Thursday, November 9, 2017

as the saying goes, " the proof is in the pudding", or in my case, it is under my shirt

yesterday i had an appointment with the  plastic surgeon that did my breast cancer reconstruction. i was under the impression that he would release me, as my general surgeon had done  when i saw him last month. my plastic surgeon used to have a small practice with  a very friendly, homey type atmosphere. whenever i had an appointment i would bring some cookies that i had made for the plastic surgeon and his staff. i found out that he liked my macadamia nut/white chocolate chunk cookies the best, so for the past several times i have seen him, those are the ones that i made and took to his office. my doctor has since moved into a larger practice, with several other practitioners. it is a nice practice, but not quite as friendly as the old place used to be. still, i made the cookies and gave them to the doctor and his nurse- the only people that i knew in this new practice. as i said, i thought that this was going to be my last appointment with the plastic surgeon. as it turned out, i have to see him again in a year, which is not too bad. i do not have to get tests, blood work,etc, when i go see him.so really no stress anxiety associated with these visits.  basically, the doctor just wants to check with me to make sure that i am not having any problems.

my doctor was very pleased with my areola/nipple tattoos. he had been encouraging me to get them for the past year and a half. i was only too happy to relate to him how much they had changed my life in a very positive way. instead of seeing just the two large scars on my chest, i now see something that looks closer to what i used to look like. he was so impressed with the appearance of my tattoos, that he asked my permission to take photographs. you can not tell that it is me, by the way, as the photos are only of my chest area.

so i got dressed and was checking out when a new staff member approached me. she told me that her sister had also had  bilateral mastectomies, and had been debating about getting the tattoos. her sister had seen the program about 3D areola/nipple tattoos on the today show. she wanted to go to vinnie myers ( the person in the today show segment, and the person who did my tattoos). the staff member said "  i would like to ask you something unusual  and feel free to say no if it would make you feel uncomfortable." what she asked me was would i consider showing her sister ( turns out she worked in this office,too) my tattoos? without even thinking about it too much, i said " why, sure!".after i checked out, i was to meet the staff member and her sister in the room where my photos were taken.

i followed her to the room, and her sister was already there waiting. we said a quick hello, and then i unbuttoned my shirt and showed her my chest. now, i am not in the habit of flashing people. in fact, only a very few  people ( mostly doctors) have seen my beautiful tattoos, but this felt like the right thing to do. i talked to her and told her how much getting those tattoos  had helped me . having that procedure has been a huge part of my healing process. i happened to have one of vinnie's cards in my purse. i gave the business card  to her and after we talked for a little while longer, i told her to go ahead and call for  her appointment. i could tell that she just needed a little nudge in the right direction. the proof is in the pudding, or in my case, under my shirt. every woman is different, though. what is right for me, may not be right for someone else. but i feel that i helped someone out and it felt good. as i walked by the receptionist's desk, several of the staff stopped what they were doing and  smiled at me. one woman waved and another gave me the thumbs up. perhaps it was not such a strange thing for me to do after all.

i also realized that i never made cookies for my general surgeon. coincidence? i think not.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

"rocks and waters,etc, are words of God, and so are men. we all flow from one fountain Soul. all are expressions of one Love. " quote by john muir

having had cancer twice, i have often wondered " why me?". not why did i get cancer twice, but why did i survive when others i have known have not?  i suppose that you could call this survivors guilt. i have read a little about this lately, and i really did not think about it that much until recently. having a serious disease, like cancer, is somewhat like peeling an onion. the first layers are the early days- diagnosis, treatment, aftercare. i call them  the mechanical part of the process. while this part does require some thought and study, it seems to occupy a different part of  one's  brain. one can make these decisions rather unemotionally or rationally, without a great deal of self reflection.

the next part of "peeling the onion" is realizing that in having had this disease, one's  life has changed forever. there is no going back to what was a more innocent and carefree time. of course, i did not realize this until later on. some of the things that i dealt with before cancer seemed so important, so earth shattering, but in comparison to cancer, they were pretty inconsequential.

after a period of self reflection, and trying to answer the question of "where do i go from here?" i came  to the heart of the "onion". why did i survive? not that i am complaining in any way, but so many others- wonderful, kind, productive, intelligent, important, young,etc, people have not survived cancer. i do not think that anyone can really answer this question. i am very grateful for still being here. i am grateful for the time that i get to spend with my family and friends.

nature is very important to me. i seek solace in being outside. the mountains where i live are as important to me as the air that i breathe. i especially like the part of the above quote from john muir, -"we all flow from one fountain Soul". i believe that everything in this world is connected. i was fortunate enough to be able to see the orionid  meteor shower last week. i awoke at 5am and decided to go stand on our front steps to see if i could spot  any meteors. i really did not expect to be that lucky , but i was fortunate to see about a dozen or so.the orinoid meteor shower is caused by the earth passing through  little bits of debris from  halley's comet. i remember seeing halley's comet back in the 1980's. my husband and i took our daughter, who was only a baby, up to the parkway to get a better view. i see this as a connection between the major event of over 30 years ago, one that i will never forget, and the smaller celestial event that  i witnessed last week.

for whatever reason, i am still here. nothing in life  is certain, but i am thankful, if puzzled, as to "why me." i almost feel like i should accomplish great things now, but i can not imagine what that would be. i am, as i feel a lot of cancer patients are, more aware of my life. i am grateful and will try to make the best of my time here on this wonderful and beautiful earth.


Sunday, October 15, 2017

"so comes snow after fire. and even dragons have their endings." from the hobbit by j.r.r. tolkein

do dragons really have their endings? this quote from the hobbit has been my mantra during the past two years as a breast cancer survivor. ( since this is breast cancer awareness month, i will focus on this rather than my thyroid cancer.) i have talked about my body being on auto pilot during the diagnosis, testing, surgeries, and chemotherapy that i have  had to endure. really, now comes the challenging part. how to deal with the side effects of the treatment phase along with the anxiety that is partially caused by the  every six month testing.

i have tried to be honest about the PTSD, especially the anxiety, that i am having to deal with. along with this, i have had severe muscle and joint pain from the chemotherapy drug that i will have to take for another two and one-half years. there have been other side effects from this drug- an estrogen blocking drug- that i will not expound upon. my physician assures me that taking this drug  is a necessary part of the treatment for breast cancer. being a pharmacist, i am  familiar with the side effects- of course it is very different when you are the patient. it is a struggle sometimes figuring out ways to deal with the numerous side effects left over from the chemotherapy as well. "chemo brain" is very real, folks. i have definitely noticed a difference in my ability to remember names, certain places, and probably the most disconcerting thing is to be in the middle of a sentence and forget a simple word. sometimes i wonder if this is what some people who have had a stroke feel like.

