Tag Archives: recurrent thyroid cancer

I Don’t Have Cancer?!?!

Every six months I have a blood draw to check the status of my  cancer.  Once or twice a year I have a  sonogram to measure the tiny papillary thyroid tumors.

My second surgery to remove thyroid tumors was April 2009.  Doc took out two, three grew back in their place. My doctors ruled out another surgery or radioactive iodine treatment and instead increased my thyroid hormone to suppress Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) in my body.  Any thyroid cell I have would be cancerous.  If the cells are stimulated by hormone, they grow.   I’ve been hyperthyroid for four years, hoping to starve the tumors to death.

My 6 month blood draws and sonograms  have shown progress.  I blogged about Teeny Weeny Tumors in December 2012.  The tumors were smaller and not giving off thyroid antibodies.

The reality is, there are no side effects from the cancer.  The tumors live quietly, minding their own business. The side effects from the hyperthyroidism are the challenge, and  greatly increased after recently being forced to switch thyroid hormone.

I’d been on Levoxyl  for 9 years, until it was  recently recalled and won’t be available again until late 2014. Doctors and pharmacists strongly warn anybody on artificial thyroid hormone to never, ever, ever, ever switch brands.

Now I know why.

blog moments 015 (3)

I switched to Synthroid.blog moments 017 (3)

This is the paperwork that came with the new med, listing all side effects, molecular structure and warnings. Look like something you wanna’ take? Me neither. Only I have this missing thyroid gland, so need artificial thyroid hormone in my body.

My symptoms increased greatly. Night sweats, sleeplessness. I can be tired all day, but wide awake during the night. I sleep about 5 hours, on a good night up to 7. Agitation.  Jumpy.  My kids have learned over the years to make a lot of noise when they walk up behind me.

At my recent endocrinologist’s visit to discuss the results of the recent blood work I described my adjustment issues with the new hormone. In conversation I used the phrase “my cancer.”

“You don’t have cancer.”

I looked at my doc in surprise.  After all, it’s been a ten year battle. She looked at me in surprise, as if I should have known.  I tried to remember what she said at our past visit.  Pretty sure I would have remembered being told I was cancer free.

“There are no thyroid antibodies and no thyroglobulin in the blood.  I’d say your cancer is gone.”

I should have been jumping.  I should have been overcome with joy. I was stunned. I was surprised she brought it up almost as if correcting me. To be cancer-free after ten years could have been announced with cake, ice-cream balloons and banners, not an afterthought conversation.

I almost doubted the news. Besides, my past two “cancer-free” times have only lasted a few months, so I was hesitant to get too excited.

 

It took me a few days to grasp in my medicated brain this is  GOOD NEWS! It took me even longer to fully grasp that the symptoms I’d been complaining about resulted in keeping the tumors from producing antibodies. It worked.

I look at those nasty pills a little differently. Would you rather have trouble sleeping or have cancer?  Yea, me too.

But, still, I argue with myself, it could come back.  It could come back in another form of cancer.  The artificial thyroid hormone could cause  bone problems as it depletes calcium from my body or cause heart issues.  If I look forward, I can cause myself undue worry and prove I don’t trust the Lord for His future plans.

If I look backwards at the ten year journey, I can remind myself of the hardships on my body and my family and prove I don’t trust the Lord for His past plans.

So, as many of us have learned through times of trials, we neither look ahead or back, we walk in the moment and look up. We may not understand His plans, but we are always in His presence.

Isaiah 4110

 

And today, as I walk with the One who is with me, strengthens me, helps me and upholds me, I don’t have cancer!!!

 

If you would like to read about the time I found the word CANCER in the Bible, read  Do YOU Have Cancer?

The Gifts of Cancer was written after being cared for by an encouraging, caring nurse named Judy.

Teeny-Weeny Tumors

 

There are squatters in my body, three tiny thyroid tumors that have been trying to stake a claim for three years.

I refuse to give up any more territory. They took my thyroid, a few dozen lymph nodes,  my strength, my stamina and a few years that remain a blur.  They can’t have anything else.

