Thursday, July 26, 2012

Night before surgery

I don't want to do this surgery.

I keep repeating that statement to family and friends.  I simply am in no mood to do this surgery.

I think about other people's journey's and I feel like I'm being ungrateful.  There are people suffering who would gladly take my place, but all I can think of is just sleeping in and saying, "the hell with it!", but I can't and I know this is supposed to be the best decision in this process.

I can't stop thinking about my mother.  My mother has Graves Disease. She has had a thyroid issue forever.  I vaguely remember her not being ill, but all I know of her is sickness. I don't want to be like her.

I guess that's my biggest fear.  I am afraid of waking up and being my mother.  I model myself, as a mother, after my own mother.  She was always kind and soft spoken, but when she meant business, her voice would raise and you knew it was time to get in line.  She always made me and still does make me feel like I was a gift from God.  She calls me her miracle baby.  She has always looked at me with love.  Because of my mother, I knew, even before having my own children that a mother's love is never ending, indescribable, and magical. One might ask, why, if she was and is all of those things, then why don't I want to be like her.  The answer is quite simple, she is alive but rarely here with us.  I lost my mother years ago.

My mother cannot follow a conversation.  There are times that she gets so muffled in the cloud of thyroid disease that she is disoriented almost like dementia.  I resented her for a very long time for not being "normal".  It was all so gradual.  First, she just seemed off.  Little things, like a blank stare or continuously asking you to repeat something.  It was like she was in slow motion. Then it sped up and she wouldn't sleep for days. She was always going.  It was like she couldn't control it. There was always something that needed to be done. During her hyper swings, she would develop heart palpitations, but the doctors never found anything wrong, so we all thought she was making it up. When I was about 11 or 12 years old, she put me behind the wheel of her car on a rainy day because they had gotten so bad.  There was no point in her going to the doctor because the test said there was nothing wrong. A few years after that rainy day, I went to visit my mother in the hospital after they put in a pace maker.  She has had a mini stroke.  Her teeth are falling out.  Her hair will not grow. Her bones are brittle and she has a terrible case of OCD.

She does have moments of clarity and I cherish those.  In those moments, I try to tell her to see a different doctor.  I try to tell her all that I have learned, but she just smiles and nods.  She isn't concerned anymore.  She once told me that she knows she's different, but she is okay with that.

So...this is why I am frightened.  They killed her thyroid many years ago and from that point on, I have only gotten snippets of my mother.  Granted, we are like night and day and I don't have the husband she had (my father was a very mean man), so my stress is nothing like hers, but I am still her child and this thyroid disease still came to get me even though I thought I was living a life that wouldn't allow it in.  It still came to get me and now I worry if I will wake up from surgery and be the mother to my children that I was today.

I prayed for my children.  They are like my air.  I want to be engaged in their lives.  I don't want to be a ghost, simply around in the shadows.  I want to be their mommy. I want this shit to be done.  I want to live life, laugh, and be free of this illness.

God, I am begging you to please let me be me when this is all said and done.

If you are reading this, sign this petition for ThyroidChange.  Too many generations have suffered with thyroid disease.  A change needs to happen and we need your help, please.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Step 2: Go to the Pre-Op Interview

I woke up this morning with nothing on my mind, but breakfast.  I wanted to try out this new recipe and not think about my 11:15 appointment at the hospital.  The breakfast was terrible.

As we drove to the hospital, I began to cry.  My husband grabbed my hand and asked me what was wrong. I told him I really didn't want to do any of it.  I composed myself and started discussing our plans for vacation.  We plan to go away on holiday in December.  It is something I long for.  I cannot wait to be away.