so, this firestorm of events happened to me. i have had to deal with several  side effects that i thought i would never have to deal with. i have had to be creative in facing many challenges. as i see it though, every dark cloud has a silver lining, so to speak. i have been able to retire from work  a couple of years earlier than i had previously planned on. i  decided to enjoy my life and do some things that i have always wanted to do. actually, i am pretty proud of myself for putting myself out there- making new friends, doing my crafts, spending more time with my grandchildren and my children. sometimes i think that i am being selfish. it has been almost 10 months since i retired, and basically, i have just been taking care of myself and trying to get better. i would like to be able to do some public service, and i hope to at some point. fatigue is a big issue for me now  as well. i went back to work ( after 8 months medical leave) a few weeks after my last surgery for breast reconstruction. i found that while i could do my job competently, it took every bit of energy that i had to do it. i went home and felt like a wet noodle. for every day i worked, it took at least two days to recover. i also find that  now, just a day outing with friends, or an all day grocery,etc. shopping day wears me out. that tells me that i am not quite up to myself as yet. of course that brings me to the subject of that somewhat overused, but very true, phrase " your new normal".

yes, i have a new normal now. i have side effects that i have to manage. i have made a concerted effort to have a better diet, and to get more rest. those are two simple, but huge things when it comes to improving one's physical and mental health. i am working on getting more exercise. one thing that i have been doing more of is expressing gratitude. i am truly grateful for my family, friends, and for every good thing that comes my way. even the simplest things in life can bring joy and gratitude. i think that by having this mind set, i am showing appreciation for my world and changing my attitude to a more positive one. honestly, if you think happy, you can be happy. i promise that i am not going all "Pollyanna" on you, but the mind is like a computer- it can be reprogrammed.

so some snow came after my firestorm. what keeps me going, my mantra, is that " even dragons have their endings." i am hoping one day that will be the case for me.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

"living for tomorrow, only takes away today. can we be happy like children, they're not afraid to lose their way; and if they walk in the wrong direction, they will never go astray;...cause when i sing with a heart of a lion, nothing can stand in my way. ... it takes my fears away." lyrics from heart of a lion, by alex boye

first of all i would like to thank my son dylan,  for introducing me to the music of alex boye. if you have never listened to his song " lemonade" you should. it was my theme song during my treatment for breast cancer. i still listen to the song fairly often, and i always get teary eyed when i come to the part in the song when he sings " you were saved for a reason". i will admit that i write this blog partly as therapy for myself. but a major motivating factor in writing about my treatment, my travails, experiences,etc. is to hopefully help others.

in my last blog, i talked about PTSD and other issues that we cancer patients deal with after our diagnosis and treatment phases are completed. there is that " i want to be happy" issue that we all deal with. cancer took my joy, and i want it back, to paraphrase lucinda williams. happiness does not just drop from the sky, unfortunately; we have to actively seek happiness. one thing that came with my cancer diagnosis, was a deeper  appreciation of my family and friends. i received a lot of love and support from a lot of people. i am eternally grateful for this. even considering this, sometimes happiness is like an elusive bird in the sky. sometimes i can spot it in the sky flying high above me, and sometimes, just sometimes, the bird will come sit on my shoulder.

last night, for instance, that  bird of happiness was sitting on my shoulder. my husband and i attended my grandson's soccer game. my grandson is 5 years old. watching a bunch of 4 and 5 year olds play soccer is just  plain  joyful. sure, they stick to the soccer ball like velcro, but there is lots of bouncing, gymnastics( 3 or 4 players inevitably end up in the soccer net whenever someone scores), hand holding, hugging, shoe tying, laughing, playing outside of the lines, just to name a few things that happen during a game. i am happy to say that everyone, no matter what side you are pulling for, claps for the player(s) when a goal is miraculously made. no one keeps score, at least not officially, and both team members  feel like winners.

what made me the happiest last night, though, was when my grandson, without being prompted by his parents or coach, saw a little boy from the other team standing alone on the field. he went over to him, put his arm around his shoulders, gave him a big hug, and walked off the field with him. the kindness of children always amazes me. they help each other up when someone falls, no matter if they happen to be  their teammate or someone from the other team.

so everyone came away a winner last night. the children were happy, and the parents and grandparents enjoyed a game that while was not played exactly by the rules, was joyful. i am trying to catch that elusive bird of happiness. it takes some practice. it takes having the heart of a lion- not being afraid to go after it. living every day to the fullest and being present in the moment-  because tomorrow is never promised.

Friday, September 15, 2017

" i don't want you anymore, 'cause you took my joy..you took my joy, i want it back. you took my joy, i want it back." joy, by lucinda williams

i realized the other day, that i have been dancing with the "big C" for the past seven years now. the first time i got a cancer diagnosis ( it was thyroid cancer)  i was at work. my doctor called me ( she could not reach me at home) to give me the news. needless to say, i was pretty upset and had to go home. then i had three skin cancers thrown into the mix- they were not serious, but disconcerting nevertheless. the third time, and i sincerely hope the last time i hear those horrible words, i had left work, thinking that i would return after i had a 3D mammogram. i had been called back, after an initial mammogram a couple of times  before because i had dense breast tissue. i was not worried at the time, but did worry when the radiologist ordered an ultrasound. i called work and told them that i would be back- but a little bit later than i had thought.

time seemed to stand still . the technician came into the room where i was waiting and told me that the radiologist wanted to speak with me in his office. my heart almost stopped; this was new territory for me. this radiology center gives a long stemmed rose to all female patients having mammograms or ultrasounds. i remember taking the rose that the technician offered me after i was dressed. i remember walking into the radiologist's office. it was dark, and he had a picture of  my left breast up on his computer screen. i laid the rose down on his desk and looked at the monster inside of me. i am not an expert at reading ultrasounds or xrays, but even i knew that what i was looking at was not normal. the radiologist let me come to my own conclusions. he said that we would not know for sure until after i had had the needle biopsy, but the doctor, nurse and i all knew within a reasonable doubt, what the outcome of that would be.

i called work and told them that i would not be coming back in that day. i drove home on auto-pilot, and i am not sure where the rose ended up. that was the beginning of  almost a year of more biopsies, surgeries, chemotherapy and reconstruction. most of the time i was present in body, but my mind was elsewhere. some place safe. my husband was with me for all the other tests, treatments,etc. so i was fortunate that he was my eyes and ears during this time. it is the most surreal feeling to be told the unimaginable. i made treatment decisions, informed ones, but my body was on auto pilot. i just needed to get through the medical part- survive the surgeries and chemotherapy- and then i would deal with the emotional part.

