Wednesday, May 17, 2006

LIVESTRONG

Believe it or not, today is LIVESTRONG Day, and Lance has asked me to blog against cancer today. Not that I've ever blogged for cancer, but today I will specifically blog against it, with subsections to keep everything tidy and neat.

My News

I have just returned from a long appointment with my endocrinologist. This morning we took a whole-body Iodine scan to evaluate the low Iodine dose that I took on Monday. The scan's purpose was to tell if there would be cancer in other parts of my body, if it had moved from my thyroid gland area. Good News: No evidence of thyroid tissue anywhere else in my body!

They sent me to lab to draw some more calcium and phosphorous levels to make sure I was still okay on that front. If you remember, those levels had dropped after surgery, but I've not had any symptoms since the week after surgery. This whole process will put me at a slightly higher risk of developing osteoporosis, but with activity and calcium supplementation I should be fine. They'll tell me about those labs next week.

I returned to the office to take my official radioactive Iodine dose. I told them that The Hater and I had requested the telepathic blend, since many super-heroes develop their honed skills secondary to radiation exposure, but we would also settle for being able to fly... the tech told me that was mostly based on your preexisting personality. In the meanwhile, I have my eyes on the lookout for insects I might entice to bite me over the next couple of days.

For now I am to live in our second bedroom in isolation for the next several days. We've been fixing up the room, and I figure that if I can do 6 weeks of basic camp at Ft Knox, this should be a walk in the park... without push-ups, to boot. I have to eat with plastic utensils for about a week, and The Hater has to be the food-preparer for about that long, too. He's been the best nursemaid, short-order (low-Iodine) cook, and cheerleader for the last couple of months. I'll be on strict isolation in our second bedroom for about four days, and I've got plenty to read and do to keep me busy. I return to work next Wednesday, the 24th, and go back to his office on Friday, the 26th, for a follow-up scan that will show NO MORE thyroid tissue at all. It's exciting, but the best news is that my mandated low-Iodine diet will be lifted for supper on Friday!!!! Oh what should my first meal be?

I'll start thyroid replacement hormones on Friday, too, whicih means I should start feeling better in a couple of months. We'll continue to monitor those levels closely over the next year to try to find a place that makes my body happy. In about a year we'll probably do this whole diet and preliminary scan again, but until then we'll take it day by day.

We love each of you and are most grateful for your continued well-wishes, prayers and happy thoughts you've sent our way. We have been overwhelmed with your love and support, and although we can never really repay you for your kindness and attention, please know that we truly believe that all of your healing vibes have been an integral part of our success during our journey into the world of the c-bomb.

LIVESTRONG
(because the c-bomb is bigger than my story)

The last couple of months have been an adventure. I'd argue that having cancer hasn't changed me as a person, except for now I'm minus one thyroid gland and plus an extra smile. I'd argue that it hasn't made me appreciate life any more or make me want to be a better person -- because I think those are things that are already established, innate to being human before any c-bomb diagnosis is made or life disaster occurs.

I think both of my grandfathers would agree with me. One died of lung cancer when I was a senior in high school, the other two years later from prostate cancer. You may think that past is what led me into my field of nursing, but that was dictated by the need to work day shift moreso than the job itself. It's an interesting story I'll tell you someday.

Having cancer has, however, reinforced to me as an oncology nurse the importance of patient advocacy, education, and informed consent issues. I have been fortunate to have worked with people who also share my passion for patient education, and I had assumed that all offices must be as wonderful as the places where I have worked. My personal c-bomb jerked that wool from my eyes as I have been dragged through a process where I was never given a plan as to what I could expect.

I had planned to take my oncology certification exam this summer, but missed the deadline due to my c-bomb, but have plans to sign up this summer for the fall exam. I was planning on taking the test anyway, but now I feel a need to take it with more urgency. I need more letters behind my name, credentials, so that when I stand up to complain on behalf of myself and my surviving peers, I'll be a more respected voice within the professional community.

And I'm also going to write a long letter to my endocrinologist. I'm going to offer to help his office develop a packet of educational materials for their patients who receive cancer diagnoses. I'm going to offer for them to hire me to come work for them as an advocate and educator, because they obviously need help in that department, and I've obviously seen first-hand where they need to begin their focus. Also, I'm in the process of seeking information as to how to start a Thyroid Cancer Support Group in OKC, as there currently is not one that meets in this state (to my knowledge). Those are my preliminary plans; I'm hoping to start a dialogue with my physician to help create a patient-friendly environment for their endocrine community that is more like the environment at my oncology office.

The Hater and I were disappointed that this diagnosis would mean we would have to wait longer to begin our family. It would mean a probable stay in our intention to move back to Tennessee this summer. It's also given us a purpose to be here longer than we had anticipated. Meanwhile, I've come to posess lots of yellow wristbands and bumper stickers. If you or someone you know would like one, drop me a line.

LIVESTRONG is an organization dedicated to research, education and support of people who have been diagnosed with cancer. There are more than ten million cancer survivors in the US, millions more in the rest of the world. And we all have a story. If you haven't been the person fighting cancer, I bet you know at lesat three others who have. Today is the day that we're all supposed to stand together -- as friends, as family members, as coworkers, as professionals, as politicians, as average Joe human, as a single voice against cancer, and advocate what it means to us to LIVESTRONG. I urge each of you whose lives have been touched by cancer to tell your story, strengthen the voice, make a difference.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Way to go girl. VM

nicole said...

Really cool that LiveStrong has asked you to blog about your experience. And way to go for turning this whole experience into something positive for all cancer victims out there -- you're awesome, G!

And no need to thank us. We're here for you! :)