The bandages are off! Ahh, that feels so much better. I stood in front of the mirror and took a good look and my scar which, at this point, is an amazing array of colors and textures -- red, purple, lumpy, bumpy, not too terribly long, center and just above my collarbone. At first, I felt like the lady in the Beetlejuice movie. Do you remember the one? The smoker with the slit in her throat so that every time she inhaled her cigarette, the smoke would come billowing out of her neck. Fresh incisional scars are not too terribly attractive, but just like everything else, will get better with time.
Finally was able to get down a toasted bagel and some tea that Dori very lovingly made for me. Let's just hope more of it stays "in" than comes "out", if you know what I mean. My appetite is there, but the rest of my body is not being totally cooperative. Marci's Christmas candy is especially wonderful right now, soothing to the throat, and oh so good!
Family and friends are calling and I am basking in the luxury of being loved and cared about. When different members of my family ask what they can do for me, I simply tell them to go get scanned. That would be the best gift of all. So far, a few of them have gone and are awaiting results.
Officially started on my Synthroid today which will become my daily companion. See thyroid, I never needed you anyway.
Mom's scar looks wonderful. In three months, I guarantee you, that scar will barely be there. Our surgeon does wonders.
I'm really proud of my mother. After her "big reveal," I asked her how she felt about her scar. She said she felt good. I asked if she would be comfortable going out without wearing a big turtleneck. She smiled and said, "Yes, of course!" I sure hope we can do that very soon. It's exciting for me to see her like this. She's confident about her scar, and she doesn't care what the world thinks about it. I can't wait to go out with her and see her step out into the world, showing everyone the champion that she is.
I think 2010 will be our year. Even with all of the commotion going on in my mom's family with getting their thyroids scanned, I think that 2010 will really bring our family some good luck. Something just tells me that no matter what goes wrong, it will turn up right. At some point.
Happy New Year, everyone. May you all be blessed with happiness, love, and most important of all...good health.
Visits from family early last evening. Marci with a lovely stuffed shells dinner for the family, Anna Marie bearing edible treats, and Gracie with some wonderful Bath and Body gifts. And I thought Christmas was over!
Later things got a little rough. Nausea and vomiting plagued me in the hospital, but at home the other end started acting up (not the kind of thing you want to elaborate on in a blog). At any rate, I’m hoping it’s just the anesthesia and/or drugs trying to work their way out of my system. Nonetheless, I’m still as grateful today as I was yesterday. I can sleep fairly well, and still only have minimal discomfort.
Today will also mark the great unveiling. I get to take off my bandages and make friends with my new scar. That part of the surgery never bothered me. We all have scars, inside and out. It shows that we’ve experienced life. I’m actually excited about seeing mine. It will remind me that I looked into the face of that which I thought I could not and dealt with it.
The days seemed to have meshed together – I just realized that it’s New Year’s Eve. I’ll have to work on some resolutions today. At the top of the list will be to reach out to others as they have done for me, to give an encouraging word and remind them that they are stronger than they know. Dori had her cell phone with her while waiting for me to be taken to the operating room. The messages never stopped coming. I was being rooted on to victory even as I was being wheeled away to the OR. What a team! I intend to be part of that cheering team for others. Without a doubt, it can make all the difference.
Thank God it's over. Mom is home and she looks, sounds, and feels awesome. She's relieved, and so am I.
I know what she's talking about when it comes to the build up before surgery. It's really not a fun thing. Time flew by for me really quickly, and that was not only a blessing but also a curse. I wanted it over, but I was too afraid of the outcome. Since I never had surgery before, I didn't know what to expect. Luckily my surgery was at 7 in the morning on a Monday, so I slept a little and was extremely tired before surgery so I hardly could think. I will never forget looking back at my mother, father, and sister one last time before going into the OR. I could barely see since I didn't have my glasses, but I knew how their faces looked. I don't think those images will ever be erased from my head.
As soon as I was home the next day, I was just like my mother is right now. She's talking on the phone, letting people visit, and relieved it's all over. Mom is still her beautiful, smiling self. She just has an extra little beauty mark to show off. ;-)
It's over. The surgery is behind me. The day came and went just like I hoped it would. Right now, I am in minimal pain and feel like I'm navigating in slow motion -- on the outside. On the inside, I am grateful for having such an amazing surgical team, an incredible family, and such supportive friends, some of whom I've never even met.
