Trust Your Gut

Oh it’s me again – I know, I know, something must have happened because she’s posting again lol. Although that might be true, I do intend to post more often. As we all know, the journey is never over, but the chapters change with each tide.

So I can honestly say that last year had been a good one. As you might remember I was given the “no evidence of disease” 2 years ago yesterday but we had to wait an additional 6 months to start trying for another baby. Then 6 month and 2 days later, our Baby Bear was finally more than a thought, if you know what I mean?!

During my pregnancy, my thyroid medication had to be changed a total of 6 times so I was on a constant roller coaster (more than just the change in pregnancy hormones – add in the fluctuation of thyroid hormones too)!!! I was grateful for both my doctors to be in constant communication and having monthly blood work checks to make sure I was where I needed to be. After Spence came into the world last July, I was actually quite surprised by how quickly I fell back to my “normal”. I felt great and started to lose the pregnancy weight very quickly – thanks to breastfeeding the first couple months. Unfortunately, after several attempts and trying what felt like everything, I was unable to continue to produce enough breast milk for Spence. I was thankful for my Endo to confirm that many of us without Thyroids are unable to produce the required amount – made me feel better knowing it wasn’t just “me”. I thought I would take it better with baby #3 but #momguilt always sinks in. Even if I knew that as long as he was fed, that’s all that mattered.

Fast forward to this past December, Spence was just 5 months old and I noticed I was still not feeling my best. Part of it was the stress of the holidays, I’m sure, but I knew it was more. I sent my Endocrinologist an email asking about my numbers. He assured me that they were fine and that I needed to give my hormones more time before we try to change anything. I was definitely frustrated by his response and should have insisted on blood work but the anxiety kicked in telling me I was overreacting. January came and I had my annual whole body scans – thankfully everything came back where they should and I could go back to my normal and focus on my always busy family life.

Within a month, I started feeling as though something still wasn’t right. My anxiety and depression was at an all time high again. I was tired All. The. Time! Yes I know I have a busy home with three kiddos but it was more. I brought this up to my Primary doctor and again, it was brushed off. After MONTHS of feeling sluggish, continuing to gain weight, I was tired all the time, I started having anxiety attacks again, having hot flashes several times a night, couldn’t get warm during the day, having my own emotional melt downs multiple times a week, having a period for weeks and weeks at a time, then skin rashes breaking out all over my body – including my head which resulted in scabs on 75% of my scalp, debilitating headaches, muscle cramps and joint pain – I had ENOUGH. I made the first available appointment with a new primary doctor within the same practice. Within 3 days and several attempts to get the information for the doctors office, I was told that my TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone) was at a 14.67. This is absurd! My numbers should be at ONE or less is ok too! And it was 14 times higher than it should have been. This is not a small increase – I felt like I was dying but because of my anxiety, I kept it inside until I had more than I could handle.

Trust me, I am the first one to admit that we must be our own advocate – I should have know this from the years and years that I went undiagnosed while the cancer spread to my lymph nodes and both of my lungs. But sometimes we forget and trust that others have the best of intentions. But goodness gracious, no matter your situation or medical conditions, please trust your gut. For the 3rd time I am looking for new doctors. It is their job to help me. If they can’t, you move on to someone else because if not, you can go through several months of not being your best self. I have lost it on my family and missed out on things with family and friends because of it. I can’t get these months back but I can take charge of taking care of myself again. Never give up and always reach out to others for help.

For those that have Thyroid Cancer or other related Thyroid issues, I think we can all understand that our fight it never over. No matter how many people or doctors or professionals tell us that it’s the “easy” cancer. Know that you are NOT alone.

Always,

Kat

Relay for Life Team: All Night for the Fight

Ok yall, it’s time for Relay for Life!!! I couldn’t be more thrilled to have our own team this year and it’s going to be AWESOME!

An introduction to Relay for Life:

I’m going to be completely honest, prior to being diagnosed with Thyroid Cancer, I had remembered hearing about it Relay for Life but had never participated in one. I was asked by my dear friend and neighbor last year to join her team, not truly understanding what it was all about. I can tell you, this experience was life changing. To see so many people coming together to help bring awareness, raise money, and support each other was just an incredible thing – and of course, it was FUN! Please, please, please come and hang out with us! ­čÖé

What is Relay for Life:

  • It’s an organized, overnight community fundraising walk for ALL cancers
  • Teams of people camp out around a track
  • Members of each team take turns walking around the track
  • Food, games, and activities provide entertainment and build camaraderie
  • Family-friendly environment for the entire community

What makes Relay for Life more awesome?

