Wednesday, November 24, 2010

" When i am worried and can not sleep, i count my blessings instead of sheep, and I fall asleep counting my blessings. When my bankroll is getting small, i think of when i had none at all, and i fall asleep, counting my blessings. ..So if you're worried and you can't sleep, just count your blessings instead of sheep, and you'll fall asleep counting your blessings." "Count your blessings instead of sheep." this song is from the movie White Christmas

corny as it may be, that is what i do now. i have some trouble sleeping( as you can see by the time of this post!), but i try every night to count my blessings. i have had  so much happen to me this year; some bad, some good. but my" Pollyanna self"  tries to focus on the good things. one of the major things that i am thankful for is this blog. i have been able to express my feelings and meet some great people along the way. i sincerely hope that i have been able to provide information and support to some other people who have had to face the same "challenges" that i have. one of my dreams is that thyroid cancer will come to be better understood by doctors and patients alike, and will receive the attention it deserves. i hope that more people are diagnosed earlier, and the treatment becomes better.

i have been distressed to read the bad press that RAI treatment has gotten lately. it is the best, in my opinion, treatment option that thyroid cancer patients have available at this time. some people have even gone so far as to condemn this therapy, and call patients receiving this treatment "dirty bombs". i am a wife,mother,daughter,health professional, but i have never been a "dirty bomb". i adhered to all of the rules regarding my RAI, so i think that what we need here is not name calling, but education for patients as well as health professionals, and oh ,of course, the "experts". by experts i am referring to those journalists and some politicians who have  condemned  RAI treatment without any  compassion  to patients receiving the treatment. there needs to be more education and understanding in my opinion. o.k. off your soap box,bea!!

i hope that everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving! what a perfect time to count all of our blessings. i am thankful for my wonderful family and friends most of all. without their love and support, it would have been so much harder to make this journey. i have learned that cancer journeys, like life journeys, are better shared with loved ones and friends. i hope that everyone can enjoy and make the best of their own journey.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

"They paved paradise, put up a parking lot. With a pink hotel, a boutique, and a swinging hot spot. Don't it always seem to go, That you don't know what you've got till its gone.....They took all the trees, and put them in a tree museum. And they charged all the people a dollar and a half just to see them. ...Hey farmer farmer, put away the DDT now. Give me spots on my apples, but leave me the birds and the bees, PLEASE!" Big Yellow Taxi, by Joni Mitchell

i love this song. it used to be the  "ring back" tone on my cell phone. you may wonder what it has to do with my blog- there are a couple of things. first, sometimes you really do not appreciate certain things in your life until they are gone. i lost my peace of mind a bit when i was so worried about the possibility of having breast cancer. by the way, FALSE ALARM !! in the first mammogram that i had done, my skin somehow overlapped and it looked like i had a growth or whatever in there. yesterday, i went back to have another " more intense" mammogram- two views this time. it was a " hold on, try not to cry, and hold your breath"  mammogram! the technician said, now hold your breath, and don't move! what she did not realize was that i had been holding my breath since she tightened the "clamp" about the second time. i was going for a world record in breath holding, and nobody knew it but me! a regular mammogram is not like this, so i do not want to discourage anyone in getting one. we owe it to ourselves and our families to take care of ourselves.

the second thing that  i like about this song is the part about the "spots on the apples". i have been eating organic food for a few years  now . while of course i do not know if food additives/preservatives contributed to my thyroid cancer, i do not think that they are good for us. and organic food just tastes better! i have my six months cancer free ( hopefully!) anniversary coming up on Sunday, November 21st. i am taking organic cupcakes to work to celebrate. you can make just about anything "organically". i am making devils food cupcakes, with a peppermint butter cream frosting. i am topping them with crushed organic candy canes. yes, you can buy organic candy canes!