i had always thought that only victims of war get PTSD. i was wrong. it was after the worst physical pain that i began to suffer in other ways. panic attacks, sleep disorders, coming to terms with the fact that i might not survive the cancers, worry for my family, just to name a few things that i was obsessing  about now . my brain had left that safe place and now i was having to deal with all of the other issues that i had pushed aside. i felt guilty for feeling these things. after all, i had wonderful support from my family and friends. i was able to write about what was happening to me in this blog- which has been my lifeline. why then should i be feeling all of these negative emotions?

a few months ago, i happened to read an article about cancer patients and PTSD. a light bulb came on. i realized that i needed some major life changes if i was going to get better. i have  already made some positive changes in my life, but i need to make some more. i retired from work- about two years earlier than i had first planned. i loved my work- i like to help people and i love to do medication counseling. but the store where i work is a high volume, stress filled environment. i know that stress alone did not cause my cancer, but stress probably weakened my body's immune system and that was certainly not helpful.

another thing that i  have done is to get involved with doing some crafts that i had always wanted to do. i am making soap, candles and stained glass pieces. i also read that doing crafts, learning to play a musical instrument- anything that is a newly learned activity, is helpful in dealing with the symptoms of PTSD. my husband and i have spent the majority of our lives working and taking care of our family. working long hours, 13 hour days to be precise, as well as weekends and holidays left  little time for anything else. i am happy to say that now  my husband and i are cultivating friendships. it is wonderful to be able to spend time with friends- both old and new. we actually have time to do things with our friends. and of course, two of my grandchildren live close by, so we are so happy to help out when their parents need us. actually, it is a pleasure to be with our grandchildren, and my husband and i love being able to say " yes we can" instead of " no, sorry, we have to work."

i have read that exercise is also good for PTSD. i have a bad knee and have not been able to go go zumba for a couple of years. i can not find a tai chi class near me, but i have purchased a video and hopefully doing that, and walking, will become a healthy habit for me. i am also working on my diet- not just to lose a little weight, but just to incorporate healthier foods into my diet. sounds like i am making new years resolutions here, but i am just trying to come up with a plan that works for me. counseling is also another great option. i have considered this, but have not made any immediate plans to do this- yet.

cancer took my joy. it has impacted my life for the past seven years. some people do not understand that just because the  medical treatments are over, that it is over and done for cancer patients. i think this is when the hard part comes. how to deal with test anxiety, worry over the smallest symptoms- is the cancer back? and of course, worry that the cancer will come back with a vengeance and the impact that it will have on your life and the lives of your family and friends- the people who love you.

i am working hard to recapture my joy. i am trying to deal with PTSD, as well as side effects  of the chemotherapy medication that i take every day, and will have to take for the next 3 years or so. i am also coping with the side effects from the surgeries and chemotherapy that i had 2 years ago.  i am not quite to my happy place yet, but i sure am trying. the "big C" took my joy, but i am working to get it back.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

" how does it feel? how does it feel? to be on your own, with no direction home, like a complete unknown, like a rolling stone. " like a rolling stone, by bob dylan

oddly, or not so oddly, enough this blog is going to discuss salivary gland dysfunction- including salivary stones that can occur after treatment with radioactive iodine in patients who have had thyroid cancer. i am afraid that i know quite a bit about this subject from first hand experience. i had my I-131 ( radioactive iodine) in 2010. it was a large dose- 155 milicuries. in about a year after my I-131 dose, despite faithfully  following instructions that i was given ( drink lots of water, suck on sour candy, drink sour lemonade, to name a few) i developed salivary stones. how does it feel? well, bob, not very good. my first time experiencing salivary stones was when i was at work ( of course). my technicians and cashiers noticed that my jaw was swelling, looked  red and was  hot to the touch. they asked me what was wrong. i had no idea. i was praying that it was a dental issue ( also a side effect of the I-131) so i made an appointment with my dentist. he said no dental problems, but he felt that it was salivary stones in my parotid salivary glands and referred me to an ENT for a diagnosis. the ENT agreed with my dentist, and so it began.

here is the short version of what happens with I-131 ingestion. the I-131 is meant to kill any rogue thyroid cancer cells still present in the neck area. what it also does is hone in on the salivary glands where it is concentrated and secreted into the saliva. this appears to be dose related. NOW, not when i received my I-131 dose, the recommended max dose is generally 100 milicuries. the trigger dose for salivary gland issues, at least in a couple of articles that i have read, appears to be about 150 milicuries and above. other fun side effects from the I-131 include: dry mouth, taste alterations, increase in dental cavities, facial nerve involvement, yeast infections of the mouth, inflamed and sore mouth- to the extent of interfering with eating, and neoplasia( abnormal growth- a tumor, but not always cancerous). interestingly enough, there is now a drug, not available when i took the I-131, called ethyol ( amifostine) which is sometimes used to protect the salivary glands and kidneys. i am not familiar with this drug. i think it is given IV, but if someone reading this blog is about to get some I-131, it would behoove you to ask your doctor about this, and ask if you would be a candidate to receive this new drug.

so salivary stones and salivary pain and swelling may be due to thickened saliva and/or scarring of the salivary glands due to inflammation caused by the I-131. you might be asking yourself about now if i am having regrets about getting the I-131. and the answer is no. my thyroid cancer was aggressive ( papillary with follicular variant ) , stage 3. for a person who has a lower stage, less aggressive thyroid cancer, it would seem prudent to talk to the doctor about a lower dose of the I-131, if needed. some patients choose not to take the I-131, and that is an individual decision. my doctor and i felt that the benefits outweighed the risks of the I-131. i urge people to research and read all the material available  on the I-131, consult with your doctor, and then make the best decision for you.

so, what does one do who has salivary issues or salivary stones? an office visit with  a good ENT is a pretty smart starting point. i will use myself as an example when i am talking about treatment. we are all different, though, so what works for me, might not for someone else. also, i will mention here that there is laser treatment to unblock salivary glands. this is available, for the time being, only in larger cities. i am sure there are risks involved with this, as with any procedure, and i do not know the pain involved, the risks  or cost of this procedure. frankly, it could be more painful for your wallet, if you know what i mean.