We checked in at the desk.  I was given a form to fill out about previous surgeries, illnesses, and current medications.  On paper, I'm pretty healthy except the thyroid box and the previous surgeries box.  I have had a lumpectomy, appendectomy, 2 C-sections and a DNC.  I guess that's good for a 33 year old. 40 minutes later I was called into a room with a very nice lady.  She went over my form and said, "you're very healthy, you should be fine with surgery".  I understand that she must see the worse of the worse, but it is an insult to be told that you are healthy when you have thyroid disease.  I wanted to tell her that she was wrong.  I wanted to tell her that I was ill.  I wanted to tell her that healthy didn't involve having a surgeon cutting your throat to get out something that was causing you so many problems.  Instead of verbally assaulting this woman, I decided to smile.  She took my vitals and gave me a blue bottle. She instructed me to shower with its contents the night before surgery and the morning of.  I was then told that I needed to be at the hospital at 5 a.m. and my surgery would begin at 7:30 in the morning.  She then told me that the anesthesiologist would come in next and after he spoke with me, I was free to leave.

The anesthesiologist seemed pretty indifferent.  He, like the lady, informed me that I was healthy and I should do fine in surgery.  We went over my previous surgeries, my medication, and then he asked me to open my mouth wide.  A little known fact about me is that I have TMJ.  My jaw locks when I open it too wide and he made a note to be gentle when putting the tube down my throat.  He informed me that they will give me a solution to relax when I arrive and then another when we get in the operating room to put me to sleep.  That was it from him and I was free to enjoy the rest of my day.

The surgery should last a total of 1 to 2 hours if everything goes according to plan.  I should be in recovery for the same amount of time.  However, I believe the recovery will be much longer.  I think it is going to take some time for me to figure out how to get back to me after having my thyroid removed. I'm not looking forward to it either.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

I'm feeling better!

Now that I have emerged from my Thyroid cloud, I feel pretty good again.  After the discussion with the surgeon, I got very ill.  That very day I felt extremely fatigued.  I didn't want to admit to myself that it had to do with my thyroid.  I thought it had to do with me getting off a plane the previous day from California, which was an ordeal, but the fatigue you feel from your thyroid is quite different than just being tired.  I described it to a doctor once as a feeling of a weight coming from the top of my head to the bottom of my feet.  It physically feels as if someone is pushing me down and I can't do anything to get them from on top of me.  So...I decided that it would be best if I used last weekend as a recuperating weekend and then my stomach went to hell.  My husband was also in the field at the time, so I was a extremely tired, bubble gut mess with 2 very active children.  I was horrible and thankfully my husband took leave to be by my side.  I don't think I would have made it.

I have had the honor to be a part of some pretty awesome online thyroid communities and the support I have gotten has warmed my heart.  One person in particular (one of the founder's of ThyroidChange) suggested that I may be having some adrenal issues because of stress.  I think she is right and I started to think back on moments in my life when this has happened to me and it always followed a stressful event.  Before, I didn't have children, so it was nothing to me to get in the bed and rest for a weekend.  Now, I realize when I'm down and exhausted because I have 2 little people who still need me to be a Mom.  I use to think I was just having a bit of depression and now I'm sure that I've been having this Hashimoto's/Adrenal issue for a very long time now.  Anywho, please check out the ThyroidChange website and please sign the petition.  Our voices need to be heard and although I appreciate the support, I shouldn't have eureka moments from other thyroid patients when I have medical insurance.  I went to the doctor and the only thing she could give me was some nausea medication (that basically put me in a coma) and Gatorade.

Speaking of Gatorade...when I told my doctor that I no longer drank Gatorade, she looked at me like I was an alien.  I don't think I've mentioned it lately, but I have gone completely Paleo.  Most of my friends know this about me and I am pretty sure it annoys them.  It is a huge sacrifice. I love the way I feel, but I do miss going out with friends for a bite to eat.  I guess I shouldn't say I'm Paleo.  I'm more Primal because I do have the occasional slice of cheese.  I have cut out soy, rice, sugars (except honey and maple syrup), most dairy, legumes, and most importantly grains.  When I did it half way, I saw a somewhat improvement, but when I went to the extreme, I've seen a huge change all around especially with me finally getting back to my pre-pregnancy weight (my baby is going on 2 years old).  After being diagnosed with Hashimoto's, I had gotten up to about 150 lbs. and now I'm 134 lbs.  I don't work out because of a hip injury, so that weight loss is all diet.  It took about 3 months to see a difference, but it happened.  If you're thinking about doing it, I would suggest giving it a shot and giving yourself some time to see results.  I will admit though that it isn't fun not being able to just eat whenever you want or simply go out to a restaurant and have Paleo "safe" foods.  I don't eat out because most restaurants use "vegetable oil" and that is basically soybean oil and soy and the thyroid simply don't mix.  I'll end this post with this, go into your kitchen one day and turn all of your boxes, jars and cartons to the side and count how many DON'T include soy.  You will be surprised.  Then, think about me and what I eat.  It's a commitment, but it's been worth it. If Paleo/Primal isn't for you, then I suggest anyone who has a thyroid condition get off of the processed food and when all else fails JERF (Just Eat Real Food).