after my super mammogram yesterday, and the good news, i celebrated by doing a little "retail therapy" and i also went to Zumba! most of us wear  these belly scarves- i have described them in an earlier blog, but to refresh any one's memory, they are sheer scarves that tie around your waist. they come in beautiful colors( i have two- a black one and a blue one) and have lots and lots  of gold or silver "coins" on them. they make a fun sound when you move. my goal is to dance some of my coins off!! when i first started wearing my scarf, i did not make too much noise. now, however, i can "cha-ching" with the best of them!

once again, i feel like i have dodged a bullet, so to speak. but i am tired of having cancer, or the possibility of having cancer. i am done. i just want to live my life, and be my new normal. i have learned a lot from thyroid cancer. i have met so many great people, and have shared so many experiences, but where do i go from here? one option that i , along with another thyroid cancer survivor, am exploring is the idea of providing "chunky necklaces"  for women who have just had their surgery. i am not sure how we would do it, but if we could just provide a little hope and support to a few people, it would be great. i will elaborate later on, as this unfolds. until then, Zumba! on, or do whatever it is that makes your heart happy!!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

"Well, i started out down a dirty road, Started out all alone. And the sun went down, as i cross the hill. And the town lit up, the world got still. I'm learning to fly, but i ain't got wings. Coming down, is the hardest thing. Well, some say life will beat you down. Break your heart, steal your crown. So I've started out for God knows where. I guess I'll know, when i get there. " Learning to Fly, by Tom Petty

i have two things to talk about today. one, is an update on my mammogram. i can not be seen in the Hope Center until i have another, more intense mammogram and ultrasound. then if i do need a biopsy( and as these things usually turn out, i have a feeling that i will) i can get a referral to the center. not exactly what i wanted, but i can understand things so far. i will NOT have a biopsy anywhere else,though. this is on a  recommendation from someone that i know. she had a biopsy at the place where i am going, and at the Hope Center. she said that it was a terrible experience at the first place, and a very different, as good as it can be under the circumstances, at the Hope Center. i don't know about you, but with that in mind, i am not in for a bad experience. considering all that i have been through this year, i do not think that anyone would blame me. i have my additional testing, on Nov. 16th. of course, i will let everyone how that goes. and for all you foot draggers, please,please schedule your mammogram!! it is way important even  if  you have not had a cancer diagnosis this year.

the second thing i would like to ask  everyone is to get a skin check. i had one today- a full body check, which is something that my dermatologist has been asking me to do for a while. i have red hair and freckles, as you have probably noticed from my pictures. my mom and dad did not know about the dangers of too much sun, so my dermatologist and i are good friends now. LOL . i have had some "actinic Keratosis" which are precancerous lesions removed from my face and hands from time to time. i had one "frozen" off of my nose today. but i am afraid that today  i also  had a skin cancer on my leg. it was a circular,round, red area. not raised, did not hurt; looked like a fungus to me. several tubes of OTC fungus cream later, i decided  that i should get it checked out. it just looked "funny", you know? my dermatologist numbed me up good and took a pretty bit chunk out of my leg. he is going to send it off, but he is 99% sure that it is a Basel cell carcinoma. before you get out the Kleenex, it is o.k. that is all i have to do. it will take a while to heal, he said because it is on my leg, and it was pretty big. he gave me a prescription antibiotic ointment, and sent me on my way.  ( i did get an invitation to come back to see him sooner, now)

i know that the last thing we want to do after we have endured surgery, RAI, extensive blood work, etc. is go to another doctor!! but we owe it to ourselves and our families to take care of ourselves. i think that my lowered  immunity ( my body was working over time trying its best to kick the cancer out of my thyroid) may have opened the door, so to speak to a few  other things. at any rate, i am trying my best to figure out where i am going. oh, i am going to Zumba! tonight. miss zumba for a little surgery? heck no! i will just take some ibuprofen before i go. i truly,truly need those endorphins today!!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

