Saturday, January 31, 2009

my (very brief) thyroid cancer story

This is my less than ordinary journey through papillary thyroid cancer. Papillary thyroid cancer is known as “the best” type of thyroid cancer to have—basically because it’s a ‘garden’ variety cell and is well differentiated—meaning that it’s more like a normal cell then a poorly differentiated one. It’s also usually very slow growing. But not all papillary behaves so cordially. First of all, there are several subtypes of papillary and a few of those can be a bit more difficult to treat than just plain old papillary.

There is the possibility that papillary can, over time, change into a different, more aggressive cell type then what it started out as. Like any other cancer, there is the chance that it can spread—even though these numbers are pretty low, it does happen.So, without getting into every little detail of my experience like how many lymph nodes were affected (ok, so there were quite a few) what my thyroglobin level (which in my case is the cancer blood level) was and is now—it’s not a zero, YET—you can assume that it’s been an atypical experience.

I’m not sharing all the minutia, because besides select friends and family, who really wants to read a dictated report of your trip to Dr. X, Y & Z anyway? This is about the process of healing, snapshots of choosing to live a life above cancer and the cast of characters that support me along the way.

Friday, January 30, 2009

sharing good news!

So, I’ve had a turn of events… just as I was gearing up for radiation it was decided by my doctors not to do it (after reviewing tests)! I do still have a level of cancer that is detectable on a blood test, but the doctors at Sloan Kettering feel that the level is low enough to not treat and it should, in theory remain stable for a long time. I take a drug (well it’s a slightly increased dose of synthroid—which is a thyroid replacement hormone) so that I am a wee bit hyperthyroid. Keeping me a little hyperthyroid actually suppresses the cancer and creates an environment that the cancer does not like to be in—meaning that it is a very effective therapy in and of itself. Ahh, the “joys” and confusion of thyroid cancer!

I'm overwhelmed with a mixture of emotions. I was ready to get every inkling of cancer out of my body. But, at the same point, I really trust the doctors and don’t want to do radiation flippantly. And of course, it’s really nice not to have the radiation—which does carry negative side effects. If my level remains stable, I will formally be in a remission! I HAD to ask my doctor if I could have another child and he said that if things look good in 6 months, YES! So, that's is something nice to hope for.

In the meantime, I have questions for my doctor brewing in my brain. I’m going to store them up for my appointment in six months. I know all the main stuff—it’s just my crazy brain that is thinking of all kinds of ancillary thoughts. I am not quite over that stage yet, I haven’t been able to put the cancer out of my mind yet, but I will.

So, here begins a new blogging chapter—so far I’ve toggled between cancer, motherhood and other aspects of life. But now, I hope there will be less cancer news/talk. I will always be grateful for what cancer has taught me and aware of the impact that it has on my life. Thank-you everyone for your support and I hope you’ll keep reading as I continue to find my grace...

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

making sense of it

My treatment has commenced. This week involves three days in New York for tests and pre-treatment work. It’s a three week “process” and I am nearing the end of week one.

On Tuesday I witnessed the inauguration of Barack Obama in the Sloan Kettering Nuclear Medicine waiting room. To be trite, it was hopeful, moving…. And it wasn’t only for the evident progress of our country and the historical significance of this day. While all eyes were glued to CNN, a Sloan Kettering motorcade paraded through the hospital. The entourage included pediatric cancer patients, their secret service agents (nurses), and a homemade white house and presidential mobile built on radio flyers. We were transported from our own fears as we looked into the eyes of these brave children. We held back tears, so that we appeared strong. We waved and clapped to our dignitary patients, and when they were gone we could cry. No matter who you voted for, the election of President Obama is evidence to every patient “that all things are possible to those who believe” Mark 9:23

President Obama’s work and inherited problems are burdensome. Our industries and infrastructures are reddened with malignancies. As the children marched away, celebrating and encouraging this new president, I pray for what he can do for them. I trust in the conception of a better health care system, more money to be directed to notoriously lower funded cancers (sadly many of these are childhood cancers) and that with God beside him, Obama can give our children (especially our dignitaries) hope.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

a new year, and the new plan

The holidays have a great way of distracting me. It comforted me to think, “I can deal with my health stuff after the holidays...” At least I had the holidays to consume my thoughts and my energy. But I came back to work on Monday morning with a foggy feeling like I forgot something. At work, I am catapulted back into my life—and remember what I forgot while on my siesta—there are emails that remind me about the troubled economy, my to-do lists, and little scratchy notes about Sloan Kettering. The holidays can no longer distance me from my reality.