what my ENT recommended to me was as follows: gentle massage, heat on the area, sour lemonade or sour candy, lots and lots and lots of water, and if needed, ibuprofen for pain and inflammation. over the years, i have noticed that certain foods tend to cause a "salivary gland flare" for me. these would be chocolate ( !) and highly sugared foods. there are others, but these are things that i have to be careful with. i can have SOME of them, but if i consume too much, i will usually have pain and inflammation in my salivary glands. prevention seems to work best for me. i also have problems if i do not drink enough water. i have purchased a few 24 oz water bottles, and i try to keep up with my water intake. this also helps with dry mouth. there are commercially available products that you can buy for dry mouth, but drinking lots of water seems to work best for me.

i hope that i have answered a few questions about salivary gland pain, swelling and stone formation. it can occur days to years after a single dose of the I-131, or not at all. it seems to occur in those patients who have  received a larger dose of the I-131. in the majority of cases, the salivary glands will heal on their own, requiring no further treatment. in others, me for example, it may be an ongoing problem. knowing how to deal with the symptoms, and even better,  preventing  a "flare" ( my word for this) seem to work best for me.what prompted my blog on this subject was the fact that i went months and months without a flare, and then had one a few weeks ago. also, a good friend of mine is dealing with this issue. if someone has further questions, i will be glad to address them if i can. but i do recommend that you see an ENT to get a definitive diagnosis as a starting point. see there, we are not on our own, and we have some direction home.  

Monday, September 4, 2017

" you certainly usually find something if you look, but it is not always quite the something you were after. " a quote from the hobbit, by j.r.r. tolkein

generally i love the month of august. i get to celebrate my birthday near the end of august, and i am still enough of a child to delight in the celebration of my birth. this year however, while i enjoyed my birthday very much- thanks to my family, especially my grandchildren, all three of my six month cancer check ups became due in the month of august.

at the first of august, i had my thyroid cancer checkup- ultrasound and blood work. everything was fine here- just some adjustment to my thyroid medication dose, which is always a slippery slope, as every thyroid patient, cancer or not, well knows.

towards the end of the month, i had my breast cancer check up- blood work and office visit. you may be wondering at this point if i have any blood left. my endocrinologist ordered 5 tubes taken, while my oncologist only needed two tubes. that left a little left over for me. my tests all came back fine, i suppose. my oncologist was on vacation, and i saw a nurse practitioner. not that i have anything against nurse practitioners, but this one was grumpy and needed a nap i think. i will be seeing my oncologist in february- along with everyone else now, i guess.

my third" six monther" ( i made up a  new word, spell check hates this) was with the dermatologist. i do not consider myself a skin cancer survivor, but i have had one basal cell removed from my face, and two squamous cell carcinomas removed from my leg, so i guess that technically i am a skin cancer survivor,too. not to insult skin cancer survivors- far from it.  basal cell generally does not cause too many problems, but squamous cell can be very aggressive, and people can die from this if it is not diagnosed early enough. i have mentioned the importance of wearing sunscreen in one of my earlier blogs. of course, the skin cancers most of us adults are seeing now were caused by the sun exposure that we received when we were children. you know, back in the day, when we put baby oil on our skin and baked our poor bodies in the sun for a few hours or so. of course, in my case, i did not tan- just freckle and burn. also, one of my college  roommates' dad was a plastic surgeon. my roommate told me that some of his best customers were those people who had had too much sun exposure. in fact, her family never went to the beach on vacation- they always went to the mountains. my roommate had very white skin when it was not fashionable. since i generally  learn by example, i stopped torturing my skin and tried not to get sunburned- at least not as much.

still, i was very surprised when my dermatologist had to take a biopsy of (what he thinks is ) another skin cancer on my face. of all of my six monthers i was not expecting to be concerned with my dermatology check up. i am not supposed to get the results for about two weeks. if it is not skin cancer, then i am done and no worries. if it is, then i am in for another mohs procedure on my face. hopefully that will be all that i will have to have done. i have had the mohs procedure for the basal cell on my face, so i know what to expect with that. not fun, but as my dermatologist told me: " well, what do you expect? you are a redhead in the south!"

i have one of those small circular band aids on my face, and apply some antibiotic ointment daily. i did not think that my grandchildren would notice it, but even my nearly two year old granddaughter said. " mimi, what happened to you?!!" i told her that i just had a boo-boo on my face. she was o.k. with that, but i had to go into further details with my grandsons. i could have said, well if you pick a fight with a dermatologist, you will not be the one to win, but i did not want to scare them. after all, they are" nearly redheads" in the south,too.

so now, somehow, i have all of my six monthers on the same schedule! i am not sure if that is a good thing, or a bad thing. i guess it is good that i can get them all over with and have a six month break. hopefully soon, they will all graduate to one yearers. sorry, spell check.


Tuesday, August 22, 2017

" i see trees of green, red roses too, i see them bloom for me and you, and i think to myself, what a wonderful world. i see skies of blue and clouds of white, the bright blessed day, the dark sacred night and i think to myself, what a wonderful world....i see friends shaking hands, saying " how do you do?", they're really saying, " i love you". what a wonderful world, by louis armstrong

a very dear friend of mine passed away today. she was not a "blood relative", but we always said that we were family- sort of sisters in friendship, you might say. i am going to miss her terribly- she had a very good heart. when i was undergoing chemotherapy in 2015, she called me almost every day to see how i was doing. some of my friends did not call to check on me. i suppose that they did not know what to say, and in the past i may have been guilty of this as well. but my faithful friend never let me down. my sweet friend had been in declining health for a few years now, and had had a few very close calls, but she always managed to battle back- until today.

i have been trying to make sense of this loss today. what have i learned? what would my friend like to say to me if she were here? i think perhaps she would say, " bea, make the most of each and every precious day that you have on this earth." i have had a couple of close calls myself in the past seven years. each time, i reminded myself to be present in life- to tell people how much i love them, to enjoy the small and wonderful things around me. today, my husband and i took care of our five year old grandson, as we will be doing again  tomorrow. his parents are teachers, and had to go back to work. i am so thankful that we can help our family out, and we certainly enjoy each and every minute we get to spend with any of our grandchildren.

my five year old grandson said the most amazing thing to me  today. it was raining, and i said, " oh, i am so sorry that it is raining!". he said, " mimi ( that is my REAL name, by the way), i love the rain!" i said, why do you love the rain? i thought that he would say he loved jumping in mud puddles, perhaps getting to be inside to watch a movie or something like that. what he said was this: " mimi, i love the rain because it is a way that God talks to us. He talks to us with  the sunshine, too." i hardly knew what to say to that. i am not one  to force my religion on anyone else. i am not one of those " my way or the highway " kind of people. i believe that God hears a prayer said in nature, just as clearly as he hears one that is said in a house of wood and stone. the wisdom of children is powerful, true and not to be ignored. i told my grandson that i agreed wholeheartedly with him.

