Have you ever found yourself smack-dab in the middle of a season in your life where things were just too emotionally tolling to put into words? Me too. Today. And yesterday. And the day before. But I have all this stuff running through my head and I’m hoping that trying to get it out will bring me some peace.
On March 3rd, my grandmother (one of the best women on the planet) turned 85. Her husband (she remarried at 80 after being widowed for 12 years) had trouble waking her up on the morning of her birthday so he called 911. Her blood sugar was 36 so the paramedics made her a sandwich, waited for her blood sugar to rise, and left. The next morning her husband had trouble waking her up again. This time the paramedics took her to the hospital. My dear hubby encouraged me to book a plane ticket and pack my bags. I did not think it was the end of her life, but I knew it was time to make some decisions about her care. For more on my time with her read Finding Smiles.
Back in December I received confirmation that my thyroid hormones were not what they should have been. After gaining 35lbs in three months I had a pretty good idea. I at least hoped my lack of a thyroid was the culprit. My messed up hormone levels led to my endocrinologist scheduling a whole body scan to see if there is any new cancer growing somewhere in my body. Oh, how I wish a whole body scan (from here forward referred to as a WBS) was as simple as typing out those three little words. But it’s not. In fact, it’s far from it. In order to prepare for said body scan, I have to purge my body of iodine. If you’ve never tried to purge a naturally occurring mineral from your body, you should drop to your knees now and count yourself blessed. I’m totally serious.
The purging is done by eliminating all packaged and processed foods from your diet. Oh, and you can’t eat out, or have dairy, or anything from the sea, or the skins of any root vegetables, or more than five ounces of meat per day, or any seasoning that has salt added to it, or anything that may have passed through a facility which may have been cleaned with iodine. Which means, there aren’t many options. Did I mention that this iodine purging attempt must be done for three weeks? Yep. That’s right. Three whole weeks of creative home-cooking.
The original plan was to have it all done and over with by the end of February. At the end of my first week on the low iodine diet (from here forward referred to as the LID) the plague visited our house. I was sick and anticipating my 18th wedding anniversary, so I asked the nurse at my endo’s office to reschedule for March. She obliged and at the end of February I started the LID all over again in preparation for a WBS on March 16th. You see the schedule conflict yet? After another ten days on the LID, I extended my stay with my grandmother and once again asked my nurse to reschedule my WBS. She once again obliged and sent me a message saying something like, “We have a training exercise at the end of March….Can’t reschedule your WBS until April 6th.” I didn’t even look at the calendar.
As I pulled into the rental car garage at the Houston airport on March 19th, I was a little sick to my stomach. I had to leave my grandmother’s side without any certainty about her long-term prognosis or where she would go when she was discharged from the hospital. My heart was torn between my longing to be with my family and my desire to make sure my MawMaw is comfortable and cared-for in whatever time she has left in this life. Thrown into my mix of emotions was grief. Friends lost their precious two and half-year old daughter the week before and I knew that my first evening at home would be spent at her memorial service. The fruit cocktail of emotions making me sick to my stomach also contained several thoughts about the trip to the Big Apple that I was taking with my oldest daughter and her Orchestra on the 21st. How the heck was I going to stick with the LID in New York? Better yet, how the heck was I going to find time to do laundry and pack? I’d been gone for more than two weeks and I had just a little over 48hours to prepare to leave again.
As I walked through airport security, about the only thing missing from my emotional fruit cocktail was anger. The TSA agent took care of that. This short, bald, tattooed guy walked through the body scanner just before me. With my shoes and bags still inside the scanner, the agent stopped the belt and ran around to Baldy. TSA agent, “Sir, can I get your autograph?” Baldy, “Sure, you gotta pen?” Me (in my head), “Seriously?? I’m barefoot. On an airport floor. Don’t these people know how I feel about germs? Who is this guy? He certainly can’t be important enough for me to stand here on millions of people’s germs! I think I’m gonna start screaming if someone doesn’t turn that machine back on and get my shoes to me!!”
