Home Sweet Home

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Last Wednesday I met my radiation oncologist at the hospital and swallowed my little radioactive pill. My husband dropped me off at our church’s missions house and I spent 2 1/2 days in seclusion. 52 hours, 9 movies (I think), 2 mini-series, 1 church project, 8 Classical Conversations/home school projects, and 1 case of bottled water later, my sweet family picked me up. Hugs and kisses all around! It’s good to be home. I missed my couch, my chair, my bed, my girlies, my husband, my sudoku puzzle book (I forgot to take it with me), and not necessarily in that order. I did, however, get to spend over 3 uninterrupted hours on the phone. (My girls can ignore me ALL day until my phone rings. They think it is their “now is the time to ask mom lots of questions” alarm.)

My family had decided we would celebrate my recovery and return to the general population. I thought we were just going to dinner. We headed downtown to eat at Hideaway Pizza. After being seated, one of the managers came over with a balloon bouquet and my favorite gift bag (thanks, Huntington Fine Jewelers). My hubby had already dropped off the balloons earlier in the day and had packed the gift bag in the diaper bag. He’s sneaky that way. Our waiter came to the table and said, “Wow! Are we celebrating a birthday?” My hubby explained I just finished my treatment for cancer and we were celebrating. Our waiter was so kind and seemed genuinely excited for the news as he offered his congratulations. Lydia, my oldest, enjoyed explaining the significance of the pink, purple, and teal balloons. I did not realize that those are the colors for thyroid cancer. (I know, I know, there is a color for everything. But it is less annoying when those colors become personal.) That also explains why I was presented with pink, purple, and teal beads for my Pandora bracelet. Such a sweet gesture on the part of my family. Not only to buy me a gift, but to put that much thought into it.

We ordered our meal and just enjoyed being together as a family. I have very funny girlies and, oh, how I had missed them! I was filled in on all that I had missed: Emma’s new words, Lydia’s art camp, and how they passed the time with daddy.  Lydia also informed me that they had a fun evening planned, complete with DJ’s Southern Snow (our favorite snocones) and a trip for the girls to the splash pad. I was all in. Toward the end of our meal, our waiter walked up to our table and had some news. “The party that left a few minutes ago, table 75? They overheard what you were celebrating and they paid for your meal.” Unknown to us, they had written a note to their waitress to get our check so they could pay for it! What a blessing! I really wish I knew who they were so we could thank them, but yet, that’s probably exactly why we didn’t find out until they left. I think the greatest satisfaction comes from doing a good deed and not getting public recognition for it.

Yesterday, I had a full body scan and scan of my neck. My oncologist called yesterday afternoon and said everything looked good and he would see me in 6 months. It’s good to know the cancer hadn’t spread and everything is going as it should. I am one blessed woman and God has been good to me. I recently had someone tell me, “You have missed out on so much because of the choices you have made.” And maybe I have missed out on some things, but they pale in comparison to what I would have missed had I not made those choices.

I close with words that have been playing in my brain all week.

Be still, my soul; the Lord is on thy side;
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain;
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul; thy best, thy heavenly, Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

Be still, my soul; thy God doth undertake
To guide the future as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence, let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul; the waves and winds still know
His voice who ruled them while He dwelt below.

Be still, my soul, though dearest friends depart
And all is darkened in the vale of tears;
Then shalt thou better know His love, His heart,
Who comes to soothe thy sorrows and thy fears.
Be still, my soul; thy Jesus can repay
From His own fulness all He takes away.

Be still, my soul; the hour is hastening on
When we shall be forever with the Lord,
When disappointment, grief, and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul; when change and tears are past,
All safe and blessed we shall meet at last.

“Be Still, My Soul”

Author: Catharine Amalia Dorothea von Schlegel, 1752, cento
Translated by: Jane Borthwick, 1855
Titled: “Stille, mein Wille”
Composer: Jean Sibelius, b. 1865, arr.
Tune: “Finlandia”

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Kiss me, I’m radioactive

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I met my radiation oncologist this past Tuesday. He was very encouraged from my surgery. Even though the nodule on the right side showed signs of cancer, the left side did not! My oncologist likes to wait until thyroid levels are at 35 to administer the radioactive iodine (RAI) and sometimes it can take up to 6 weeks post surgery. This is called a thyroid ablation and it is to destroy any remaining thyroid tissue. We did blood work last Tuesday to check my levels and we had scheduled to do blood work every two weeks until I reached the desired level. I was hoping to be where I needed to be before the middle of August (we have plans to get away for a couple of days before school starts back up). They do a scan of my thyroid a week after the RAI is administered to make sure everything is going as planned. About a month after that, I will do another scan to ensure all of the thyroid tissue is gone. My oncologist gave me a 99.9% chance of the cancer never returning. He smiled as he told me, “You are a cancer survivor!” Sweet words to my ears.

