Thursday, December 27, 2012

Achievement: College

I started going to college this summer after not being in school for nine years and it would be at the end of that semester that I started having breathing issues.  It would be on the first day of my second semester that I had the biopsy of the main nodule on my thyroid.  I would be my fourth week of classes to find out I have cancer and my 6th week to get the gland removed.  I would become behind in two of my three classes and have to play catch up with them.  I struggled staying awake and having the energy to do my classwork, but I never gave up even though I felt like my world was falling apart.  I was determined to not allow my cancer to take my future away from me... my dreams and my passion.  I held on tight to those with both hands as I dealt with my cancer and as I continue to deal with it and the aftermath.  I was able to pass my classes while dealing with all of that, the physical, and emotional pains.

I checked my school email account yesterday to see if I got my semester GPA, my overall GPA, and my academic standing... and I was shocked to what I found.  I got on the Dean's List and mind you, I've never been on the honor roll when I was in school, but to get this while dealing with cancer... it just... wow.  To me, this has taught me that even though you are ill, you can still achieve things, great things, and don't let someone tell you otherwise.

My next goal is to get on the Dean's List again next semester!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Supposedly Normal

So... with the chest pains and breathing issues, I think I finally figured out what's wrong: pneumonia.  There's a likely chance that I got fluid in my lungs during my surgery and now months waiting to see if these pains and breathings will go away, it has now became an infection... so in other words, pneumonia.  I have the nausea, bowel issues, the fever, the weakness, the shaking (at times), breathing and swallowing issues, fast heart rate, and chest pains, especially when I breath in.  I was suppose to go to the hospital yesterday, but since Justin's final for school was yesterday, we had to wait until he was done... then his mom took the car to go to work herself.  I had to wait until today to go, so now I'm waiting for him to wake up... take a shower and then we can leave.

Well.. since I never got to finish this post when I originally started it... I'm just going to continue on from here.  I'm now back from the hospital (I went there around 1pm and left at 3:30pm on Thursday) and they found nothing wrong.  We did blood work and a CT scan and with those it showed I had no blood clot and no pneumonia, which I figured I had.  The only thing that did show up was that I had a very small area in the upper part of my left lung, but they said it shouldn't be what's causing my issues.  So what is?  I have to follow up with my family care doctor in four days (actually in five since in four days would be Christmas) and I have no clue what else we are going to do.  I'm at a lost.  I love how the paper they gave me when I was leaving said to get immediate care if I'm having shortness of breath and I'm already dealing with it.  I also wasn't too happy when they gave me the paper and let me go... I wasn't able to read it before I got released and the doctor didn't let me know this information either, for the next few days I'm suppose to avoid doing any physical activities that causes my chest pain to get worse.  I work at Sam's Club as a cashier!  Everything I do will cause it to be worse... I needed a real doctor's note to give to work to excuse me from being absent.

I already called off four days this month.... to note, I only can work two days a week right now, so I have been scheduled five days so far not counting this Saturday.  I can't miss anymore days, but if I go to work I'm afraid I will collapse at work from the chest pain and not being able to breath.  So I don't what to do and I feel like crying.  I went to bed around 9:30-ish and woke up at 4am with feeling hungry and having horrible chest pains, but since I was hungry I had to eat something so decided on some chips.  With opening up the bag, it brought tears to my eyes from the pain and then eating somehow made it worse and also made my stomach sick.  I haven't been able to eat much this week because I keep getting sick to my stomach and then my chest starts hurting too.

I want my life back!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Continuing with Life

So I just finished my semester of college and quite proud of myself since I didn't allow my cancer to take my schooling away from me.  It may have delayed me in turning in my school work on time, but my teachers were understanding thankfully.  I got an A in English (a miracle for me), an A in Environmental Ethics, and a C in College Algebra (which I plan to retake in the future to get my GPA up).  I already signed up for Spring semester classes even though I don't know if I still have cancer and need radioactive iodine treatment... I'm not going to allow this cancer to prevent me from doing everything that I want and need to do.  Though right now it's preventing me to work more hours to due the current issues I'm still having.