Every six months, I  go in for blood work. (If ya’ wanna brief history, you can read here.This is my third round of cancer.)

Every six months, it takes so long for the doc to call me back, it’s almost time for the next round of testing.  I keep telling myself “no news is good news,” but it can be just a little frustrating.

I look normal.  Most people forget what lurks, but I can’t always forget.  One of my endocrinologists told me that when he first started in practice, they weren’t concerned themselves with tumors under 5cm.  Now, thyroid tumors are tiny, tenacious and invasive, as I’ve learned.  As soon as we cut out a few tiny tumors, more grow. So, we quit cutting and started starving them by increasing the thyroid medication.

Because if they grow, they can spread through the blood vessels to the lungs, liver or bones.

But, living in a constant hyperthyroid state isn’t easy, but the key word there is living. I’ve lost so many friends to cancer, I feel guilty even mentioning my symptoms.

Summer 2012 185

In August I had my sonogram. It’s always a little nerve wracking, because I know the results, if I ever get them,  can be life changing. After the tests, the technician leaves the room for a consult with a doctor. I stare at the door and wait for her to return.  If it’s bad news, we do more tests.  If it’s good news, I go home.  She can’t me the whole news.

Summer 2012 187

I wipe all the gooey sonogram jelly off my neck, then stare at the ceiling.

And I pray.

Summer 2012 186

They put this pic on the wall to entertain patients.  I stare at is and long to straighten it out.  The little warping action was bugging me.  Nope, thyroid cancer doesn’t cure OCD, but it definitely knocks it down a few notches.

Christmas 117

The results are finally in.  The little sticker is 1 cm, to give you a visual. 

The black dot in the middle is the size of the tumors in 2009 and 2010, .5cm.

The black dot on the far right is the size of the tumor in November 2011 AND November 2012.

Yep, a teensy-weensy tinier.

That no news was good news.  Tumors had NOT grown and there were NO thyroid antibodies in the blood.

Doc says if I have another clear year, we can take my thyroid medication down a notch.

In other words, a year from now, I might be able to sleep through the night more than once or twice a week. 

Someone might be able to drop a book without sending me to the ceiling.

I might be able to eat dinner and not feel hunger pains at 2am.

If I look to the future agonizing over the potential spread of the cancer, I live in fear.  If I look to the future with false confidence that the tumors will go away, I could experience faith-shaking disappointment.

So, I live in the day.

And today, the tumors are a teensy-weensy tinier.

 

Hospital Souvenirs

Since I only was in the hospital for about 30 hours, and they didn’t want the door to hit me on the way out, I wasn’t able to garner as many cool souvenirs as I had hoped. SIGH.

But, I am thrilled to report I did get that lovely bottle of lotion I was eagerly anticipating, the cool name bracelet, earplugs, my own toothpaste (did you know they make it in clear gel?) and

TWO, not ONE, pairs of those hospital socks.

 
My most prized gift was the bottle of Carra Free unscented Odor Eliminator that Neutralizes Biological and All Airborne Odors. In other words, they were trying to cover up the smell of my projectile you-know-what. What timing, to puke just as the family was standing at the door. Beka was liberally spraying the room while pinching her delicate nose shut. I could see the flaring nostrils of everyone else in the room, while they smiled through clenched teeth.

Dear John, my evening shift nurse, graciously cleaned up mounds of bedding, clothing, and rubber pillows, the bed frame, the floor and I think even the walls. Not sure. I was too embarrassed to look. He was so gracious and kind and didn’t even plug his nose.

He did make me promise to not tell his wife that he knows how to make a bed. I promised to not tell her, I didn’t promise to not tell blog readers.

 


Flowers are always a big benefit of being sick.


My sister-in-law Nita and niece Lydia sent me this adorable Momma Monkey and Baby Monkey and a homemade bar of soap named “Monkey Farts.”
Guess what it smells like?
No, not that, coconuts and bananas, what else?
 

The right side of my incision goes a little farther and has a little hole at the end where the drainage tube was. EEWWWW. I don’t like icky stuff. I had to wait five days to take the picture after it healed somewhat ‘cuz it grossed me out.
 