"You can't start a fire, you can't start a fire without a spark.....even if we're just dancing in the dark. ..I wanna change my clothes, my hair, my face....There's a joke somewhere, and it's on me. ...You can't start a fire, worrying about your little world falling apart, this gun's for hire, even if we're just dancing in the dark." Dancing in the Dark, by Bruce Springsteen

well, i just had my little world turned upside down this week. i had my routine mammogram done this past Wednesday, along with my yearly pap smear. the old "mammy and pappy" as a dear friend of mine calls them. i got a call back on Thursday, and i just assumed that it was something about my insurance information. it was from the "imaging nurse counselor", though. now who is that, and what did they want with me? when i finally got in touch with her, she said that there was an "asymmetrical" "something" on one side, perhaps a lymph node or cyst? that was not there last year, and that i needed to come back for additional testing. they did not want to wait for a letter to get to me (!). she said that the scheduler was off work already, and that she would call me first thing tomorrow. is that not the best line ever- "we'll call you first thing in the morning"- second only to "the check's in the mail", i think. of course, i did not hear from them until  i had called them back twice, and by then it was nearly lunch time. the scheduler made an appointment for a more thorough ultrasound,mammogram or whatever, and she said that the radiologist would be there and they could tell me more on that day. that day, by the way, is over two weeks away!

so i did what i usually do in this case:  i felt sorry for myself for a few hours, cried a bit, then decided to take matters into my own hands! there is a really nice center in Asheville,NC called the Hope Center for Breast Cancer. all they do is mammograms and biopsies( i really think that  ultimately i will need a biopsy, so why not go to a place that specializes in this?) this center is also affiliated with the MD Anderson Cancer Center, and i have heard so many good things about it. i had to call my gynecologists office, he had to review the report, and his office has to make the referral. the Hope Center was supposed to call me back on Friday, but i did not hear from them. i figured that by the time my gynecologists office called them, it was too late to schedule. i am going to follow up on Monday before i go to work( i work the evening shift) and be sure things are moving along. see, i am taking my own good advice and being in charge of my own health care issues!

did i want to go back to the doctor? heck no. but i feel that women, especially those of us who have gotten a cancer diagnosis, need to be sure to keep up with our yearly "maintenance" health appointments. i really am not sure what to think about things at this point. i do not fit the model of "breast cancer patient", as i breast fed both of my children, and no one in my family has ever had breast cancer. of course, plenty of women who get breast cancer do not fit the model, either. i am hoping this is nothing, i am PRAYING this is nothing. i wanted to share this with all of you as a reminder  to you all to  keep those mammogram, colonoscopy,skin check,etc, appointments. it is so important- especially to those of us who have had cancer.

as for now, i am just waiting; i certainly have done this before. i was just beginning to feel "normal" again. of course, my life, as i have  said  many times before, will never be the same as it was, and that is a good thing. i am  hanging in there. i went to Zumba Saturday, and zumba-ed until i almost dropped! ( my brain really needed those endorphins! lol) i do feel a little like i am "dancing in the dark" though. i am dancing my heart out, i am just not sure where my path will be taking me.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

" Well, it's all right, riding around in the breeze. Well, it's all right, if you live life as you please. Well, it's all right, doing the best that you can. Well, it's all right, long as you lend a hand. You can sit around and wait for the phone to ring, waiting for someone to tell you everything. Sit around and wonder what tomorrow will bring, maybe a diamond ring. Well, it's all right, even if you are old and gray, Well, it's all right, you still got something to say. Well, it's all right, remember to live and let live. Well, it's all right, the best you can do is forgive. " End of the Line, by the Traveling Wilburys

some would say that it is too bad that it took me  having cancer  to make some positive life changes. i think that probably it does take something major to get our attention, and send us in another, more correct direction. i wondered, like a lot of you, if after i got over the initial panic and urgency of my disease if i would truly be a different person. the answer, i think that i can say now, is yes.

for one thing, i am taking way better care of myself. i really had no idea how much better i would feel getting regular exercise. i can go into my zumba class feeling tired and depressed( wondering how on earth i am going to do the dances and keep up) and leave feeling happy and energized. part of it is the release of those "happy chemicals" that our brains enjoy when we exercise, but another part of it i think, is the fact that i am actually doing something good for myself. for that one hour i am doing something for myself and no one else. you know, it could be spin class, raquetball ( my husband loves these, and he does that while i am in my zumba class) or anything you enjoy. the main thing, is that you think enough of yourself and go out and do something!

