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Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Low-Iodine Diet

UPDATE: Taren just found this great website that lists all the companies that use non-iodized salt in their foods!  Go to page 12 if you care.  If not, go straight to the hot place ... you'll know it when you get there.

Today marks the first day in my two-week preparation for the radioactive iodine therapy that will, hopefully, ensure I am truly cancer-free.  At least, for now.  I need to reduce the iodine I consume so my body will better absorb the radioactive stuff, and result in a more effective treatment for me in my post-surgery, pre-mutated state.

Like most diets you are forced to go on for health reasons, you never really know how much of whatever-it-is-you-can't-eat is in food.  To clarify, low-iodine is NOT no salt.  As I learned, some salts have iodine added to them, so when shopping for foods, you have to look at the ingredient list for the specific type of salt used - can't be sea salt, and if the list does not say specifically kosher salt ... you can't eat it.  Think about that - salt is in everything, from breads to peanut butter.  Just looking for tortillas at the store was a 5 minute chore (in case you were wondering, corn tortillas have no salt in them, but who likes those?).

Meats are a bit easier to deal with, except for chicken.  Much of the chicken you buy in the store has been dunked in some sort of brine.  A key ingredient of brine?  Salt.  So needless to say shopping has been taken to a whole new level in my house.

What's on the "No List"?  Fish and anything with sea salt, which is kind of a no brainer really.  Some types of beans, spinach, egg yolks, dairy, chocolate, soy ... I think that's everything.  Not that I eat this stuff all the time, but fish?  Cheese?  Chocolate?  It's gonna be a rough two weeks.  Oh, I also had to stop my vitamin supplements - one was fish oil and the other has soy in it.

So for lunch last night we had tacos.  Actually I'm not sure you can even call them tacos in the traditional sense.  No cheese and no sour cream.  They were ... they were fine.

Anyway, that's my food plan for the next two weeks.  I think much of this diet is geared for folks who eat out all the time, or get their dinners from the microwave.  My diet was pretty good to begin with, the only offenders being cheese and fish, so I think it's ok if I have some iodine-ladden foods from time to time.  The important thing for me to remember is this is a Low-Iodine diet, not a Non-Iodine diet.

Then on May 12th and 13th I get my shots, the 14th I get mutated!

Monday, April 14, 2014

A better update than the last garbage

First off, sorry for leaving this blog to gather so much eDust - especially with a soul-crushingly depressing post as that last one.  It's not my style to let that much out at once and have it just fester there, oozing emo vibes.  I'll do my best to at least wash that stuff down with a faster, happier set of words in the future.

Ok, here's the update:  My Endochron tested my Thyroid levels and they came back fairly normal, but due to my dark moments, she decided to bump my dose from 175 micrograms to 200.  The change is literally like night and day.  It took a couple of weeks, but I feel more together, more energetic, and much more creative.  I'm sharper mentally and I'm fairly happier than I have been in awhile.  That slight tweak to my hormone level did things to my brain that I never knew could be done.  I feel like a 16 year old in a whore house, discovering new and amazing things!  My metabolism has bumped up a bit, too, and I've lost about 4 pounds over the last three weeks.  Not amazing, but noticeable.  Thinking back on how I felt in February and how I feel now, I wonder how many people who suffer from depression would benefit from a pop in their Thyroid levels?  I'm not sure if it would work for everyone else, but it pulled me out of a real dead end, I tell you what.

The next step for me is to get a nice dose of Radioactive Iodine.  To do that, I will be injected with two high-doses of synthetic thyroid hormone first, in order to get my levels really jacked up.  The RAI targets any remaining Thyroid flesh, and the hormone will stimulate any Thyroid tissue still possibly left in my neck, which will in turn better absorb the RAI.  After that, any Thyroid left will be nuked, and will no longer be at risk of growing new cancer cells.   During this time I will be secluded in my home office, having no contact with anyone - cats included!  Survival will be hard, and I'm not sure I can make it without cats.

In order to have this treatment be as effective as possible, I'll need to be on a low-Iodine diet for the two weeks leading up to the RAI treatment.  Which is apparently real shitty, but will make my body crave the iodine and lead to a more beneficial result. So long fish, hello unsalted nuts.  Awesome.  The good news is I'm not allowed to plant seeds in anyone for a year after the treatment, for fear of them turning out with webbed feet, or a tendency to vote Democrat.

Other than that, things are progressing nicely.  The neck is healing just fine, and I'm able to drive again.  There is some stiffness still, but that is fading.  Good news!