  • In more than 5,200 communities and 20 countries, Relay for Life events comprise the signature fundraiser for the American Cancer Society, raising more than $400 million dollars.
  • Survivors Lap: All cancer survivors at the event take the first lap around the track, celebrating their victory over cancer while cheered on by other participants who line the track.
  • Luminaria Ceremony: Takes place after dark, so we can remember people we have lost to cancer, honor people who have fought cancer in the past, and support those whose fight continues. Candles are lit inside of personalized bags and are placed around the Relay track as glowing tributes to those who’ve been affected by cancer.
  • Fight Back Ceremony: This emotionally powerful ceremony inspires Relay participants to take action. The Fight Back Ceremony symbolizes the emotional commitment each of us can make in the fight against cancer. The action taken represents what we are willing to do for ourselves, for our loved ones, and for our community to fight cancer year-round and to commit to saving lives.

What to expect at a Relay Event?

  1. Relayers are welcomed in the Opening Ceremony.
  2. Relay starts with the Survivor Lap, when survivors walk to celebrate their victory over cancer.
  3. The Caregiver Lap recognizes those who have given care to cancer patients.
  4. All of the Relay teams are invited to walk together during the Opening Lap.
  5. Luminaria bags and candles are lit during the Luminaria Ceremony to honor loved ones who have passed or are fighting the disease.
  6. Individual Walking is observed throughout the night with Family Games, Activities, and Entertainment.
  7. The Fight Back Ceremony helps close the event. Relayers take a final lap and pledge to take action and spread awareness of cancer research, treatments, and prevention.

How can YOU help?

  • Join our team!! Seriously, it’s going to be a BLAST! Whether you can come for an hour or all night – come hang out, walk a couple laps with us and celebrate those that are fighting and honor those that we have lost.
  • Help raise money – share our team link (see below) to your Facebook page, Twitter, Instagram, or any other social media. It doesn’t matter if you can give back $5 or raise $50, anything helps!!
  • Donate a Luminaria Bag/Torch┬á– You can choose to decorate a bag (see me for details) or you can purchase online and the event will have a bag for you lining the track, including “In Honor Of”, “In Memory Of”, or “In Support Of”.
    • White Luminaria Bag – $10 (or 3 for $25)
    • Blue Luminaria Bag – 3 for $25
    • Tiki Torch of Hope – $30 (or $35 includes a keepsake)
  • Come support us!! Even if you aren’t interested in walking with our team, just come be apart of this fantatic opportunity – come watch the opening ceremony, have a few laughs, etc. Just come, but I’m going to warn you, the energy is contagious and you might not want to leave! ­čÖé

Event Day Logistics

  • When: Saturday, June 11, 2016 from 6pm to 7am
  • Where: Fauquier High School (702 Waterloo Road, Warrenton, VA)
  • What should I pack?┬áfolding chair, a change of clothes, a blanket/pillow, warm clothes (in case it gets chilly), bug spray, and snacks.
  • Where to meet?┬áwe have a tent set up – you just have to look for our sign with team name: All Night for the Fight!
  • Are you a Survivor? Make sure you sign up online as one so you can receive the t-shirt. And please come early to receive your complimentary food in the Survivor tent.
  • Food/Drinks? Yes there will be vendors/other teams selling food/drinks and of course, there will be water provided┬áfor participants.
  • Bathrooms? There are bathrooms on site – duh! ­čśë
  • Kids? Of course! You are never too young to Relay! Just make sure you bring all the necessities! And if your child under 18 years of and will be walking, be sure to bring your signed Youth Participant Agreement to the Registration table.
  • Do I have to walk the whole time?? NO! In order to represent the fact that “Cancer never sleeps”, we ask that each team has a representative walking the track at all times. This should not be just one person – team members can take shifts!
  • Want to sleep? You are more than welcome to take a nap in the tent, OR go home, take a name and come back! Participants are not required to stay up all night.