with this loss, i am also reminded of that statement that keeps popping up on social media. it goes something like " eat the cake, buy the dress, take the trip, etc." why is it so hard for us adults (meanwhile children have things pretty much figured out, in my opinion) to enjoy life and be kind to others? if there is something our hearts desire, we should do it now. we may never get that chance again- nothing is guaranteed in this life.

if you happen to be a cancer survivor - be it thyroid, breast or any other- i hope that you can appreciate all of the beauty in this world. there is kindness in spite of some madness that has been happening. enjoy your life and be grateful for every wonderful thing that comes your way. i am sure that my good friend would remind me of this fact as well.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

" looking back on when i was a little nappy headed girl, then my only worry was for Christmas, what would be my toy. even though we sometimes did not get very much, we were happy with the joy the day would bring....i wish those days could come back once more, why did those days ever have to go, i wish those days could come back once more, why did those days ever have to go, cause i love them so." i wish ( somewhat altered) lyrics by stevie wonder

i posted my blood work, ultrasound and appointment results on facebook, but i realized that not everyone who reads my blog is my facebook " friend". so for those of you who already know how it went, sorry to repeat this subject. i got a good check up basically. the most important thing, was that my thyroglobulin was less than 0.1 and  my anti- thyroglobulin antibodies were less than one. these two numbers were elevated for three years after my surgery and radioactive ( I-131) iodine treatment. those were a tough, worrisome three years. luckily, my endocrinologist did not panic, and we just kept my TSH very low, or suppressed, near zero, and waited it out. my doctor was considering another round of the I-131 just before my thyroid cancer indicators( above mentioned blood work) returned to the cancer free zone.

as far as my other blood work went, my TSH was good - 0.006- a little low, hahahaha. but that is the way that my endocrinologist wants it- i will explain why later in this blog. my doctor scared me a little during my office visit  when she first started talking to me. she said, " how are you feeling? are you having any heart palpitations, chest pain, shakiness, etc?" i said no, i was still feeling a little tired in the afternoons, but that was all. a few months  ago, my endocrinologist changed my medication. i went from the synthetic levoxyl and an occasional cytomel tablet in the afternoon, to a naturally derived medication. i know several people who do wonderfully on a naturally derived thyroid medication. in fact, a person in my family, who is hypothyroid, but who has not  had thyroid cancer, is taking this and has the best blood work numbers they have ever had. and best of all, this person feels better than they did when they were on the synthetic medication.  i really, really, really wanted this naturally derived medication to work for me, but it did not. i was extremely tired, depressed, cried a lot,etc - i knew that something was up. and i had to admit, it had to be the fact that  my thyroid medication was not working for me.

 so my doctor switched me back to the levoxyl/ cytomel combo.she called in a higher dose than i had been on previously. i thought that maybe she was trying to jump start my system so to speak.  i had been taking the higher dose of  levoxyl for about a month before my appointment. the reason why she was so concerned about how i was feeling was that my T4 had gone out of sight! the so called normal range, according to this lab- and labs have slightly different ranges- is 0.82-1.77. my value was 2.63 which puts me WAY into the hyperthyroid range. previously,  the highest my T4 has ever gotten to had been 2.1. my endocrinologist freaked out then, so you can image her concern this time.

my t3 was wonderful- 4.1 ( the range is 2.0-4.4). this is the " energy" part of a thyroid medication. i have previously not been able to hit 3.0 mark. but of course, this value  will go down again as i can not continue to have such a high T4. just a side note for those of you who may not be aware of this- synthetic thyroid medications ( levoxyl, synthroid, levothyroxine,etc) are just made up of T4. they  depend on the body to convert the T4 to T3 which mainly supplies the energy to the body. naturally derived hormone drugs ( nature-throid, armor thyroid, etc) contain naturally derived T4 AND T3. this is helpful if there is a problem on a cellular level- if your body, for whatever reason, has trouble converting T4 into the T3 that you need for your body to function properly. it seems to me that the naturally derived thyroid hormone would be the best choice, IF IT WORKS FOR YOU. but unfortunately, it did not work for me. as i have always said, this is not a one size fits all kind of thing. what is a wonderful choice for someone else, may be a terrible choice for you.

my endocrinologist lowered my dose of levoxyl( T4) , and added an afternoon cytomel( T3) if i need it. i really was not happy with this, but i understand that i can not have a T4 that is that high. having a T4 that is too high can cause heart arrhythmia's, chest pain, nervousness, osteoporosis, just to mention a few goodies. it is frustrating to me how complicated thyroid hormone dosing can be. most people, not thyroid patients for the most part, do not realize how difficult it is to get a thyroid dose, or dosage form, that is going to make the patient feel good and be able to function at a somewhat normal level. it is a trial and mostly error experience, at least for me. my endocrinologist has scheduled blood work for me again in three months to see how i am doing. which brings me to the topic of my next appointment...

i was really hoping that i could "graduate" to once a year tests, blood work and ultrasounds. my endocrinologist told me that because i had an area of " very aggressive thyroid cancer" i would need to stay on the every six months visits for a while longer. also, she wants to keep my TSH suppressed for the foreseeable future.  ( i said earlier that i would explain this). keeping the TSH at essentially zero is supposed to keep any thyroid cancer cells that are roaming around in the body from becoming active storm troopers. i was very O.K. with my doctor wanting to keep my TSH at zero. being a two time cancer survivor, i am nervous about there being a possible third time.

sometimes i think about my life before thyroid cancer or breast cancer. i try not to rehash the past, but i do sometimes long for it. i wish that i had never had cancer, to be honest. i have learned a lot from having cancer, though. i have discovered that i am stronger than i thought. i have found out how to be my own best patient advocate. i have really learned what things, and what people, are important in my life. i have learned that if i want to do something, i need to do it now, as the future is not guaranteed.  i have learned not to take anything for granted. and, probably the best thing that i have learned is to be grateful for everything good thing that comes my way.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

" here i am, on the road again. there i am, up on the stage. here i go, playing star again, there i go, turn the page." turn the page, by bob seger and the silver bullet band

it is that time again for me. i had my blood work done this week, and next week i will see my endocrinologist for a neck ultrasound, office visit and discussion of my blood work results. i used to have to drive down to raleigh to have my blood work done, then drive back the next week for my visit. since my physician likes lab corp( that is where her office sends the tests anyway) , she said if i could find an office up here, i  would not have to drive down to raleigh for the blood work. lucky for me, there is a lab corp office in boone. even luckier for me, there is an angel who works there. i am what the med techs call a "difficult stick". five times is my limit, as far as being stuck and not hitting gold. after that, i turn a whiter shade of pale, and start to break out in a cold sweat.

