Saturday, December 12, 2015

The Next Journey

Well friends and family, as I have learned so well this year, there is always something to deal with or handle as we grow up. I know people hate this but, it is what it is. So we deal with fires as they come up. That's life.

I went to see the surgeon on Thursday night and he was great. Thoughtful, informed/informative and cautious. He talked through the cause and effects, the infection I had and what it did and what the course of treatments are, both surgical. It's a little more complicated for me because I have already had surgery on my stomach once. It's not an "undisturbed" stomach so he is sending me to get a CT scan of my abdomen before making a decision about which method of removing my gallbladder is the best/safest. One method is laparoscopic the other involves an incision.  I have to wait now until I get the scan to see what the course of treatment is.  Just like with the cancer, there are steps that have to be taken and the next step can't happen until the one before has been done.  It's a challenge. So we wait...

On the vocal front, I made it through my first week of teaching. By the end of each day, vocally, I am tired. This incision is healing better, faster than the first one.  Maybe the location, maybe the lack of cancer in my body...but the new scar is healing well.  War wounds.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Tired, So Tired.

My body is tired.

Monday I had a hiccup. I was sitting in the coffee shop around the corner, ready to grade papers.  I had enjoyed a croissant and was starting on my coffee when I was hit with a wave a nausea. I got hot an clammy and I was worried that I was going to faint so I quickly packed up and walked the block back home. Charlie was working from home and thankfully so.

I didn't faint, but I went on to be wracked with stomach pain all day.  Now, this has happened from time to time.  I always thought it was just a byproduct of tiny tummy.  I was really good at not overfilling my sleeve, but some foods didn't agree with my body.  I would have to eliminate and then I felt better.

I made it through the day Monday and I was feeling better by Monday night.  Tuesday was ok.

Wednesday I went back to work. Vocally I was doing ok. Horse, but ok.  I taught 2 and 3rd period and it went well.  Then I had a break before advisory.  By the time advisory rolled around at 1:40 I was in so much pain I was in a cold sweat and was struggling to just sit at a desk.  Thankfully the kids just came in and did what they needed to do.  I signed out early and made a last minute appointment with my primary.

It was difficult to get to the Dr.  It was a long ride to Brooklyn.  I told Dr. C., who I really like, about the symptoms I had been experiencing and she did a quick exam.  Pressing around, she told me she thought I might have gallstones.  She sent me over to her ultrasound tech (who was having a really bad day).  She did the exam and then I went back to wait for the results.  Dr. C said there are 5 gallstones and an infection.

Next steps: 2 different antibiotics 3x a day for 7 days.  And a referral for surgery.  Yes, another surgery.

I had a pretty legit melt down on the corner of Willoughby and Jay St. in downtown Brooklyn after I left her office. The nice thing about crying in NYC is that no one is phased and everyone has done it. The prospect of another surgery so soon is overwhelming. My body needs a break.
I am home again today, Friday, after a REALLY rough night.  I made the mistake of eating solid food yesterday and paid for it.  I am on liquids/soft food (think yogurt) until this infection is cleared up (this is of my own design). I am trying not to be frustrated or disappointed, but I admit, it is challenging.  In light of everything that is going on in the world- this seems small.  It's my journey though and a truly ponderous one at that.

I am grateful to Charlie and Rose for taking such good care of me.  It's the little things.


Sunday, November 29, 2015

Day 4 Post Op: How Do I Sound? (Video Blog)

Just a few updates, and documentation of progress.  Hope everyone has had a wonderful weekend.



Thursday, November 26, 2015

Being Thankful Post Surgery #3


It's been a long two years.  Yesterday marked two years since my weight loss surgery.  It did in fact prove to be a good day for surgery.  I was thankful to have a note from the wonderful Mimi that she had the same surgery which put me a bit at ease.  I felt calm as we drove into Ear and Eye Infirmary of Mount Sinai . Check in was smooth, to the 7th floor that was quiet the day before a major holiday. I had a room looking down onto 14th Street to myself and that Charlie to wait in while I was in surgery.  Being awake through the 2+ hour procedure was one of the stranger experiences I have had.  The rational knowing of what was going on while being medicated enough to remain calm and not feel any pain.  The scope down the nose is always the worst part- and today was not exception. It was draped in a plastic tent that was stuck to my chin and as a result it was a bit of a steaming for me and got warm.  Very strange.

One of the most fascinating parts was the fine tuning of the implant and being able to hear the difference between it being in and out and being able to hear for myself that it was going to help.  It will be about 6 weeks before all the healing is done, but I am hopeful that I wont have to think about my voice agin and that Karaoke will come back to my life soon!