A nice reality on the first Monday of the New Year has to be the Low Iodine Diet (LID). AHHH, just while every other diet crazed person is doing the same, I too I am following the herd. This is the first time ever that I’ve been on a New Year diet—but this of course is no ordinary diet—you can’t stray. But, this is my THIRD time on the LID diet (first time for treatment, second for testing, and third for this treatment). I am comfortable with all the prep work/cooking involved and sometimes I really get into it. I even now, have a few favorite LID recipes and a semi-permanent LID cookbook with my other cookbooks (
I hope to remove this imposter soon).

This diet is a medical diet and it’s used to prepare and starve my body of iodine, so thyroid cancer cells will avidly consume radioactive iodine during treatment. It usually lasts for three weeks, but because I’m crazy, I do it for four weeks. I think I do it so I can prove to myself that I can do it, and because I want those thyroid cells to be STARVING for iodine. To read more about the LID go to
this post.

One thing to be said for this diet is that when you are on it, you really feel that you are doing something. You feel in control of your cancer and it’s kind of fun to think of the cells starving and then getting tricked into gobbling up radioactive food instead. It makes each day on the diet easier to think on this.

Ok, so early in December was the last time I even mentioned the "C" word, so what’s the deal/ plan? Since I’m on the LID, there is in fact a plan! I decided to move my care down to Memorial Sloan Kettering after a lot of back and forth—mostly due to money and contract confusion with my insurance company.

When I decided to move my care down there, I thought I would have to pay $3,500—but to my surprise, insurance came through on Dec 30th and they are paying for everything at MSK, at least for now. In addition, a very kind soul offered her apartment in New York for me to use as I wish over the three testing/treatment period. The amazing thing is that I’ve never met the owner of this apartment, but she heard my story and wanted to help.

I am blow away by the grace of God and the intervention His will on my situation—the compassion of a stranger and the great turn of events with my insurance company. What gifts I have received, worries elevated, and spirit renewed!

Friday, January 2, 2009

my new year wish

My wish is for peace, both for me and for anyone else or any thing that is trying to achieve it. If I could obtain true peace, 2009 will be a success. I constantly fight anxiety and I'm tired of it. So, peace in '09 it is.

Jeff, Owen and I spent a very special first day of the year together. We went to Vermont to cross country ski/snowshoe with a pulk (sled) for Owen. It was COLD, and I thought about sissing out because my mother-in-law reported that conditions were arctic.

The cold wasn't too bad because the place that we went has beautiful trails through thick forest, so you are protected from the wind. Best of all, it was sunny and all the trees were dusted with powdery snow. Owen loves the pulk. This picture is actually from last year, but you can get the idea.

This year was different because I took a tumble on a hill, right onto my tailbone and Owen laughed HARD. I don't think he would have really gotten that giggle last year! Also, Jeff had to pull about ten pounds more of Owen!

I left Vermont feeling less anxious and ready for 2009--so happy for my time with my boys, the glow of exercise and the peacefulness of nature. Wishing you all a most blessed of New Years!

new year's eve party

I threw a New Year's Eve party for Owen. We even had a few presents I left over from Christmas. One of these presents was a cardboard house that I decorated late into the night on Dec 30--I painted it, and it was so rewarding, I just couldn't stop.

On New Year's Eve we awoke to the most enchanting snow fall. Jeff was working until Owen's nap time, so it was just me and my geezer for our New Year's party. I ordered a special gelatto cake and Chinese food, both of which were delicious. I was proud of my decorated home. I hung streamers from the ceiling the night before...

But most of all, I so enjoyed this special time with Owen. He was such an important part of my year. It's funny that when I thought about MY year, many of my thoughts were about his--let's just say, "on his behalf." We toasted with sparkling cider with over a dozen cheers.

And after he was tucked in bed, Jeff and I went to a party at a friend's across the street. It was just perfect.