Life’s a roller coaster… 

My surgery was scheduled for Thursday March 31st, 2016. I knew I would be there through the weekend and Monday would be the earliest they let me go home. That weekend was foggy. The morphine kept me asleep most of the time. When I was awake, I couldn’t wait to get back to sleep. This was convenient for the time being as I had a drainage tube stuck in the side of my neck that went straight across my throat under my skin. It was as uncomfortable as it sounds. The nurses were nice enough, though, they insisted they had to wake me up what felt like every hour to check my vitals and feed me some knew cup of pills that never appeared to have the same contents twice. Having my blood drawn was another game entirely, 3-4 times a day I was being poked. Then the news came, “Your calcium and magnesium levels are too low. You will be given four bags of calcium at two hours each and two bags of magnisum at one hour each all night.” I didn’t get much sleep that night. Every time a bag needed to be changed an alarm would sound and wake me from what little sleep I was getting. Receiving the calcium wasn’t so bad, it left me feeling cold mostly but, the magnisum kept me wide awake, it burned my IV site as it entered. The pain was unbareable. Bobby slept only six feet away so it took everything in my power to not scream in pain. I remained positive, “they will let me go soon” was consistently on my mind. Visitors came and went. Bobby stayed by my side as long as he could but come Tuesday he would have to get back to work and I so badly wanted to be home by the time he went back. My body continued to suck up the calcium but my levels never increased. I always suspected a calcium deffiencey but I never thought it would be this bad. Day after day I sat in that bed, walked the halls of the floor I was confined to, stared out the window all while being being poked, prodded and monitored. I would be lying to say I didn’t cry at times. This was test of endurence while being at my worst. Days past, my tube came out, my strength started to return, well most of it. As my strength started to regain I noticed my right arm, my dominant arm, remained weak… My frustration started to build with the pain that started to slowly work its way down my arm and through my shoulder. This was not part of the plan, I was not warned that this could happen, is it permanent, what do I do now? The pain grew with every remaining day I stayed in the hospital. Every day I remained there my anger and frustration grew. My pacience wore thin. I wanted to be home, free of tubes and IV’s. I wanted to be better, to get back to work, to feel normal. More days passed, my levels went up… And then back down… Lower then the before… I was never going to get to leave. They relocated my IV site, more fluids, more calcium, more, more, more. Bruises started to appear on the insides of my elbows from where they were pulling my blood. I started to give up on the idea of being able to leave anytime soon. The doctors changed my calcium intake. I would no longer be recieving calcium through my IV, instead they upped my oral dose. Four tabs of calcium three times a day totaling 2400 MG. That did the trick my body finally started responding. A few more days and a whole lot of waiting but I was finally released on April 7th, 2016 after 8 days that felt like an eternity.

Thank you everyone who came to visit or sent me messages of encouragement, they kept my spirits up during a very trying time in my life.

XO,

Ashley

What just happened?!

 The last few weeks have been quite the roller coaster. I’ve been struggling to write a post because by the time I would proof read what I wrote, I no longer felt or connected with what I wrote about.  Most of the time, I felt too upset to share anything and when I wasn’t too upset, I was too angry. When I wasn’t angry I was mostly confused and scrambled thoughts do not make for a good blog post.

My weeks have been filled with doctors appointments. Who knew you would have to see three different doctors a week… I’ve had so much blood drawn I can’t possibly have any left. Not to mention a MRI that lasted more then an hour, that actually made me dizzy, sick and triggered a migraine that would last days. I’ve already missed more work then I thought I would have and this is all PRE-opperation prep work. I can’t even bare to think about what lies ahead…

Just kidding, because today was my pre-op appointment where they went over in detail about the breathing tube that will be stuck down my throat after they sedate me and something about a drainage tube that will be sticking out my neck post-op that will be removed while I’m awake before I leave the hospital 3-4 days after surgery… Needless to say I don’t want to think about any of this right now.