We have a 10 AM appointment this morning to have the drain removed from my neck that you can see in the picture above.  Lots of meds to help with the recovery. Then home to enjoy Thanksgiving with Charlie and Rose.

Thank you to everyone who called, wrote, texted.  Having so many people spread out all across the country, it can be difficult to stay connected, but I appreciate Facebook and the ease it provides for keeping everyone posted on progress. Have a very Happy Thanksgiving.

Mer, Charlie and Rose

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

2 Years

Next week marks 2 years since I had weight loss surgery.  November 25th.  I had hoped that I would have met my 200 lbs down as well as reaching "one-derland" but neither thing is gong to happen in the next 7 days.  It's ok.  My weight this morning was 227.  My highest weight was 396.  I am just shy of 170 lbs lost.  This is no small feat and I am still losing weight.  I was 250 on July 1st.  I am trying to be positive about the success.  My extra skin is depressing though.  It it uncomfortable and embarrassing.  Charlie says he thinks there may be upwards of 20 lbs of skin- maybe I am to one-derland but the skin prevents me from reaching my goal. 

I am also one week from my vocal cord surgery.   It will be happing on 11/25, the two year anniversary.  I take it as a good omen.  Weight loss surgery was so good for me, hopefully this will be the last step in anything having to do with my throat.  Surgery is about 2+ hours and I may get to go home, but there is a chance I will have to stay over night.  Also might have a drain.  Will have a new 4cm scar above the one I already have.  2 neck scars?  Could anyone be more badass than that?  I don't think so.

Love and hugs to all and send lots of good thoughts on the 25th.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Goal Setting!

I made it through the first full week of school.  There were so many holidays in September that this past week was the first with 5 in a row.  Im tired, but it was a good week.  I need to do a better job of planning food for the week.  I was not back into the swing with the holidays, but next week will be good.  Ill do cooking tomorrow.  

I had a training session on Thursday afterwork that as usually kicked my butt.  I was lamenting that I had not taken measurements at the beginning of the summer but dug out my pre-op and took measurements today.

July '13
Neck (inches): 19
Waist (Inches) : 57.5
Hip (inches): 66.5
10/3/15 (23 mos post op)
Neck: 14 (-5 inches)
Waist: 36 (natural) (-21.5 inches)
Hip: 46  (-20.5 inches)

Total inches lost: 47
Total Pounds lost: 165 

As I close in on the 2 year marker (11/25) I had hoped to be closer to One-derland by the end of November, but I just do see it happening.  I  dropped 20 this summer and have built a ton of muscle, so I am not worrying about it.  I feel good.  I keep telling people, I feel strong.  :-)

I have set a new goal.  I have decided to get a relay team together to do Rock The Ridge 50 Mile Endurance Challenge at the end of April.  It's for charity, but I thought what better way to mark a year since cancer diagnosis and treatment and hopefully reaching One-derland!  My goal is 10 miles and with the help of amazing trainer Adrian, I will be ready. 

Just under 7 months and counting!!!

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Adventures in Pickling

So what do you do when someone gives you a vegetable you have never seen or heard of before?  Google it.  Today, thanks to the bounty from Christine's garden, I came home with Mexican Sour Gherkins or sanditas that are now on their way to being tasty little pickle bites.

I used this easy recipe from A Gardener's Table but added some garlic and some hot chili flakes.  I also pierced each one with a fork as per the bloggers revised instructions to help with the pickling process. Three days and we will see how they came out.

New Heights

Yesterday, I traveled upstate to see my my old friend Lawrence and his wife Christine and their son Rowan. We Lawrence and I went on an amazing hike the Undivided Lots Trail on the Mohonk Preserve.  It's incredible and while I am not the rock climber that he is, this was perfect for me.  The view was amazing.
Our view from the top!

Mer and Lawrence!
After our hike I got to spend the afternoon with the family and Christine, who is an amazing organic farmer- I am totally going to give her lofty title- her green thumb is brilliant.  She sent me home with some of the best produce I have ever had.  Check it out!  I can't wait to cut into the watermelon after I get home from the gym later this afternoon.  Thanks to the family for great day.  It was a great end to the summer before I head back to school on Tuesday!!  