i enjoy helping people. i get to do a lot of that at work, and most of the time my job is very satisfying. but i also enjoy the small stuff - like sending people cards, making cupcakes or whatever for my neighbors or co-workers, even holding the door for an elderly person. i would say, it's no big deal, but hey, it makes them happy and it makes me happy. i think that it is the little things that define our lives.

i get the feeling now that i am here for some purpose, and that i should try to make the best of things and enjoy my life. what i have to offer is not newsworthy, or likely to change the world, but i feel that it is important none the less. i used to feel guilty if i took time for myself-whether it was a hair appointment,shopping trip,etc, i think  that as caregivers- moms, wives,daughters we feel the need to take care of everyone else and we put ourselves last on the list. it is easier for me now, as my husband and i are empty nesters, to be able to do things for myself. having cancer has made me examine my life- what i want to do, and what is important to me. i feel almost like i have finally woken up in my life, and have stopped fumbling around in the dark. i know where i am going, and i know what i want to do to get there. however this turns out, and i know my prognosis is better than with some other cancers, i want to be able to say that i did my best, and had fun along my journey.

Monday, November 1, 2010

" Well, it's a one for the money, two for the show, three to get ready, now go,cat,go. But don't you, step on my blue suede shoes. Well, you can do anything, but lay off of my blue suede shoes." Blue Suede Shoes by the king, Elvis

All sports require that one wears certain uniforms or particular clothes. Zumba is no exception. i have been attending zumba classes for several weeks now, so i thought that i would list the items that you can purchase for zumba and tell you( in my humble opinion) which ones i think are necessary or not.

Zumba Shirts: these are tee shirts that say "ZUMBA!" across the front of the shirt. you can decide for yourself, but i am not quite at the age where i need to look down at my shirt to see where i am ( thank goodness!). they are cute- come in several styles and colors, but expensive. the tee shirts that i buy at Walmart work just fine for me. i would say Zumba! shirts are optional.

Zumba pants: again, these have the " ZUMBA!" logo on them, but they also have numerous zippers accentuated with very colorful tags. are all of these zippers/tags for emergency exits or something? i have not decided, but the black workout pants that i purchased from a department store ( on sale) work fine for me. the way i calculated it, i could have 2 & 1/2 pairs of my workout pants for one pair of ZUMBA! pants. again, optional, i think.

Belly scarf: sheer scarves in different colors, embellished with what looks like about a hundred "gold coins". i love them!! i tried not to cave, but i reasoned that the cha-ching sound they made would help me to know if i was moving correctly.( or maybe the cha-ching sound was coming from our instructor?) anyway, they make me happy, were not too expensive, so i got one. a little bling is a good thing, i think.

Sports bra: never had one, but my daughter insisted that i get one. i ordered one on-line, and it came in the mail the other day- complete with instructions on how to put it on! it is still lying on my table- looking at me, but i am planning on wearing it today to zumba class( provided i can get it on!). i figured, like an Agent 007's martini, my girls are better off stirred, not shaken.

Dance shoes" this one is a biggie. i resisted on this,too. after all, i had just bought a new pair of tennis shoes right before i started Zumba, so why not use them? regular tennis shoes grab the floor. they resist or dig in, when you need to move quickly or slide from side to side( we do a lot of this). dance shoes have a special sole- it has a circular pattern that lets you slide easier. they also have better side support when you are shifting your feet, or shaking your booty. my daughter( as well as my very swollen knee) finally won out. i bought a pair of dance shoes and they really do make things easier and more comfortable. they actually cost less than my tennis shoes, oh, well, i will use them for my walks.

the only other thing that you need for Zumba, besides a very large bottle of water, is the desire to have fun, and the ability to laugh at yourself. i do a lot of that! but, hey, you can do anything, but stay the heck off of my blue suede ( dance) shoes!!