Relay for LIfe

Thank yall for taking the time to read this. I just wanted to answer any questions that you might have about this amazing event and hope to see YOU there! ­čÖé

Our Team Link: 

http://main.acsevents.org/goto/FauquierAllNightfortheFight 

Today Marks 1 Year

Well this is a day that has been on my mind for quite a while now and of course, with very mixed emotions. I remember the night before my surgery last year, I couldn’t wait to get all this behind me and I just kept thinking ahead, to be able to celebrate the one year mark because I knew everything was going to be so much better by then. It’s definitely been a roller coaster of events over the last year – from surgery to radiation, the constant change in medications, and the never ending doctors visits. But this was just a small moment in my journey…..

We all change with all the trials and tribulations we have in life. More than anything, I know that I am stronger. Every time I didn’t think I could handle any more bad news or another scan or test, I held it together. With every prick of the needle or side effect I had to endure, I held it together. With every question that I got from my kids asking if Mommy was going to be ok, I held it together. But just like with any process, you have to learn to let go too. And I did – many, many times. I can’t even begin to count the amount of times that I just broke down and cried, over every little thing. I tried to fight it once I got past the initial shock of the word “cancer”, but then I realized that’s just all part of the journey – knowing it’s ok to have good days AND bad days. There were days that I didn’t want to get out of the bed, there were days that I got the kids off to school then crawled right back in bed to just cry. BUT THEN, there were other days that I drove home and belted out & at the top of my lungs “Fight Song” because that’s what I needed to get through that moment in time when I thought I was done putting forth the energy to keep going and fighting. I have had to learn that I can’t have control over everything, no matter how hard I try. You just have to go with the flow and know that everything happens for a reason, but for that same reason, you have to learn when to fight and when to let go. There were days that I would give in and other days that I would fight to no end. I have learned that you can’t get through something like this alone – and makes me that much more appreciative for all of my amazing family and friends that stood by me every second of every day┬áand gave me that push when I needed it or the shoulder to cry on when I needed it more.

In the recent weeks, my hormone meds were increased and with every change in medication, it takes time for things to get adjusted. But the more and more they kept my Thyroid hormones suppressed, the harder the side effects were to deal with. I felt like I was taking 10 steps back to 6 months ago when everything was out of control. I was finally starting to get into a routine and getting to feel a sense of normalcy prior to this last change. So when I got the call that my TSH numbers were going up and they needed to increase my meds to keep things leveled out, I just lost it. I didn’t want to go through all that again. The exhaustion, muscle cramps, the shakes that never went away, heart palpitations, unable to catch my breath, extreme hot flashes that would last hours, massive hair loss (resulting to falling out in clumps) and unable to keep my thoughts on anything. All of this brought my anxiety back with a vengeance, which in turn, intensified with each of these side effects.

So with all this being said, I was having a hard time thinking how I was going to “celebrate” today when I felt I couldn’t be happy with my current state. So without coming off like I had nothing to be grateful for, I then realized, I just need keep moving and know that all is going to be ok. So for now I can appreciate the journey over the last year because I am still here and that can not be said by all those who have been diagnosed. Today is going to be an emotional day for me and I might not want to do anything this year but that’s ok. Maybe next year I will think of something to do in honor of this day.

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My Fight Song

So I just recently posted on Facebook that I have started a new chapter in my life – I have decided to be happy again and not let ThyCa get to me anymore. I would do my best each day to get up and make it a good one.

“Learning to live with ThyCa, not letting ThyCa dictate how I live my life.”

Well part of what helped with that, is a song – most people can relate with songs. That’s what helps bring us together. I first heard this song at Relay for Life as I was walking my “Survivor Lap” and I was brought to tears. I can honestly say I didn’t even hear most of the words because it took all I could to get around that track and back to my family and friends. But the next day when my neighbor and friend posted it online so I could hear it, I listened and that’s when it became MY SONG.

What I love about this song is it can be used by so many different people for so many different types of struggles in life. For me it was cancer, for another family member┬áit was her divorce and depression, it can be a getting through college and making it into the real world, etc. It’s whatever you have found difficult to where you couldn’t get out of bed or you have felt you couldn’t talk to someone or maybe you have talked to someone but they couldn’t relate and you feel alone. But now – now you FINALLY feel like you can be set free. You are ready to take on the world and get through whatever you are going through and even though you may not be able to beat it – it’s the sole fact that you tried and you fought and you lived your life to the fullest.