Monday, August 31, 2015

Long Time Coming

Weight loss surgery is complicated.  Friends I have made over the now almost two years have joked with each other about things we should tell people before they have 80% of their stomachs removed.  Things that might include: comparing notes on what makes you puke vs. dump (the polite term for exactly what you think it is),  what lots of extra skin actually feels like, wearing girdles and most recently, comparing notes on the impact of alcohol.  Fast drunk, fast sober.  Most of the stuff we can laugh about.  Some things make some of us cry.  I think for the majority, they would still do it again, like me.  If I had not had WLS, I would not have found the tumor that lead to finding the cancer and it may have been a much different journey.  But I did.  I am here.

Sarah, Me and Amanda - Sleeve Sisters 11/25/13

One of the greatest joys in my journey has been the friends I have made.  At the beginning, I was in a November Sleevers group that I left about a month after my surgery because of some really inhumane comments that were made.  In that time though, I found the two women you see above- Sarah, who lives in Michigan and Amanda who is also a Seattle ex-pat who lives in New Jersey.  (Deb, who we all love, also had surgery the same day as we did and she was missed in this picture!) Sarah was in NYC for a bachelorette weekend so we were able to get stars to align and find time for brunch on Sunday.  Collectively I think we have lost more than  400 lbs. It is astounding when you think about it.  I feel so, so  lucky to have them in my life and out time together this weekend was a gift.  

As some of you may already know, this summer I resolved to begin to exercise.  I was standing in my neighborhood coffee shop at the end of June, right after the school year had ended and a woman came in talking about the new deal that NYSC was running.  I could not pass it up.  The gym is 2 blocks from my house.  There was no reason not to go.  So I signed up and started going.  Thankfully we had the means for me to get to work with a trainer this summer and I have to say it has made all the difference.  I feel strong, stronger than I have felt in years.  I have learned to enjoy the sweat and the endorphins.  I find on days, like today when I don't go to the gym until later (my appointment is at 5) that I am sluggish and I wish I had gone in the morning.  I like my 30 minute intensive (for me) and I leave the gym feeling good.
Adrian- I frequently drop the F-Bomb when I am working with him.  He is nice and doesn't mind.
I do feel good. I'm down 18 lbs this summer but more importantly, I am feeling strong and I am looking forward to figuring out how this new part of the ponderous journey fits into my crazy life.

For reference- August 2014

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Homework #3 As My Memoir Marches Forward...

Prompt: Write an action scene from your life in which you ground the reader in a specific setting, give sensory details, and offer some choreography (precise descriptions of movement, as applied to dance; violence; sex; rushing for the subway; throwing your cellphone against the sidewalk; cooking a feast for ten). Pay heed to your diction. Be exact.
Earlier in the spring of 2013 I had finally descended into my lowest of lows and ironically, the highest of highs when it came to the Story of Weight. Having hit the proverbial rock bottom of weight loss attempts, I was in the abyss of my own journey, clamoring in the dark just trying to climb my way back to the light of day.  My own self-destruction: bingeing and eating in secret, had forced my hand and the first step out was bariatric surgery.  Once the decision had been made, a weight was lifted and the way out of the abyss became clear.
        That summer, as my husband and I have almost every summer that we have been together, returned to the North Fork of Long Island for a week of respite from the heat and humidity of the city.  This summer we returned to The Johanensen’s place, a house we had rented two summers before.  The three bedroom ranch house sat one lot up from the sandy private beach on the Great Peconic Bay.  I looked forward to returning to this spot, the warm brackish water proved ideal for swimming.  I had denied myself the pleasure of swimming, which I had loved growing up, a true water baby, because I didn’t want to put on a bathing suit for many years.  I was so ashamed of my body, not wanting anyone to judge me but here, on this private beach on the bay, I shed the burden of shame, donned the skirted black swimsuit with white polka dots and walked into the water.  The tepid water welcomed me, the smooth rocks and sand slipping between my toes.  When I finally ventured far enough, in one movement my knees bent and I was into the water to my neck enveloped and floating.  This was the only place where the 396 pounds I was carrying on my 5’9” frame ceased to exist.  No pain in my knees or back.  I laid back, my ears slipping below the surface of the water, sound slipping away.  I closed my eyes and moved my hands around just enough to push my nose and mouth above water periodically to take a breath.  I swam further out, the water close to the surface remaining warm while the current at my feet began to chill as I moved further from the shore.  I would flip over from time to time, laying on my back and letting the sun warm my feet and my face.  
Eventually, it would be time to come in and I would make my way back to the shore.
 When I was finally able to touch the sandy ground, I felt reality return as I hoisted my body 

above the water line and slowly walked to the shore.  My body was once again a burden to 

support as the womb of water released me back into the world.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

The Memoir

I hosted a student teacher from NYU this spring.  My payment was either: 3 credit class at Steinhardt (where I did my MA) or a no credit class in the School of Professional Studies.  A few years ago I had looked at the classes in the SPS and there were many that I was interest in- for my own enrichment.  I started a class called Writing A Memoir taught by Cullen Thomas last Thursday. For the next 7 weeks I'll be writing, digging in and trusting the gush as Tom Romano puts it.  

