniela told me that I would probably need to start monitoring my heart rate because the thyroid replacement hormone can make your heart rate speed up really fast when you're exercising. I'm not sure if I'm still in the throes of recovery, or if that effect is already taking place for me, but when I was on the step machine at the gym yesterday, my heart rate skyrocketed! I was feeling pretty good, going at a moderate intensity. Not quite what I would have done before, but not real easy either. So I started jacking up the intensity a bit, and my heart rate went up pretty high for me, and stayed up! I had to get off the machine to get it to come back down to a comfortable level. Soooo... I guess a heart rate monitor will be on my Christmas list for those HIIT sessions!

The cardio was good though. I'm still pretty sore in my neck, and I can't quite move my head around freely yet, but I'm going back for some more today! The only problem is that my energy did NOT last the day yesterday. I was done at about 4. So I need to keep the intensity really low this week if I'm going to make it through my work days! I usually work pretty long hours because of the nature of my job, but I'm going to have some projects that are not time-sensitive so I will be able to leave when I want to this week. But I'm hoping to make it to 5 at least!!! And I've got to walk a mile or two (depending) during the day in my commute and at work. I didn't try the weight circuit yesterday, but I'm going to give it a shot today, plus 30 mins of cardio again (no heart rate pegging!).

"Whether you think you can or you think you can't, it's true."

Saturday, December 02, 2006

The bandages are off!

On Thursday I went back to the hospital to get the results of my pathology report and have the steri-strips taken off. When I first got home from the hospital I was worried they were going to fall off, so I was being pretty careful with them and didn't even want to get them wet (I'm a big baby, I know...)! That didn't last long. Even standing in the shower with the water washing right on them didn't seem to have any effect and when the nurse tried to get them off, they were pretty much cemented on there. She said she had never seen them stuck on there so well - and there were a couple of layers instead of the usual one. I don't guess I need to say it hurt like heck when she ripped them off! But... the incision looks really good. I was shocked when I looked in the mirror, I didn't think it would be as cute as it is :-). The line is really thin. It's hardly noticeable even now. The doctor told me about these Neosporin scar bandages to wear all day, and also vitamin E oil to minimize scarring.

As for the pathology, she said there was no evidence the cancer had spread outside my thyroid. They took some enlarged lymph nodes while they were in there, and they came back negative for cancer. YAY! I was really worried because I knew about this nodule for over two years before I did anything about it earlier this year. *Cringe* I know. But truly, when I first found it, no one seemed worried about it at all, and I never noticed it changing dramatically, and it didn't seem to be causing me any problems. And seriously, I totally didn't think it could possibly be cancer. Me? Cancer? No way!

Sometimes you hear about people with lumps the doctors tell them are nothing and they persist because of a gut feeling that something is wrong and it turns out to be cancer. For me, it was the other way around. When I finally saw an endocrinologist this summer, he insisted on a second biopsy just a few weeks after the first inconclusive one because he felt like something was not right. And I resisted because I really thought it was nothing. Normally when the first biopsy comes back inconclusive, they wait 6 months to do another, and that's what I wanted to do. The endocrinologist basically bullied me into going back for an ultrasound guided biopsy by calling me repeatedly! He told me that new research shows the characteristics of my nodule are indicative of cancer in 1 out of 3 cases, not 5 out of 100 like he'd originally told me. That really scared me into going back. Thank God I did.

I still have to have the radioactive iodine treatment because of the size of my tumor, so that messiness is still up the road. But I hope they will give me a lower dose of the stuff since there was no spread. I'm a big believer in the power of prayer, coming from a good Irish Catholic family :), and I have to say I've really been walking in God's graces through this whole ordeal. The outcome so far is absolutely the best we could have hoped for.

The doctor also started me on Cytomel, which is a temporary thyroid hormone replacement until I have the radioactive iodine and go on the permanent stuff. I'm feeling pretty good. Definitely not 100% yet, but really well.

Yesterday I woke up and everything felt DIRTY in my apartment!! I started cleaning the kitchen like a madwoman... I was down on my hands and knees cleaning the kitchen floor, and it occurred to me... I really need to go to work and get out of this place! So I showered and packed my food and got on the metro armed with fresh baked cookies. Everyone was shocked to see me, of course, since I just showed up without calling. It was good to see everyone. No actual work was done on my part, but I sorted through all the emails in the inbox and got some taskings for Monday and went through all the hello's and how've you been's.

I had to admit to myself the other day that I really needed a break. Not that this has been like a vacation or anything, but the last few days that I've been feeling pretty good, I've been thinking, this is nice! I needed to disconnect, take time off of work, get away from the international news, and yes, even *gasp* NOT exercise for a spell. But today? Today I am going to the GYM! For cardio! Scared and excited, people! I may even try a light weights circuit to see how it feels. Sooo excited! It's the small joys in life!