Thyroid Cancer Update: Six Years Out!

Thyroid Cancer Update: Six Years Out - #thyroidcancer #thyca #thyroidawareness #thyroidcancerawareness #thyroid #hashimotos #mentalhealth

January is Thyroid Awareness Month and, seeing as how it has been quite some time since I did an update, I wanted to make sure to get one in during this first month of 2020.  I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism, Hashimoto's (an autoimmune disease in which your body attacks your thyroid), and thyroid cancer back in 2013.  You can read previous posts about my diagnosis, testing, surgery, radiation, and recovery here on the blog.  I've also put together a giant listing of Thyroid Health Resources that includes proper tests and optimal thyroid levels, articles on better understanding the thyroid, and outline of the process from diagnosis to radiation for those of you with thyroid cancer, along with various other resource pages and articles to educate you and help you.

Now let's catch up!

I can't believe it has been three years since I did an update, but that should clue you in that things have been pretty consistent overall.  To celebrate being five years cancer-free in 2018, I ended up celebrating BIG.  I saw NKOTB from the super front row bar stool seating.  I saw Westlife twice - in Liverpool.  We went on this big, epic UK and Iceland trip and had an amazing time!  It was nice to go a little overboard celebrating.

The routine is, I have appointments with my endocrinologist twice a year.  I get blood work done for each of those appointments, and get an ultrasound of my thyroid done once a year.  It's nice that ultrasounds aren't painful, but I loathe the goop being smeared all over my neck!

The only real issue I've had lately was when my blood work for my thyroid antibodies got switched with someone else and came back way too high.  My endo said that she was 100% sure the results were not mine and belonged to someone with an actual, functioning thyroid.  She was convinced there was no way the tests were mine and she did not want me to panic.  We redid the blood test at the hospital that day, awaiting the results.  They came back fine and as they should be.  The endo said she launched an investigation to see what happened, but I never heard if a definitive assessment was made.

Thyroid Cancer Update: Six Years Out - #thyroidcancer #thyca #thyroidawareness #thyroidcancerawareness #thyroid #hashimotos #mentalhealth

My blood work has been pretty standard.  There haven't been large shifts in anything.  My bodily organs are good.  My sodium and sugar and cholesterol are all perfectly fine.  There have been no monsters lurking in my ultrasound imaging.  I am, however, still over-medicated for my thyroid to keep any possible recurrence from happening.  Suppressing the TSH keeps any remaining thyroid cells (if there are any left) from working, and therefore also keeps them from being attacked.  When I last updated you, I mentioned that I finally was able to talk my endo into lowering my medication to see if it would help with my panic attacks and heart palpitations.  I take a lower dose during the week and a higher dose on the weekends.  This compromise did seem to alleviate both of these symptoms.  I haven't really had heart palpitations much since the lower dose started.

I do still have panic attacks though.  I don't think they are as frequent, but they happen.  Sean and I have gained some knowledge about the ways in which they start and certain triggers that can definitely bring them on; so when we notice those things we both try to prepare for, if not circumvent, the process.  I don't always know when they are happening.  All I know is I think in extremes and I am convinced I must be right that I am having a heart attack/everybody hates me/someone is going to die/I'm a piece of shit, etc.  So it helps having someone there that can calmly tell me it is a panic attack.  I usually just have to ride the wave to the shore.

Along with the panic attacks, I have major anxiety that affects my life on pretty much every level.  It's so normal to me, I am always shocked that other people aren't going through the same things in their heads at all times.  In fact, it more so makes me angry now because I am thinking about EVERYTHING - ALL THE TIME - and it is maddening.  I'm kinda pissed nobody's obsessively thinking of me the way I am thinking of them. haha  I'm too much for everyone.  I care too much.  I'm too passionate.  I feel too much.  Things mean too much.  I expect too much.  I need too much.  This is my reality.  And I therefore feel like I am just too much for everyone...

...and wonder if anybody would miss me if I was gone.  Which brings me back to my old pal Depression.  It's always been there.  My mom used to make fun of me and call me Eeyore because I was "too mopey".  But ummmm, that was obviously depression.  After I started thyroid meds, it moved far into the back of my brain and hid for a few years.  But then there it was again.  It's been pretty bad the past six months or so.  I barely have any energy.  I cry a lot.  I have to force myself to get out of bed and keep to my obligations.  I have to work hard to keep up appearances and try to be "normal".  But it hasn't been fun.  I've gained weight because of it, and just generally feel like poo.  And just to be clear, I haven't had any straight up suicidal thoughts.  But I do have dark thoughts.  I've tried to push through the best I can.  Sometimes the clouds lift and there are moments of respite.  I do my best to be in the moment and cherish those.  But even on the good days, I know it's lurking.

So while my depression is making it hard to get out of bed, hard to have energy to do anything (which is also what lacking a thyroid does also), hard to feel like anything I do is worth anything to anyone, I also have anxiety telling me that I am a failure and a piece of shit for not getting out of bed on time, for not doing all the million things on my To Do List in one day, for not looking this way or that way, for not being a better/smarter/nicer/more accommodating/more talkative/more successful/more ambitious person, etc. etc. etc.