The "build-up" to the surgery was the worst part. The imagining of what would happen and how it would happen. Playing out scenarios in my head of what the operating room would be like, what would happen to me during surgery, and how I would feel when I awoke. As you can guess, none of it turned out as I had imagined. It was pretty straightforward and rather uneventful. I did, though, get postsurgical tachycardia, and extreme nausea and vomiting, but the right medications helped with all of that. Twenty-four hours later, I am back in the comfort of my own home.
I'm somewhat tired, and my thoughts seem a bit scrambled, so I'll end the post here...but I'll be back.
Before I rant and rave, Mom is doing very well. She's not in any pain, but her throat is sore from the breathing tube. It's difficult for her to swallow, but she is able to drink and possibly eat. When I left her, she was slurring but coherent, and she looks fabulous for just having surgery. I'll probably blog for her tomorrow when she comes home. Dr. S told us that he took out her entire thyroid and some "clumpy" lymph nodes underneath the thyroid. We won't know the results on those nodes for a few days. Mom thanks everyone for their support, love, and encouragement through this whole ordeal. She smiled when I told her about everyone's well wishes. But please keep thinking about her and praying for her.
Today was one of the most difficult days of my life. I can safely say that. I knew Mom was in good hands, but it's still scary. I finally know what it really is like being on the other side of the fence. It's not greener.
I imagined every possible scenario in my head. I imagined what she would look like. It frightened me. I remember how I looked and felt, and it disturbs me even now to think about her scar. I kept touching my neck all day, thinking, "Oh, Lord, she bears this now, too..." It surprises me that I'm still moving around and doing what I need to do.
Things are definitely changing inside of me. I've been very blank lately. I'm faking a lot of my emotions. It's getting more difficult to stay peppy and excited about everything. In high school, I was so obnoxiously bubbly that a lot of people couldn't handle me for a long period of time. It's amazing what time, life experience, and a lot of damn drama can do to a person.
I don't know how my sister has been able to do this. She went through my surgeries and treatments, my brother-in-law's surgery and treatment, and now she has just gotten herself through my mother's surgery. She is such a hero to me. Janina went through her own cancers, and now she has had to be the rock for all three of us. She got her own biopsies done yesterday. I pray she doesn't have this stupid cancer. If she does...I can't think about it.
Pray for this family, everyone. If you don't pray, then think of us. Keep us in your thoughts. This is really difficult for the lot of us. Thank you again for all of your support, encouragement, well wishes, and love. We could not have gotten this far without it.
I can’t believe this is it. The final countdown. I'm getting butterflies in my stomach as I type this. Am I ready?
The truth is, it doesn't matter if I'm ready or not - it will just happen. Tomorrow will come and I'll have my surgery. Since I was first diagnosed, time seems to have flown by and stood still all at the same time.
At this time, though, I want to thank everyone who has shown me support along the way. You know who you are. Your hugs, thoughts, prayers, calls, cards, text messages, and twitters have meant more than you know—and I mean that. I feel like I have my own cheering section rooting me on to victory. I have drawn so much strength from you. I am overwhelmed by the people who have reached out to me. Some folks I have never even met. It has made all the difference in my journey and reassures me that the things that bind us together are more important than those which separate us.
Today was a rather bittersweet one. Although my surgery will be behind me by this time tomorrow, my oldest daughter, Janina, is awaiting thyroid biopsy results. Today, she had three nodules biopsied and we will know the results on Monday. One day at a time; that's all we can do. I reminded Dori that she has probably saved our lives by her own diagnosis.
I’d like to think that by tomorrow night, I’ll be blogging again, but we’ll have to see about that. I'm sure Dori will keep the blog going and post an update.
Disclaimer: If you watch Ugly Betty and have not gotten to Season 3, Episode 16, then don't read this yet. Go watch that episode and then come back. You'll get mad at me. If you have never watched Ugly Betty and don't really care about the show, then read on.
Molly has cancer. I knew it as soon as I saw her in the doctor's office in Episode 16. She was crying, upset, and seemed completely torn. She finally tells Daniel, who is the head honcho in Mode Magazine. Daniel lets her walk out of his life. I haven't finished the episode to find out if he succeeds in bringing her back. I needed to write this entry. It's going to really hit home for people, especially those I have become close to going through cancer themselves.
Betty talks Daniel into going to find her. He was torn up about Molly just walking out and him not stopping her. He said that she didn't want him to see her sick, and that he let her walk out because he was scared of seeing her get worse. Then he said, "But...I love her." That, my friends, is the clincher.
