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Friday, January 28, 2011

The past, present, and future. The value is in all three.

I am a wordy person. I didn't say worldly, I said wordy. I write what I know, and what I know is my past, and the house of mirrors that distorts my perception of that. My present, and the daily burden of keeping myself in the moment. As for the future, I only know that, I will do what I can, to have a future.

This Blog is a personal quest. I write about myself, and the people I love. I take pictures of the beauty I see in my daily life. I try to stay fresh, and positive. Today, though, I am going to tell you a true story about my me. I hope I do not come off as pathetic, but, whatever!

This is my cancer story. Yes, I have a cancer story. No tissue needed, I promise. I am here, writing this, so you know the ending, already.  In 1999 I went to the emergency room, with some infection. I didn't spend time going to doctors. I only waited, until I was suffering, to go. Strep throat, UTIs, that kind of thing. So I drove myself to get whatever it was, checked out. I met a young DR. there, who was doing his internship. I got the prescription I needed to clear up the infection, and was on my way. The DR. asked me to come in for a physical examination at the clinic where he did his thing. I agreed, I have no idea why.

I made the appointment. I went to the Doctor. I hated doing things like that. I was a healthy, young, vibrant, mother, who worked long hours, and sucked it up. During the physical, the Doctor put his hands on my neck, and checked my glands. Then he noticed the lump in my throat. I thought everyone had one. I really did. Men have an Adam's apple, and I thought that women just had a little one. WRONG! After the through going over, he referred me to an Endocrinologist. What a hassle I thought. The doctor thought I may have a problem with my thyroid, and it needed to be looked at. Okay, no worries. I went.

The new DR. had me come in, examined me, and set me up for a needle biopsy. Hmmm. no biggie, I could do this. I went to the biopsy. They had me lay on a table, and told me not to swallow, as they stuck a huge needle in my throat, not once, but six times. Never tell someone not to swallow, it is all that they can think about. It hurt, but I got through it.

A few days later, the results were in. I had cancer of the thyroid. The Dr. told me that if I were going to have cancer, I was lucky to have this kind. It was totally curable. A walk in the park, so to speak. All I can say is it is no walk in the park to hear that news. Damned him and his bedside manner. He was an ass!!! Lucky, indeed. I had two young boys, and had just seen my grandmother die of lymphoma.

I was scheduled for surgery. I used a surgeon that I knew from a previous surgery on my neck. I had a chronically infected saliva gland, which had turned into a pain in the wallet. I had infections, and was being treated several times a year. I trusted this Dr. and I chose to have him do my surgery. When I went to see him the first time for the saliva gland, he told me it was a "no brainer". He was professional, but he didn't act like a God. He was trustworthy. I knew he was the one. The endocrinologist didn't like my choice of surgeons. I did, though.

I scheduled the surgery. I went to the hospital, and did what I needed to do. I was not brave, I was on automatic pilot. After the surgery, which took many more hours than expected, the surgeon came out, and talked to my Husband, and my Mother. He was surprised that it was so extensive. He took out the thyroid gland, and some lymph nodes. In the process he damaged my parathyroid gland, but he had no choice. He told my family that the cancer was extensive, but the surgery was a success. After I healed I would have to undergo radiation, but I would be okay.

The Endocrinologist came in while I was waking up, after surgery, to tell me I indeed had cancer. I told him I knew that. He came in later, thinking I was still too groggy to understand, and told me again. I told him I had heard him the first time. Why would I have had surgery, if it weren't necessary?

Here is something that they don't tell you. The thyroid gland regulates all metabolism. Being without the gland makes you feel like death. I know how it feels to have no energy. None, not enough to walk up a flight of stairs, not to walk down a hallway, not to want to live. For a few weeks after the surgery, I recovered, then came the  worst part.

About six weeks after the surgery, I was given radioactive iodine treatment. Here is the tough thing, they take you off thyroid hormone therapy for several days, even weeks before that. You are cold, swollen, tired, bloated, beyond imagination. I sat with wool blankets, and shivered. I couldn't even walk upstairs to use the bathroom without help. I would stop in the middle of my stairway, and cry. I wished for this to all end. I wished to die. The day finally came for the treatment. I struggled to get to the hospital. My husband was with me. I sat in the waiting room, and the endocrinologist came out and said that the radioactive iodine did not arrive. I would have to reschedule. I broke down, right there. I really didn't think I would live the few days, it would take to get it there. Honestly, I didn't want to live, anymore. I was physically out of steam. Of course I did live, and I have had radioactive iodine treatments several more times in the last twelve years. They still suck!

I had two types of cancer, papillary and follicular. I was young, and they do not stage cancer in people under forty. Yippy! The tumor was big, it had spread, and I survived. I learned to treat Doctors as human beings. I do not take their crap, and I shop for one that is trustworthy, and forthright. I have to confess that my life was changed. I was given the gift of cancer, and I believe that I am a better person for it. I live each day with a new view. I see, appreciate, and try my best, to be my best.

My husband, on the other hand, became completely unhinged, during this crisis. He leaned on Vodka, and went over the edge. He is better, now, but he too was given the gift, of addiction. He chose to live, just as I did. Our marriage survived. Our children, who were teens, and going through their own stuff at the time, may have been changed. I know they were.

I live in the present, but I see the value of past experiences. I get depressed, and have been taken to the edge, a few times, since then. I know that I am strong. I know that I have value. I just know.