The left side looks like a Charlie Brown zigzag smile. They say when they make a scar, they make it a little crooked so it eventually blends in with the neck wrinkles.
How wrinkled do they think I plan on getting?


Aw, look at me, with my built-in choker.


After Beka got used to the scar, she had news for me.

“You know what it looks like Mom? Let me show you!”

She dug around in the scissors drawer until she came back with this pair of scissors and held them up triumphantly. Later on, she asked me if the doctor used scissors to open up my neck.

I know what SHE is thinking!
 
I am getting used to the scar. I am getting used to turning my whole body to turn my head. I am getting used to the fact that I am, once again, slower and weaker. What has been hard to deal with is the trauma to the nerves. I don’t remember having this with my first surgery, maybe I didn’t have it at all, maybe I recovered more quickly. I also stayed in the hospital longer, was on stronger meds longer, so maybe I just didn’t feel it. But, my right ear, the right side of my face, my right shoulder and radiating down has a burning, numb feeling. My ear feels like it was burned to a crisp during a too-long-of a day at the beach. It hurts to the touch. I am praying for healing, and I ask for your prayers. The pain ranges only from a 2-3 on a scale of 1-10, but it is a constant sensation.
 
 

It reminds me of a conversation I had in the middle of the night with my angel nurse, Janae. The Lord provided one of His sweetest saints to minister to me hour by hour the night I was in the hospital. I wonder if she really was a nurse, or if she was a real angel. As we were joking about my long, ugly scar, and she encouraged me to wear it proudly because I was alive.

 
 

I told her that I didn’t have the same kind of trials that the Apostle Paul had, mine aren’t as great, but I have adopted his attitude. “I bear on my body the marks of Jesus Christ.” (Galatians 6:17). I told her I considered my scar to be one for the Lord Jesus Christ, because He allowed the cancer and I wanted to bring Him glory through the cancer.

 
 
 
She smiled and reminded me of something else of Paul’s life, that he asked three times for the Lord to remove the thorn and the Lord said no. (2 Corinthians 12:7) As we continued to talk about the Lord we both loved, I knew the Lord was speaking to me through this angel nurse. I was so thankful for this blessed fellowship in the middle of the night, in the middle of a dark hospital room, where I was surrounded with sounds of sickness and unhappiness and had mistakenly thought, for a few moments, that I was all alone.
 
 
 

Through each stage of this cancer journey I have had to lift up my expectations to the Lord and let Him work as He sees fit. I thought after suffering so nicely for Him the first time, I would be done. I thought that I suffered so nicely the second time that He would heal me. I guess I forgot to ask for no pain. I guess I thought I could suffer only under my terms. I have to repeatedly offer each part of my heart, body and mind to the Lord and let Him truly work as He sees fit.

 
 

If He asked me if I was willing to trade the cancer for a little pain, wouldn’t I have said YES? But, He doesn’t ask, because I had already told Him I want to walk by faith, I want to be His, I want to bring Him glory, I want to win souls, I want to be like Him. Why did I offer these valiant prayers with formulas attached?

 
 
 
Yes, pray for my healing. The pain isn’t horrible, but the constancy of it can be draining. I find it hard to not think about how I feel all the time. Instead of now trying to rejoice even though I have the emotional trial of carrying around cancer in my body, now I have the physical trial of the pain it cost to remove the cancer.
 
 
 

But, there is always somebody worse off than ourselves, isn’t there? I haven’t had chemo, I haven’t had radiation,; to some dear cancer sufferers I am barely in the throes of suffering. You may think what you are going through is nothing because you don’t have cancer. We must never measure our trials against someone else’s, only against the purpose the Lord has to refine us.

 

I Peter 1:6, “We greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, you are in heaviness through many trials.” For every trial there is a need a “need be” tailored to fit you.

 
 
 

I remember in the middle of one sleepless night, where I was communing with the Lord, and asking Him why He allowed the cancer to continue  indefinitely. I went through almost three years of testing with lumps and stuff in my blood, but they were never able to give me a conclusive diagnosis that I did or did not have cancer. The still small voice that broke through the darkness to answer my wondering heart, “That patience may have its perfect work.”

