Friday, February 22, 2013

Learning to Care: How We Made It Through Cancer

So... I said I was going to do this on Thursday, but I was asleep most of the day and then had an appointment.  Sorry!  I'm going to make this a Friday event thing on the blog now.  If you have a story to share just email me.

This story is from Cameron about his wife's and his story on their struggle with life and cancer.  I think it's a story that needs to be shared.

On November 21st, 2005, my wife and I started a journey that would prove to be one of the most difficult challenges we’d ever face. This is the day that my wife was diagnosed with cancer, malignant pleural mesothelioma. It was also the moment in my life when I was no longer just a husband. I became a caregiver for someone who had cancer. I wasn't necessarily prepared for this kind of a job, but I did everything that I could to be there for my wife. It came at a strange time in our lives. We were just starting to figure out how to parent a newborn, our first and only. Our daughter Lily was born just three months before my wife's diagnosis.

I started my job as a caregiver the moment that my wife found out she had cancer. I was with her in the doctor's office, and the look on her face sent me into a panic. I didn't know what we were going to do as the doctor talked about treatment options. There were three different places that we could go, one of which was a specialist named Dr. David Sugarbaker in Boston. My wife was too shocked and paralyzed by fear to consider any of these options, and I knew that I had to make a decision for my family. I turned to the doctor and said, “Get us to Boston!”  Soon after, my wife would begin treatment there, and there would be a lot of questions about how we were going to survive as a family.

The next few months were chaotic for my family. I was still working or at least, trying to work. I had so much stress from the bills, taking care of Lily while also taking care of my wife that I wasn't really sure how I got through those first few months. I wasn't at my best all the time, and despite my best efforts to stay positive I often imagined the worst case scenario, my wife passing away and leaving me a broke, widowed single father with a daughter who would never really know her mother. These were the darkest of days, and more than once I broke down crying under the pressure.  However, despite having these weak moments I never let Heather see my fears.  I knew she needed me to be strong for her.

My wife's family is extremely caring. They came through for us at a time when we needed them most. Not only did they provide financial support for us during a really hard time but they helped take care of Lily, and offered kind words of encouragement to help us get through the rough times.

If you are a caregiver in a similar situation, take these lessons from someone who has been there before.  Don’t’ be afraid or ashamed to ask for help.  Allow yourself to have bad days, these are inevitable and even necessary at times.  Use every resource available to you, and above all else never, ever give up hope for a better tomorrow.

After months of grueling mesothelioma treatment, Heather came out the other side cancer-free, and has remained so for nearly seven years.  We hope that by sharing our experiences, we can help inspire all those currently in their own cancer battles today. 

Cameron has a blog of his own that if any of you care to read more about what his and his family have been dealing with and continue to deal with, here's the link:

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

New Thursday Idea

So... I'm doing something new to my blog , which came to me when I was contacted about posting a story about someone else's struggle as a caregiver to a cancer patient, who happened to be their wife.  Some people have blogs and/or awareness website, while others don't have the time or ability to keep up with a blog or a website, and no matter which cancer, disease, or disorder they or someone they know has, it needs awareness.  Each person has their own struggle story and have different ways to handle and grow from it.  In my way to help others, every Thursday (well if I get a story that week) I will post a blog entry on here of other people's stories about their struggles, hope, sorrow, pains, anything they want to share.  It doesn't have to be from a thyroid cancer patient either, but if you are one, you are welcome to share your story as there are no two thyroid cancer stories that are the same.

The first story will be posted tomorrow as soon as I wake up... so it might be around 5pm (eastern time) as my sleep schedule is messed up.  

Sunday, February 3, 2013


So it's been a month since I last posted in my blog and sorry about that.  On January 7th, I started up my spring semester and this time I think I over did it with my classes as I have four classes with each having three credit hours.  My classes for this semester are Cultural Anthropology, Foundation of Business, English 2, and Computer Concepts and Applications.  Lately I haven't had much me time, especially since last week and this week I'm visiting family while I have a lot of homework.  I should be reading right now, but figured I let people know that read this that I am still here and alive. 

So... what's been going on with my health lately?  Last month I went to see my Endocrinologist for the first time and also went to my ENT to see my results from my blood work.  My TSH was at .026, so my ENT lowered my synthroid to 150 mcg and the chest pains have lessen, but I'm still having breathing issues and I can't take deep breaths without it hurting.  My Thyroglobulin went from .4 in November to .5 in December, which isn't a huge worry since sometimes they will miss thyroid tissues that try to rebuild and also I swear I have a thyroglossal duct cyst under my chin, which might be making the numbers go up.  I got a copy of my pathology report from my surgery and turns out they don't know exactly what kind of cancer I had, but narrowed it down to four rare and uncommon types with one of them being Tall-cell thyroid cancer.  Tall-cell doesn't always react to Radioactive Iodine (RAI) treatment, which isn't good, of course, but because there's a chance of it my Endo wants me to have RAI (though she kept saying my numbers are good).  I was told I didn't need to worry about my thyroglobulin numbers until they hit 1 or 2, so I'm not doing RAI until that happens.

Oh... and one thing that pissed me off about my Endo... She was talking about doing TSH and Free T4 tests on me and I asked her about Free T3 and Reverse T3 testing.  Her answer to T3 was that cancer patients don't need T3.  WTF!?  I had to explain to her that 125, 175, and 150 of the synthroid were doing nothing for me and they all felt the same.  She was surprised and gave me a small dosage, 5 mcg, of Cytomel, which I'm supposed to take once a day, and still wouldn't do a blood test.  The problem with T3 medication is that it only lasts you for four hours a day and then after that, you are just relying on your body.  I can feel the difference when my body has the T3 medication in it, especially at the two hour mark, but once it's gone I feel horrible.  I know the 5 mcg is too low for me since there isn't as big of a difference between how I'm now normally am and when I have the medication.  Also when I brought up T3 right away she said she wouldn't put me on Armour... so red flag there, so I'm going to be looking for a new Endo and when I talk to the front desk my first question is 'are they known for giving out Armour or do they refuse to give people that?'

I see my ENT in March, so I'll be asking him to do a Free T3 and Reverse T3 blood test and if he won't I will go to my PCP since I know she'll do it for me.  Oh speaking of blood tests... I've been trying to get my mom and sister to check out their thyroids since they have a lot of signs and issues that can be related to the thyroid.  Well my sister goes to see her doctor, but I guess, she saw the nurse practitioner instead... my sister asked about checking her thyroid and the NP just gave her a request for the lab to do TSH.  I got angry.  I think I was yelling about it outside of the building over it.  TSH alone does crap to see if there is a thyroid issue and that's basic common sense for doctors even my PCP and her nurse know that.  The results from TSH, Free T3, and Free T4 are compared to find out for sure what's wrong with a patient or if they need more testing done for like auto-immune diseases.  Justin understood why I was so angry, but my mom and sister were like 'If something shows up on the TSH test they will probably do more testing'... I kept trying to explain to them that's not how it works since TSH is NOT checking the thyroid, but the pituitary gland and its reactions to the how much of your hormones the thyroid is producing and even this test alone can show things are okay when they aren't.

Okay.. I think that's enough for today as I really, really need to do school work.