Thursday, February 27, 2014

Low Thyroid Hormone: or Why Am I So Confused

The thing about depression is, you just don't care.  Well, I shouldn't say that - it's not that I don't care, it's that my brain won't let me care.  The impenetrable wall that has been chemically formed prevents my brain from focusing too long on tasks. I'm frustrated with pretty much everything right now.  Angry that I can't get my ass in gear to work.  

You know those commercials on TV, where the depressed person is living with a scribble cloud over their heads, like some new-age version of Pig-Pen?  While I don't quite feel that way, I can relate a bit more now.  For me, it's as if tiny little soldiers with spears are preventing my thoughts from going anywhere.  I am confused more easily, too.  Granted, I have never considered myself sharp (except with comments and humor), but this last week has had my brain in a swamp.  

My doctor said it would take some months for my hormone levels to change and for us to dial in my synthetic Thyroid, but I never expected this level of blah.  To the point that even doing nothing irritates me.  I'm 14 and angsty again.  Angry at the drop of a hat, frustrated, depressed.  On other days all is well, which is the fucky thing, right?  That further confuses me - if I have low hormone then it should stay low, right?  What's with the ups-and-downs bullshit? 

On March 3rd I go in again and get checked, so hopefully a few days after that I'll start feeling better.  The scar is healing nicely though, and I should be able to drive in the next few weeks here.  So that's good.  

Not a very interesting post, but it's honest, and that's really the point. 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014


It's been about a week now since I was let loose from the Hospital.  Things are still going well.  They could always be better, though they could always be worse, too.

This past week was spent in a sitting position on the couch.  We - and by we I mean Taren - rearranged the living room so that I could lounge around and still watch TV, which is about the only activity I could muster any energy for.  When they tell you "recovery is hard", it really is.  There is so much passive energy required to mend you that you just feel tired all the time.  But it's not the sort of tired you get when you are sick or just haven't slept well the previous night.  It's less physical and more mental, if that makes any sense.  Your mind just starts to shut down, redirecting it's efforts into making you sleep.  It's auto-pilot for your brain, really.  And it's near impossible to fight off.

I had to spend my nights on the couch, since that was the only way I could sleep in a position that put the least amount of pressure on my neck.  Having a neck wound is interesting, in that it's the only way to truly understand just how much your neck plays a role in even the tiniest of movements (something the doctors tell you nothing about). Reaching up, lifting, pushing, pulling, sitting up, sitting down, reaching out, turning over, etc. All now limited for me until further notice.  Thank The Lord I stocked up on plenty of Taren before going into surgery.  Yes, Taren - the do-all, be-all for todays fashionable invalid!

Another thing you don't hear much about is pain medication and it's related side effects.  Mainly constipation.  I'll be as brief on this subject as possible, but it's a very important one for Todays Invalid to know about.  I got sent home with some Norcos - essentially Tylenol with pain killer added.  The first few days were fine, so I didn't really need to take them, save to get some decent rest. As things start to come online, I was taking 4 a day there for about 3 days.  Then I realized I was pregnant.  At least, I must have been, because my body was trying its best to give birth to something.  Something foul, and unpleasant.  Something ... dangerous.  And softball-sized.   Needless to say I got very far in my book that day, sitting there waiting to pass this mass.  I haven't taken a NorCo since.

I'm still not to clear on how much of my neck will regain feeling.  All the work was done on the left side of me, so most of my neck in that area is without feeling.  Which is a total misnomer, because there is SOME feeling there.  Or at least a perceived feeling.   Maybe my nerves are just sensing the pressure of my finger on my skin and I'm interpreting that as feeling.  I dunno, but it feels weird.  Sort of like when you sleep on your arm and then wake up and try to move it, but without the pins-and-needles feeling that goes along with it.  Dead skin but with some life to it.  Makes shaving very hard, actually, because you have no idea how much pressure to use with the razor.  It's literally like shaving someone else's face.

So, back to the cancer.  I have no updates on that front, but I should have something more to say about it in two weeks when I see the doctor again.  For now, my life is just about trying to get back to normal with work and coping with the new and odd sensations as my neck starts to come back online.

I miss the zipper scars of days gone by ... 

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Home Again

Ah, the joys of my own home.  My own smells, and those of my cats, bring a comfort that trumps any amount of sterile bed sheets and rubber mattresses.  They give those out to everyone, right?  It pleases me to no end to say that after 4 days at John Muir, I am back at my house and doing well.