the "angel" med tech who works at the lab corp in boone, uses a butterfly needle. if you get blood drawn as often as i do, you will need to be familiar with a butterfly needle. these are much less painful for the patient and work better for those of us who have veins that like to make trouble. previously, when i had blood work done by less talented med techs, and after all those unsuccessful sticks, they would notice the back of my hands. and the med techs would literally salivate. i have " man veins" in the back of my hands. it is from opening about a million child proof bottles during my 40 years of pharmacy practice. but, as some of you might unfortunately know, hand sticks hurt- a lot.

getting back to the above mentioned angel med tech. she got out her butterfly needle, asked if i preferred one arm over the other ( i do- i can not have blood drawn or blood pressure taken in  the arm that i have lymphedema in) and then applied the tourniquet. then she did something that i have had only one other person do- she closed her eyes. she closed her eyes and gently searched my arm for that illusive vein. it only took a few seconds, and then she found it. i barely felt the needle and my vein held out for the FIVE tubes of blood that my doctor had requested for the blood tests.

you might be thinking at this point that having a relatively pain free and successful blood draw is a minor thing. well, i have to have blood work done several times a year. i am having testing anxiety already- it happens a week or so before my tests and office visits. not having to worry about passing out when they are drawing my blood is one less thing to be anxious about. i thanked this med tech- this is the third time that she has drawn blood from me and every time has been successful. the med tech probably does not know how much i appreciate her talent, and i do believe it is a talent.

one thing that i learned when i was having all of my tests and surgeries for both of my  cancers is that people who work in health care- from the people who clean your hospital room up to your  physicians can make your experience either a positive or negative one. small kindnesses are huge and make all the difference. being a patient instead of a health care provider gave me a new perspective on how to treat my patients. it is not enough to just do your job- and by that i mean the mechanics of your job. it does not cost anything to go the extra mile for someone. be kind, reassure someone who is anxious, take a little extra time to counsel or talk to someone who might need it. i always tried to do this when i was working, but i tried a little bit harder after my experiences on the other side of the counter.

so here i go again. i wish that i could control my test anxiety a little bit better. hopefully things will go well next week, my test results will be good, and i can relax until the end of september. that is when i go to my oncologist for my six months breast cancer blood work and tests. and so it goes.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

"...and the seasons, they go round and round, and the painted ponies go up and down, we're captive in the carousel of time. we can't return, we can only look behind from where we came, and go round and round in the circle game." the circle game, by joni mitchell

i was watching the cbs special this morning on cancer- which was very good, by the way. of course, cancer is such a big complicated issue, that it would be impossible to cover every type of cancer, potential problems associated with a particular cancer , treatments ,etc. but i will have to admit, the producers of this program did a pretty  good job. two predominate themes in this program, at least in my opinion, were the future of more effective treatments  and the  prevention of cancer.( i will lump those into one theme ). the other theme, as i saw it, was reminiscing , or looking back at choices made by cancer patients and the ramifications of their  choices.

in treating cancer, there is no one size fits all, unfortunately. there may be recommended guidelines for treatment in certain types of cancer, but there are treatment options and choices that every cancer patient has to make. it is really a gamble. what if the treatment causes problems on down the line? heart issues and possibly other cancers just to name a few . is the risk worth the gain in other words. when i was practicing pharmacy, i felt that the most important part of my job was to counsel patients on the side effects/ interactions of their medications. i felt that once the patient was aware of possible side effects, they could  weigh the risks versus the benefits of a particular medication. in most cases, i felt that the benefits would outweigh the risks, or side effects, but i always made it clear that this was the patient's decision. i told them to be their own best patient advocate. get the good advice from their physician and pharmacist, and then make a decision that was right for them.

i had to take my own advice and be my own best patient advocate for both of my cancers. choosing a physician, hospital, treatment plan,etc. were tough decisions that i had to make myself. that is not to say that i did not listen to my doctors, family and friends before making those decisions. but i am the one who ultimately has to live with those decisions. that brings us to the carousel part of this blog. having cancer has made me feel helpless at times. i do feel like i am on a carousel going up one day- feeling good about the choices that i have made, but then going down the next- doubting my decisions.

on the cbs program, there was a segment on " going flat" for breast cancer patients. that is a decision that i labored over. my surgeon and plastic surgeon were horrified that i was even considering not having reconstruction. my feelings on this were, well, i am losing both my breasts and even though my plastic surgeon is amazing, there is no substitute for a real breast. and i will not lie to you- reconstruction is painful. the process began when i was on the table having my mastectomies, continued during the time that i was having chemotherapy, and did not wrap up until six months later- with a final surgery to receive my permanent implants. there has been off and on pain in my reconstructed breasts, but it has not been unbearable. i think the one unexpected thing that sealed the deal for me, that finally made me realize that i had made the correct decision for me, was the 3D areola and nipple tattoos. when i look in the mirror now, i do not see two huge scars stretching over my chest, i see a semblance of normal. it is the new me 2.0. not necessarily the best me, but a more acceptable me to my eyes.

i will tell you one funny thing that was said  about reconstructed breasts. the plastic surgeon that cbs interviewed for the cancer program said, " well, i tell my patients that if they sleep on their stomachs, it will be uncomfortable. it will be like lying on a frisbee." hahaha... she is correct on this. i am a back sleeper totally, now.

so, as a cancer patient i go round and round on the carousel. i am up some days, and some days i am down. i look back at the decisions that i have made about my treatment and hope for the best outcome. i am not a warrior. i am not out to beat cancer ( remember, in my last blog i said that cancer beat the stuffing out of me). but i am a decision maker, a planner, and i try to stay positive and enjoy my life. really, that is all that any of us- cancer patient or not- can do.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

" at first i was afraid, i was petrified...i will survive. as long as i know how to love, i know i'll stay alive... i've got all my life to live, and i've got all my love to give. and i'll survive, i will survive." i will survive by gloria gaynor

i started this blog back in april, 2010, when i was first diagnosed with thyroid cancer. it has served several purposes, i think. writing about my experiences has been therapeutic for me. it has helped me work through my feelings about having cancer in a positive way. also, it has always been my sincere wish that my blog posts will let people know that they are not alone in this cancer journey. for me, not knowing what might happen- and that includes medical as well as emotional issues, is the worst thing. if i can help someone who is afraid of the cancer road ahead of them cope a little bit better by knowing how things were for me, well, then i am  happy. i feel like i have accomplished something, albeit small.