As a cancer patient, I can tell you right now: We want support, even when we don't want you around. Sometimes, we crave it. Especially when we need it most.
Molly's reaction fits. She didn't want to hurt Daniel, especially since she put her ex through it a long time before, when she was first diagnosed. She was afraid of Daniel going through the same pain that her ex did, especially since the cancer came back worse than before. I know I feel that way a lot of the time with my friends and family. But, as I've learned, some of my friends are too stubborn to kick away, and my family would disown me before letting me go through this on my own.
I've definitely felt lonely on this journey. Friends have come and gone and lost touch with me. Some knew about my diagnosis and tried to be there for me but strayed after a while. Few have stood by this entire time, but those few mean more to me than anything. I notice the inconsistencies, even when some people don't know I see them. Sure, I'm not dying, but this is something I will be fighting my entire life. And sometimes I have days when I need someone, even just to hear me vent.
If you're a friend or family member of someone who is going through cancer, don't leave them. Don't be scared. I'm sure your loved one is scared enough for the both of you. Love them, cherish them, keep them close to you. Don't stray from them. A phone call or card means so much. If they call you, pick up the phone. Even if their prognosis is not a good one, be there for them as much as you can. Express how you feel to them; hold nothing back. Cancer shouldn't affect the way you feel for that person. Develop the bond you have with your loved one. Strengthen it. Don't let cancer weaken it. Your bond will be unbreakable.
Tomorrow is Mom's surgery. If she's ready, then so am I.
Visited with Merril’s sister Marci and family last night. Had pizza and salad and way too much dessert. Even on the way home, I had my head in a box of the fabulous Christmas candy that Marci makes every year and shares with the family. Lovely pieces of stained-glass-like sugary goodness of grape, pineapple, orange, lemon, and my all-time favorite, cinnamon. It was wonderful to be with everyone and to get even more hugs and well-wishes for my upcoming surgery. (If the Treeces are reading this, I love you all and thank you for a wonderful evening!)
After that, a quick escape to Delaware Park Slots. The nodule gang, me, Anna Marie, Janina, Dori, and Melissa piled into Janina’s Tahoe (love those backseat seat-warmers!) and headed off like thieves into the night. I found it peculiar, statistically-speaking, that all five of us have been found to have thyroid nodules; and so far two of us have thyroid cancer, yet not one of us won any money, hmmm… Oh well, it was a welcome diversion and we had a blast.
Surgery is around the corner. So much to do and so little time. I need to get through some medical transcription jobs, clean the house, get meals together for the next couple of weeks (thanks to Let’s Dish www.letsdish.com), and pack a small bag for the hospital. My grandson, Marrin, came to visit today and drew a picture for my hospital room. My beautiful niece and goddaugther, Diana, sent me a card that makes me cry every time I read it…that’s going with me too.
Anna Marie stopped by and excitedly reminded me that I have only two days to go. She's unusually happy about it and I’m starting to get a little worried about her -- but, I get her point, and it does make sense.
I know that in order to take action, you have to want something more than you are afraid of it. I want it now. I want the cancer out. I want the surgery behind me. I know that it needs to be done and that I cannot go forward with healing, recovery, and potential cure until it is. It’s a process, just as most things in life are.
As I toggled between writing this blog and going into my Twitter page, I discovered the following post: “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.” (Ambrose Redmoon).
I watched my Ravens lose to the Steelers today. It was pretty painful to watch. We gave up three touchdowns because of penalties. I won't deny that I was quite pissed and yelling at the referees through my TV set (yeah, they totally heard me). Overall, it was a heart-wrenching experience.
A cancer battle is pretty much like a football game. Both teams battle it out, and, in the end, one has to win. Doctors make the call on what would be the best treatment for the patient, just like the referees make calls on the game to benefit one or the other. Family, friends, coworkers, and even strangers have to watch from the sidelines, shouting encouraging words for their loved one and booing the disease and all the hell that goes with it, just like fans rooting for their favorite team and cussing out the opposition. All the fans can do is watch and anxiously wait for the final score. All the loved ones surrounding the cancer patient can do is watch and wait for something to happen.
As I was watching the game today, Derrick Mason got badly injured. He looked like he was really hurting. A Steelers player fell on his leg and it looked like Mason had twisted it. The whole thing looked painful. What amazed me was Mason got up and walked off the field, and within about ten to fifteen minutes, the announcers stated that he was coming back into the game. I was floored. I kind of sat wide-eyed at the screen for a good while, wondering what in the world Mason was thinking. His injury seemed pretty bad initially.