Friday was sort of a blur.  I was treating it like a chore I didn't want to do but had to, like taking out the garbage, or flushing.  So I didn't really think about it too much, and I tell you, that all caught up with me when they were prepping me for surgery.  Once that gown was on and I was laying in that bed, the tears found their path and came freely. I was scared shitless - not of one thing in particular, but just going through the whole experience.  The entirety of surgery scared me.  One of my surgeons came in and saw this and asked if reality had just set in.  I replied, asking him if it was that obvious, and he smiled, kindly.  It was a nice break.

Then my Anesthesiologist came in, and he looked exactly like my friend Brad which was simultaneously funny and excruciatingly terrifying.  Brad is a good man and all, but I wouldn't want him in charge of my pain threshold.  Anyway, he went over some of the drugs he was going to give me, and then listened as I suddenly had fears for each one.  The first, he said, was sort of like having a couple of beers, and that drug actually worked along the same neural pathways as alcohol.  Finally, something I was prepared to experience.  Shooting me up with the chem-beer, we were off to surgery - after several tear-filled hugs for Taren and my brother Paul.  By the time I got to the surgery room, I was pretty lit.  I remember looking around and commenting on how cool the room looked, then FakeBrad said something like, "I'm going to just give you oxygen - " and then I was out hard.  No counting needed.

I remember coming around in the recovery chamber to the sound of the nurse asking me to stop cursing.  Not quite sure why she would ask me that, I wondered aloud what the fuck I was saying.  Apparently there were children in the room with me, or something, and my swearing was bothering everyone, as it was loud and without merit.  I tried to tone it down and just come out of my cloud as best I could.  As for the passage of time, I knew something had happened, but it didn't feel like one second I was awake and the next I was awake again.  There was a definite gap there.  According to the nurse, in addition to my swears, I was waking up talking about German Pilsners a lot, and then when my surgeon came to visit, he said I was trying to hold a conversation with him on the subject and merits of IPA.  I'm such a cliche.

I'm running out of steam, so I'll save the boring, introspective stuff for later.  But being wheeled into my room after I woke up and being surrounded by most of my family was a really lovely thing to experience.  I felt I was clear-headed, but my short-term memory was affected, so I was semi-aware of what was happening, but I couldn't - and can't remember the things I said to anyone, save for what they tell me I said.  That was all very interesting.

So yes - I made it.  I made it out and I'm pretty much pain-free.  Thanks to all for your comments and well-wishes, and I'll write more later.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Night Before

Well, here we are.  By this time tomorrow I'll have been laid out on an operating table for 7 hours, getting things that I have had since birth snipped out of me.  For awhile I have been avoiding any sort of deep thoughts on the subject.  It didn't really seem that helpful to me to sit around and think about the upcoming surgery, or my life thereafter.  I mean, really, what's the point?  But I suppose that's why I had more than one stare-off-into-space moment over the past few weeks.  Having an impending surgery is probably a bit nerve-wracking as it is, but adding cancer to the mix must heighten that in some respect.  Or maybe it's me.  Or both.

Probably me.

I'm no longer fearing any sort of death-by-doctor scenario, which is a big step for me.  Instead, I'm now more concerned with being in hospital for so long.  I keep envisioning how it will be at 4am when I wake up, some oaf in the bed next to me, and all I want to do is go home.  It's like being in an airplane for 4 days.  At least in my head it is.  I'm nervous about staying in that room for so long - 3 to 4 days - because I feel like if you have to stay overnight at a hospital for longer than 2 days, you will give up on life and die there.  Hospitals are super depressing, and I feel like you only get worse when you are in one.  I'd much rather heal at home.  It's cheaper, and the nurse is better looking.

To be frank, I'm sort of looking forward to the whole experience, really.  It's useless to think about how much I don't want this to happen, so let's just go with it, baby!  I went book shopping, and I have loads of shit to read now, plus my laptop for movies and my phone for games.  I wonder how reading a comic book will be on drugs.  I haven't done that since my early 20's ...

So, until next time, thank you all for the kind words and the positivity.  You have made it a bit better.  Thanks for taking the time out from your lives to think about mine, however briefly.  I'll post some photos in the hospital and let you all know what's going on.

And if I do happen to die ...
Making people laugh has always been a dream of mine.  Thanks for making that dream come true.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Where the hell am I?

2014 is off to a rough start.  On January 1st I lost one of my nephews, Stephen, to an as-yet undetermined cause.  His death was not only a shock to the entire family, but it sort of dropped a big fat boulder over everyone's hearts and minds.

Steve was taking a shower when he started coughing blood;  he collapsed and pass away en route to the hospital.

He was 28 years old.
Recently married.
Just got a big promotion at work.

He quite literally was just starting his life as an adult.  Fucking tragic.

