Friday, September 12, 2014

Let's Try This Again

Last night I was at a bar association Young Lawyers event when a friend & colleague told me that he recently shared my blog with a friend and then realized that I hadn't posted anything here in well over a year (he also told me that as he transitions from Judicial Clerk to private practice in the coming weeks, he plans to use what he learned on my blog to mess with young female attorneys, so that's good).  His comment got me thinking about this old page and how fun it is to share stories and recipes every once in a while, so I think I'll give it another go.  I can't promise how long it will last (heck, this might be the only new post for another year), but I can certainly give it a try.  

So, what's new in my life?  Turns out, quite a bit.  In the time since my last post, I performed in the Bar Show, ended a relationship, started a relationship, got engaged, planned a wedding, attended my 10-year high school reunion, found a lump on my neck, had two surgeries, was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, had some treatment, bought a new car, baked my own cupcakes for my wedding (with the help of my lovely mother!!!), got married, went to Ireland (where, among other things, a bird pooped on me...more about that later), changed my name, put an offer on a house, cancelled the contract on the house, attended a week long trial skills workshop, beat cancer, had my 4 year anniversary at the Firm, won a couple of cases on summary judgment, started the Jillian Michaels' Body Revolution, and generally did a lot of stuff.

In this first after-crazy-hiatus post, I'll fill you in on what I know you're most interested in:  baking my own wedding cupcakes!

Just kidding! Cancer it is! 

Ok, so last fall I was at work, minding my own business, when I went to the restroom and, while washing my hands, looked in the mirror and noticed that there appeared to be a lump on the side of my neck.  Not like a growth, but like my glands were really swollen and not in the place where your glands swell.  So, I did what any sane person would do and snapped a picture of my weird neck bump and texted it to Trent (the now hubby).  

See the left side of this picture and how it looks swollen and weird
Immediately after texting the picture, I went to my trusty friend Google and googled "weird lump on my neck."  I did some reading, hit up WebMd and had this conversation with myself:  "You have cancer."  "No, don't be a hypochondriac, this isn't cancer."  "No, this is totally cancer.  Call the Dr."  "I will call the Dr., but it's not cancer."  And then I called the Dr. 

Apparently when you call the Dr. and say, "I found a weird lump on [insert random body part here]" they can get you in rather quickly.  I went to see my general practitioner the next day and he assured me that it while my lump was in an area close to my thyroid, it probably wasn't cancer...but just in case we should probably do an ultrasound.  I had an ultrasound the day after that and learned why ultrasound technicians are not actually supposed to tell you what they see.  My technician talked the whole time and it went something like this, "Oh no...this is definitely in your thyroid...yeah...this isn't good...you know sometimes these things are benign...but this is probably cancer...I've never seen a lump in the thyroid gland this big!"  And thank you for that.

And then I was referred to a surgeon.  I have the knack for always choosing teaching hospitals/clinics/doctors, so of course my surgeon had two or three different students in his office.  I go in, surgeon feels my neck and pushes on my lump and then invites all of the students to take turns feeling my neck and pushing on my lump.  It was a good time.  

I had the option of an in-office needle biopsy that would likely come back negative even if there were cancer cells in there, or I could opt to have my lump surgically removed and biopsied at the time of the surgery.  Even if it wasn't cancerous, I wasn't planning to live the rest of my life with a neck lump, so I opted for surgery.

I had my surgery on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving.  The plan was to go in and remove the right lobe of my thyroid and do some tests to see if it was cancerous right there in the room.  The options from there were cancer = removal of the full thyroid, no cancer = close me up and send me home hoping I'm one of those people who only needs half of their thyroid to have normal energy/metabolism rates, or maybe cancer can't quite tell = close me up and send it for further testing.

What result do you think I had?  If you guessed option number 3, you're a winner!

I was in the "maybe cancer" group, so I went back to my room and stayed hopped up on pain meds for 12-18 hours while my lump was tested.  I found out on Wednesday morning that it was indeed cancer and I'd be having another surgery to remove the rest of my thyroid.  

I was released from the hospital on Thanksgiving day.  What I'm thankful for:  Trent, who took time off of work at a new job just to sleep on a hospital room floor and otherwise take care of me; mom, who took off an absurd amount of time to be with me during the surgeries and recovery; my sister, who was there for my surgeries and the earlier stages of recovery; and my step-dad, who drove 7 hours to help take care of me (and mom :)).  

And that's enough sap.  

If I could give you any advice, it is do not let them release you from the hospital on a holiday an hour before you're due for your next pain pill.  They won't give you one for the road and the pharmacies are not open.  My experience was extra special because the hospital failed to put some sticker on my release paperwork, so when we finally found a pharmacy that was open I learned that they couldn't fill my prescription because my paperwork was inadequate.  Back to the hospital I went.  They still wouldn't give me a pain pill for the road (sadly).  At that point, I went home and someone else went to get my drugs.  

This is me post surgeries:  

Why yes that is a drainage tube going out of the incision in the middle of my neck

It turns out that while the pathologists knew that I had cancer, they couldn't identify it so they had to send my thyroid tissue on to the Mayo Clinic.  The pathologist there thanked my doctor for sending him "such an interesting case."  Yay?

What we learned from Mayo is that of the four types of thyroid cancer, I had the least severe in my left thyroid gland and the second to least severe in my right thyroid gland.  But my tumor was the size of a golf ball.  It's all very treatable and rarely spreads and is almost never deadly.  Some people go their whole lives with thyroid cancer and just never know it. 

Despite all of this, if you see my mom please don't tell her, "Well if you're going to get cancer, this is the type to get!"  It's true.  She still doesn't want to hear it, thanks.  

In January I had radiation therapy, which involves taking a very high dose of radioactive iodine.  I'll write about that some other day.  Most important point:  I was literally radioactive for a while and wasn't allowed to come within three feet of other people.  So that was fun.  

In July I had a follow-up body scan and now I'm cancer free. Yay go me!  I take a daily medication to replace the hormones your thyroid is supposed to make and I have a lovely scar in the middle of my neck.  My plan is that when people ask about the scar, I'll tell them that someone once tried to slit my throat.  Sadly, my surgeon was too good (or people just aren't rude enough these days) and no one ever asks.  


1 comment:

  1. Looks like thyroid cancer is epidemic targeting young women!
    I am guessing you have had follicular variant of papillary cancer initially presented as a neoplasm
    Thanks for your blog post I will refer to it in my presentation!

    ReplyDelete