Isn't that what we, as cancer patients, have to do sometimes? We need a breather. We need time to take everything in. But in the end, we have to get back in the ring and fight. If not, then we need to live our lives and not regret a single moment.
Sometimes I have definitely needed time to breathe. I felt suffocated most of the time. A lot of it happened so quickly. Diagnosis, graduation, surgery, driver's ed, treatment...all within about two months. And then school started almost immediately after I finished treatment. I barely had time to rest. Before my first semester was over, I had to go off of my medications (whoopee) and start becoming hypothyroid. I became even more exhausted than before! The low-iodine diet began a month later, and then I had treatment a little over a week later. By the time treatment was done, I was back in school for another semester. I was burned out, but luckily this semester wasn't so horrible. I finished with straight A's and made it onto the Dean's List. By the time summer came, I needed a breather. There were so many things I had to do, and I had no choice.
My family did so much for me during this time. They made my meals, talked to me, let me vent if I needed to. They encouraged me and drove me wherever I needed to go (oh, they still do, oops), and never denied me fun when I needed it. They sucked it up when I wanted to watch an old movie, or something just plain stupid on TV. But through all of that, it had to have been horrible watching all of this cancer business happen. I feel the same way about my mom.
She works so hard. She has so many jobs. Wife, mother, practice manager, medical transcriptionist, soap and jewelry maker, etc. The list goes on. I know that I'm going to become the woman of the house and take care of her, but I don't mind at all. I want to support her and help her get through this. I want to cook for her, clean (did I just say that?), watch movies and crazy TV shows with her, anything that would help make this battle easier.
Sure, players get injured. Cancer fighters get their scars. We all fall down. But the key is getting back up again.
Where would we be without comic relief? I went to see the new movie “It’s Complicated” with Merril and Dori last night, and laughed to the point of forgetting time and place. There was one part of the movie, though, that brought me back to reality, but in an odd sort of way.
Meryl Streep has gotten herself into a very complicated relationship with her ex-husband, Alec Baldwin, who has moved on and married a much younger woman. Naturally, Meryl is frantic and totally scattered about what to do. She descends upon her therapist, unannounced, begging for time with him to discuss the “situation.” She wanted him to tell her what to do. It’s funny that so many of us are like that, me included; that we look to those whom we feel are best-equipped to tell us how to live our lives. At any rate, Meryl is talking with abandon, completely opening up and her therapist is listening intently. She concludes by instructing him to tell her that she’s doing a bad thing. I found his response very fascinating, and in a twisted sort of way related it to my own situation. The therapist told Meryl that he had never seen her so open and willing to share her thoughts and feelings, that perhaps the “affair” brought this out of her, and she should just go with it. This “bad” situation that Meryl had found herself in helped her to see herself better by sharing with others, facing things she felt deep within her gut and reckoning with them, thus opening herself up to new and better possibilities.
And how in the world does this relate to my situation? Uncomfortable, sad, and bad situations tended to make me retreat. Keep things inside. Not talk about it. Suffer silently, and subsequently worry myself into a frazzle. Blogging has been incredibly redeeming, rewarding, and emotionally freeing. What I write is one thing, it’s just the tip of the iceberg, and has allowed me to think and feel to the point of seeing things differently…in a good way. I have been able to take this bad situation, turn it around, and give it some benefit.
Fortunately, I don’t need someone that I perceive as a wiser, better-equipped person to tell me what to do. Cancer is serious business. Surgery is not an option. It’s a non-negotiable. My sister, Anna Marie, called in the middle of my blogging. She happily reported that I only have three days to go; that I should get excited because in only three days the surgery will be practically behind me. Interesting way to look at it, but true. So in only three days, I will take on this new and uncertain adventure, with the certainty that everything will work out just the way it’s supposed to.
So in about 3 days (give or take, I'm posting at 1:45am on Saturday), Mom goes in for her surgery. It's funny, I kind of forgot how I felt in the few days prior to my first surgery.