I am very blessed in that I have not been too tired so far on this thyroid-less journey. There have been two Saturdays that I had to rest quite a bit, but really, it hasn’t been all that bad. I’ve tried really hard to keep my husband from staying home from work, but this last week he decided he wanted to spend a little more time around the house to help me out. He called a friend of his to fill the pulpit this coming Sunday so he could concentrate on being home and not have to study in the office every day. This would allow him to help out with the girls and he could still study from home during naps. (The girls naps and mine.)

Caution: radioactive materials

Caution: radioactive materials

Monday morning the oncologist called. He had scheduled my appointment to take the RAI and he had scheduled it for this Wednesday! I will meet him at the hospital Wednesday morning and I get to swallow that little pill that is encased in a glass vial encased in a lead pipe. (This dosage is about 60 times higher than the dosage I took when they found the nodule to begin with.) I have to be away from my hubby and girlies for 48 hours, so I am blessed to be able to stay in the church missions house for two days. I have already gotten things ready for my stay (I feel like a doomsday prepper) by stocking it with: easy foods so I don’t have to use the cook ware, disposable plates and plastic ware so I don’t have to use the regular dishes, old towels that I can just toss when I’m done, and lots of projects to keep me busy. Did I mention the chick flicks? The missions house doesn’t get regular TV, so I’m taking the wii to hook up for the use of dvds and Netflix. I will really be suffering. (Don’t get me wrong. If I was a betting woman, I’d bet by Wednesday night I’ll be calling my hubby lamenting the fact of how bored I am.)

My husband on the other hand will have sole responsibility of three girlies. By himself. Alone. With no safety net. I don’t know that he’s ever had all 3 together by himself for more than a few hours. So I’m sure by Friday night he will be ready for his wonderful wife to come home so he can stop watching Doc McStuffins and Little Einsteins. (Andy Griffith is thrown in there, too, but he doesn’t seem to mind those. I blame Bro. Ted.) And I expect him to gravel at my feet and realize I really do wear a Wonder Woman cape to get through the days. Ha! Seriously, he acknowledges being a mommy is a hard job. He says often he is glad God made him a man. I have no doubt he will be just fine. He is a fabulous daddy and his girlies adore him. He will have everything under control. And if things get too rough, he can always call Memaw. She’s always up to the challenge.

After I got off the phone with the oncologist I had to laugh. Isn’t that just like God? Here my husband really felt like he needed to arrange his schedule to accommodate me and asked someone to fill the pulpit to help make that happen (knowing he may have to do that again once I had my treatment). Yet God knew the whole time that I would have my treatment the same week every single thing had been arranged! That may not seem like a big deal to some, but to me that is huge. Not only that, but by the time we go out of town for a couple of days, I will have been on my thyroid replacement meds for almost 3 weeks. Plus, all of this is done before school and Classical Conversations start back up. And before Choral Society resumes its regular season. I love how God is in the details. No problem is too big and no detail is too small.

So if you think about it, would you pray that this RAI will do everything it is supposed to and that the subsequent yearly visits are just routine? And pray for the hubster. His schedule will be much more hectic than mine the rest of this week.

Thyroid surgery number 2

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Last Monday, June 30th, I had my second thyroid surgery. They took out the left side of my thyroid, so now I am thyroidless. (I was really hoping that the thyroid weighed somewhere around 25 pounds, but alas, no.)

The original plan was to do an outpatient surgery, but I bled more this time and they had to install a drainage tube. I had the pleasure of staying overnight again. I was a little more alert this time after getting out of recovery. My husband was there for the surgery, but he had to leave at noon to take our church kids to camp. So I spent most of the day sleeping, flipping channels on the TV, and dining on chicken broth and jello.

I met with my surgeon yesterday. He said the incision looks good and the swelling and puffiness above the incision should go away in a couple of weeks. He’s confident that he got everything and that I should be fine from here on out. He has now referred me to an oncologist that I will see every year and a radiation oncologist. The radiation oncologist is the one to administer the RAI (radioactive iodine) and that appointment is next Tuesday. Unfortunately, my husband is out of town that day, so I will be going by myself. But I’m a big girl. I can handle it. If you know me, you know I am just a little bit independent at times. I am starting to write down questions to ask the oncologist so I can make sure I know what all is going on and what to expect. I need to write stuff down or I know I will forget something.  When you try researching on your own on the internet, you get all sorts of stuff to muddle through. I’ve read that I have to be away from my girls anywhere from 2-7 days. My doctor doesn’t think it will be a whole week, but that’s a question for my oncologist. (I finally gave up looking online. It can get depressing.)