one of my most treasured possessions is a book of my blogs, starting from may 8th, 2010 ( my first blog post )  through december 6th, 2010. my daughter had the book made  as a Christmas present for me. she put a picture of a beautiful butterfly on the front cover, a picture of our home on the back, and an inscription inside the front cover that still brings tears to my eyes when  i read it. it says, just a minute while i get a kleenex, " for mom, who has dealt with her thyroid cancer with humor, grace, and self-reflection. i love you!" i certainly hope that i have done a good job with that. adding a second cancer, breast cancer, in 2015, changed the tone of my blog a bit. while i still try to add humor whenever i can, i think my blog is now more reflective.

the way that i usually write my blogs is that a song pops into my head that i can not get rid of. from those lyrics, i start to think about what i would like to write about. occasionally, the subject matter comes first and then i match it up with song lyrics, but usually the music comes first. music has always been an important part of my life. it affects  my mood in a positive way and makes dealing with difficult issues, such as treatments, surgeries, outcomes,etc, easier for me . being outside in nature runs a pretty close second to music , though. i think that it is important that everyone decide for themselves what are  the best coping strategies - be it music, being out in nature, writing about cancer experiences,etc.and try to incorporate those things into your life as much as you possibly can. music, nature, and writing make me have a happier life. it might be bingo and margaritas for someone else, but whatever it is, my best advice is to go with it.

i recently read about an extremely talented mathematician, from iran, who recently passed away from breast cancer. her name was maryam mirzakhani, and  she was the first woman to win the math world's nobel prize ( it is called the fields medal ) for the first time. one of her co-workers said this:" a genius? yes. but also a daughter, a mother, and a wife." this made me think about the quality verses the quantity of life. certainly, i want to live as long as possible, but the quality of a well lived  life is immeasurably important. only a small percentage of us will be able to do things that are globally important and meaningful. the rest of us should do what we can on a " regional level" you might say to improve the lives of others. i feel that our actions do not have to be on a grand scale. what if all of us did just a few positive things? that certainly  could change the world for the better. or at least in our little part of the world.

it is important to survive. we should all do the best that we can, and all that we can,  to take care of ourselves. but i think that it is more important to actually live a good life .  none of us knows how much time we have here on earth. we can not control the quantity of time that we have, whether  we have a serious disease such as cancer or not . what we all can control, though,  is the quality of our life. help someone, love someone.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

" you, who are on the road, must have a code, that you can live by. and so become yourself, because the past, is just a goodbye...teach your children well..." teach your children, by crosby, stills, nash and young

i happened to skim over an article on facebook the other day, on a fairly popular cancer survivors website. the crux of the article was basically what lesson(s) cancer can teach us. the author of the article said something that resonated with me. this person said that one of her oncology nurses, and this was a no-nonsense, very professional, business like person ( i am describing the nurse here) asked the cancer patient what lesson(s) cancer had to offer them. the cancer patient said that she was surprised to hear this type of statement coming from a non "woo-woo" health care professional,  i believe her words were. i suppose she meant that this nurse was not of the new age persuasion. not that i think this topic is new age or any other age for that matter.

the article stated that this cancer patient had " beat cancer". i take issue with those words. first of all, i did not beat cancer, cancer beat the absolute stuffing out of me. it is sort of like when the flying monkeys got finished with the scarecrow from the movie " the land of oz.". do you remember when the poor scarecrow said something like, " well, that is just me all over!" and was picking up the straw and trying to put himself together again. that was what cancer did to me. i am still trying to put that darn straw back  where it belongs.

that said, i did indeed learn a few lessons from having had cancer. i always thought that i had things pretty well figured out in my life. go to work and take care of my family. once a year, my husband and i took a vacation somewhere, and vowed to take more time for ourselves going forward . this went on for absolute years. wash, rinse, repeat, as the saying goes. i knew that stress was getting the best of me, and that i needed to do some things that i had always wanted to do. but how? how could  i possibly  get off of the hamster wheel that was in charge of my life? well, when you get sick, your whole world changes. at first, and i think this applies to almost every cancer patient, you are just focused on the diagnosis, treatment, just the medical issues and your survival. as i have said before, your brain goes on auto- pilot and you are making medical decisions at a frantic and frightening pace.

when that part of your adventure is over, and you are in the recovery phase, also known as the what in the world do i do now phase , you begin to think seriously about your life. you managed to get off of the darn hamster wheel, but what now? i had some serious questions for myself at this point.one question was  how did i get cancer- two cancers that no one else  in my entire family had ever had. was it something that i was exposed to? something i ate? stress? i had no risk factors for either one of those cancers. although, in the spirit of full disclosure, several members  of my family had and still have thyroid disorders. no cancer, though, until me. i am almost positive that i will never be able to answer this question. the second question was where do i go from here?

 let me say now  that i enjoyed my work. was it stressful? yes, very. but sometimes i think that we are too quick to blame stress for a lot of our unfortunate health conditions. however, i did not want that level of stress in my life anymore. i found it hard to concentrate on my work after all of the surgeries and chemotherapy that i had to have. i could do it, it just took too much of my energy to do it well. so i had to decide what i wanted to do with the rest of my life. learning that i was mortal ( jeez, i could actually die from this!) was also a lesson for me. of course, i know that i will die at some point, but let's just say a cancer diagnosis is a not so friendly reminder of this fact.

i really like the words to "teach your children" that go:" you, who are on the road, must have a code, that you can live by. and so become yourself. " bingo. as oprah would say, that was my " aha " moment in my cancer adventure. i am becoming myself. it is a gradual process. i am doing the things that i love- writing, doing crafts, spending time with my husband,, spending time with my children and grandchildren. things that i did not have very much time for before i had cancer. i realize that i am very lucky to be able to retire now and do these things. i know that some people are not as fortunate as i am. they get their diagnosis when they are younger- when they can not disregard the demands of work, and when they have family obligations that make it impossible to do everything that they would like to be doing. even so, i think that there is a shift in thinking. cancer patients, for the most part, decide pretty quickly what things are important, and what things are not.

so, to wrap this up, cancer is teaching me ( remember, i am a work in progress) to become myself. to be true to myself. to be grateful, and appreciate even the small goodies in life. and thankfully, hopefully,  the  past will be " just a good-bye".