I did get my blood work results in the mail, but it seems my iron and B12 are fine though my B12 is a little low in the normal range, so my doctor said it wouldn't hurt to take some B12 vitamins.  Though my MCH, and Carbon Dioxide (total) are both low and I'm not sure what this means, but I'm going to show the results to my ENT and Endocrinologist and see what they say.  I know the carbon dioxide might explain the joint pains and the weakness I have been having though it might be a sign of liver or kidney issues.  I hope not, but it's a possibility.

I had to call off of work three times already this month and hope to not have to again anytime soon, but it's hard to go to work when you're unable to put weight on your legs without falling down.  I have to talk to my doctors about this when I see them next month as that's the soonest I can see them.  I'm hoping to ask my Endocrinologist to put me on Armour as I don't like how Synthroid makes me feel and its side effects.

Though other than dealing with the cancer and its affects on my life, I'm looking forward of the two weeks I have off from work to go see my family and friends in Texas.  I will be able to celebrate a late Christmas with them and my fiance, so I'm really happy about that.  My manager was nice enough to approve it for me and Justin brought our plane tickets to see my family.  I'm also excited about winter break as Justin and I will be working on our comic stuff again once he's done with school this Thursday.

There isn't much else to say that's new in my life other than this though I would like to add that I hope this blog is helping someone else out there.  The main reason for this blog is for me to vent and write out my experiences, but I still hope this is helping or at least spreading the word of thyroid illnesses and diseases... and the need to take care of this gland.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Awareness and Research

Currently I've been dealing with a lot: catching up in school, more health issues, waiting to go back to work, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and medication reactions.  It's hasn't been fun for the most part, but the fiance does make it nice at times.  This matters a lot to me and probably other cancer patients, to have someone there by their side through all of this.  Some people are lucky and have family, friends and/or an SO near them to help them out, but if you have a friend that has cancer (or any diseases for that matter) that seems to be dealing with it on their own, be there for them in any way, you can even at least be a shoulder to cry on.  It will help them a lot.

Anyways, I've been dealing with feeling weak in my muscles (mainly my legs), I walk slower now, I can't deal with the cold, my hip hurts, I'm having chest pains, head pains, right side of my neck is swollen, I'm having issues breathing, overly emotional at times because of medication, and anxiety.  I had an x-ray on my hip due to the pain and issues with laying down at times, but the x-ray came back that nothing was wrong.  I also did blood tests to see if I'm anemic still and if I'm having issues with B12, which could explain a lot of the pains and muscle weakness and I'm waiting on those results.  If those come back normal then something needs to be done with my medication.  I already got adjusted from 125 to 175, but the problem with Synthroid is that it's only a T4 medication and if your body can't make T4 to T3 then you need to take something else on top of Synthroid or switch to something like Armour which is a T4/T3 combo.  I'm waiting to see my Endocrinologist next month to ask for blood tests on Free T4, Free T3, and Reverse T3 instead of the TSH test. This would help adjust your medications better and this would let your doctor see if your body is having issues with T4 converting into T3. 

Some people on the Facebook pages on Thyroid diseases and cancer that I read have said it's been hard to find doctors that will look into T3 issues or prescribe Armour to their patients due to these doctors being misinformed.  One person said they had to switch to five to six different doctors until someone listened to them that Synthroid didn't work for them and wanted to try Armour.  The main problem is there isn't a lot of research going on Thyroid diseases and issues or at least it doesn't seem as some doctors are just playing guessing games with the patients' diagnoses and medication, not all doctors, but what I've heard from others it has happened.  I've heard of people that never get back to close to being their normal self after cancer and this has been going on for 10 to 30 years for some of them. 

I think the reason there isn't as much research is because there is a "cure" for thyroid cancer and some of the other diseases and illnesses like hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism.  Though with so many people still having issues and going years to doctors in hopes to one day feel normal at least for awhile... we need to continue this research and find a better solution.  Also with more people developing thyroid cancer, we need to figure out why it's on the rise... what has changed to cause this?  It can't be always genetics since it seems more people are becoming the first one in the family to get it like myself.  There needs to be also more awareness for this cancer and also the other diseases and illnesses that can come from the gland.

I have learned throughout all of this that I have to do my own research and look to other people that have already experienced this and have been for years to see what I need to do.  I guess, some people do this anyways, but I'm used to doctors knowing what they are talking about.  The research has helped me a lot with my family doctor and she listens to me when I request medication like a muscle relaxer for my neck or blood tests to see if my anemia has gotten worse or if I have an issue with B12.