I also saw an endocrineologist, for those of you who don’t know what that is my good friend google provided you with the definition that I attached to the bottom of this post. He will be the one prescribing me my hormone replacement medication. He also happens to be the one who is going to give me the radio iodine that will rid me of whatever cancer tissue might be left in my body post surgery. I had that appointment on March 17th. Now up till that day, I was under the impression the radio iodine wasn’t that bad and maybe, in comparison to other things, it’s not, but to me that trigger more fear then finding out I actually had cancer. Once I’m on the radio iodine I pretty much have to avoid human contact for 48 hours because I’m a danger to the people around me. Awesome. Beyond that I won’t be able to come into contact with children or pregnant woman for 13 days… He gave me a stack of information that I have yet to look through out of fear.

To say I’m stressed is an understatement.. The cancer causes a cough that just won’t quit. It also causes my body to become quite sore with speratic sharp pain that will course through my body without warning. When you add the symptoms of stress to the symptoms of cancer you just get a recipe for disaster. I just want to sleep until the stress is gone but when I wake up the stress of not being productive in the little time I have before surgery just triggers everything all over again. When I fight through the pain, by 4pm I feel like I’ve run a marathon and I just don’t have the energy for anything else. Today I drank two medium coffees before 12:30 and I’ll be asleep by the time this finally posts… But, one week from tomorrow, I’ll be showing up to Lowell General to check in for surgery. March 31st, 2016 will start my road to recovery and becoming totally cancer free. They will remove my entire thyroid as well as all infected lymphnodes which appear to only be on the right side of my neck. They will make a 4-5 inch incision across my neck (so if y’all have scarfs you want to send my way that would be much apperciated) then they will sew my head back on and bring me back to life while they spend the next 3-4 days monitoring my progress before sending me home to recover in peace…

I can probably have visitors and if I’m awake and consious I’ll have my phone. Thanks for all the support I’ve been receiving. I don’t know what I would do with out it. ❤️

Xoxo,

Ashley

What is an Endocrinologist?

Endocrinologists are specially trained physicians who diagnose diseases related to the glands. The diseases they are trained to treat often affect other parts of the body beyond glands. While primary care doctors know a lot about the human body, for diseases and conditions directly related to glands they will usually send a patient to an endocrinologist.

What Does an Endocrinologist Do?

The glands in a person’s body release hormones. Endocrinologists treat people who suffer from hormonal imbalances, typically from glands in the endocrine system. The overall goal of treatment is to restore the normal balance of hormones found in a patient’s body. Some of the more common conditions treated by endocrinologists include:

Menopause

Diabetes

Metabolic disorders

Lack of growth

Osteoporosis

Thyroid diseases

Cancers of the endocrine glands

Over- or under-production of hormones

Cholesterol disorders

Hypertension

Infertility

Most of the work performed by an endocrinologist serves as the basis for ongoing research. Some endocrinologists work solely as research physicians. The goal of the research is to come up with new ways to better treat hormonal imbalances, including the development of new drugs.

The Day After…

thyroidIt is safe to say that I got next to no sleep that Friday night. I literally had a million questions I needed answers to immediately. Why me? How did this happen? Could I have done something differently? Should I have gone to the doctors more often? What IS Thyroid Cancer? Should I get another opinion? What doctor should I see for treatment? Is one hospital better than another? What is going to happen to my body? Am I going to get fat? Am I going to be on medication forever? What does my insurance cover? What did the doctor say after “You have Thyroid Cancer…”?

I forced myself to sleep sometime after midnight. Mainly because my phone died and I could no longer google every thought that came to my head. But, at 3:30 am my eyes popped open. Wide awake. I reached for my phone again. Google was like my goodnight story. It helped me drift back to sleep sometime around 5:30 am for another few hours. Alas, 8:00 am appeared and as I was reaching for my phone to yet AGAIN open up google and continue to ask it every question I had, I stopped myself. Google did not have the answer to my every question and it was time for me to realize, I was in denial.