For me, I had so much anxiety in the day-to-day life that I felt out of control and crazy, I really felt crazy. Everyone kept telling me to trust my judgement and if something didn’t feel right that I needed to go back to the doctor and if that was the case, I would be back at the doctor once a week – I started to feel as though I couldn’t trust my own judgement and that is scary. I was once a confident and independent person but am now lacking the ability to trust myself and having to rely on others so much that it doesn’t┬áreally┬ádo much for in self-esteem department. Do I know that it’s going to be ok and that it’s ok to ask for help? Absolutely, but it’s still an adjustment that I’m learning to live with. After I started seeing a therapist that specializes in traumatic life events – such as cancer, anxiety and depression, I got my medications stabilized through my Endo and PCP, and I realized that I couldn’t change whether my cancer was still in my lungs nor would there be anything I could do until we hit the 6 month mark after radiation – I soon started to become more “OK” with my new normal. I am still always tired and I think that is just part of it so I’m just trying to stay busy but┬ástill allow┬ámyself time to rest, all at the same time.

In the mean time, I have my Fight Song – it helps me get through my hard days and helps me celebrate my good days.┬áI get to blare it out loud in the car with my Hubby and kiddos when I am happy because it’s my feel good song. It comes on the radio like every other song, when before I never heard it┬áand my kids ask for it all the time as well. My daughter even knows all the words now! But it’s also there when I need pick me up and I am having a hard time getting through the day and can’t seem to get out of bed or if I am having baby fever and wishing that we didn’t have to wait so long to try again.

Either way, it’s a beautiful song and everyone should take the time to listen to it! If you are struggling – just know that everyone is going through something!

Fight Song

By: Rachel Platten

Like a small boat
On the ocean
Sending big waves
Into motion
Like how a single word
Can make a heart open
I might only have one match
But I can make an explosion

And all those things I didn’t say
Wrecking balls inside my brain
I will scream them loud tonight
Can you hear my voice this time?

This is my fight song
Take back my life song
Prove I’m alright song
My power’s turned on
Starting right now I’ll be strong
I’ll play my fight song
And I don’t really care if nobody else believes
‘Cause I’ve still got a lot of fight left in me

Losing friends and I’m chasing sleep
Everybody’s worried about me
In too deep
Say I’m in too deep (in too deep)
And it’s been two years
I miss my home
But there’s a fire burning in my bones
Still believe
Yeah, I still believe

And all those things I didn’t say
Wrecking balls inside my brain
I will scream them loud tonight
Can you hear my voice this time?

This is my fight song
Take back my life song
Prove I’m alright song
My power’s turned on
Starting right now I’ll be strong
I’ll play my fight song
And I don’t really care if nobody else believes
‘Cause I’ve still got a lot of fight left in me

A lot of fight left in me

Like a small boat
On the ocean
Sending big waves
Into motion
Like how a single word
Can make a heart open
I might only have one match
But I can make an explosion

This is my fight song (Hey!)
Take back my life song (Hey!)
Prove I’m alright song (Hey!)
My power’s turned on
Starting right now I’ll be strong (I’ll be strong)
I’ll play my fight song
And I don’t really care if nobody else believes
‘Cause I’ve still got a lot of fight left in me

No I’ve still got a lot of fight left in me

The Worry Wart in me will never stop….

So as you can imagine, I have had a hard time getting the whole cancer stuff off my brain as it’s definitely affected my life in a big way┬áover the last 8 months. I went for a follow appointment to see my Primary doctor just last week to discuss my anxiety medications (which had to be upped…again…ugh). And the last few weeks I have been discussing my breathing issues with my Hubby – ever since my surgery (in December 2014) I haven’t been able to do a whole lot of physical activity without becoming what started off as heavily winded then turning into wheezing/hyperventilating/unable to breathe. My surgeon said that because the surgery was pretty invasive and extensive, it was going to take a while for the inflammation to go down, so it could be 2 months or it could be 6 months for things to settle down. Just give your body time to rest! Well he doesn’t know me, haha.