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

My husband...

Disclaimer:  If you know me and my family, then you know that my husband is quite private.  Please do not tell him about this post.  He claims to read my blog (I know he's lying), but this post is about him and we had an agreement I wouldn't post anything about him, so...I haven't included his name.

I met my husband in Iraq.  I was broken.  I doubt people could see it from the outside, but I was heartbroken, sad, and confused.  I was with this one guy before I left to go to Iraq that I loved, it didn't last. I reconnected with another guy while I was in Iraq and it seemed promising, but I was so drawn to this man that I married, that all sense of logic just flew out of the window.  He could see right through me.  When he walked in the room my heart smiled.  I knew he was my husband.  I knew he was the father of my children and I couldn't understand a damn thing he was saying (he's from Jamaica originally).

A week after I got home from Iraq, he asked for my hand in marriage.  Two weeks after I was home, I moved from California to Florida to be with him.  A year later we were married. My husband was just a reservist when we met.  He had no plans of going Active Duty in the Army, but I was always sick (undiagnosed Hashimoto's).  His job paid quite well, but he had no medical benefits and my job, at the time, had the worse medical plan known to man, so he did what some men do, he changed his life around in order for me to be healthy and joined the military full-time so I could have medical care.  Not many people know that and he would never admit it either.

The years after were good and bad, but the worse came after we lost our first child.  I didn't think I could have children.  I was told when I was 18 years old that my chances of having children were very small because I only ovulated twice or three times a year (Hashimoto's).  We got pregnant on the first try of fertility drugs and lost her at 14 weeks.  I remember how he looked at me when we couldn't find the heartbeat. It was like he wanted to protect me and couldn't and then the anger set in for both of us.  Miscarriage is hard on a marriage. It took a year for us to get back on track and then we found out that we were pregnant again (without fertility drugs) and we fought like hell. I think we would fight because we both couldn't take another loss.  I know it's crazy, but after we had Ms. O, we felt complete. My husband would sing to himself for days and the smile on his face when he looked at her would melt my heart. Our son, Mr. D., almost 3 years later, was just icing on the cake.

Is it a love story?  Probably not in the sense that most people see it, but I started to think about us after I saw something on Facebook.  It was a status about what type of wife are you and how after 18 years of marriage a woman still dresses up and goes on dates with her husband, which I think is awesome, but the comments underneath the status are what got me to thinking about my marriage and one in particular was to the effect of, 'what you won't do, another woman will, so keep yourself looking good and keep the marriage together'.  If my marriage would have been built on this, then he would have left me a long time ago.  It got me to thinking about a conversation I had with one of my girlfriends and her telling a friend to choose her husband by picking the one who loves her enough to give her an enema.  I laughed until I almost choked, but she's right.

I didn't find love in the perfect setting.  I have never been well in our marriage.  I have had bouts of great health, but since my husband has known me, I have always had some type of medical issue.  Last year, there were days that I had to wait until he got home to take a shower and no I did not comb my hair. He has seen me at my worse and the love in his eyes has never changed.  He has held my hand through procedures. He has listened to my fears.  When I picked him up a few days ago from the airport with 4 braids in my hair, a sweatshirt, slippers and sweat pants, he simply took my hand and helped me to the other side of the car with the same love in his eyes.  He had just took emergency leave to be by my side.  He had just been in the field.  I knew he was tired, but the first thing out of his mouth was, "how do you feel" and "have you had anything to eat".

