March 20, 2011

Cancer, Shmancer...

It's no secret that I've always been a bit of a hypochondriac. I used to scour my mom's health handbooks, trying my best to diagnose even my smallest complaints, then with the invention of Web.MD, one almost doesn't need a doctor anymore (well at least for the diagnosis part). Jokingly in the past, I've diagnosed myself with cancer about 2 dozen times, I guess my hope was that if I told myself it was the worst thing possible, that it would never actually become that. Well, unfortunately my worst case scenario has become my reality, however fortunately it hasn't been as bad as I imagined. Although, it's still a bit of a blow when you realize that you are no longer invincible.

So everything started going downhill when I miscarried at the end of last September. I never intended to blog about this,especially since my blog isn't private,but I do believe its an important piece of the whole story. Anyhow, I can honestly say it was one of the hardest things I believe I have ever experienced. I was 12 1/2 weeks, and already showing. (In my family, we are lucky if we can make it a week or two after implantation without showing.) Anyhow, I had had 2 ultra-sounds previous, and everything was perfect, saw the heartbeat, all the blood work was normal, etc. Then I started lightly bleeding, and got very concerned, I immediately called and the doctor got me in by noon only to confirm by then what I already knew. I was devastated, mostly because by that time, you think you are safe, and you are really planning, and that baby already seems a part of your life. It broke my heart to tell Calvin, who seemed to understand and was so excited to have a sibling.

Anyhow, at first it seemed like I was having weird symptoms that I assumed might be related to the hormones of pregnancy or the miscarriage. My hair changed, became dull, lifeless, and wouldn't curl at all. It seemed no matter what I did, it looked like crap. My sister will even admit this is true. I blamed the product my hairdresser used to dye my hair with, and tried washing my hair a million billion times to get rid of it, but to no avail. Then, about a week before Thanksgiving I came down with Strep. That same week I started feeling shaky all over, like I've had too much caffeine. I assumed it was a weird symptom of the strep and tried not to worry about it too much. Within a couple of weeks after that, as I'm still feeling shaky, I realized that I felt intolerably hot all the time, which I may mention is the polar opposite of what I normally feel like. I spent the winter walking around in a 3/4 length sleeve jacket and was sweating. At first I thought it was my special poor man's mittens, the kind that don't have fingers. I thought wow, it's amazing how warm I feel by just wearing these gloves, but it soon dawned on me it was not my special gloves. I only wish they would work that good now! Lastly, I lost about 8 pounds between Thanksgiving and Christmas, which I thought was pretty awesome. I didn't mind that symptom. So, a week before Christmas, I finally decided to google all my symptoms. And the thing that came up that seemed to make the most sense was Graves disease. Not only did it describe my current symptoms, but I learned that Graves which causes a hyperthyroid often causes miscarriages as well as severe mental birth defects in a fetus. So as I'm reading, it also mentions that Graves is often associated with a lump on your throat, otherwise known as a goiter. So I immediately reach for my throat to feel, and holy shit what do you know? I've got a ginormous lump on my throat. I do not know how I was so oblivious.

I get in to see a doctor the next day. He immediately does all sorts of blood tests, and then sends me over for an ultra-sound. You have to love those ultra sound techs, that absolutely don't breath a word about what they are seeing. Everything, moved super fast from here. I got in to see the Endocrinologist, by the following Wednesday, who unsurprisingly to me, diagnosed me with Graves Disease. So big points for Rani here, for making an accurate diagnosis! Anyhow, for those of you that don't know what Graves Disease is, it's an auto-immune disorder of the thyroid. Technically, not curable, but the symptoms all go away by having the thyroid removed or destroyed with radiation. Now, typically Graves is most commonly treated with radiation, but because I had so many nodes in my lump, they were a bit more concerned. They did warn me that it could also be cancer, but that the chances were low,. They honestly felt it was just a toxic goiter. Anyhow, his recommendation was a complete Thyroidectomy just to be safe. I was game, only because the idea of radiation scares me. My surgeon, Dr. Garner, made room for me the following week, and within 2 weeks of first going to the doctor, I was having surgery.