Since the hubby was gone last Wednesday, we had a guest preacher. He preached on Psalm 121. What a great reminder of the God I serve. The creator of the world is my God. He created all that there is and He created me. The God who created the billions of stars cares about little me. He is my helper and my keeper. He will not suffer my foot to be moved. Psalm 37:23-24 states “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: and he delighteth in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the Lord upholdeth him with his hand.” I may stumble, but the Lord is there picking me up, protecting me, establishing my goings. Verse 4 of Psalm 121 tells me that “he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.” Nothing takes God by surprise. I usually sleep 7-8 hours at night. Do you realize how much can happen in 7-8 hours? Yet, my God does not sleep, He is never caught off guard, and He watches over me day and night.

My cancer is no problem for my God. I may never know this side of glory why He has chosen me to travel down this road, but I know He is beside me every step of the way. I will trust in Him and follow His leading.

 

Pathology Report Findings

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This past Monday, June 16th, I had my thyroid surgery. The doctor removed the nodule and the right half of my thyroid. He said I did really well, which is good to know, because all I remember is “We’re going to put this oxygen mask on for right now and then (insert Charlie Brown’s teacher’s voice here) blah, blah, blah, wah, wah, wah, wah….” Then I was waking up in recovery. I had already warned my husband that if any embarrassing videos showed up anywhere in cyberspace, he’d pay dearly. They decided to keep me overnight. I wasn’t real thrilled about that until I got to my room and couldn’t keep my eyes open. The only reason I woke up at all is because of the blasted automatic blood pressure taker thingy. It went off every 15 minutes. Pretty annoying if I do say so myself. My fabulous hubby stayed with me all day. At least I think he did. He said he did. I was pretty out of it.

I have this great little incision at the base of my neck being held together with surgical tape strips. Strips I am not supposed to take off. My husband says at first glance it looks like some piece of chunky jewelry. Ha! I can even make surgical tape look good. The doctor told me to use lots of sunscreen if I go out in the sun. He said it would scar kind of funny if I don’t. So I have decided to stay out of the sun for awhile. I don’t need permanent chunky jewelry.

After removing the nodule, they did a second biopsy. My surgeon called Thursday afternoon with the pathology report. The biopsy did indeed show signs of follicular carcinoma, or cancer. It is the second most common form of thyroid cancer. Success rate is about 90%. So now the plan is to go back in on the 30th and take out the other half of my thyroid. My doctor said the next procedure will be even easier and the surgery should be outpatient. Yippee! No automatic blood pressure taker thingy! Once that is done I get to take some radioactive iodine that is supposed to “kill” everything off. Rumor has it that I will have to stay away from my family for a day or two, but I’ll have to confirm that with my doctor. Going through airport security is pretty much out as well. Last thing I need is to be detained by Jack Bauer or Homeland Security for setting off radiation detectors. After about 6 weeks he will start me on some medication, but in the mean time I will feel “very sluggish.” I was also told to be prepared to be dumb for the next 6 weeks. I’m excited about this. I’ve used mommy brain as an excuse for about 2 years, and it will be nice to have a new excuse.

I’m doing okay with all of this. I keep telling myself, “Thousands of people before me have been down this road.” And, of course, it could be worse. I try not to complain about my health issues. They are what they are. No matter where I am, there is always someone who wishes their medical situations were as “easy” as mine.

This morning, as I was playing offertory, I realized what I was playing. I started smiling as I sang the words in my head:

Day by Day

Day by day, and with each passing moment,
Strength I find, to meet my trials here;
Trusting in my Father’s wise bestowment,
I’ve no cause for worry or for fear.
He Whose heart is kind beyond all measure
Gives unto each day what He deems best—
Lovingly, its part of pain and pleasure,
Mingling toil with peace and rest.

Every day, the Lord Himself is near me
With a special mercy for each hour;
All my cares He fain would bear, and cheer me,
He Whose Name is Counselor and Power;
The protection of His child and treasure
Is a charge that on Himself He laid;
“As thy days, thy strength shall be in measure,”
This the pledge to me He made.

Help me then in every tribulation
So to trust Thy promises, O Lord,
That I lose not faith’s sweet consolation
Offered me within Thy holy Word.
Help me, Lord, when toil and trouble meeting,
Ever to take, as from a father’s hand,
One by one, the days, the moments fleeting,
Till I reach the promised land.