I haven't had the pleasure (especially recently) of living a fairytale.  My journey hasn't allowed it, but I am thankful that I found someone who loves my soul.  Through sickness and in health - the vows mean something to people still.  I am so very thankful to my husband for being by my side.  He is my soul mate.  He is the love of my life. I never thought I would be so lucky to have someone to see me through the good and the bad.  We aren't perfect.  We still get on each other's nerves, but when it counts, we are each other's rock.  I couldn't do it without him.  I really couldn't because he pays the bills.

Love in my opinion cannot be defined.  It is so many different things to many different people.  I had a hope when I got married and it was to have what my grandparents had.  I firmly believed that my parents "loved" each other (they are now divorced), but I had the feeling that my grandparents were committed and bonded to one another.  They were married until my grandfather passed away and my grandmother has never remarried. They didn't seem like strangers that met once.  They seemed like family.  I told the marriage counselor  (yes, we've been to counseling) that my husband was like family, like a piece of me.  It's true, he is my other half.  I don't want this disease to take me from him any more than it already has.  I am hopeful my coming surgery will give us some normalcy, but for now I am appreciative and in love, fully committed.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Step 1: Speaking to the Surgeon

I went to the surgeon yesterday.  I woke emotional that morning.  It was my first official day of being home from my trip to California. Things didn't seem to be falling in place.  My kids didn't seem to want to wake up.  My husband was in the field. How could I remove them from their beds after such a long trip. I wanted to cancel the appointment.  I wanted this situation to just stop.

I finally made it to my appointment.  I was nervous.  I don't get nervous, but I was shaken up. I still don't get where all these emotions are coming from.  Anyway, I notice that I am the only one in the office alone.  I hate the Army sometimes.  The Army always seems to get in the way of the most important moments when I absolutely need my husband by my side.

Dr. S (the surgeon) is his name.  He has kind eyes and soft hands.  He is freakishly tall and completely bald.  He doesn't smile as he holds my gaze. I instantly want to cry.  I get in my head and tell myself to hold it together.  How dare I pick this time to start feeling sorry for myself.

Dr. S begins to explain the surgery.  He makes a comment about it being a good thing I was thin because he will be able to get to my thyroid and see what he's working with.  He explains that my thyroid is close to my parathyroid, which helps with calcium and that sometimes it is inside of the thyroid, so we have to be careful. He then tells me the nerves for my voice box are also in the area and I begin to cry.  He and his kind eyes look at me. He touches my shoulder, goes out of the room and comes back with a box of tissues.  He looks as if he is going to cry and then I feel bad because he is one of those men who can't stand to see a woman cry.  He suggest that he just draw a diagram of the whole thing, but I stop him and tell him that I want him to go into detail. I want him to tell me everything.

He places my thick folder behind him on the counter and says to me, "Do you know why you're here".  I want to start crying again, but this time I hold it together. He goes on to say, "You've got this nodule on the right side of your thyroid.  The pathologist cannot say for sure if it's benign because he needs more tissue. You need this surgery to rule out cancer.  It is scary. You have a right to be upset.  We are worried (me and your Endocrinologist) about follicular cancer.  The pathologist will be in the room and test the nodule because it takes 3-5 days to get a report on the part of the thyroid we will be removing and if cancer is present we will have to remove the whole thyroid"

Me:  Why don't we just remove the whole thyroid anyway.

Dr. S:  Well, I'm pretty sure that this issue is what has been making you sick.  If we take out the whole thing then you may have to go on a pill for the rest of your life.

Me:  I'm already on that pill for the rest of my life.

Dr. S:  Why? (looking in my folder again)

Me:  I have Hashimoto's.  Is it an insurance issue as to why you can't remove the whole thing?  I would like to break up with my thyroid please.  Can you make that happen?

Dr. S: (laughs) Were you in the Military?

Me:  Yes, how can you tell?

Dr. S:  I can tell and it's a good thing.  (He sighs) We can't remove the whole thyroid because of Hashimoto's, but your doctor and I will discuss it.  Do you work?

Me:  No, I'm a stay at-home mom.  I have two small children and my husband is in the field.

Dr. S:  When can you do the surgery?

Me:  ASAP.

The surgery is scheduled for the 27th of July.  I'm scared out of my mind.  I've had a few surgeries in my life and this one has me shaken to my core.