To the people that never have checked their thyroid or their children's, if you see signs of hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism, which there is a long list since the thyroid affects a lot of systems in your body... get your blood tested for Free T4, Free T3, Reverse T3, and TSH.  It might explain some issues that you have been having and nothing seems to make it better.  Also doesn't hurt to get your thyroid checked every once in awhile since Thyroid cancer doesn't always show signs and symptoms.

Oh and also... I posted a video on youtube: My Dealing with Thyroid Cancer

Monday, December 3, 2012

Surgery Day

The morning of my surgery we were supposed to leave at 6:00am, but left 15 minutes late.  We still should have gotten to the hospital in time, but there was an accident on the highway.  We eventually got to the hospital and then got lost in the building and had to ask for directions to where I needed to go.  I finally got to the area I needed to fill out paperwork and that's when my parents got there.  After that I went to, if I remember correctly, One Day Surgery area, and got my waiting room and my gown.

Most of the day is now hazy because of the drugs, stress, and nervousness.  I remember them taking my blood and giving me stuff through an IV.  Justin held my hand throughout all of that.  The next thing I remember is being pushed down a hallway to my surgery for a minute and then falling back to sleep and then waking up for a few minutes when they pushed my bed into the surgical room.

My surgery was three hours long and after it I woke up from what felt like someone tugging on the nose oxygen tube around my ears.  Since my throat was so dry I asked for something to drink, but the only thing I could have at the time was ice cubes.  I was so out of it that my boyfriend feed me the ice cubes with a spoon and from what my family told me I was being demanding on the sizes of the cubes.  I vaguely remember people telling me to go back to sleep if I'm so tired, but I kept saying I wanted to stay up and talk to everyone.  I guess, I'm very stubborn when I still have the effects of anesthesia.

They told my parents and boyfriend to go to my overnight room and they'll bring me upstairs.  It seemed they forgot about me since it took them hours to get someone to take me to my room.  Eventually they got me to my room and I was met with my parents and Justin.  His parents were in the waiting room as only so many people can stay in the room.  It was weird sitting up in a bed for me, especially with this HUGE wrapping around my neck and a tube with a plastic bag attached to it coming out from underneath the wrapping that was collecting blood and stuff from inside in my neck.  I had to sleepover night with this thing, which was weird.

I talked to everyone and then they left around 9:00pm as visiting hours were over.  Most of the night was fine for me as my roommate was nice and quiet.  It was  funny since the nurses kept coming in for her since they needed to move her, so they were getting all prepared for it... the roommate was all concern about them waking me up.  The one nurse said she was sorry for waking me up and I told her it was okay.  At some point they moved her to her new room on a different floor and I was alone for like an hour or two.  I took this time to call my mom and Justin and figure out what time everyone was coming. 

The woman in the room next to me would not stop yelling and causing problems... walking in the hall making noise, not caring if she's waking up other patients.  In the morning Justin told me that she was doing that a lot while he was visiting me.  She just would not shut up and kept going on and on about what her doctor said this and that,who did not work at that hospital and was not seeing what the doctors and interns where seeing.

Anyways, in the morning some interns came in to take the huge wrapping off of my neck, it seemed the one was showing some of them how to go about it, and the one unwrapping it seemed happy that I had short hair.  I purposely got my hair cut for my surgery since I didn't want my hair get stuck in stitches.  They also had to take the tubing out, which oddly didn't hurt, but it felt so weird.  It turned out they super glued my neck closed instead of using stitches.

Justin came to the hospital first and was able to order my breakfast since it was still hard for me to talk. My nurse came in and told us they will call for someone to get me a wheelchair, so I can leave.  Shortly after that my mom came to the room, but my dad was on the phone interviewing someone for a job, which had been scheduled in advance, so he got stuck with it.  My parents had gotten me a candle from Bath and Body Works that was scent specially for stress relief and then a nice, fake bamboo plant.  We waited and waited for a wheelchair for about an hour to two, but no one came with one.  My dad was leaving that day to go back to Texas, which meant he had to drop my mom off at my sister's and then get to the airport, so they had to leave.