I took a longer then usual shower that morning. My mind was still racing but I had to try and live my normal everyday life of being a wife, step-mom, dog-mom, friend and business owner. Focus. Focus. Focus. Cambria (Step-Daughter) was getting dropped off in two hours. I had to be out of the house in four… To go tell my Nana, in person, of my diagnosis… Normal life? What a joke… In six hours I would have to make my first public appearance as an officially diagnosed Cancer patient. Now, I know what you are all thinking… “She didn’t have to tell anyone…” Well, if you know me at all, I am not good at keeping secrets and it just so happens that my first public appearance was at a Birthday Party for my husbands bosses, daughters’, daughter… (still following?) and if you read my first post, then you know, he had to leave early the previous day to rescue me and had to do a small amount of explaining as to why… Totally fine, they are like family to us anyway, which is why I KNEW I would be asked and I KNEW I wouldn’t be able to keep it from them. Anxiety set in just thinking about what was ahead for the day.

How do you explain to a six year old that shit just got real? Short answer is you don’t. Long answer is you have to tell them something, but start and end with, “I will be fine.” I would later use the same approach with everyone I talked to that day but with a little more detail. What I learned was, though their questions were similar to the ones that raced through my head, they did differ a bit…How did you find it? What made you go to the doctor? What were your symptoms? What are they going to do for you? How is Bobby (Husband) taking the news? By the end of the day, the support I had felt was over whelming to say the least, but also exhausting. I think I spoke to 25 people that day alone. In person, phone calls and messages of support started flowing in. How on earth was I going to be able to handle reliving my diagnosis person after person? But, something amazing happened. I heard stories from so many people with similar issues, maybe not cancer, but thyroid issues are more common then you would think. I was able to receive guidance and advice that I would have never received else wise.  Basically the moral here is, never be afraid to share what is going on in your life. You are only as alone, as you let yourself be.

That night, I sat at my desk. I still had messages to answer, people to call back and by this point I wasn’t even sure who already knew. I was tired. A Facebook announcement seemed weird and I didn’t want to give the wrong impression. Thus, this blog was born to share my story and answer the million questions on everyones mind but, more importantly, to bring light to the Thyroid. Almost two thirds of the people I talked to didn’t even know what it did and to be honest I didn’t either until my night with google…

Thanks for reading. Below, I have answered some of the questions people had when finding out the news. If I can help just one person because of this, then I will find worth in the time it is taking out of my life.

xoxo,
Ashley

Q: What made you go to the doctor?
A: 
In September I noticed a lymph node on the right side of my neck became swollen. I assumed I was coming down with something and brushed it off. After a month, or so, I realized it was still swollen but I had not yet become sick. I brushed it off as just being a pocket of fluid or a cyst as it didn’t hurt and wasn’t bothering me. By December I could feel it growing in size and I became aware something was wrong as it started to become painful. I was seen by my primary care who wanted to refer me to an ENT doctor, but I knew my insurance was going to run out before I could get an appointment, so he opted to try antibiotics instead while I figured things out. Then a legit miracle happened and Bobby’s boss (who is awesome and deserves so much credit for me being diagnosed but that will have to be a whole post of its own) gave his employees insurance. I was able to quickly get an appointment in February with an ENT, who was fantastic, and moved quickly with scheduling my biopsy. Exactly one week later I had my results and a plan.

Q: What were your symptoms?
A: 
This question was a little more difficult to answer because as it turns out every symptom to do with the Thyroid could easily be something else. This is part of the reason this blog became so important to me. My only symptom that got me to the doctors was the lymph node. Below are a list of symptoms associated with the thyroid (not specific to cancer), in bold are the symptoms I had that may have been misdiagnosed over time.

  • A lump in the front of the neck, near the Adam’s apple
  • Hoarseness
  • Swollen glands in the neck
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Pain in the throat or neck
  • A cough that persists and is not caused by a cold
  • Weight loss, despite increased appetite
  • Increased heart rate, heart palpitations, higher blood pressure, nervousness, and excessive perspiration
  • More frequent bowel movements, sometimes with diarrhea
  • Muscle weakness, trembling hands
  • Development of a goiter (an enlargement in your neck)
  • Lighter or shorter menstrual periods
  • Lethargy, slower mental processes or depression
  • Reduced heart rate
  • Increased sensitivity to cold
  • Tingling or numbness in the hands
  • Constipation
  • Heavy menstrual periods 
  • Dry skin and hair

Q: How are you going to treat it?
A: 
I have discussed how it is typically treated with my doctor. He has suggested removing my entire thyroid as well as all my lymph nodes in my neck to prevent spreading or the possibility of it ever returning. I do not currently know the stage or how large the spot of cancer actually is. When the cancer was found we weren’t looking specifically for thyroid cancer (no one ever is) so more imaging and labs are required to determine size and stage. This week I will be getting blood work done as well as having an MRI of the area and will be following up with a few doctors this Friday.

