Thyroid Cancer Update: Another Year Out!

Thyroid Cancer Update: Another Year Out! - #thyroidcancer #thyca #thyroidcancerawareness #thyroid #hashimotos

I'm trying to do these updates yearly now, unless I feel inspired by events to check in sooner.  As it has been a while, you can check out all my thyroid cancer updates, including  the whole diagnosis, surgery, and radiation process.

In today's post, I'm going over another year of tests and results, and how I'm feeling in the process.

I don't even know if this needs a trigger warning, but I have seen people post little warnings before things that seem mild to me. In this post, I am talking about food and eating, medication, doctor's appointments, anxiety, and depression.  If these things agitate any condition you may be experiencing, read with caution.

Last time I checked in on this topic, I was talking about how my regular doctor wanted me to do the Whole 30 to see if it helped my metabolism.  While I didn't lose much weight on the Whole 30, it did help to see where I could tweak my eating habits to make them better.  Overall, Whole 30 sucks.  You can't eat out or hang out with friends.  Nothing is easy and everything takes too much time to prepare. It is exhausting, on top of having an exhausting chronic illness and anxiety and all that other exhausting stuff.  I'm too tired to have to stress out about food.

I will say that cutting out dairy was the biggest insight for me.  That has been what has really given me results in terms of feeling better.  We noticed (Sean and I did the Whole 30 together) that when we had dairy again we burped a lot and kind of felt like crap.  So we can't really have Mexican food we don't make ourselves.  I like to limit my dairy intake to high quality ingredients only, though I make an exception now and then.

We did well enough on adjusting our eating habits for the rest of last year and into the new year.  We had another successful visit with our regular doctor before we went to Hawaii in January.  Once we got back from Hawaii though, I have been incredibly tired.   I thought I was missing the sunlight, but I think my adrenals are shot again.  This means I need to start taking the adrenal supplements all over again.  They helped a lot last time.

This exhaustion is why I have had to keep the weekly blog post count to one or two a week, which then contributes to the cycle of me feeling like a failure and a let-down and never good enough.  I want to produce fun content for all of you.  I want to provide more and do more and be more.  And then my anxiety gets worse because I feel so much pressure.  I have to remind myself that I'm not "normal".  I have a chronic illness.  I have mental health issues.  I cannot keep at the level that these other people are at.  I just can't.  And no matter what I do, I still fall outside of certain categories that would facilitate me being a more "successful" blogger.  It is just a constant cycle of ups and downs.

And the anxiety has been insane this year!  I have had more panic attacks this year than before.  I live at a constant humming level of anxiety that I have to work really hard to keep in check.  This is also incredibly exhausting.  While there is a constant baseline level, it does seem to roller coaster up and down as events are coming up, as anniversaries near, but especially as doctor appointments roll around.  I am constantly terrified that there is going to be something else horribly wrong with me, that something else bad is going to happen.  This roller coaster also made me realize that I have a really hard time accepting just being happy.  I've discovered that this is probably due to all the childhood trauma I endured.  It rewired my brain and made me feel on edge all the time.  Many people with childhood trauma often feel like they are on the verge of everything going horribly wrong all the time, that any minute the other shoe will drop, that if they are happy it means something bad is about to happen.

Over on Authentically Emmie, Emily wrote about the concept of "sitting in her joy" and not preparing for the next obstacle or nightmare that might not even happen.  It really resonated with me and I have been constantly repeating the phrase "sit in my joy" to myself.  I want to be happy.  I want to enjoy those things and times that make me feel so grateful and lucky and safe and loved and happy. But my mind will immediately start thinking of all the things that can go wrong.  Sean and I can be kissing and flirting and laughing in the kitchen and my mind immediately starts freaking out about how awful it would be if he died right now and we never got to live the rest of our lives together.  I go from zero to doom and gloom in no time.  It is a chaotic, sad feeling.

In the spring, I had appointments with my gyno, dentist, and endo.  The endo just required blood work this time, but I still had to go in for a visit.  Everything checked out fine, which is always a relief to me.  I continued being quite tired, but managed.  The panic attacks were happening more.  I was having heart palpitations and my blood pressure seemed a bit elevated.  I'm on medication for high blood pressure, which runs in my family.  My thyroid condition probably made it worse.  My anxiety is through the roof.  I also have "White Coat Syndrome", which is a major fear of doctors and doctors' offices.  I get scared any time a blood pressure cuff is put on my arm, which can spike my pressure.  So readings at the doctor and even at home are suspect because of these fears.  Plus, I am being over medicated for my thyroid to keep any recurrence of cancer from happening, which can cause heart issues.  While I haven't made the healthiest food choices this year, I was still doing pretty good on that front.  We have overindulged in sugar and gluten here and there, but have still stuck to the best quality ingredients we can find for the most part.

