National Cancer Survivor’s Day 2016

Happy National Cancer Survivor’s Day!!!

Seriously – we’ve made it! We’ve made it through surgery, treatment, and every emotionally and physically trying day since being diagnosed. This is NO easy feat – no matter what cancer you have or what stage it is. We are fighters, we are warriors but the best of all, we are survivors!!

So I just wanted to let you know what the word SURVIVOR means to me. But first we have to go back to shortly after my surgery, December of 2014. I was just getting home and adapting to my new life with no thyroid. I was on pain medication, muscle relaxers, my new thyroid replacement pill and and whole tray of additional medications. I remember both Spencer and my dad telling me “You’re a survivor!” (not to mention, many of my family and friends – they are just the ones telling me on a daily basis at home). Of course I “survived” surgery and I was going to beat the cancer, that so rudely came into my life and subjected me and my family to a year and a half of pain, tears, worries, stresses, and your can’t leave out the mountains of debt. But at the time, I thought Survivor meant I was in remission – but I hadn’t beat it yet, I wasn’t given a “No Evidence of Disease.” I remember the exact moment that I realized how wrong I truly was. I had just gone to my one  year check up following my radiation treatments (RAI), and I was glowing sitting in the waiting room because I just KNEW I would hear that there was “No Evidence of Disease” (NED) – because I fought so hard for 1 year and 4 months. Except that’s not what my Nuclear Medicine doctor told me at all. He said that I still had a small tumor or mass of Thyroid tissue behind my thyroid bed. He said it should have been gone, especially after the extremely high dose of the Radioactive Iodine (RAI) I was given one year before. I might need another dose or we might have to explore other options. I left that appointment feeling defeated; not to mention sad and angry and worried and a thousand other emotions! It was the next day that I was sick and tired of waiting to celebrate so I had my brother start drawing my tattoo. This was the tattoo I had been waiting to get until I was considered a “SURVIVOR” but it was that moment that I realized I didn’t need to wait. I had been a survivor all along. I was surviving every day since being diagnosed because that’s what it takes to get through it. Fighting and Surviving.

So today I celebrate the last one year, seven months and 17 days. I’ll be raising a glass tonight: for me, my ThyCa Sisters (and brothers), and all the amazing Survivors I know (and don’t know) in my life. This is for us!

To all of my Survivor friends and family, no matter the cancer, make this day special. Celebrate YOU – you are a SURVIVOR! Comment below what YOU are doing to celebrate! 🙂National_Cancer_Survivors_Day_2016-702x495

PS. I am loving that it’s exactly 6 days away from our Relay for Life. What a way to celebrate!!

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! 🙂

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 – 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! 🙂

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? folding chair, a change of clothes, a blanket/pillow, warm clothes (in case it gets chilly), bug spray, and snacks.
  • Where to meet? we 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 for participants.
  • Bathrooms? There are bathrooms on site – duh! 😉
  • 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! 🙂

Our Team Link: 

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

Depression during RAI

Needed to take a quick detour from my Part 1/Part 2 blog to fill you in on a matter that I feel is something that is important and is something that just about anyone might go through in these circumstances.

Depression. The word seems so silly when we are only talking about 7 days worth of isolation. I know I’ve said before that many people have mentioned before that I should look at this as a mini vacation from any responsibilities or kid duties. But to me, and I don’t want to speak to everyone, but I feel like as a Mom – this is way harder than the recovery for my surgery because I could hug my babies and spend time with my family.

The first day home in isolation wasn’t so bad because I saw everyone briefly, hear stories from my kiddos, and I slept horribly in the hospital so I came home and caught up on my sleep. The second day was a little harder because the kiddos had another snow day and they were all wound up downstairs playing with my Hubby, my Mom, and my brother. By the 3rd day, I started to try to straighten my room up and took two showers, even took a bubble bath – tried to listen to my book on tape that I’ve been dying to listen to that I’m never able to because the kids are so loud in the van. But I was so distracted…thinking that my Mom is finally in town and I can’t sit downstairs with her and my kiddos keep popping their head in the room just to say “I love you!” when all I want to do is pull them in the bed and snuggle with them. I want nothing more than to have my Hubby sleep in the same bed again and give me a hug and kiss and say everything is going to be ok. And even though I find it quite amusing when my little brother jumps away from me, screaming “RADIATION!!” every time I come downstairs to fill up my water bottle, I would love to sit down with the adults once the kids are asleep and actually watch a movie.

I know this all seems pretty petty but the last few days seem to drag on forever when you are trapped in a room with nothing to do but watch TV or movies when you constantly fall asleep. Or attempt to read a book when you can’t seem to concentrate. And then we get to the diet – I can FINALLY eat normal food again. I’m not sure if my stomach is still upset from the RAI or if its from trying to eat normal food 2 days in a row but ever since I haven’t been able to eat. So throw in an upset stomach in the mix and all you want to do is sleep. I think I slept a total of 18 hours yesterday. I know my body is actually drained for all the work it’s trying to do – I mean, come on…it is trying to kill cancer. That is pretty hardcore stuff! But I wanted to do nothing but sleep or cry or stare out the window. I know all of which are signs of depression. And I wanted to do nothing about it. My phone went off a few times when I was sleeping and I didn’t pick up the phone to call any of those people back. This makes me even more sad because I am not this person.

I heard my kiddos climbing in bed at night but they decided to come be silly and show off outside my door to make Mommy smile first. Then they heard Daddy yell up the stairs “Y’all better be in bed by the time I get upstairs!!!” Haha I’ve never seen them run so fast to bed as they both yelled “I love you” and blew kisses to me. After about 10 minutes I was upset with my Hubby because I wanted nothing more than to go in and tuck them in myself. On any normal night this would not have upset me like this but I went downstairs and asked why it was taking him so long to tuck them in. He looked at me shocked as I had tears running down my face. I went back up and got in my bed so after he said goodnight to the kids he knew how upset I was and came to talk to me. I cried myself to sleep. I knew there was nothing he did wrong – it was all a part of the process.

I wanted to write this post because I wanted people who are going through RAI to know that it’s ok to feel this way and that it will get better. I slept horribly last night but I decided I wasn’t going to spend the entire day in the bed. I got up and took a shower and wrote this post. I’m going to attempt to eat breakfast then I’m going to see if someone will take the kiddos to the playground down the street so I can get outside and watch them have fun. (Before anyone freaks out – I will make sure to keep my distance from anyone to ensure I will not expose anyone). I might still feel bad this afternoon when I have to come back to my “dungeon” but that’s ok. I only have a couple more days of this before I can *fingers cross* have all this behind me.

Radioactive Iodine Therapy (RAI) – Weeks 1 and 2



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 the 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.
 





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!