I'm sure my adrenals are shot, which also contributes to the lack of energy.  I have to be very choosy about how I spend my energy.  I have to make sure I schedule things so that I have time to rest and regroup from any outing.  That also contributes to my stress and anxiety because I am constantly worried about how my energy will affect myself and those around me at any given event.

We were gone for three weeks on our vacation over the summer.  I was terrified I was going to ruin everything because I knew how tired I would be.  I wouldn't say things were ruined, but I did have to sleep later.  We got later starts.  We had to adjust our itinerary accordingly.  There were still incredibly long days, early mornings, lots of activity and events.  I did it, but I was incredibly tired and did have panic attacks along the way because of it.  We managed.  I know I can get through things, but sometimes it just seems impossible when I feel like I cannot possibly push myself further.

Energy, mental health, muscle pain, and aversion to extreme temperatures are my biggest thyroid-related issues right now.  My body is always in some level of pain.  Now that winter is here and it is cold, the cold gets down to my bones and hurts.  And once I get too cold it is really hard for me to get warm.  I now have a heating pad on my office chair and on the couch just to keep me warm.  Likewise, getting too hot makes me have panic attacks and feel like I am about to pass out at any moment.  The thyroid is a temperature regulator along with all its other jobs, so my thermostat is clearly lacking.  My hair is back to its thick and luscious glory.  My acne mostly stays away.  My facial hair has thinned out a bit more.  My skin isn't as dry as it used to be, and my nails are pretty strong.  My teeth and gums are well, as are other parts of me.

I did get fat-shamed at my last gyno check-up though!  It was a new doctor yet again.  I started going to this particular office when it was near my house.  Then it moved to a hospital facility farther away, but I still went because I hate change.  However, every time I go in for my check-up there is a new doctor, so I have to re-explain everything.  This gyno office usually sees me in immediately and does my blood pressure right away with a cuff that is too small.  It literally starts pulling apart as soon as it gets up to a certain amount of pumped up.  The nurse usually squeezes it out and redoes it, and then gets surprised that my blood pressure is high.  And every time I explain, I just hauled ass to your office from the parking lot four stories down.  I did not have much time to chill when I got here.  I am terrified of hospitals, doctors, nurses, doctor's offices, needles, blood, and other invasive things like having things inserted into my vagina by a stranger.  So yeah, my blood pressure is going to be high.  I also explain I am on medication for it and I take my blood pressure at home, where it is always normal.

This time, the new-to-me doctor seemed nice enough, but she was really trying to push me to get on a different type of birth control.  When I told her of my reasons not to like the ones she was referring me to, she basically brushed it off and told me to think about it.  I had to explain all the things about the blood pressure three more times, including how I had thyroid cancer and how my thyroid and genetics are also against me with the blood pressure but, again, I take it at home and it is always normal.  It really is more of a "I am just terrified" situation.  She did the exam and went on her way.  I quickly put my clothes on, fighting with my bra and shoes because I was about to have a panic attack. I needed to get out of there.

Then the nurse came back in and said the doctor wanted her to take my blood pressure again to see if it was lower.  I laughed and asked her if she was joking.  I told her it was going to be high because I was still at a doctor's office, in a hospital, where I just fought my clothing and was about to freak out.  And can you believe she was still shocked it was high because I should have been relaxed by then???  I said, I told you so, and left.  About ten minutes later, as I was escaping the parking garage, I received a call from the gyno wanting me to go get a cholesterol blood test because "we check every one's cholesterol if they are on birth control." And that, my friends, is total bullshit.  All she saw was a fat girl with high blood pressure and assumed my cholesterol was at Threat Level Midnight.  She played it off and just said to get the blood work done at my earliest convenience.  I told her my big UK trip was in two weeks, so I was in full prep mode with little extra time.  But I told her I would try to get it done before the trip.  She sounded cool with that.

Only she wasn't.  She held my birth control prescription, which I needed to have on my vacation, hostage until I did the blood work and the test results came in.  After a few days, her office started harassing me with phone calls about doing the blood work.  She ended up okaying one month of birth control so I could take it with me on vacation.  I did the blood work the day before I left.  And guess what?  My cholesterol was the lowest it has ever been.  So fuck her.  Needless to say, I won't be going back to that office when it is time for my next check-up.

And so another thyroid update draws to a close.  I'll have a check-up with my primary doctor soon, which I am already plenty anxious about just because.  There's always that thought in the back of my mind that this could be the moment when I found out any number of things is suddenly wrong with me.  And even though I know my body and pick up on its cues, I'm always terrified I'm going to be blind-sided with horrible news, fat-shamed, or brushed off.  And it all feels incredibly stressful.

To end on a more positive note, I'm very happy to be six years cancer-free now.  I'm happy that my body is doing so well considering.  I'm pretty healthy overall.  There are certainly things I can work on and healthier choices I can make from time to time.  But I am still so grateful for all that my body does and continues to do.  I'm so happy that I get to go on adventures and do amazing things in this fleshy suit.  I'm glad it is fighting for me the way I've been fighting for it.

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