I think I was feeling a mixture of things. I didn't have any prior experience, so I had no idea what to expect. I was probably just afraid of how it would feel going under and then after I woke up, but I don't remember if I was scared of the surgery itself. My family and friends definitely kept me busy during that month. I had graduation three days after diagnosis, my graduation party, other friends' graduation parties and outings, and my week trip to visit my lovely grandmother in Florida for Senior Week. Once I recovered from the craziness of the month, I had days before my surgery. The lull made me worried, and gave me more time to think than I wanted. Funny, though, I never really vented. I mean, truly vented. I blubbered and whined a little, but I never really let everything out. That's always been one of my problems: holding things in. I don't let them out unless someone really hurts me or if I feel it's definitely necessary. Go figure I'll get pissed off and chew someone out for being unfair to me in some serious way, and I won't even truly talk about my cancer diagnosis. I'm weird, I guess.
To be truthful, my surgery wasn't so bad. I had my entire thyroid and ten lymph nodes removed. Two of those lymph nodes tested malignant, so it had definitely spread. I never really imagined that it would have gotten more complicated over time.
Looking back, I feel that I'm very different from then. Funny how something can change you in a moment's time. The second I received my diagnosis, I changed. Everyone noticed. A lot of very bold friends actually told me I'd changed, that I wasn't the same person anymore. I'm not sure if I'm happy or pissed. Why does something like this have to alter my personality and turn people off from me, when I'm still surviving? I'm still living; I'm still Dori. So why does something like a fatal disease or any other serious event have to change us entirely?
I see how my mother and sister are, and it amazes me every time. They both are still the same people. Janina had two cancers (yes, two) when she was around my age and older, and she still is the same lovely, wonderful, beautiful person she always has been. My mother has hardly changed since her diagnosis. She's still working, still bustling about the house like the queen of the household she is.
Maybe I simply grew up. My sister grew up long before her diagnoses, and my mother, well, let's just say she's been grown up for a little while. Maybe I needed a big, strong kick in the ass to bust my head out of the clouds and drop back down into the reality that is life. I know I'm far, far from perfect, but I know I've had to grow up a lot since June 1, 2006. I've had to learn how to handle my doctor's appointments, medications, medical history, and all the while juggle school and work. Funny fact, though: I still lack a driver's license. Gotta' get on that, I think.
Long ramble short: In the end, the change has been good. I've learned how to advocate for myself and become more independent. I'm still learning, but I'm pretty sure I'm on the right track. And, no, I'm definitely not thanking my cancer for this. Cancer can still suck it. :)
I really wanted to post yesterday; but I was struggling with a migraine, and unfortunately cannot take any Advil because of being within 5 days of surgery (gulp!), and I wasn’t feeling as joyful as I wanted to feel.
I spent Christmas Eve morning with my sister, Anna Marie, at her screening ultrasound. I expect that the folks at the radiology facility will become well acquainted with many of my family members over the upcoming months. She has some thyroid nodules (at this point no surprise), and I razzed her about it being my cancer, not hers, and I am not willing to share. I mean why shouldn’t I get all of the attention? We laughed, and got on with some very last minute Christmas shopping.
Truth be told, I think there are just some people who are too good for cancer. My sister Anna Marie would be one of them. She’s the matriarch of the family and the glue that holds us siblings together. I think my sister Grace and I secretly compete for her attention, sort of like being the “favorite” among a mother’s children. But there are no favorites with Anna Marie. She spreads her love equally and unconditionally because she wouldn’t know how to love any other way. She’s a beautiful soul, inside and out.
I’m appreciative of the fact that this thyroid thing has awakened my family to wanting to be screened. One reason being that I want them to live a long and healthy life, and the other is the fact that it’s helped to take the focus off of me. The more fuss about my cancer and upcoming surgery, the more nervous I get about it actually. I’d like to slip in and out of the hospital like it’s just any old day, and then get on with my life.
Today being Christmas day, I’m filled with hope that all will go well. I'm well-armed with countless hugs, kisses, and well-wishes from family at last night’s Christmas party. Watching my children and grandson excitedly open their presents this morning was enough to make anyone forget their troubles.
The days are going by so quickly, as will my surgery, like it’s just any old day, exactly the way I want.
And now the cycle begins. My cousin got an ultrasound as soon as she found out about Janina, and now she has one nodule in her thyroid. My mother woke up early this morning to go with my aunt (her oldest sister) to her ultrasound appointment. I don't even want to think about what the possibilities are.