Eventually the main nurse that was dealing with me walked passed my room and noticed I was still there, she seemed upset I was still there too.  She said she will ask again for someone to get me a wheelchair and help me out, but a nurse behind her said she could do it since I had been waiting for so long.  The nurse was nice enough to push me to the parking garage, but not in the garage... I'm not sure if this is normal or not, oh well.  Justin was able to help me walk into the garage and to the car, it wasn't that hard or at least I didn't think so.

I thought maybe the hard part was over with and that now with my new medication it would get me back to normal, but now I'm noticing this is only the beginning.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Two Days Before Surgery

TO NOTE:  Some of this may not be exactly how it happened as the memory can play tricks on you.... so yeah.

The only thing at that moment that I was looking forward to was seeing my parents of the Monday before my surgery.  My mom was talking about once they land they were thinking about having lunch at this local place called Little York Tavern.  They used to live in the area and were missing this place, so they really wanted to have it while they were up here.  So I plotted what time we needed to get up to meet them at the airport to surprise them and everything, but by the time we left we were afraid that we couldn't meet them at the airport.  I had to figure out a new plan, so I started texting my parents as soon as I found out they landed and see if they were going to do lunch still and also what kind of car they were renting.  We got to the food place, parked in their lot far enough from the entrance to not be seen, and waited... waited... and waited until we saw them walking into the tavern.  I waited until they got through the door and then we exited the car, quickly making our way in.  My parents, as usual, went into the bar area to sit and I followed behind them not making a sound.  They were about to sit down and my dad was facing me and I quickly motioned him to not notice me, so I can surprise my mom, who's back was still facing me.  I believe I tapped her shoulder, so she would turn around and she was shocked to see me.  We all hugged, well minus Justin as he's not the hugging type, and we all sat down for lunch.  It was nice and made my day to see my parents just with Justin and me early in the day.

Now I think after that my parents went to their hotel and we went back home, so we can all nap for awhile and get ready for that night as my sister was going to go out to dinner with all of us.  The last time I saw my sister was once during my summer classes and before that was two years... sadly, I've been trying to see her and talk to her, but she's never able to because she's working or partying with friends.  The last time I saw her now was October 5th as she dropped off my mom, so we could take her to the airport and only saw her for like two, maybe three minutes.

I called for reservations for P.F. Changs and then went to Walmart to get my dad a birthday cake since my surgery day is on his birthday and also went to the Hallmark at the Dayton Mall to buy his birthday card.  After that we went to the restaurant and waited to be seated as we were the first ones there.  Some time after, not by much, my sister and parents showed up and sat down in the booth.  The dinner was nice though the conversation seemed mostly about my sister since she never really acknowledge that the main reason our parents were there was because of me and my cancer.  At times I felt like I was forgotten about within the conversation and it kinda hurt me... though luckily my mom was sitting next to me and was talking to me at times.  I know Justin was more annoyed than me about the situation at dinner that night.  I understood that she hadn't seen our parents for along time too, but it would have been nice if she realized they were there mainly for me.  I don't even remember a time at the table she talked to me about my situation or a time that we talked about something other than her.

After dinner Justin and I went over to the hotel that they were staying at, so we can again spend time with it just being the four of us.  I had brought with me the prayer scarf my Godmother (my mom's best friend from 5th grade) had asked her church to make me (it's so pretty I really need to take a picture of it) and the Precious Moment statue I was going to give my mom for Christmas, I figured to give it to her then since I didn't know when I would be down next and also figured my parents can fly it down more safely than I could.  I think we spent four hours or more just chatting with them.  It felt like I never moved out and it felt so nice that I didn't want to leave the room.

The next day mom and I planned to go to Buffalo Wild Wings to have lunch with just the two of us like old times.  Justin was going to drop me off at the hotel room and then my dad was going to drop us off at the food place while he did his own thing.  Before dropping us off though my dad asked me to take him to my workplace, Sam's Club, to get something and also I had to to get paperwork from there, I believe.  I can't remember now.  I told some of my co-workers of what was going on.  It was nice to see my fellow workers concern over my health and well-being and hearing their get well wishes.