I had to put my conflict into 2-3 sentences to begin this weeks homework.  This is what I came up with: 

I exhausted every resource I had and made the decision to have bariatric surgery in November 2013.  150 lbs and 14 month later I discovered a fist size tumor in my neck.  The tumor was benign but the nodules in my thyroid were not.  

The next prompt was to write about what is at stake.  I started with Charlie.  Ultimately, it always comes back to us.  Challenges teach us who we are, what is important and who is,  for that matter.  As I write, my hope is that I confront and explore.  

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

"You know what your vocal cords look like?" or "Plumping Agents of Change"

I do!!  Thanks Dr. Pitman and the team at the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai.  

As you know, post thyroidectomy I had paralysis of the right vocal cord.  The first thing to try is injection of collagen into the vocal cord to plump it up so that it is working correctly and if I understand, the research has shown that this procedure promotes blood flow to the areas which stimulates the nerve and hopefully resolve any paralysis that has occurred.

 I won't lie.  This is not the easiest procedure I have ever had done, but it is fast.  The worst part for me is the camera down the nose.  Apparently I have small passages and they were not able to use the camera they wanted to and had to go with a smaller one.  It uncomfortable and this is my 4th time in 3 months.  But, it starts with numbing agent #1.  Followed by more numbing via injection through the neck (not down the throat).  Dr. Pitman watches on the screen while doing the first of the two injections.  The numbing part was probably the most uncomfortable, besides the camera, and took the longest.  Then once numb the collagen is injected into the vocal cord.  It is over filled to begin with until the collagen begins to break down and currently I sound like Kathleen Turner with a scratchy throat.  It's silly.  

Hopefully this will do the trick.  Follow-up in three weeks.  In the mean time, popsicles for dinner.

Friday, April 10, 2015

And then plans change...Radioactive

It's been a crazy week of appointments.  New Primary, who I really like.  Saw the specialist for treatment of my paralyzed vocal cord.  Tried to see the speech therapist but I got there and they decided they didn't take my insurance. (Nice, eh?)  But the amazing social worker from the UFT did a follow up call to check on me yesterday and was able to get me a referral for someone close to work who takes my insurance.  I went to see my new endocrinologist this morning.  I liked her.  She spent a long time with me, meticulously going over my history, the pathology from my thyroid, everything...

There were 4 instances of cancer that were each less than one cm, called "micro cancer", two one each side on my thyroid.  Because of this, the Endo believes that RAI treatment is necessary. RAI also called Radioactive Iodine Ablation treatment is relatively easy, and I use the term loosely.  Here is some info on RAI (if you don't want to know skip over the blue text):

Radioactive Iodine Ablation Treatment for Differentiated Thyroid Cancer
You may receive radioactive iodine (also known as radioiodine, I-131 or RAI) some weeks after surgery to eliminate (ablate) any remaining papillary or follicular thyroid cancer cells or normal thyroid tissue that the surgeon could not remove. Ablation also aims to eliminate any thyroid cancer cells that may have spread to other parts of the body.
Eliminating the remnant of normal thyroid tissue will make it easier to do the ongoing monitoring for any possible recurrence. RAI ablation has also been shown to improve survival rates if the cancer has spread to the neck or other parts of the body....
If RAI is part of your treatment, you will probably receive it between 3 and 6 weeks after your surgery. You will swallow the RAI in the form of either one or more capsules (pills) or a liquid.
RAI works because the thyroid gland needs iodine and absorbs it from the bloodstream. When you swallow the RAI (the isotope I-131), it goes through your bloodstream to your thyroid tissue. The radiation destroys thyroid cells, both cancerous and normal thyroid cells, with minimal effects on the rest of your body.
The dosage of I-131 used for ablation is measured in millicuries. The dose for remnant ablation may range from 30 millicuries to 100 millicuries. Sometimes the dose is higher (100 to 200 millicuries) for people with more extensive disease. Very rarely, the dose may be larger still.