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

"anxiety, why do you always get the best of me? why am i never where i am supposed to be? it's the weight of the world, but it's nothing at all. .. i want to be strong and steady, always ready, now i feel so small, i feel so weak." anxiety, by jason isbell and the 400 unit

i will tell you guys a secret. well, actually, a few years ago, when i was " only" dealing with thyroid cancer, i wrote a blog about it. that nasty little secret has been following me around for several years now. it has a name- anxiety. my anxiety started when my thyroid went all crazy. and yes, i was HYPOthyroid. anxiety is more often associated with HYPERthyroid conditions, but i know of several other people who have had extreme anxiety that can be, at least in part, associated with being hypothyroid.

the unsettling thing about anxiety is that you never can be sure when it will strike. it is sort of like a poisonous snake hidden in the garden. there you are, having a good time, smelling the roses, when, BAMM, it comes out of nowhere. i had sort of gotten my anxiety somewhat  under control,thanks mostly to finding  an endocrinologist who decided to treat my symptoms, even though my blood work was, let's just say, unusual. as my family doctor put it " wow, your thyroid blood work does not make sense!". do you think??

then, seven years ago, along came thyroid cancer. stage three, fairly aggressive. anxiety slithered out of the garden and into my life in a big way. surgery, treatment, tests, it seemed like  i was handling everything well. if you suffer from anxiety,too, you know that it is sort of a closet disease. anxiety patients  deal, make excuses when we can not deal, and try to go on with our lives. honestly, though, it takes a toll. i think it raises our stress levels, which raise our anxiety levels- an endless cycle, it seems.

so, i was doing fairly well with the anxiety, and then came the breast cancer diagnosis out of left field. maybe it had been hanging out with the poisonous snake, but i certainly did not expect that one either. i think that i have done pretty well considering everything that has happened to me . i owe a lot to the support of my family and friends. but anxiety is a solitary stalker. as i said, you never know when or where  it will strike. it does not have anything to do with your happiness level, or what you have or have not. anxiety makes no sense whatsoever.

my anxiety is mostly vampiric in nature. i will admit to taking a mild anti- anxiety medication at bedtime, although this can be addictive, and i do not recommend this for everyone. it has helped me deal with the anxiety somewhat. another method- better, really, and not addictive, is deep breathing. yes, we all know how to breathe, but honestly, taking several deep breaths, in and out, and being aware of your breathing does help. meditation or praying also can help free up a cluttered mind, as i sometimes call anxiety. exercise is  a good method to treat anxiety. but i need a knee replacement, which i was supposed to have before my bilateral mastectomies, so exercise for me is somewhat limited at the moment. i am working up the nerve to have my knee replaced but have not as yet , as i am tired of surgeries, hospitals, PAIN, etc... i do get outside to walk a little.  well, at a snail's pace for sure and that is helpful. connecting with nature helps as well.

i retired in january, so some of you- probably those lucky enough not to have had any issues with anxiety- are wondering what i have to be anxious about. being retired is great. the work stress is gone, and that is helpful. but anxiety does not necessarily leave the minute we turn in our work badge and door keys. being a two time cancer survivor, i realize that i certainly can have a recurrence at some point. i try to live my life as fully and joyfully as i possibly can. i go for my check ups, blood work, and scans when my doctors schedule them. scan or test anxiety is difficult, but i need to be responsible about my health and do all that i possibly can to take care of myself- for my family, as well as for myself.

i would like to say that anxiety does not get the best of me. in reality, sometimes it just does. but i keep on going, doing the best that i can- and that includes wearing boots in the garden.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

" we are family, i got all my sisters with me...and we fly like birds of a feather...we're giving love in a family dose...have faith in you, and all the things that you do." we are family, by the pointer sisters

i have had the opportunity to, hopefully, help another woman who is dealing with lymphedema. i was so happy to be able to do this. why? well, when i was first  diagnosed with thyroid cancer, i started this blog- and that was seven years ago. for the first few times, i just wrote about my feelings and experiences, mainly so that  i could have an emotional outlet. i received just  a few comments, and i made  a few really good facebook friends . and while that was wonderful, i was hoping to accomplish more. as luck would have it, the author of a tremendously popular thyroid website came upon my blog. she was so nice to feature my blog in one of her posts, and all of a sudden i was getting lots of  comments from new thyroid cancer friends. we were sharing experiences and information, and it was wonderful.  i really owe this person a lot. i do not think that she will mind if i tell you her name- it is  Mary Shomon. she is the author of several new york times bestseller books, has a website devoted to thyroid issues, and has been on several talk shows. if you have a thyroid problem- cancer or something else, you really need to be familiar with this person's material. mary works tirelessly as a patient advocate, and i ( no surprise) really admire her work and her desire to help others.

fast forward to 2015. i am living " La Vida Loca ", thinking everything is just fine in my world, and then to my surprise, i get a breast cancer diagnosis. after a few days of having a pity party for myself, i do what i always do- try to come up with a plan of action. i really was not sure of what to do- sure, there is a lot of information out there on breast cancer. of course, i had a very uncommon kind, invasive lobular, so this complicated things a bit. and then something pretty amazing in my world happened. a high school friend of mine, someone that i had not seen since high school- no, i am not going to tell you how long ago that has been , contacted me. she herself is  a breast cancer survivor, and had just been down the road that i was going to have to travel. she shared her story with me, and allayed some of my fears regarding surgery, treatment,etc. she did not sugar coat the facts, though, and for that i am grateful. i am one of those people who do better when they know how it is going to be. " not knowing" is one of my worst fears.

because of all of the kindness shown to me, i am trying to "pay it forward" as the saying goes. my thyroid and breast cancer "sisters" are just that. they are family to me. we have helped each other, shared information, prayed for each other, and cheered each other on. now, i love my biological family, but to be honest, no one understands what a cancer patient is going through better than another cancer patient. it is helpful for other cancer patients  to reach out, in whatever way that  may be comfortable for them - facebook, blogging, personal messages,etc. this sharing the load, and that is really what it is, helps us all.

before my thyroid blog was "discovered", i felt somewhat adrift in an unknown universe. i did not know what lay ahead of me, or where exactly i was going. i had no idea about the treatments for thyroid cancer, what my choices were in regards to medication, or how my life was going to be changing forever. i think that it is pretty much like that for all types of cancer patients. i am thankful for those who helped me, and the friendship of others who face the same challenges as me. i would like to mention a very special friend, becky- you know who you are, who has been especially supportive and helpful. she was, and still is, always there when i need someone to talk to. i am so thankful for your friendship, although i am sorry that we had to meet under these circumstances!

so my point is this. i have a cancer family, made up of all kinds of women. we support and take care of each other. some i have met face to face, and some i have not. but all of my "sisters" are very important to me, and i love you all. i am trying to help others, like others have helped me. it makes me very happy to pass along any good information to someone who needs some help. after all, what is  family for?