November 22, 2013

Thyroid cancer revisited

List of unwelcome people, life events that suck and general needless stuff is endless. Cancer tops the list and will always have its safe Top 10 spot. Year ago I was undergoing series of tests (yes, those that have no end in sight) and was preparing two thyroid whole body scans and the radioactive iodine treatment. Year older and wiser now I can say it was "not that bad". Not nearly as bad as when compared to leukemia treatment. Not as bad as having long term illness that has no good prognosis, ever. 
But yes, of course it sucks. People around me had to watch me turning into a monster: all my favorite foods were on "banned" list, and lack of Synthroid just made me look like .. well, a monster. Puffy face cookie monster. Not horror movie kind of monster. Good thing was that it was gradual, not an overnight change. I did not really see- or want to see- anything being wrong. Mornings were hard, as if I had eaten junk food and been binge drinking and had not recovered from hangover. There is nothing make-up can't fix, so I thought, and since thyroid hormone was on a very low level in my blood, I was happy. Felt quite normal (tired normal) and drove to work.
It's only when I got there, I literally wanted to lie down on the floor and not get up at all. It was cold all the time, so I thought. When my menstrual period came (I so wish it had not!), I did not know whether the bleeding would ever stop. I did not even want to get up and walk for the fear that I would just bleed and bleed. No one warns you about these things- if someone did, or if I read it in somewhere, that information was long gone at the time when I needed it. So, in case it happens to you ladies, you know now.
Forewarned is forearmed. Don't worry if you forget, just go home and rest. Well, after the RAI, my period disappeared for four months. Fabulous. For the first time in years my hemoglobin was somewhere above 12.

Comparative study moment: which is worse; being off Synthroid or having to stick to low-iodine diet? Easy one! 
If I was off my meds, but could still eat whatever I fancied...
If I was on my meds, but had to become low-iodine kitchen guru...
Both have their ups and downs. I'd go for the 2nd option.
Where is the third option- meds, diet and THYROGEN? 

I've really not read many positive experiences being on Synthroid. Low iodine diet works for some ( I guess it's either that or starve). I don't spend much time in kitchen, but asked people their thoughts about low-iodine cooking. Completely eliminating salt was useful when my face started getting puffy (that is when I realized it was happening. Colleagues said later that no amount of make-up, cucumber face-masks and others could cover the damage). There were days, more toward the end, when I felt like one wrong word could start a war if I don't get the taste of that particular food I want. The truth is one bite would not have been enough. Yes, I remember having spaghetti and garlic bread once (twice...? but since underactive thyroid gland causes memory lapses..), and ate them without any guilt feelings. Nearly licked the plate so I could get all the sauce.

Year later I don't know if any research has been done about low-iodine diet- is it really the key to the success of RAI? Despite of my spaghetti dinner, RAI in my case was successful. Thyrogen still isn't available everywhere, and I would be so reluctant to have any scans done now without Thyrogen.

In hindsight it all sounds so easy. Should have done this, that etc. One thing is for sure: without support from family and friends it is much harder so do your best and don't push them away.

Today is a good day. I have not thought about cancer at all. I've not stood in front of the mirror examining the scar in my neck, because it is barely visible. I haven't talked about cancer, because it's not part of me and I've conquered one of my biggest fears.
Isn't that what they say: "Cancer, you chose the wrong bitch!"

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