So here is what the next steps are....
April 21- Injection to help my vocal cord function come back.
June 1- Begin low iodine diet, stop taking synthetic thyroid
June 16- blood work- to check levels.
June 17- Have the RAI Treatment (at the hospital, down with Nuclear Medicine Docs) home that day
June 18-20- In quarantine at home- all things separate- no touching, Rose will go to Joann's for at least a                     week.
June 21-30- Continue to be separate, separate beds, utensils, etc.  Sit at least 6 feet apart...
                    This week also go for full body scan for thyroid cells.
July 1- Meet with Endo...
So there it is.  I can check Radioactive off my bucket list!

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Fight The Good Fight

In Florence + The Machine's epic hit Shake It Out there is a line:

I can't tell you how many times I have listened to that song in the last month.  Especially in the days learning up to my surgery.  I have held fast that, It's always darkest before the dawn, as Florence sang.  I was scared and angry and struggling with not knowing what would come after my surgery.  I was quickly learning that with treatment of cancer, it is a one-step-at-a-time thing; do one thing, see how it goes, then do the next according to the result.  I am sure Dr. Lagmay, my ENT had provisions for all the variables but that was on his end and to some degree his hands were tied- he can only do his part as well as he can and then wait for pathology to come back to determine what comes next.  As a teacher, when I plan, I write lessons- each step leading to a final goal and ultimately the objective of the lesson.  On my end though, I can only do one step at a time.  It was maddening to not be able to plan all the steps ahead of time.

In pre-op waiting to go in.
By 7 AM I was all set: had been poked to death by an anesthesiology student who could not get the IV into my arm, had been asked 100 times what my name was and what I was having done, and had transformed into the foxy lady!

The surgery, intended to take 90 minutes took three hours.  The mass in my neck, now being referred to as a tumor, was larger than my fist (bigger than a baseball).  The surgical report is meticulous, chronicling each movement of each part of my anatomy as Lagmay worked carefully to remove it from my neck. In addition to the tumor, my thyroid was successfully removed and I later found out all the parathyroids were saved (they control how your body uses calcium). 

The morning of my surgery, we arrived EARLY for a 5:15 AM check in at the hospital.  Mom stayed with me while Charlie went back to his office (also at the hospital) to get some work done.

When I woke up in recovery I could not talk and there was a drain in my neck.  I was scared because I could see the clock and knew the surgery had taken longer than anticipated.  Lagmay came in not long after and told me that everything was going well.  WE were going to have to wait and see how I was doing as the day progressed- tolerating liquids and seeing how much blood was being collected in the bulb of the drain.  Below, post op, finally in my room.

I ended up spending that first night in the hospital and went home Thursday morning.  It was a long night but thankfully little to no pain.  I was alone in the room most of the night until about 5 when they brought in a women who snored like crazy and that was the end of my sleeping.  I was cleared to go home because my calcium levels were good and I was back at home by noon.

 It was a little shocking to see how big the incision was.  We had gone to the drug store on the way home Thursday and I asked her to look and see how big the wound was- I could see the shock on her face, her eyes got big, reacting to how big it was.  We were looking for waterproof bandages for showering...The picture here is before the bruising really started and the stitches are still in.

Friday I wrote this: It's Friday morning.  Today I am having some tingling in my hands, connected to how my body is using calcium (or not).  I have a call in to my Dr. but waiting to see if I have to go do blood work.  Sleep is not very restful, but I am sleeping.  I woke up at about 4:30, to the tingling, took 4 chewable and laid back down to try and sleep more.  Which I did.  I am tolerating food and liquid.  My incision is looking bruised and puffy but not oozing or red.  I have to admit, I was shocked by how bit it was- I guess I was expecting something smaller.  War Wounds.

Friday was a flurry of phone calls to Lagmay's office to talk with his nurse.  They made sure I was taking the right calcium and that I was taking the vitamin D with it. (Your body needs vitamin d to help absorb calcium.)  I made it through Friday night but by early Saturday morning the tingling was getting worse.  I was feeling it through my lips and I felt like I was slurring my words.  By 8 I woke up Mom and Charlie and told them we needed to go to ER.

The attending ER Doc ran blood tests and in fact my calcium and magnesium were both extremely low (hypocalcemia).  When the thyroid is removed the para-thyroids go into shock and struggle to absorb calcium into the body.  Calcium supports nerve and muscle function.  The Doc also did a test that you can see in the video. It is a physical response that indicates low calcium with out doing a blood test called Trousseau Sign.  It was fascinating to see my hand curl up. When I had signed into the ER, I had not been able to hold a pen in my hand and write- I knew something was really wrong.

