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

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 

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 and 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.

inspirational-quotes-cancer-493

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!

Post-Op Appointments

My first post-op appointment was with my surgeon and just 7 days after my release from the hospital. I really felt great about seeing him and even better about getting out of the house again. The only other time I saw this office since surgery was to have my drain removed 4 days prior (all 12 inches of it pulled from beneath my skin – pretty disgusting!!!). I also saw my Endocrinologist the next week just to do another follow up on my Thyroid medication and discuss my pathology report again.

My surgeon just went through everything again as to what he did – as we all know, I was a bit out of it after surgery and on a few pain meds so I may not have remembered a few minor details pertaining to my surgery haha. My surgeon and Endo both clarified that things were a lot worse than they initially thought. They knew that there was a lot of lymph node involvement but not to this extent. They removed 56 lymph nodes – 7 from the center (front of my neck, over top of my thyroid) and 49 on the left side of my neck (much deeper than initially thought and had to clamp my neck muscles back longer to remove them). They also thought I was only a stage one – just a little background info, if you are under the age of 45 with Papillary Thyroid Cancer, there are only 2 stages of Cancer. After my surgery, they determined that my surgery was more advanced than originally thought and officially staged me at Stage 2 instead for multiple reasons. Because the amount that it had spread already already, in additional to the type of aggressive tumors located in the actual thyroid. They found 7 nodules (or tumors) in the Thyroid and they were called multifocal – which are actually uncharacteristic of Papillary.

Now with each of these appointments, as you would expect, it was extremely overwhelming. My Daddy came with me to my Surgeon appointment and Mom Brady came with me to my Endo appointment. Thank God for that – I swear, I with each of the appointments, I’m only able to digest the first 5 or 10 minutes of information then it takes the next 24-48 hours to let the remaining fully sink in. That’s the combination of talking it out with the other person(s) with me, thinking about it, telling my Hubby on the way home, then sleeping on that night then BAM – that’s when I feel like it all finally comes together. I was just told I have aggressive tumors and Stage 2 Cancer. HOW? I’m 28 years old. I have 2 babies at home. And I still want more with my Hubby who want to pass his name on himself. Did she say I needed Radiation? Oh wait – she said I needed Radioactive Iodine Therapy which is much easier on the body. Oh goodness. After each of these appointments I always have  at least one good cry – you know that ugly cry that everyone has (you know what I’m talking about – anyone ever listen to Dane Cook haha). And this is when that happens, when it all hits me a day or two later when it just hits me and it’s so overwhelming.

So my next step will be to have Radioactive Iodine Therapy but I needed to wait a minimum of 6 weeks after surgery. So my next post will be dedicated to what is involved in the process and how this will help my recovery process. 🙂

Total Thyroidectomy and Left Neck Dissection – Surgery Pre-Op

So once I was diagnosed with Papillary Thyroid Cancer and they confirmed the nodules were on all sides of the Thyroid, they decided to remove the entire Thyroid rather than just one lobe (or one half). During the ultrasound, they also discovered that my lymph nodes were affected to the point that they knew it was going to be an extensive surgery. I met with one of the most highly recommended Surgeons in the D.C. Metro to discuss – he informed me that all of my lymph nodes on the central and left side of my neck are abnormal and would need to be removed. I would need to get a hockey stick shaped incision starting with the normal Thyroid incision going across my throat and up to just below my ear. I knew it was going to be hard but when he said it was going to be a 4 week long recovery time I just couldn’t believe it. He said in order to remove the lymph nodes on the far left side of my neck and under my muscle, they would need to pull and clamp my muscle back for a certain length of time. This would cause major discomfort in my neck, shoulder, and arm. I would lose some movement and strength. Of course I knew it was going to be hard but I truly didn’t know what to expect. Surgery was expected for 12/1 with an estimated 2 night stay.

It was Black Friday (the Friday before my surgery) that I received my Nurse call to discuss surgery logistics – they wanted to make sure I was scheduled and ready to go for Wednesday, 12/3….ummmm what?! NO – I’m scheduled for 12/1!!! UGH yes, they rescheduled me without telling me and I had my parents who flew in for the surgery and made arrangements based on these dates, which included my kids being taken care of, my Hubby taking off of work, and my sanity haha. I know it was only two day but my life was already turned upside down – the only thing I wanted was some stability!

Pre-Surgery - Thumbs Up

The morning of my surgery I tossed and turned all night – I planned a huge post for FB so my Hubby could easily keep everyone updated and I started a mass group test so he could keep our closest family and friends updated with update from the doctor and nurses. But I have to say that the best part of my support was the day of my surgery seeing all the notifications that kept popping up on my phone. It was my “village” posting on FB and texting me saying they were thinking about me. I pretty much cried the whole way to the hospital and read each one to my Hubby. In case yall didn’t know – it meant the WORLD to me!!! Just some of the things that were sent to me:

No One Fights Alone Band Support for Kat Brady Thyroid Cancer Ribbon Thyroid Cancer - Warrior

Either way, I made it to my surgery on 12/3, with all kinds of butterflies in my stomach (and the remaining one in my neck for the remaining hours – haha I got jokes). My Daddy and Step-Mom held down the fort at home with my kiddos while my Hubby and MIL took me to the hospital. It was a long wait of checking in, then changing wearing my awesome “party hat” (aka hair net), and waiting for the surgeon and anesthesiologist to come by and let me know the plan. FINALLY after a couple gruesome hours they asked what my favorite cocktail was – which anyone who knows me, is a SoCo and Coke so that’s what she told me to thinking about when she put the “cocktail” in my IV while wheeling me off.

I have to say, when I woke up in recovery, it was just like the movies – I thought I heard people talking about me. I barely moved and then all I felt was excruciating pain. I couldn’t talk – just cry. The Nurse came by and told me to hang tight and she was getting more pain meds for me. All I wanted was my Hubby to come and tell me everything was going to be ok. I heard her talking to him saying I wasn’t ready and I just couldn’t get the words out that I needed him. She asked if I needed anything else, so I finally was able to ask when I could see him – she smiled and said he could now. I was so relieved to see him and my MIL. To have someone to hold my hand and it meant everything to have them there.

Eventually I made it to my own room – and I’m not sure how because the man that wheeled me in the bed did NOT make it easy. I’m pretty sure we bounced off each and every wall available between the recovery floor up to the main floor; and there are a LOT of walls, doors, elevator doors, etc!! Haha it made for a good laugh later after the fact (especially for the two following behind me)! Got settled into my room for a very long and uncomfortable night. Once I was situated, my Hubby was starving and offered to grab me some ice cream as I wanted to try but didn’t know what I could handle at the time. Eventually I gave in to the fries with a Frosty and it was the perfect duo following my surgery! Kinda like me and Hubby – I seriously don’t know what I would have done without him by my side!

Now on to recovery…. 🙂