As time has gone on, I think I just became more aware of this happening as I wasn’t even able to go up the stairs with a heavy basket of clothes or cleaning my van or vacuum the house without this happening. So after my Hubby brought up the fact that it had been so many months, it was time to say something. With my grandmother, my dad, and my son all having asthma, that was the first conclusion. He gave me a rescue inhaler and told me to keep him in the loop as to how often its being used, as I might end up needing a preventative. He also wanted to eliminate any other sources to the problem so he ordered blood work, a lung capacity test, and a x-ray to be sure that there wasn’t any fluid in my lungs. My blood work came back all normal – they were worried that I may have been anemic or something along these lines. My lung capacity test came back normal for someone that has asthma. They were concerned that because I was known to have lesions in my lungs that I wasn’t able to get a full breath or that the radiation may have caused damage to my lungs when trying to shrink the lesions. Finally the x-ray was done and that came back with no fluid, only showing whatever is going on in my lungs, whether that being scar tissue, or the same lesions, or whatever the case.

With that being said, I felt my heart sink in my chest – in the CAT scan of my chest, they said that the lesions had shrunk so small that it couldn’t be seen or it was now microscopic. So I was really confused why they would now show up on a x-ray which isn’t as detailed as a CAT scan. I called and left a frantic message for my Endo prior to my appointment yesterday and once again…..wait…..

Getting to my appointment yesterday, I had to force myself to eat prior just so I could take my medications and was just exhausted from the anxiety of everything going on in my head. I swore every time they said that I didn’t need to worry about something, I ended up having to deal with that one thing – doesn’t matter what the ratios are. 1 of 10, 2 of 3, or 1 of 100. I’ve heard them all and I’ve been that 1% or 33% each time. Yes, I am a worry wart but I need to know – it’s so much better than NOT knowing. But once I got into the office, I knew I was finally going to get some answers. They took resting heart rate – 118 – yep that’s not good and I couldn’t stop shaking from my anxiety but that’s becoming my new normal. After the pleasant 30 minute wait in the room, my Endo finally came in and the first thing she noticed how tired I looked – yep, sure am, exhausted. She explained that it’s one of the things that I will feel when they have to suppress my Thyroid so much to keep my cancer from spreading, this is what they have to do. We talked about my breathing and what is going on and found out that I might also have asthma but it’s another side effect of a suppressed Thyroid is a rapid heart rate, which causes rapid breathing and the rest follows. I knew the anxiety is caused by all of this but I had no clue it would be this bad – I honestly have been a basket case and have no clue what to do with my self. She also explained that my dizziness and the one time I passed out came from that as well. So all those times that I felt so out of control and “crazy” and hypochondriac – I’m not. This is just my new normal and she basically said she knows it sucks – and maybe after a few years we can pull back on my meds once my cancer gets under control which will help how I’m feeling.

After my doctor finished telling me all of this, she just looked at me and knew I was just done. It’s been a very, very long few months emotionally and mentally more than anything. She said I need to de-stress my life as much as I can. I need to spend time with my kids and family. Enjoy my life and know that we are doing everything we can for my health and there is nothing we can do at this point. We are waiting for my 6 month mark after radiation and then we will know more. And at that point we will make sure we do everything we can and she will send me anywhere in the US to make sure I have the best medical care I need. She will make sure that I am taken care of from the medical side, so she said I need to make sure I take care of me and get my anxiety/stress down. She recommended that I see a counselor (which I’ve already started doing).

Overall, I needed to hear that from my doctor and it’s still going to be VERY hard for me to let things go and to de-stress my life but I have to. For my family’s sake, I need to make sure I am healthy enough to be there for them.

Thanks, Kat

P.S. I want everyone to know the following: I KNOW that I have sooooo much support and love from all of my family and friends. I am writing this blog for other Thyroid Cancer patients, awareness and for myself. I don’t want this to be misconstrued as anything else. Thanks! ­čÖé

Radioactive Iodine Therapy (RAI) – Weeks 1 and 2

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I felt that I was finally emotionally ready for another post. I know that its been a good couple weeks since a post event though that was not my original intention. I wanted to post every couple of days to let everyone know what every step of the process was and everything that went into my therapy, especially for someone that was about to go through it themselves but I found that I couldn’t handle it, emotionally, mentally, and physically. The last 2 1/2 weeks have been draining, as I’ve spent most of th´╗┐e time driving back and forth from Bealeton, VA to Washington, DC for my daily appointments. This is “only” a 48 mile hike much more goes into it than it may seem. 