The surgery wasn't bad at all, of course I don't remember a thing, but recovery was super mild. My darling little guy said several cute prayers for me, when I got home. "Tank you for the dockers not to cut mommies head off and dat mommy could get better." Did he really thinking I was getting my head cut off? I'm not sure, but I'm thankful the doctors didn't cut my head off too.

The hardest day came when pathology came back a week later, and I get the phone call, where all I hear is "Blah blah blah blah, carcinoma. So it's a good thing we got it out!" What? Did you really just tell me that I have cancer? "Yup, and its a good thing we got it out!" But what does this mean? What do I do now? "I'm not sure, probably nothing, but your endocrinologist will follow up with you at this point." Um, ok, click. Ba ha ha, tears more tears. I am messaging my family, I have cancer...what kind they ask? "I don't know. All I heard was carcinoma. I'm all cancery!" Anyhow, I realized I hung up, and didn't know squat, and was a mess by this time, so I had my sister call back and pretend to be me so she could write it all down. So she finds out that I have a follicular variant of a multi-nodular papillary thyroid wonder why I didn't understand what the nurse said.

So now my worst fear comes to light in more than one way. I find out I have Thyroid cancer, and number two...I get to do radiation. It's one of those things that your damned if you do and damned if you don't. I love medicine, and I feel very blessed to live in a time where we have so many options, but I am not oblivious to the fact that some options, are merely a slightly better scenario then doing nothing at all. Radiation is a very successful treatment for thyroid cancer, and they do consider me cured at this point, but I do have reservations as to what my future holds. You can't help to be concerned when you walk into go get your radiation pill, the guy helping me unscrews the lid on a giant containment unit, and you see all this dry ice smoke come out. Immediately an alarm sounds, and he uses these two foot long tongs to hand me a tiny single pill from the containment unit and says, "Don't worry about the alarm, that is just to let us know that there has been a radiation leak (your pill)." With raised eyebrows, I just give him a skeptical look, and think seriously, I'm suppose to swallow this thing?! "Swallow it and leave now," he says. Gulp. Ok done, there is no going back now. And I go home to live 3 days in isolation. So tell me...if its not safe for anyone to be around me, what exactly is it doing to the rest of me??? I never could get a straight answer about that by the way.

For those of you that don't know, my dad actually had Thyroid cancer before I was born, and was treated with surgery. It reoccurred 20 years later while I was in high school and that time he was treated with the radiation. Dr. Garner (who also knew my dad)says that we actually have 2 different kinds, however the coincidence does seem a bit uncanny.

So, what's done is done. My scan results were good. And for now I'm considered cured. I have been warned I have a type that can reoccur, but fortunately thyroid cancer is very slow growing as well as treatable. They say that if your going to get cancer, this is the one to sign up for. Personally, I'd rather not get any cancer, but what can I do about that now? I hardly missed a beat with all of this, and I honestly feel better than I have felt in a long time. I look forward to a much longer life, cause I'm really not quite ready to go towards the light. I have amazing family and friends. And I feel so fortunate to feel so much love and support. Thank you to everyone for everything!!!

And here is a pretty picture of my Frankenstein scar 2 days after surgery. I have to admit, I was scared, and started looking online for chokers and scarfs, but already 2 months later you can hardly see it!

And Calvin drew me this darling picture to take to the hospital. I love that kid!


Jami said...

Rani--thanks for sharing. I love your outlook on even crappy situations. We are glad you are cured and feeling great!

Becky said...

Love you Rani!!

Jen said...

Hooray for being cured! You're so brave! I would like to know what that pill does too.

Andrea said...

I got caught up reading this after we finished book club. You are amazing, so happy you are better. I promise I am going to email about lunch soon, sorry I am such a slacker.

Erik & Marcie +2 said...

Oh wow Rani, I'm so glad you're ok!! How scary. I'm so sorry about everything. But glad you're ok!

ang :o) said...

thank you for sharing this! i'm so glad you are cured. what a scary thing to go through. hugs.

Chris, Erica, & Avva Kinnersley said...

You are such a strong woman. Love your zest for life and how positive you are. Thanks for being such a great friend to me and such a special part of my life. I love you!