Cancer Remembered: Prepping for Surgery

This post is part of a month-long series on my cancer experience of 2013. They originally appeared on my blog at http://www.caringbridge.org.
I am in countdown mode. The past few weeks have been strange for the thyroid and me. About 10 days ago, the thyroid shifted. Which means that as I was happily cruising along with hyperthyroid symptoms, it all came to a halt when the gland stopped producing the hormone…at all.
So I then struggled with hypothyroid issues…the biggest of which for me me is the fatigue. We tried it all (with the doctor’s consent of course), and finally, I think I can live with it.
Usually people who are hyper or hypo have medicine that can control the shifts, but unfortunately, since I am prepping for surgery, that is not an option. We had to treat my symptoms with vitamins, diet, and limited stress.
That being said, I am VERY excited to be having surgery soon. Two weeks to be exact! The surgery date is June 10, and my friend Cheron asked me to tell you that she is wearing red in honor of me that day.If you feel so inclined, I’d love for you to do it to. (AKA friends, I realized this is a stretch…but you know….:)
Medically speaking, I do have a few things to do to prepare for surgery. I do these neck exercises several times a day so my neck muscles won’t spasm during surgery. I also have to take calcium supplements because a low thyroid function = low calcium in your body. And lastly, no ibruprofen or aspirin products until the end of June.
The kids are not out of school yet…they have another week. But boy are they ready! Next year I will have two middle schoolers and one in junior high. Really?

Cancer Remembered: Breaking the News

This post is part of a month-long series on my cancer experience of 2013. They originally appeared on my blog at http://www.caringbridge.org.

One of the cancer blogs I read regularly is written by a woman with Stage 4 metastatic breast cancer. She writes a lot about communication — especially on the things someone should and should not say to a person who has been diagnosed with cancer.

Today, I am going to share with you the things I’ve learned that I should say and not say when breaking the news about cancer. Unfortunately, you will probably have to break the news regarding a medical condition to someone in your life (that’s just the way life works), so I am here to help you through the process.
When I was first diagnosed in January, I felt the best way to inform people was to say it matter-of-factly; almost blurting it out. One moment, I would talking about the spring registration schedule, and the next minute I’d say, “I have cancer.” Once I said it, I would scramble to come up with words regarding the good prognosis, the fact that it’s a “good” cancer, anything.Then the conversation would usually end with the listener in tears and me feeling insensitive. “Why is she crying? I’m the one with the cancer.”
But it was my approach. And now, I’ve found myself breaking the news more and more since I returned to work from the non-surgery. (Yes, I’m still a little salty…the date.) I’ve found that a lot of people knew I was out, but some just thought it was coincidence, or I was at a meeting at another campus, etc. And with that comes a wave of me breaking the news all over.
So here’s what I’ve learned:
1. Start talking about the affected area. “Toni I haven’t seen you in a while, how have you been?” “You know, I’ve been off because my thyroid has been acting crazy and giving me a lot a problems.”
This is good because it sets the stage. The listener can decide if they can handle more specific news, or if they are done. Let’s continue, shall we?
“Really, Toni? What’s it doing?” “Well, it bounces back from hyperactive to hypoactive and I have a goiter. It appears that the goiter has an underlying malignancy, which means I have thyroid cancer.”
2. Give them a moment to respond in the way they are comfortable.I usually end up saying something like, “See I told you it was crazy.”
 Now…telling someone you have cancer is 10 percent about you, but 90 percent about them. They will instantly remember their uncle, or cousin or friend who has had the disease and no matter what your prognosis is, their mind will travel.
3. Relate the news to a celebrity. I am very thankful that Brooke Burke-Charvet announced her thyroid cancer when she did. I actually told her this on twitter yesterday. (You know how I feel about pop culture and social media.)
Once I announce my condition, I follow up with, “Did you see the lady from Dancing With the Stars on television? You know she just had thyroid cancer too?”
This helps because our society loves celebrities, and we tend to think they are invincible. But in reality, they get cancer too.
4. Tell them how you will keep them informed. Once people get over the initial shock, they need to know how they will keep up with your progress. Tell them they’ll see you until surgery in June, they can read your blog, whatever. Make sure they know how they can stay updated.
5. Before treatment starts, let them see you “live” with the disease.Some days, I wish I could say,  “I have cancer” so I’m staying in bed all day. But I can’t. There’s middle school drama, teen whispering, and college students who need my fashion advice. Continuing to “live” is just as important for me as it for everyone around me.
*Note: The fashion advice comment was a joke. Well, kind of.