Mom said something interesting to me last night. She said, "Dori, you probably saved all of our lives." Say what? Everyone in my family is popping up with the same problem. I feel like a statue. A statue that stands in the middle of all this turmoil, and I can't move. I can't come alive and do anything to fix it. All I can do is talk. Talk talk talk talk talk. Tell them this, tell them that. I can only comfort. I can't take it away. I can't wave my magic wand and eliminate it. All I can do is hold their hand, answer all of their questions with honesty and no sugarcoating, and pray to God that this is easier for them.
T-minus 6 days until Mom's surgery and T-minus 5 days until Janina's biopsies. I'm going to be there every single second. I don't want to miss a moment. I'll never forget the fact that both Mom and Janina were there for me through my biopsy, diagnosis, surgeries, and treatments. They cooked and baked for me when I couldn't do it myself (and still can't. *wink*) because of exhaustion and low-thyroid hormone, and let me be mad when I needed to be mad. My cousin and aunt always checked up on me and wanted to know how I was doing all the time. They all stuck around and supported me when I needed it most.
Every single time someone finds something, though, I lose a little bit of my sanity. I just hope I don't run out before everyone gets through their own journey with this stupid, ridiculous, unforgiving disease.
I'll be truthful; I only waited until now to post because I wanted to wait to see what my mother was going to write about. I've been having trouble trying to figure out what to say, especially since, for the most part, I've said all I've thought the past few days. It's hard to write about something new when your mind is blank. I hardly know what to think these days, but yesterday really brought things home for me.
This shit's real. Plain and simple. I'm being very straightforward here because everyone else tends to beat around the bush with cancer. No fluff here. I refuse to be that person. Cancer is real. It doesn't toy with people. It's like watching duels in old films; one doesn't often survive while the other thrives.
It was bad enough when my brother-in-law got diagnosed less than one year after me. I hated the feeling of that. It frightened me, especially since all of the motions of cancer were fresh in my mind and very recent. Luckily, his didn't spread and he had just one surgery and treatment. He's awesome. Then my own mother got diagnosed with the same exact cancer. That was pretty much the equivalent of...any of your wildest fears coming to life in front of your eyes.
And now, as if all of this isn't enough in this family, my sister was scanned and they found 3 nodules in HER thyroid. As if my sister hasn't been through enough with her own two cancers and the rest of us! Janina is the most unselfish, kind, generous, strong person I've ever known. I always call her "Mom" by accident. She takes care of me when I need her, and if my mom or dad can't come and help me with something or see me when I'm not feeling well, Janina is always there as soon as possible. I think I hate seeing her upset the most out of everyone. She's the person I could never bear to think was unhappy or ill or scared.
Sometimes I seriously wonder if I can be as strong as she. Is it possible for me to be strong for both of the wonderful, spectacular women in my life if Janina also ends up having this stupid cancer? Will I really be able to watch both of them go through the same things that I had to? I don't know. I just feel like everything is falling apart; that we're all being tested to the point of insanity.
I guess we'll all have to see for ourselves. I plan on being one of the rocks they need during this. I can't abandon them, especially when they would never do that to me, no matter how hard things became. This is going to be a real test to this family, and it already has been. If Janina ends up being diagnosed, it's going to only get worse. We're ready for you, cancer. And we're not afraid. Not anymore.
My only thought up until now has been what a sad and unfortunate coincidence it is that Dori and I both developed thyroid cancer. At least that was my thinking up until yesterday…and then WHAM!, to my absolute surprise and major disappointment, I learned that my oldest daughter, Janina, was found to have three thyroid nodules on screening ultrasound – two of which need to be biopsied. All I can think of at the moment is ENOUGH ALREADY!
Aside from being a truly amazing daughter, granddaughter, goddaughter, mother, wife, sister, aunt, cousin, niece, and friend, Janina is, without a doubt and hands-down, the best person I know. Everyone around her would agree. She’s the rock of the family, the go-to person, the first one to volunteer, the one you can always count on, the caretaker, the shoulder to lean on; and she does all of this willingly, unselfishly, and as if it comes naturally, which I’m sure it does, at least for Janina.
So the day before my surgery, she will undergo biopsies of her suspicious nodules. I’ll be there with her, as she was for me, and pray that they are benign. But no matter what, we are a family, together we are stronger, and we will get through this difficult and somewhat surreal time in our lives. And as Forrest Gump said so well…"That’s all I have to say about that”.