On most days I was in the Nuclear Medicine office for about an hour but there were about 3 days a week that I had additional scans that needed to be done. Just about every day for 2 weeks I had to have a Whole Body Scan and blood work to determine how quickly my body was metabolizing the small tracer dose of the radioactive iodine (given to me on 2/18). Each of my arms were completely bruised from getting bloodwork each day but you do what you gotta do! I was put in isolation at home for 48 hours where I could not be more than 3 feet away from someone and could not be around someone for more than an hour. My kiddos stayed with family during this time and even missed a little school (thankfully only one day due to some snow days). There were other days that I was there for 3 1/2 hours where I went from one scan to the next for anywhere from 20 minutes to 40 minutes per scan. I am somewhat claustrophobic so my anxiety was through the roof on these days as the scanners came just an inch from my nose and I had to fast on these days so I was always very dizzy, tired, yet had a hard time getting through it with a major headaches from not eating. Needless to say, by the time I got home, after another 2 1/2 hour drive home, I was beat and wanted to do nothing but sleep.
 

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I didn’t have to drive into DC by myself because my amazing SIL offered to drive me into DC to each of my appointments. I seriously don’t know what I would’ve been able to do without her because I was in the process of transitioning to new anxiety meds. Without her, it would take, at least, 4+ hours ONE WAY to get to each of my appointments without the use of the HOV lane, not to mention, I would not be able to cope with the traffic at this point with my anxiety or the loneliness of driving that distance or depressing sitting in the Nuclear Medicine office. Let me tell you, I was the youngest one there and probably one of the few patients that still had their hair. This also meant that with every snow day we had to adjust our schedules to make sure each of our school aged kiddos were taken care of and our younger kids were with my MIL, or our neighbors. Let me just tell you, this took a lot of planning because this just happens to be the most snowy time of the year for the DC Metro area – go figure right?!?! For Fauquier County alone we received 6 snow days, 2 two-hour delays and 1 early dismissal due to snow….yes this was all within a 2 1/2 week time period. And I am currently writing this on another snow day…..on MARCH 6th! 

Back to my driving issues/anxiety….most people didn’t know that I was driving to McLean once (sometimes twice) a week to train the person that would be covering my work during my leave of absence. I am lucky enough to have the ability to work from home most days. My anxiety was so out of control during the beginning of February that I was having 4-5 anxiety attacks per week and the anxiety medication I was put on was actually making me fall asleep at all hours of the day. My Hubby has been working night shift for over a year was working extra hard at home to make sure the kids were being taking care of before leaving the house so that if I did fall asleep, everything would be ok. I also had many family, friends, and neighbors calling constantly to check on me and ready at any moment to take my call if I was driving and/or needed help to stay awake to make it to my destination. Well after making another trip to McLean for work, I ended up falling asleep at the wheel and rear-ended someone. Thank God the man in front of me was OK, my kids weren’t with me, my van was fine and and SUV in front had minor damage to the bumper. But of course this put me into another anxiety attack as I couldn’t find my insurance card (we just renewed so I guess I didn’t put the new cards in the van) but the guy was SUPER nice and let me email him my information when I got home. As soon as I drove off another anxiety attack came on, I pulled over and my MIL calmed me down. Once I finally got home, I immediately called my doctor and we went through a few days of changes before we finally decided to change meds all together. I told this part in detail because we all know our bodies, I should NOT have let the excessive sleepiness go on for 4 straight days and let this happen. The doctors have let me know that might be part of my new norm but it might just be that I need to find my “triggers” and ways to calm myself down. I have sense been changed to a new anxiety medicine and LOVE it! It’s been 3 weeks on it and 1 1/2 weeks since my last anxiety attack! Even with all this craziness going on in my life – I’d say it’s definitely working! Especially when my last anxiety attack was when we had to drive home in the sleet/snow! 

I plan on finishing part two of the story in the next couple of days but I felt up to putting a few words down today so I took advantage when I could. I did want to take a moment and say thank you to everyone to that has been there to help, support, love and listen when we needed it most!