If anyone has ever been to the emergency room on the weekend, you know nothing gets done quickly.  There are not enough staff across the board and the ER can be packed.  When we arrived early Saturday there were only a handful of people waiting and maybe 20 in the ER in beds.  By 3PM beds were three deep and it was like pulling teeth to get any answers.  Nurses are powerless, unfortunately and have little to no information to pass on.  I had IV of magnesium as well as liquid calcium.  After the second round of blood was taken after administration, a second dose of calcium was given.  Then you have to wait, more blood is taken, tested.  The ENT on call never came to see me.  Around 7:30 PM I had a melt down- in tears.  I wanted some Tylenol for the ache in my neck and wanted a decision to be made re: staying the night or not.  Tears got things going and the chief resident got someone to make the call to send me home. I would have been ok either way, I just wanted a choice to be made.  They upped my dose to 1000mg of calcium 4x a day.  The tingling was gone and I was exhausted and just wanted to go home.

The Sunday was better.  Mom and I watched movies, walked to the grocery store to stock up on dairy products.  I wish she could have stayed longer but we were to thankful to have here her to help and support.  Monday was full on binge watching The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt on Netflix.   It was a good day I was feeling stronger and not pins and needles. 

Wednesday, I went to see Lagmay for a check up.  I knew the pathology was back and was awaiting the news.  It could have gone one of two ways: radiation or not.  Lagmay apologized for the complications I had experienced.  He was surprised that I had been hypocalcemic. He took my stitches out and replaced them with steri-strips. He also checked my vocal cords.  I have some paralysis on the right side. I have a appointment coming up over spring break to see a ENT who specializes in vocal cord damage and I will be going to see a speech therapist to help regain the strength in my voice. It will take time.  It could be a long time but I feel stronger each day.  I'll also be seeing the new Endocrinologist over break as well.  I have felt ok on the thyroid meds but I am anxious to speak with her about ongoing care and how it may impact my weight.

March 27th
I took the rest of the week to recuperate.    It would have been foolish to go back as soon as I had planned.  Monday I returned to work.  Thankfully it was the week I had a lighter schedule and just taught one class, my AP kids on Monday.  They would be good.  They would understand. It was the 9th graders I was more worried about.  I have all these wonderful scarves that artfully cover my scar.  

Rebecca and the PTA both gave me beautiful flowers that smell amazing and have been on my desk all week.  The outpouring of support and encouragement at work has been humbling.  Colleagues have checked in, kept an eye on my through out the week and loved the fact that I am teaching with a cordless mic. (I have no vocal power and could not yell if I wanted to!)

I continue to heal.  The vocal rest today has been good.  We are going out for the first time with good friends tonight. It is nice to be getting back to normal.  Thank you to everyone who has texted, emailed and check on me the last two and a half weeks.  This is a roller coaster but I am thankful for the great care on all fronts I have received and look forward to a full recovery as the weeks and months pass.

First day back at work, trusty scarf.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

The Problem With Guilt

I was diagnosed with Thyca (thyroid cancer) 5 weeks after a family friend, who is about my age was diagnosed with breast cancer. She is currently doing chemo and is amazingly graceful in her journey. 

When I was first diagnosed with thyca people would say to me, well if you have to have cancer,  it's the best one to have. I am just short of one month into my journey and let me tell you, there is no "best kind" or "the good cancer". It's cancer. It is not good, no matter what. With everything, there is variation of severity. Thyca, is treated in its own way, having its own side effects and impact. I won't have to do chemo because of how thyca developes in the body and spreads within the body. There are many what-ifs that I am trying not to occupy. I am avoiding all the stories out there about cancer spreading, side effects of the radioiodine, long term pain, med management and misinformation in the medical community resulting in a ton of pain and suffering for many. my greatest fear is weight gain for clear and understandable reasons. I hope that my providers hear all my concerns and work with me to figure out the best treatment for me. I hope that I am spared many of the what-ifs.

In the mean time, I am counting the days while trying to remain grounded in what I do know and not hypotheticals.  A co worker told me Friday that she had no idea I was going through this when we would make small talk in the hall. I don't look different but I feel, emotionally, horrible. Guilty that I am struggling and scared even though I have the "good" and "curable" cancer.  I should be grateful it's not worse...or inoperable. THIS was not part of the plan.


I reached out to my friend Toni this week to ask if I could come out to see her and her beautiful baby Adam, who was born in the fall. She along with my other two best girls from NYU have all lost parents to cancer. They were among the first round of people I told. I knew they would understand and love without judgment. I felt guilty for having cancer and being the first in our group to be confronted with something like this. I'm only 37.... And I am the oldest of us. New babies,  marriages...we should be enjoying all the blessings and friendship and growing through adulthood together. Not. CANCER.