I can't say that I have ever been that close with my family, or anyone for that matter. I have usually been the loner (shocking, right?), and opening up has been hard for me.  Usually, I just put that on my Dad, but recently I have been taking more control over my life and reaching out to people.  As a result, I got to see Steve on Christmas day - something I haven't done probably since his mother died earlier this year.  Oh yeah, did I mention you may want a Kleenex for this one?  Yeah.

We never spent much time together and that makes me angry.  Angry that I missed so much of his life, but probably more angry that I will miss even more of what it could have been.

Steve's funeral and services are this weekend, and I'm having a real hard time dealing with these past 3 weeks.  Between my looming operation and Stephen dying, I feel like I'm losing my mind.  Legitimately losing my weak grip on reality.   Having never been a real solid sleeper, my stress level has kept me from trying to improve my rest, and I keep having dreams about my cancer and Steve, among other things too weird and bizarre even for this blog.  Not just normal ones, those creepy lucid, half-sleep/half-awake, sweaty dreams that take you a good hour to shake.

I'm supposed to be working, supposed to be being strong for my family and my brothers, but today ... today is a tough sonnabitch.  Friday is the first of the services and I don't know what to expect.  This kid impacted all of our lives so deeply, and it's rare to find someone like that.  Who's absence leaves that hard-to-fill chasm of regret and true, stinging loss.

Driving back from his fathers house today, I was finding it impossible to untangle my feelings.  Was this anxiety and fear based around my surgery, or Steve's funeral?  Am I emotional because I'm getting my will together in case my worst fear is realized and I die on the table, or is it because my OTHER worst fear has already been realized by my nephew - dying from some unknown genetic flaw?  I can feel them both inside, tentacles of the Fear Beast wrapped up together, sucking the energy out of me.  All I want to do is be with my family right now.  All of them.

Especially Steve.

Steve and I, with my Brother Pete, Sister-in-Law Keelie, Taren, and
Steves wife Maggie on Christmas.  Literally the best Christmas ever.
Even if it was only for 10 min. 

I've heard this song at least 100 times, but today it made me think of Steve. 

Monday, January 6, 2014

18 Days And Counting

It's hard to believe, but it's been about 3 weeks since this whole crazy ride started.  With no signs of slowing, I get pulled into 2014 by my glands and to what should be an eventual fresh start.

A few days ago I had my final pre-op meeting with both doctors.  This was an important meeting for two reasons: it was the last chance for me to ask any questions about life post-removal, and it was the last chance for them to scare the tits off of me.  Not on purpose, mind you, but my oncologist had to tell me the "potential complications" of removing my lymph nodes.  Of which there are many.  I could wake up with my left ear numb for life (earrings!), or without the ability to shrug my shoulders.  Of course, I could also have a damaged voice box if he happens to touch the nerves running toward my vocal chords - with the potential to have permanent vocal damage if they have to cut into the right side of my neck.   Then there is the damage to the nerves that help to control my diaphragm and keep it moving in unison with my breathing.  If that nerve gets damaged, I could grow to have breathing problems, as my diaphragm would be unable to let me take in full breaths.  Of course, I could always just slip away on the table and die.  When I brought up that I was worried about that, he replied, "Let me be the one to worry about that."  Easy for him to say.  He'll still be alive.

But at least I won't have cancer.

January 24th is my surgery date, and I'm sure all will be fine.  Confidence check: 40% (up from 25% last week).  Having anxiety is not the easiest way to deal with an impending surgery - one in which I will wake up with pus drains in my neck and missing materials in my neck. Materials that have evolved over the thousands of millions of years to perform a vital function, reduced to a "simple" 7-hour procedure and a tiny tablet to take after. Whatever.

Shit is tough.  It really is.  I was reading a Q & A from some Thyroid expert, and someone had asked if Papillary Carcinoma really was the best cancer to get.  He replied with probably the most perfect quote I had heard in awhile:

"The only people who say that are the ones who have never had it."

And that really hit home for me, because I have been really downplaying this whole thing because my doctors have all been saying it's "the best".  Really?  Ok well then I guess it's no big deal.  But it IS.  To me.  Oddly enough, realizing that and finally letting myself accept that this is a big deal allowed me to let it go a bit more, if that makes sense.  I no longer struggle with the seriousness of this type of cancer, and therefor I can stop internalizing it so much and just focus on the surgery and all that entails.  Which is ... relaxing, in a way.  I don't feel like I'm being dramatic.  This is a real thing and it's life-threatening (sort of).

So now I wait.  I will be making a will, just in case something happens to me, so if you want anything that I have, let me know now.  All my savings go to my cats, sorry.