Shoes on, bags in hand, I approach my gate to a sign that says, “Delayed” and what appears to be Baldy’s entourage and band. Great. Just great. After watching several people ask for photos and autographs I started doing a little stealth photography and sending the pictures to my kids in an attempt to find out who the heck I needed to blame for the fungi I was certain would be growing on my feet by morning. Before they could respond, I spotted the anger-inducing TSA agent running towards me. Without much concern for the mission she was on, I stepped in front of her and asked, “Who was that guy that you asked for his signature? You know? The one that was so important you had to turn off the x-ray machine while my shoes were still inside of it?” With a look of disgust over my lack of pop-culture knowledge, she responded, “That was Chris Daughtry! You know? The American idol?” Well, duh. Why wouldn’t I recognize him? Age? Amnesia? Idiocy?
Got home Monday night.
Attended memorial service Tuesday night (after near-death experience en-route to our church).
Spent Wednesday on the phone trying to find a bed for MawMaw in an acute care facility (and realized that my WBS would happen on Good Friday ~ the name of the book I’ve avoided publishing for quite some time). Hmmm…..
Arrived in New York City on Thursday and spent that entire day on the phone while MawMaw was being transferred from Christus St. Patrick’s Hospital in Lake Charles, LA to Promise Hospital in Baton Rouge.
Avoided iodine during my NYC visit. I would love to say that I had some great alone-time with my oldest daughter, but the truth is that she had a great time with her boyfriend and I had a great time getting to know his Mom. The joy of parenting teenagers. Sigh… I did manage to get one picture with her though…
Arrived home and remembered that I had planned nothing for Sofija’s birthday (She turned seven on April 3rd). Oops!
Which brings me to this week. Holy Week. The week when all significant healing moments in my life seem to take place. Cause God’s just cool like that.
On Monday and Tuesday I traveled to the new Walter Reed Hospital in Bethesda, MD to receive thyrogen injections. Thyrogen is this nifty drug that raises a person’s TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) in just 48 hours. The alternative is to quit taking synthroid for six weeks and let your TSH rise VERY slowly. Whether the process is done in 48 hours or over a period of six weeks, thyroid cancer patients refer to the experience as “Hypo Hell”. Trust me. It’s as close to hell as this girl ever wants to get. A normal TSH should be somewhere between .5 and 4.5. For someone who’s had thyroid cancer, doctors usually try to keep it somewhere between .1 and .5. When it gets above 1, there is an increased risk of regrowth of cancer cells. Between August of 2011 and February 2012, mine crept up from .3 to 1.3 to 1.8 and then to 2.8. Hence my current state of Hypo Hell.
After Monday’s injection we had a cookout for Sofija’s birthday. Her birthday was actually on Tuesday and I can’t really tell you why we decided to celebrate a day early, but I am extremely grateful that we got it done and over with. By the time I got home from Tuesday’s injection I was barely functioning.
On Wednesday I traveled once again to Bethesda. This time I took a nifty little pill of radioactive iodine. All that purging of iodine was just for this. Thyroid tissue is the only tissue in your body that readily absorbs iodine. So, if you take a pill of radiated iodine after your body is starved for iodine, any thyroid tissue in your body will soak it up and glow when they do a whole body scan two days later. There’s your science lesson for today.
Oh… just in case you’re wondering, my TSH was 88 just before I took that dandy pill. For my number-obsessed self, it’s absolutely perfect. My body aches, hot flashes, and constant headache aren’t exactly pleasant, but hey. It’s Hypo Hell.
Today is Maunday Thursday. It’s the day of the seder. Seder means order. I can’t help but look back over the last few months and see the divine order of my days. God always knows. He always has a plan. Tonight my family will consume (an iodine free) seder meal. Tomorrow, I get to spend an hour in a machine that will prove that I am STILL in perfect health. At least that’s what I am going to keep telling myself. After all… would God really orchestrate all this to land on Good Friday without divine purpose? I think not.
Psalm 119:133 Order my steps by Your word,
And let no iniquity have dominion over me.
Just in case you’re wondering. Daughtry didn’t leave any fungi in the body scanner. My feet are doing just fine ;).