So today, I am on the train heading out to Long Island. I am on the double decker express train that goes all the way to Montauk. I love riding the train. Watching everything go by, the soundtrack of my choosing echoing around my brain. (The music today is the Fifty Shades Soundtrack, which I love. Say what you will about the movie, the music is wonderful.) I can think, reflect, be in the quiet of my own experiences.  I can choose how I want to respond. To face the world and all that it throws at me.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Warning: Strong Language, parental guidance suggested.

Thanks to one of my oldest friends in the world, Sara for this fantastic new tee!  Yes, indeed.  Fuck Cancer.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Next Steps on the Ponderous Journey

Thank you for the plethora of love and well wishes over the last two weeks.  Your positive energy is welcomed and felt as I take steps to conquer cancer.

I went to day to meet with my surgeon.  Dr. Lagmay was great and I feel comfortable with the course of treatment he laid out.  So...

I have Stage 1 Papillary Thyroid Cancer. It is the most common form.  I will be having a complete thyroidectomy.  Pathology will take a week which may reveal something different (Stage 2 - however not more than that because I am so young, or if it spread beyond my thyroid). There will be follow up care with the endocrinologist to help start and regulate the synthetic hormones. 

My surgery has been scheduled for March 11th (Wednesday) for the removal.  I will be out the 11-13.  Possibly the following Monday but that is TBD.  

My prognosis pre surgery is good.  

My mother in law went with me today and said as we were leaving that she wanted to hug Lagmay.  I huge vote of confidence from Joann.  I am feeling positive and tired.  The adrenaline is subsiding leaving my body and the crash coming and the martini lunch we had after my appointment was wonderful.

Tomorrow is Friday, then a weeks vacation.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Collecting Ones Self

First and foremost, thank you to everyone for words of support and encouragement, affirmations, being pissed, and feeling all the feelings with me. It's hard to find someone who has not been impacted by cancer-directly or indirectly. In some ways the the camaraderie that comes from identification and understanding has helped tremendously this week and in the weeks leading up to my diagnosis, which was swathed in so much fear of the unknown.  Knowing offered release of so much energy I had been holding so tightly. Release allows forward mobility.

It's been frustrating to hear people say things like "it's the best cancer to have" if you have to have cancer....this article was in the +The Huffington Post  today. I heard those words come out of my own mouth after I had told a friend, who was visibly upset when hearing the news.  I found myself comforting and wanting to take care and reassure- which I am sure was as much for me as it was for him.  I still have so many questions and so much I don't understand.  I was so shocked after my PCP called Monday that I didn't even ask questions- and I am not kicking myself as it is the weekend. 

I was able to get into see an ENT surgeon next Thursday.  He has a long wait to get into see him and many people on the back end greased some wheels to help get me in (the Dr. will be away the week we are off so this was a lucky break).  Until then, I don't know what is next as far as treatment and moving forward.  More waiting.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Cancer In 9 Parts

Part 1. When I was in Seattle over Christmas I developed an infection on the back of my neck.  It seemed it was a cyst of some sort.   the development of a sinus infection as well landed me in urgent care on New Years Day after returning to NYC.

Part 2. At some point this fall I became aware that there was a lump on the front of my neck. Because I was so heavy for so long it was really after I lost the bulk of my weight that I really became aware that the lump was not bilateral or normal. The infection I had on the back of my neck resolved and I was referred to a general surgeon to consult on removal. Good timing so I decided to ask about the front mass when I was there.

Part 3. Surgeon agreed that the cyst should come out but not before the front of my neck was addressed. He suspected it was a goiter, about 5cm. Wanted me to go to my primary to get checked out. I had an appointment that same day (1/19).  Went to primary who did an exam, blood work and sent me to get an ultrasound.

Part 4. I went to get the ultrasound that same day, thankfully for once that there are so many doctor's offices in Bay Ridge. The tech doing the ultrasound said that the mass was solid and it covered the right side of my thyroid.

This was Monday for those keeping track. Friday after having to track down results I was referred for a biopsy. The mass was not something that could just be drained.

I made the appointment for the following Tuesday.

Part 5. Blizzard,  that was not. Canceled appointment. Rescheduled for Thursday.