Q: How is your husband and family handling it?
A: 
Bobby is staying positive and has even been extra helpful. He cleaned the entire house Saturday while I went out with Cambria and has even been doing laundry. This may be his way of coping, but I will not complain about the help… My parents are staying positive, too. I mean, I’m not giving anyone any real option to feel any different. Positivity is the only option.

You Have Cancer…

At 24 years old, the last thing you want to hear is “You have cancer.” I mean, no one wants to hear at any age they have cancer. But, to be honest, I knew I did. I knew I did the second the call came. The one where they ask you to come to the office as soon as you can. The one they insist can’t wait. You just know. Fear falls over you. You start to shake. You kind of want to cry but you don’t know who is going to see you so, you just start making the necessary phone calls. First call, your boss, you need to tell her you can’t come in tonight. Easy. Just kidding, good thing it went to voice mail but you did a terrible job of completing sentences and keeping your voice steady, she will know something is up for sure. Next, you probably shouldn’t drive yourself, you need a ride. Husband. He is the obvious choice but he’s at work. Maybe he can leave early, this is important. This call is a blur. So much so, after you calm down you have to call him back because you have no idea if he said he was coming or not. He is. Everything is fine.

One hour later. The waiting room. Waiting. Don’t think. Everything is fine. You get moved to a room. Still waiting. This must be the hour they give all the bad news to people. The walls are paper thin. You can hear other people start to cry. Bad News is coming but you feel prepared now. You won’t cry. What ever it is. You WON’T cry.

Thirty minutes later. The doctor walks in. The one that was jabbing needles in your neck for a biopsy last week. The results are in. “You have Thyroid Cancer.” The doctor continues to talk but he fades out while you contemplate how to tell your family. What do you tell your family? He lets you know to stop by the front desk. You see your husband. Shit. You forgot you told him to wait in the waiting area. You thought you would cry when you got the news if he was there. He looks anxious. Try to smile. Nope, you need to get out of there. You head for the door the second you hear “you’re all set”. Where’s the car. Don’t look at him. No crying. NO CRYING. He opens the car door for you. You start to cry. You tell him everything. He is quiet.

That’s what it was like to be me on Friday, March 4th, 2016. That is what it was like to get diagnosed with cancer. For me at least… I choose to see it as a bump in the road. I am not going to let to stop me, though, it may slow me down at times. I decided to write this blog as an outlet for my emotions and as a way to keep my friends and family updated on my progress. It took a day and a half to call people and I didn’t even get to everyone so I can’t imagine having to do that every time I get an update.

I’ve been researching day and night since I got diagnosed. There’s a lot of information out there on thyroid cancer. It’s rare. It’s mostly found in older woman after menopause. It’s the “easy” cancer. I’m lucky it isn’t a worse kind of cancer. <- that sentence is actually floating out there like I’m ACTUALLY LUCKY to have fucking cancer… This may be the most important reason I am choosing to share my experience. I may be “lucky” to know that I will make a full recovery and that my doctors are promising to do everything they can to prevent spreading and return of this awful sickness but, by NO means am I lucky to have to put my life on hold. To HAVE to put my life on hold while I deal with this life threatening sickness. To have to do a total adjustment on my life style and make new things a priority that I wouldn’t have before. All of a sudden my health is my main focus. Not my career. Not my family. Not my NEW marriage. My health, something I know just about everyone of us takes for granted when we have it. Health also takes on a new meaning. It is no longer the difference of having a cold or not having a cold. Health is no longer something you can outwardly see. Now every time I put food in my body I find myself wondering if I’m feeding this awful sickness with the food I eat. Could I have done something differently? Could this have been prevented if I ate only the recommended organic foods Whole Foods offered? I won’t know. I will have to find some way to stop asking my self those questions but, for now, I’m off to Whole Foods to by organic…

Thanks for reading.

xoxo,

Ashley