People look at me with the most predictable faces when I tell them I've had cancer. I get one of three looks: pity, confusion, and blank. The blank one is the funniest, because that usually means they are either trying to figure out if I really did say "cancer," or it is because they are trying to choose their words carefully. It really is boring, actually, telling people about my story. It's all the same stuff but from different people. Every so often I revel in the sea of pity, more than likely because I am mildly depressed. But more often than not, it irritates me.
I was one of those people who used to think that people with cancer pitied themselves, that they walked around looking like death because they had no other mindset. I only have one word for that: bullshit.
Through iy and my encounters with other cancer fighters/survivors, I have met some of the most incredible people. My sister and brother-in-law are both cancer survivors, my sister from cervical and vulva cancer, my brother-in-law from, well, take a wild guess (papillary thyroid cancer, if you didn't feel like guessing). They both hardly mention it, nor do they wear it on their foreheads. Both are incredibly strong, especially my sister. She amazes me every single day. There is no such thing as pity in her vocabulary, that's for sure.
Honestly, I can't wait for the day when I meet someone who is NOT a cancer fighter/survivor who looks at me and simply tells me, "Okay." I do not want people to keep telling me how "I'll be fine," and "I'm too young for this." Well, duh. Tell me something I don't know.
I'm glad my mother has the mindset that she does. She obviously understands what will happen when she tells people, and she is ready for it. She does not want anyone to pity her or ask her how she is all the time, because obviously, she's fine! We're all fine; we wake up in the morning, go about our daily routines, and count our blessings. Cancer sucks, and it's not on the "blessing" list, but I can tell you one thing: us Plaits/Mannings/Facketts/Layes do not let it hold us back.
I get the most puzzling looks when I tell people that I have thyroid cancer, since most of these people know that my daughter has it as well. Even the doctors are a bit surprised. I’ve been asked about everything from radiation exposure to cancer cluster. The cancer cluster issue is an interesting one, and probably worth exploring, particularly because my daughter’s husband, Michael, was diagnosed with thyroid cancer about a year after Dori, and they lived across the street from us for about 6 years. We sold that home and moved in 2004; it was checked for radon at that time.
According to my endocrinologist, there is a particular type of papillary thyroid carcinoma that has familial tendencies. He plans to explore this with me at a later time. So, in the meantime, everyone in my family is getting a screening ultrasound. My son has a cyst on his thyroid that his doctor feels is of no significance, but you bet we’ll keep a close eye on it. If it is genetic, it looks like I started the trend. How kind of me—certainly not the sort of thing you want your children to inherit.
But for today, I continue to do all of those things that will better ready me for surgery; eat well, get enough sleep, exercise, keep busy, laugh as much as I can, lean on my family & friends for support, cry if I must, and know that this too will pass.
Today was a great day. I was actually more focused on what to get certain people for Christmas than on my upcoming surgery. I just hate when bad situations consume you, stop you dead in your tracks, and you just can't seem to focus on anything else. But not today. I spent the day shopping with Dori and Merril, racing through the mall, from store to store, level to level, looking for the perfect gifts for some pretty perfect folks. Came home and shoveled two cars out of the driveway and the back walkway. Exercise is the perfect stress reliever!
When I lay my head on the pillow tonight, I'm hoping that all of that shoveling will help me fall into a deep sleep. Sometimes, when the house is quiet with everyone in peaceful slumber, I lie awake and think about what's ahead, or at least what I think is up ahead. I remember what Dori went through and wonder if it will be the same for me. I remember her face when she awoke from surgery, just like it were yesterday. The hours were long and difficult for her, mostly from the effects of the morphine. But by midnight, she was eating Cherrios and we were watching "Rent" on a portable DVD player. I was on one side of her bed, and her older sister, Janina, on the other side. Her guardians of the night. Now, it will be me in that bed, with daughters on either side, not just as my guardians, but as my guardian angels--for only God could have created children as perfect as they.
Kairol Rosenthal's latest blog entry inspired me to write about waiting. Waiting is terrible, on all facets. It eats away at your sanity. Right now, that's all my family is doing. Waiting. Trying to busy ourselves hardly covers up the fact that we all are worried. Even me, the one who has been there, done that.
I want it over with, because I know my mother is anxious. I know she wants it to just happen. She told me earlier today that she was hoping that our surgeon's office would call today saying that his Tuesday patient canceled and wanted my mother to come in and have her operation done then. My heart almost leaped into my throat. Just the thought of what is coming makes me sick to my stomach.
