Sunday, March 1, 2015

thyroid cancer has lots of baggage, i think. for me it was skin cancer, and sulfite allergy.......

in my blog i have mentioned my bout with squamous cell cancer on my leg. it was about a year after my thyroid cancer. and while i do not think that my thyroid cancer "caused" this cancer, having thyroid cancer for so long before i was diagnosed certainly weakened my immune system. that is just my theory for having skin cancer so close to my thyroid cancer.

one subject that i have never, ever mentioned in my blog,though, is my sulfite allergy. you could say that it is what got me on the track to discovering my thyroid cancer. for years, i had been sulfite sensitive, and then all of a sudden it became a severe sulfite allergy- involving anaphylaxis. at my wits end, which was not too far of a trip at this point, i consulted an allergist. well, let me back up, i actually had to go to FOUR different allergists before i found one who A) believed me and B) wanted to help me.  the allergist i finally found was wonderful to me. the fact that someone finally believed me was such a relief! the only problem, was that while she prescribed some allergy medication for me, she said the only "treatment" is avoidance of foods/drugs/cleaning products,etc, that contain sulfites. before i go on to list some sulfite names, products,etc, i would like to explain how this allergist got me on the road to my thyroid cancer discovery. she told me that my immune system was severely compromised- that was why i was having anaphylactic reactions ( sometimes as often as 3 or 4 times a week) to sulfites. she told me frankly that she thought that i had cancer somewhere in my body! i had had all of my routine tests for cancer- mammogram, pap test, colonoscopy, so i racked my brain as to where it could be. the only area that i was having trouble was my thyroid----- BINGO! i found an excellent( i have to call her excellent, because she saved my life) endocrinologist who started with a very thorough biopsy, and well the rest is thyroid cancer history, you might say.

now, back to sulfites. what in the world are they? well, they are additives that are used to make food last longer and look better.( they keep food/medication from turning dark ) . in other words,   they stabilize drugs and other chemical solutions. they do not have to be listed on any product unless they contain more than 10 parts per million. some products, though, contain several hundred parts per million. and some fruit and vegetable products can approach 1,000 parts per million.
some common names for sulfite preservaties, when listed, are:
sulfur dioxide, potassium bisulfite, potassium metabisulfite, sodium bisulfite, sodium metabisulfite, and sodium sulfite. you could correctly say that the "sulfite" part in the name gives it away.

back when i was just sulfite sensitive, i had intestinal troubles- i will not list them, as you can probably assume what they were. when i progressed to an allergy, i developed a rash, tingling red skin, headache, trouble breathing, chest pain, in other words, anaphyaxis. ironically, one of the drugs to treat anaphylaxis, an epi-pen, contains sulfite preservaties to keep it from turning brown! in the past, i was able to obtain one brand of epinephrine( what epi-pen contains) which was sulfite free. that company is no longer in business, unfortunately.

people who have sulfite allergy or sensitivity are pretty much in the minority. ( sort of like the 5-10% chance of having thyroid cancer when you have thyroid nodules). i have had to research this for myself. my allergist has offered moral support, but i am the only one who can do anything to help myself. i have to avoid foods which i think contain sulfites. there is a large list- i do not have the space to list everything here, but i will give you the short list. some  fresh fruits and vegetables( to prevent browning), shrimp and lobster( same browning issue), condiments and relishes, white sugar, jams and jellies, grain products and pastas, snack food, processed foods, instant teas, the list goes on. for anyone really needing a complete list, i can recommend going online and searching sulfite allergy. i continue to learn about this, and it has been a major " game changer" in my life. i have not eaten out in a restaurant in over ten years. i buy only organic food, though some foods  naturally contain sulfites that i have to avoid, even organic. these are onions and garlic and grapes. i did not know how hard it was to cook without onions and garlic until this happened!

i asked my allergist when i saw her the year after her prediction, and told her about my thyroid cancer, surgery,etc. if this sulfite anaphylaxis would now go away. she said probably not- once the allergy pathways have been established( her words) they do not usually go away. i have read also, that sulfite allergy is more common in people who have asthma. i have mild asthma, by the way.

this is not a "whiner blog "today. i would just like to let people know about sulfite allergy and be educated. if i had only known about my sulfite problem and not kept eating the foods that were making me sicker and sicker, perhaps i would not have progressed to full blown anaphylaxis ? if my immune system had not gotten so compromised from fighting off the thyroid cancer for so long before i got treatment, perhaps this sulfite allergy would not have progressed ? who knows for sure, of course.   i have adjusted to my dietary restrictions, most of the time. occasionally, i will eat something that i think is o.k. but makes me sick. i can usually figure out what it was that made me sick, and i do not repeat my mistake.   i love to cook, so this is not as hard for me as it would be for someone who hates to cook. my family has been very, very supportive in this. for that i am extremely grateful. i keep epinephrine and hydroxyzine( an allergy medication) on hand for when i have anaphylaxis.

thyroid cancer has lots of baggage. it is not a quick fix, or a one pill solves all sort of cancer. it is not the good cancer.