Part 6. Thursday appointment the larger nodule was biopsied however additional nodules were as well. The large one, now estimated at 7cm (equipment for ultrasound only go up to 5cm so it us hard to accurately measure). There are smaller ones on the left side. It was uncomfortable but fast. Preliminary results on the spot: large mass looks ok. Just really big and has been there forever. Smaller nodule is.concerning but could go either was and needed further analysis. So we wait....


Part 7. Monday I finally called the pathologist was asked to call back because he was on a call shortly after my primary called.

Good news: the large nodule is fine, just connective tissue, solid.

Bad news: there is cancer in the smaller nodule. I will need to have at least that side removed and when they go in they will see if my lymphnodes are ok. Need to get a neck surgeon to schedule treatment and removal.

Part 8: I have cancer.

It seems of all the cancers one can have this is the best one. Extremely treatable and NOT something one dies from. This is good. But I still have cancer and I NEVER would have known if I had not lost the weight.

I'm feeling sad and a little... or a lot angry right now. But hopeful. I have so much support and I decided I wanted to write about this here because I have written about EVERYTHING here for the last 14 months and it felt strange to not be processing it here.

Losing weight has now saved my life twice. Still the best decision I ever made.

Part 9. I'm looking for a surgeon. As this new truly ponderous journey developed I will write because this is what feels right. Holding it all in hurts and I know so many people who have followed my journey are always in my corner.

So please keep me and Charlie in your thoughts as we now proceed forward and will conquer cancer.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Home For The Holidays and Into 2015 (Lots of Pictures!)

Traveling always poses an array of challenges for anyone.  For someone who has had WLS, it provides a unique set of challenges- all around food, of course.  Top it off with the holidays and we could have a perfect storm.

On the happy side, I no longer have ANY anxiety about traveling- flying specifically.  In the past there were so many worries about everything from fitting in the tiny airplane seats to a more focused worry about not wanting my body to be imposed on the people around me (no one likes to sit next to a heavy person on a plane, no one).  The days of empty seats on flight are all but gone and the seats, as they were on our Delta flight from JFK to SEA were uber close together and there was little leg room in economy class.  Now I comfortably sit in the middle seat while Charlie sits in the window (his preference).  I had cheese and crackers on the plane coming out (airplane meal) that was just the right size.  Overall, flying is now ok.

The holidays prove to be a bit more challenging but my family has been very accommodating.  I did have a first though- we went out to a beautiful dinner Saturday night at a local Italian place and my dinner, three small medallions of beef in a Gorgonzola sauce with some penne was amazing- I had one piece of beef and a few pieces of pasta and that was it for me.  Got to share the rest with Papa Towne.  I left a lot of the past on my plate though.  When the server came at the end of the meal he asked why I didn't finish (implying that something may be wrong) but I shared that I had WLS and I ate and enjoyed what I could.  That shut him up.

The one thing I wanted to do while I was home was make Forgotten Kisses with Mom but we ran out of time so I made them myself the last day we were in Seattle.  The weather was perfect for making the fluffy confections (dry and cool).  They came out perfect :-).

Charlie and I were also able to go to Golden Gardens on the Sound the last day and caught this beautiful moment at the park.  It was cold and sunny, perfect.

I was reminded of how much traveling and the holidays are about food.  I seem to have broke even, not gaining or losing over the holiday trip and last few days here as we have moved into 2015.  I was able to enjoy and not stress out too much and enjoy eating out and holidays favorites like Grandma's Salmon Log!

Charlie and I had an easy trip home, thanks to the tail wind and made it back to Brooklyn in time for New Years Eve dinner and in bed by midnight.

I have been thinking about resolutions and new goals for 2015.  2014 what such a huge year, transformative. This weekend I got a haircut, always a good way to kick off and this morning I cleaned out my closet.  I had slowly been clearing out the clothes that are just too big.  This morning, I purged the remainder- in one pile: clothes to donate, in the other pile: clothes I love than I want to alter or that I will wear big.  I have to admit I was hit with a HUGE wave of anxiety and the though that rushed through my head was, this will be so expensive to replace when I gain the weight back, maybe I should just keep it in a box.  Yo-yo mentality.  I am letting the clothes go.  I will take them to the Salvation Army next weekend and hopefully it will go to good use.  Lots of new clothing to replace the old and I look forward to losing the last 50 pounds this year and reaching my personal goal.  Even if it takes me a year.

Goals for 2015
1. Drink lots of water.
2. Take my vitamins.
3. Lose my last 50 lbs.
4. Do something for myself once a week that is not food related.
5. Be kind to myself.

Here's to a great new year!  Cheers!