Thursday, May 31, 2012


The day after my diagnosis I had plans to meet a friend at the Toy Library. We had met at a library storytime in the fall. Our daughters are 6 weeks apart, her daughter being older. When we first met, as often happens in the East End of Pittsburgh, we realized that we had several friends in common. I was surprised that we hadn't met sooner. Pittsburgh. Two degrees of separation away from just about anyone.

I knew her husband was a doctor. The week before she had told me that he worked with head & neck cancers. At the time I silently thought to myself, this could be helpful. But I hope like hell I don't need the help. So much for that.

We met for coffee across the street before heading over to the Toy Library. In the back of the restaurant I told her my news with a shaky voice. Her first reaction was 'Shut up!'. And then when she realized that I was upset she added, 'You know this isn't a death sentence. Right?'. Yes, I did know. So why couldn't I stop crying?

Since this is what her husband does for a living, she told me that I should talk with him whenever I wanted. She gave me his cell # and email. No worries, I was told. He does this for friends and family all the time. She asked me some questions about what my next step was, and proceeded to tell me about two women she knew who had had the same diagnosis years ago and were doing just fine. I felt much calmer and we went to play with the kiddos.

When I got in my car to go home I realized that I had a message on my cell. It was the surgeon's office. The surgeon who I was supposed to meet with that week did not deal with thyroid cancer that had also spread to lymph nodes, which is what I had. She only operated on the thyroid. They were changing me to another surgeon in the practice, but I could keep my appointment time. On the phone I started to cry again. It was becoming exhausting. The woman on the other end was kind, but surprised. 'Your doctor did tell you that this isn't a big deal, right? That thyroid cancer is more of a nuisance than anything?' No, they hadn't. But it was the impression I was beginning to get. I needed to pull myself together. I was so worried about not seeing my kids grow up. So worried about not growing old with my husband. So worried that there were many years worth of photos that needed to be organized. Who would do it if I died? The endless to do list that would never get done if I was gone.

Yes. Yes. I needed to get a fucking grip.

The One Where I Cry A Lot

My phone rang Monday at 8am, just as I was getting out of the shower. I knew that it would be Robin at my Dr.'s office calling with my biopsy results. She had called at the same time the week before with the results of my bloodwork. Those results had been perfect.

My biopsy, on the other hand, was very different. I had cancer. It was an awful way to start my week. I was stunned. I hung up the phone and told my husband. Who was also stunned and as he hugged me said, 'We will get through this'. Sure, I thought, as I looked at my baby daughter.

It took a few hours for it to sink in. I dropped off my son at school. I took my daughter to Music Together. As we walked around the room, singing 'Dancing dancing dance with me!' I thought, no one else in here has cancer. And then I felt my throat tighten.

I went home and called my mom, who tried hard to be reassuring. Thyroid cancer is so curable, you know. Which it is. But there is something so hard to hear about the word cancer. I was having a rough time with it. I sobbed on the phone to my mother.

And then sobbed later that day. I'm on my son's school's PTA board. We had all met at the school to make some plans for teacher appreciation week. I was not myself. I willed myself to act like myself, but it was nearly impossible. After the meeting, when a friend asked what was wrong, I burst into tears as I told them.

And then more tears as the day went on. I knew that things could actually be much worse. But the word cancer is tough. We have a lot of fear and anxiety wrapped up in that one word. Most adults know someone who has died of cancer. I have several great aunts and great uncles who have. And a guy who I was close friends with in college died of cancer the year we turned 40.

Truthfully, though, I know a lot of survivors too. And people who survived far worse cancers than this. That's the perspective that I have to keep in mind. Papillary thyroid cancer has a 95% cure rate. It is incredibly, highly survivable.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Back In Black

It's been just over two years since I last posted here. I could give lots of reasons and lots of excuses. But probably the best way to sum it up is that after the last post I got busy! Spring is a busy season around here- lots of stuff happening at the boy's school, lots of home projects, the usual stuff that we are all busy with. But the biggest reason I stopped writing is, two months after my last post, I got pregnant. And then I got very very tired.

I'm still tired! I have a beautiful baby girl who is more of a toddler now than a baby. And the boy is now 9. Which is just crazy to me. But even though I am tired, I am motivated to start with the writing again. I was diagnosed with papillary thyroid cancer on April 30th. So! Lots of cheery posts from here on out to be sure.

Seriously though. One of the things I appreciate about the internet is how it gives a voice to lots of different groups, and the ability you have to form communities around lots of different topics. If reading about my experiences with thyroid cancer makes things easier for just one person out there it will be worth it. And if no one reads these posts, well it's still worth it. Catharsis for me and all that. And I look forward to the day when I can look back at these posts and say, that was a bitch, and I am glad to be done with that part of my life.

Anyway. I guess you know that I am glad to be back.