 

Cancer Remembered: What Doesn’t Wait

This post is part of a month-long series on my cancer experience of 2013. They originally appeared on my blog at http://www.caringbridge.org.
I took a little blog hiatus to spend time with family during the past 10 days or so, but I have been working on a post for you as time has allowed this week.
There’s not much news on the medical front. There’s a lot of faxing, emailing, and reviewing of blood tests going on right now. I do have a surgery date, but of course there’s a story surrounding it, and that my friends, is a blog post all of its own. 🙂
I have the news of the century! Through this health circumstance, I have learned to slow down. Yep. There are just some things in my world that must take a backseat to this cancer. I have had to re-evaluate my priorities and rest more, yadda, yadda. And I’ve definitely recognized that I can’t do it all, be it all, live it all.
However, in all of my resting and prioritizing, etc. I have noticed that there are just some things that won’t stop for cancer. And of course, I’d love to share them with you.
1. Tonsils don’t stop for cancer.
If we are friends on Facebook, you may know this already. But if we aren’t…get ready. CJ and Tyra had their tonsils removed this week. Our family doctor and the ENT made it very clear…I can either have this done now, or I can deal with when I’m having surgery, going through chemo, radiation, etc. According to the doc, I couldn’t wait until this summer…they were just that bad.
Neither Jada nor I have our tonsils. Problems with tonsils are hereditary, so I kind of knew this would happen one day. I just didn’t think it would be in 2013. But it was.
The tonsils woouldn’t wait for the cancer.
2. Dogs don’t stop for cancer.
I love dogs and cats. And you all know about our dog Nelly. We also have a cat, Sammy  and Frida, Nelly’s sister joined our family in January.  Unfortunately though, she is no longer with us. She had cardiac arrhythmia (congestive heart failure). Her heart wouldn’t stop for my cancer either.
4. 4th, 5th, and 6th grade doesn’t stop for cancer. (Contributed by Jada.)
Science fair projects. Orchestra concerts. Choir practice. ITBS and STAAR testing. Teachers who fuss about everything. Homework. Spelling words. The writing process. Silent lunches. None of that stops for cancer.
5. Texas Weather doesn’t stop for cancer.
Temperatures in the 70’s today, snow and ice storm tomorrow. I never knew this when I moved here 18 years ago. But, it doesn’t stop for cancer either.
6. The Lovelorn Heart of a Middle Schooler does not stop for cancer. I have two middle-schoolers. One of them woke me up at 2:00 a.m. on a school night to talk about Isaiah, George, Emily, and Porschia (all names have been changed to protect the innocent.) My middle schooler (I won’t disclose which one) was concerned about all of the other middle schoolers who like each other and want to “go out” with each other. So what did I do? I had no choice but to listen, and give my opinion when asked. Because the lovelorn hearts of middle schoolers do not stop for cancer.
7. Television does not stop for cancer.
Thursday nights on Facebook are hilarious. Almost all of my friends are hovered around the hit series “Scandal.” It’s my understanding that there is a new episode tonight…wooo wee! I don’t watch it, but I don’t need to. The play by play is available throughout social media and I can’t escape it. It doesn’t stop for cancer at all.
The one television show I do watch? Dallas! There is something about that show that just gets me giddy knowing that I live here. Thank goodness, the television show Dallas didn’t stop for my cancer.
8. Great friendships don’t stop for cancer.
This I am thankful for. I am still able to talk to those who I love regularly. We still laugh and text and email. I’m very glad that great friendships don’t stop for cancer.
9. The good memories don’t stop for cancer.
The kids and I are more careful at the type of memories we are creating. Going to the inauguration was amazing…and exactly what we needed at the time.
10. Medical research doesn’t stop for cancer. Medical research is constantly evolving. It’s fantastic how a diagnosis in the year 2000 can yield different results in 2013. I will always support research activities because this is one thing that should NEVER stop for cancer

Cancer Remembered: The BIG Tumor

This post is part of a month-long series on my cancer experience of 2013. They originally appeared on my blog at http://www.caringbridge.org.

I think I’ve mentioned before that the tumor is not small. In doctor-speak, it’s 13 cm wide. That’s big to be inside of your chest. But to make things more interesting…it looks like a cat.

I’ll pause for you to take that one in.
The tumor is shaped like a cat. And I know that because I love cats and have had cats.
At first glance at the chest CT scan (which looks like a more defined x-ray), the tumor has a striking resemblance to a cat. So this cat is has now become a bit of an anamoly to my surgical team.
For those of you who are very literal, I must tell you that no one believes I swallowed a cat, or that this tumor has anything to do with cats. The tumor is just oddly shaped and my sense of humor has determined it to be a cat. (It’s a coping mechanism.)
In order to properly resect the tumor (medical talk), the doctors have to have a plan. The shape and size of the tumor have given cause for the need for more doctors to weigh in. (They’re calling in the big dogs!)
So right now, we’re waiting for some additional consults. And we are reviewing  medical records from my  thyroid incidents in the past, and you know, everything has to go through insurance…and then I may have to travel to get those consults. (Houston friends…be on alert…the Holloways may invade your town soon!)
In Texas, we have a saying, “Everything’s Bigger in Texas.” Not only are things physically bigger, but we tend to make a big deal out of a lot of things, and our processes are big and full of steps.
So until we’ve figured out how the surgery will occur, the doctors have given me really good tips on managing the discomfort of the asthma-like symptoms. And of course, I’m following all of their suggestions.
But as soon as I know…you will know. 🙂
Until next time,
Big Hugs!