Then my dad dropped us off to the food place and sat in the booths like usual...  Justin and I go to this Buffalo Wild Wings at least once or twice a week, so everyone there pretty much knows us.  I think we spent two to three hours there since it had been a VERY long time my mom and I were able to do this.  Also it was nice to not have the guys around, nothing wrong with them, but sometimes the topics you want to get into or stay on never happen, especially when it comes to my dad (he changes topic to topic so fast).  At this point I was telling my mom how much I wanted my dad to stay an extra day, so he can see me the rest of the day of my surgery and also the next day when I'm more awake.  I even talked about Justin and I paying a fourth each of the changing flight price.  At this time she said she would try talking to him later about it.

Once dad picked us up and Justin met up with us at the hotel, we went to my sister's place, so my parents can see where she lives and her cat.  Then we went to the TGI Friday's in her area for dinner and again dinner was okay, but the conversation wasn't the greatest.  My dad was playing around on his iPhone and my sister was mainly talking about her situation.  This is now the day right before my surgery, so I'm getting nervous and upset.  Luckily Justin noticed this and started comforting me by scratching my head (this usually calms me down) and also my mom and dad noticed, asking if I was okay.  I started crying at one point and Justin just hugged me, letting me cry on him.

After dinner... we went back to the hotel (minus my sister) and at one point my mom talked to my dad about staying the extra day.  From what I remember originally he said no until he heard how Justin and I were willing to help pay for him to stay the extra day including paying for the hotel stay since this showed him how much I wanted and needed him to be there.  Also there was the situation of my sister being mad about dinner how all he did was being on his iPhone, so all of this made him decide to stay the extra day and planned Wednesday night to be a dinner with him, my mom, and my sister.  He even went as far as booking a cheaper hotel room in the same area as they were before, so they were still closer to my sister's area (I think originally he was thinking about booking it closer to my hospital) to make it possible for them to do this, but it never happened because of my sister.

After the hotel visit, Justin and I went back home, so we could pack up and set our alarms, we had to leave the house around 6am.  It took me forever to fall asleep, but eventually I did.

... and the News

After getting the news and scheduling my appointment, I tried to call my mom, but couldn't get a hold of her.  This was understandable since she was on medicine that made her sleep most of the day.  I then tried to call my dad and again I failed.  It was 9:15am their time, so he was at work.  Justin decided to take me to the Jack-in-the-Box that just opened in our state (and happened to be the first one in Ohio) that very day.  This was a big deal to me since I used to live in Texas and been missing it for a long time.  This was his way of calming me down, though I was calm, but also I was still in shock.

Sometime after ordering my food and sat down at a booth my dad returned my call.  It was painful to tell my dad I had cancer.  I wish there was a right way, a true right way to explain over the phone that you have cancer to your parent.  I told my dad when my appointment was and he said he would look into plane tickets, hotel room, and talk to my sister about picking up my mom from the airport.  I expressed to my dad how I wanted him to come up as well and thought it would be best for my mom if he came.  For those that don't know me, I always put others before me, especially when I'm dealing with a major issue myself.

Most of the day is a blur to me now.  I remember we went home and told Justin's parents the news with his dad's reaction of yelling "OH MY GOD!"  I eventually told my mom, my siblings, and after getting to tell them I posted it on Facebook and Plurk so the rest of the family and friends can see the news.

When I was on the phone with my mom I learned that my dad was able to come, but was leaving the day after my surgery since he had to work.  This was fine to me until the next day when I got an email from my ENT's secretary asking to move my appointment a week earlier.  I quickly replied asking why we need to move it and explain my parents already bought their tickets to fly up from Texas.  It turned out that someone had the cancer far worse than me and needed a 12 hour surgery and she asked me if we could move it back a day.  I was not going to block someone from having surgery, especially someone that needed it more than me and I said I was fine with moving my surgery back a day.

My parents were coming up on Monday, my dad was leaving the Wednesday which is now my surgery date and my mom was leaving Friday.  I told my parents the news and my dad went to see about changing his leave date to Thursday, but was going to cost too much.  My parents are dealing with a lot of money issues from their move, so I understood, so no judging people.

The next week and a half was spent with Justin and me preparing for the surgery... getting me clothes that would be easier for me to put on afterwards, food to eat, a couch pillow with arms, and probably other things that I needed.  I also spent a lot of time on the internet on support group sites reading about other people's experience and talking to them.  Throughout this week I was mostly fine, but it wasn't until the week of that I started getting nervous.