The overwhelming sense of dread started up again full force in September.  I knew I was going to have to get an ultrasound done in the fall.  I knew I was going to get that blood work slip in the mail. I knew I was going to have to talk to the receptionist at my endo's office. (More on why I have that fear here.)  Then it became this Countdown to Disaster, with multiple panic attacks and anxiety issues galore.  I also had Anxiety's good friend, Depression, join me this year.  Depression has been kept away for the most part since I started thyroid medication at the end of 2013.  It visited a little last year and made me think of things I wanted to forget.  Then it came back this year to make me feel like a fucking mess.

The ultrasound was on November 1st this year.  I didn't want to schedule it for October 31st because that is the day I took the ultrasound that told me I had cancer.  It seemed like a bad idea to do it on the same day.  The technician was a friendly, young guy this time, someone totally new to me.  He was kind and did the ultrasound rather quickly.  He left the room at the end because he said he had to make sure he got everything they needed.  This started freaking me out.  Right away I was thinking about how he must have seen something in the scan that he didn't want to tell me about, that he had to get a second opinion on something awful.  But this is a teaching hospital, I reasoned.  He is young and probably still learning.  He came back and said everything was fine and I could go.  That didn't stop me from spazzing about it.

About a week later, I did my blood work.  It was pretty uneventful except that I really feel the blood lady hates me for some reason.  She is so rude and short with me and stares at me like she is hardcore judging me.  She gives off BAD vibes.  I do not like her.  A few days before my endo appointment, I received a call from my favorite nurse that the lab messed up my blood order and did the wrong test.  I would need to go back in at my earliest convenience and do the test again, but the lab would waive the fee for the re-test.  I had no time to go back in that week, so I tried not to worry about it.

Meanwhile, I had a dentist check-up in which I finally relayed to the dentist that before radiation I was told the radiation treatment would begin to ruin my teeth, that they would start to decline from here on out.  I wanted to know the dentist's opinion on what effect the radiation has had on my teeth thus far and to what extent it may happen in the near future.  Aside from my teeny tiny first cavity in the spring, my teeth have been in pretty good condition.  In fact, this time around I was told my gums have improved since they last saw me.  The dentist was kind of baffled as to why they would have told me my teeth would start to go.  He finally decided that they must have been trying to warn me of salivary gland issues because if my mouth were to be very dry it would definitely affect my teeth.  He said since I haven't had dry mouth or salivary issues thus far, it shouldn't be a problem we run into. He said that any issues usually happen within the first year.  Since I am three years out from radiation, he didn't think it was going to have an effect on my teeth.

Whew.  That was a relief.

The next day at my endo appointment, I found out that the new receptionist is just a delightful older woman with lineage back to Denmark.  She was funny and friendly and really kind.  This was great news!  I went later in the afternoon, so I missed seeing my favorite nurse.  The lady in his place was nice enough.  I answered all the questions and did the whole pre-doctor bit.  My endo knows I have bad anxiety, so she was pretty laid back when she came in to talk to me.  This told me the results were probably fine.  I told her about the panic attacks and heart palpitations.  She finally agreed to lower my dosage of thyroid meds!!  This is huge!!!  As I said, they over medicate me to keep any possible remaining thyroid cells from functioning and therefore starting a possible recurrence.  This has been known to have effects on the heart, so I was happy she listened.  I am now on a lower dose during the week and the same higher dose on the weekends.

She went on to point out that my blood work results not messed up by the lab were exactly where we want them to be.  She asked about when I could take the thyroglobulin test.  When detectable, thyroglobulin can be a significant sign of recurrence of the cancer.  I told her I would get in to the lab the following week, but that I hated the lady that took my blood.  She is rude and bothers me.  We found out we can actually go to the lab we used to go to (we thought it was not on our insurance any longer), but that I would need to go back to the offending lab so they would waive the fee.  The endo decided she could just take my blood there for immediate testing to save me the trip and fee.  She isn't the best at blood draws (IT STINGS!), but it was pretty quick and saved me a lot of trouble.  I've since received those results in the mail.  All is well.  No detectable thyroglobulin!

I left her office very excited about starting a lower dosage and completely relieved that this latest round of testing was over.  Sean found a FitBit-type device that measures blood pressure on your wrist, so I have been trying that at home.  It is pretty accurate compared to his cuff reading.  He has to test it out since I freak out at the site of a cuff.  I've been using the wrist device off and on with great results.  My blood pressure has been totally normal after all this hullabaloo.

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As January arrives, this whole process will start over, but I am a bit more hopeful that all is well.

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