Mom told me last week sometime that our surgeon talked to her about what the surgery would be like and what her scar would be. He said that he would make it like a half-smile type deal; it starts at the base of the throat on the right side, then travels to the left and curves upward toward the back of the ear. Fabulous. My surgeon told me when I had to receive my second surgery that he wanted to do two incisions instead of the one because I was "too young for that scar."
This irritates me. Isn't my mother too young for that, too? I know he'll do a fabulous job and make it almost invisible by the time it's fully healed, but it can be an ugly scar. I've seen people with that kind of incision, and it doesn't always look that pretty. It scares me. I thought about it today, and I wish that I could go back to when he was about to do the surgery and tell him I want that scar. I want it because my mother would get it, too. I didn't want her to suffer from that scar alone. If it meant that my mother didn't have to feel as intimidated by it, I would have insisted upon it, hands down.
Even right now she's talking about how she hopes there's a cancellation on Tuesday morning so that she can just get the surgery done. To be honest, I doubt I'll even be ready to watch this happen. I still have to pinch myself every day to make sure this is really happening.
I can only hope I can be as strong as my mother was when she had to take care of me. I don't plan on letting her down.
I think the hardest part about being diagnosed with thyroid cancer is the tendency to re-live my daughter's diagnosis back in 2006 and subsequent journey with what her doctor calls "persistent and troublesome" thyroid cancer. I can remember saying at that time "why not me?", "please, pick me..not her". I guess I should have watched what I wished for. But believing that everything happens for a reason, and we are where we are meant to be at all times in our lives, I have a strong feeling in my gut that we are on this journey together for a greater purpose.
So far, for me, it has been a whirlwind of events. Visit with my internist with complaints about neck discomfort, subsequent ultrasound, subsequent biopsies, diagnosis of thyroid carcinoma, more subsequent biopsies, scheduling of surgery. That's it in a nutshell.
As I await surgery, I oscillate between feeling positive and negative, courageous and scared to death, supported and very alone. Mostly though, I feel fortunate to have an amazing arsenal of family, friends, physicians and surgeon whom I know will bring me through this unfortunate and rather surreal time in my life.
Like daughter, like mother...it's like deja vu...all over again.
I never imagined I would have to watch from the sidelines. It's hard to imagine that my mother would have to fight cancer after me, let alone the same exact type. On December 11, 2009, my mother was diagnosed with papillary thyroid cancer. In 9 days, she will have her thyroid removed and probably several lymph nodes as well. I still can hardly fathom this whole ordeal.
Mom told me over the phone when she found out. I was at my school decorating for a charity ball when I received the call. She sounded so relieved, so...normal. I was amazed and nauseated at the same time. Right away, I started sobbing. I could hardly believe my ears. It felt like a dream. My friends gathered around me and placed their hands on my shoulders, arms, back. Their touch was the only thing reminding me of the reality I was facing.
Earlier tonight I was reading a chapter from Kairol Rosenthal's book, Everything Changes: The Insider's Guide to Cancer in Your 20s and 30s, when I stumbled across a passage from one of her interviews. The girl said, "Who suffers more, the people with cancer or the people around them watching them go through it and they can't do anything?"
To be completely honest, I hardly know the answer to that question now. It is one thing to say you've been through cancer, but to watch someone else go through the same thing and have absolutely no power is a whole new perspective. To be selfish for one moment, it will be the worst thing I will have to do. I can't sugarcoat it. I can only tell her the honest truth. I can tell her she will be fine, which she will. She will get through this. It will take a lot of strength on her part and my family's part, but she will make it. It will not defeat her. We're both part of two very stubborn, strong, and crazy families; there is no way that yet another round of cancer will break us apart.
Like Daughter, Like Mother: Our Thyroid Cancer Journey
Behind the Blog
Adelina is a full-time wife, mother, practice manager, and medical transcriptionist. After receiving an ultrasound and countless biopsies, she was diagnosed with papillary thyroid cancer on December 11, 2009. She successfully underwent surgery on December 29, 2009, and had her first radioactive iodine treatment in February 2010. Following treatment, Adelina now sees her doctor once a year for follow-up. She has been doing well, and refuses to let cancer slow her down.
Dori is 26 years old. She was diagnosed with papillary thyroid cancer at the age of 17 on June 1, 2006, just three days prior to her high school graduation. Dori endured two radioactive iodine treatments and two surgeries to remove her complete thyroid and 39 total lymph nodes from her neck. She is now under close watch by her doctors, and only time will tell if the cancer stays at bay.