 
 
So, dear friend, whatever you are going through, let the voice of the Lord speak to you, that “Patience may have its perfect work.”

Jesus With Skin On

 
Just like they say “Don’t Feed the Bears” in national parks, and people do anyway, my family has this habit of feeding my cancer and whining to feed their own. Scott bought a few snacks on the way to the hospital tonight for my MRI. The doctors are trying to better locate the 5mm tumor they will remove April 13th….if they find it.
 
He ate most of them. In hindsight, maybe I should have eaten more. If sugar feeds cancer and causes tumors to grow, and my tumor is too small to be 100% sure they’ll find it, shouldn’t I have eaten them all?
 

Many people have heard the story of the little boy who was scared at night and called his mommy in. She prayed with him and tried to comfort him with reminders that the Lord was with him, he was never really alone.

His precious answer?
“But, Mommy, I want Jesus with skin on.”
 
I knew the Lord was with me, but tonight Scott was my
Jesus with skin on.
 
When I get into a tall building, I always have to see the view. Scott got stuck with filling out yet another set of forms, while I tried to capture the old Seattle homes with the backdrop of the snow covered Cascade Mountains.

Notice the warnings on the doors? Because of the strong magnetic field, there are warnings for many people – I notice they didn’t warn against braces. If my daughters, Beth and Grace, had been there would they have been swept into the tube with me and stuck to the inside by their tinsel teeth?

I was able to stand behind the door away from the magnetism and get a picture of the latest machine that was supposed to help find this bb sized tumor.

The tube was really small.

I mean really, really, really small.

The technician, Ben, joked that the tube wasn’t really that small for me, because he had people three times my size try to fit into it.

Ben even offered to take a picture of me. He made me smile. It was the last smile I had for about an hour. I looked into the tube, noticed it was about 1/2 the size of the PET scan tube, and noticed this horrible mask they were going to fasten on my face. The clausterphobia was causing me a lot of anxiety.

I told him through tears, “They don’t tell you all this stuff when they sign you up for an MRI.” He gave me a quick hug, then went out into the waiting room and said, “Mr. Peltier, you need to come. Your wife is crying.”

Scott began calming me down with Scripture and strict instructions not to open my eyes, even while I was just sitting there. He helped me wipe my nose, push up my sleeves for the IV, lay down and get comfortable. They had to pad around my head with foam cushions and put in ear plugs. I was feeling squished, and they hadn’t even put on the mask yet. When he did fasten it on, I accidentlly opened my eyes and panicked a little. I asked for another moment. The kind technician took off the mast, allowed me to breathe a few more times, close my eyes and try again.

He inserted the IV with strict instructions not to move my arm. With a few final adjustments, the bed was raised and moved into the tunnel.
 
It was SO dark.
 
But, instead of panic, I felt peace.
I kept thinking of the verse,
“I am with thee and will keep thee, in all places, saith the Lord.”
 
 
 
I knew the Lord was with me, but Jesus with skin on was lovingly rubbing my feet, assuring me with his presence. Once he stopped for some reason, and not feeling his touch, I shook my foot until he began holding it again.
 
The machine made a noise somewhere between a woodpecker pecking on a quonset and a jackhammer. The noise traveled up and down the machine and I could even feel the vibrations on my hip bones. If I hadn’t been under strict instructions to NOT MOVE and NOT TALK I might have been able to come up with a few comedic one-liners.
 
The technician knew it would be hard for me to get into that tunnel, and he wonderfully praised me on the microphone after each test. But, I don’t think he realized the other serious challenge I was facing. He began each new scan with strict instructions not to talk.
 
For the final test I couldn’t swallow or breathe for 30 seconds.
It seemed like 30 minutes.
 
And then, after all the anxiety,
it was over,
and I had survived
with the help of the Lord
and my husband, Jesus with skin on.
 
 
If you remember from previous blogs, simple things entertain me.
Mud puddles, window cleaners, the sound of snowflakes.
Tonight, I loved the sqare glass blocks set into a slightly concave pattern.
 
How DO they do that?