Saturday, September 22, 2012

Cry Me a River

This morning has been full of tears.  The girl is tired.  We're all tired.  I went to bed after working late and the husband was snoring- as he does.  The snoring is worse in the fall because of his allergies.  It was so bad that the girl was awake when I got to bed around 1AM.  We both laid there, awake.  I kept hitting the husband- it's what I do and it only works for like a minute.  I spend that minute trying desperately to fall asleep before the snoring starts again.  It must work most of the time at some point during the night because I eventually fall asleep.  But it didn't work last night.

Finally the girl started to fuss.  Before she was born if the husband snored I would stumble into the boy's room and sleep the rest of the night there.  I looked at the girl.  We were both miserable.  'Do you want to go to brother's room?' I asked.  She nodded her head.  So we left our room to go into his.  'Bye bye Daddy, ' she said as we walked out.

The boy woke up briefly when we came in, but seemed to fall back asleep right away (I was told this morning he did not fall asleep.  sigh.).  Anyway.  I thought he was asleep and I thought the girl would pass out too.  But no.  She wanted to try and wake her brother up.  If he was there then it must be playtime.  By 3AM we were back in our bed.  I don't know what time we all fell asleep, but we somehow managed.  Of course at that point it wasn't enough sleep.  So here we are.  Tears all morning long.  I even tried to put her down for an early nap, but she was having none of it.

When she finally did take her nap, I opened up my email.  A friend had sent me this about River Phoenix's last movie.  Oh.  River Phoenix.  Honestly he was pretty great at what he did, and he is one of those people that I think about now and then, and I think about what a shame it is that he's gone and what he might have done if he hadn't died.

I remember hearing about him dying.  It was a Sunday evening and I was doing a radio show on Sunday nights then (well, Monday mornings really, from midnight-5AM).  The husband (who was then the boyfriend), my roommate and I were watching the news and heard about it that way.  We were all surprised, of course.  He was so young.  I did my show that night, mentioned that I'd heard about his death, and played the B-52s 'My Own Private Idaho'.  Friends of mine were up and listening and called to say that they didn't know he had died until they heard my announcement.  (Months later they would hear about Kurt Cobain's death from me too.  I'm quite the messenger.)  Anyway, very sad.

As I read this I realize that there's been lots of death on this blog recently, and I'm not sure what to do about that.  Write about something else, obviously, but I do feel like lately every time I turn around there's more death, or reminders of death.  So.  I guess I'll work on that.

Friday, September 14, 2012

And Now for Something Completely Different

When I started this blog in 2009, I didn't know what my focus would be.  I meandered through about five months of posting.  Then life got busy, as it does.  And two months after that, I got really tired.  Because I was pregnant.  And I didn't post for a while.

Then!  I got thyroid cancer.  One of the good things that came of this- and believe it or not, there are a few- is that it motivated me to write again.  Writing is something that I enjoy, blogging is something that I enjoy, and it's felt good to be sure that I make time for myself at the keyboard.

Thyroid cancer has been my writing topic for most of my posts this year.  It has been six months since I felt the lump in my neck.  It has been four and a half months since my diagnosis.  Late spring and most of my summer were eaten up with surgery, worrying about and planning for my radioactive iodine treatment, and, of course, my treatment.  It has been about three weeks since I was told that I was in the clear.

It's great that, with the exception of a few follow up appointments and, probably yearly screenings, I will most likely be ok.  I couldn't be happier.  It does mean, though, that I'm probably at the end of writing about my cancer.  I'm sure that I'll mention any news that comes up, but really, for now I'm otherwise done.

So I find myself back in the same place I was in 2009.  Wanting to write, but direction-less.  Inevitably, I'll be writing about myself in some way.  Probably in a lot of ways, and in several directions.  I'm feeling the need to put it in writing, this permission to let myself write about other aspects of my life more regularly.  It's a way of making a clean break, when you don't really have an easy segue.  Like a man appearing on the screen to say, 'And now for something completely different...'

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Death, Death & More Death

Turns out this has been a lousy summer.  Not for me necessarily- thyroid cancer and RAI aside- but for people I know.  Some I know better than others.  At any rate, I know or know of several people who are currently mourning loved ones.

Two of those people were older.  My best friend's father-in-law died after many years of illness.  His family knew it was the end and they were all able to gather in Kansas and spend his last days with him at his bedside.  They shared memories, photos, and laughter.  And when he passed away two weeks ago, they shared their tears and their strength.  It was, stereotypically anyway, the perfect death.  The way any of us would probably want to go.  Surrounded by loved ones, telling you how wonderful you are and how glad they've been to know you.

My great-aunt Carol died last Wednesday.  She was 87 and had also been sick off and on for several years.  I'm not sure that she was surrounded by family.  What I do know is that she was independent to the end.  She lived in the house where she had raised her family, she had many people in her life, and she even tooled around on the internet.  I should have sent her emails far more often than I did.

Not everyone was older though.  I know of three others who died far too young, and at least two of them will not get to see their children grow up, which I find just heartbreaking.  And completely unfair.

I told you earlier last month about my neighbor who passed away.  Just a few weeks later, at the end of August, Paul died of a heart attack at 52.  He wasn't a friend of ours necessarily, but we were friendly.  He owned my son's favorite restaurant.  We went semi-regularly and always for the boy's birthday until it closed last summer.  We showed up at the restaurant a week after it had closed.  When we read the sign, the boy stood on Murray Ave. and cried. Occasionally he'll still bring up how sad he is that they're gone.  I heard from a mutual friend that Paul was catering and enjoying life again- restaurant ownership had been so stressful.  I'm just sorry that he didn't get more time to take advantage of his new-found happiness.

The same week that Paul died, I learned that someone I went to high school with had also passed away.  The husband is in disbelief, but I honestly think that Melissa may be the first in our class to have died.  There were only 45 of us in our graduating class at a small Catholic girls' school in Baltimore.  Apparently, she was 42, married with kids, and she died in June.  That's all I've learned.  I've tried to find more information online, but nothing comes up- no obituary, no news reports.  According to the one person who signed her guestbook at the funeral home's website, Melissa's facebook page was quickly taken down.  I find the whole thing strange, as if they tried very hard to wipe out her memory- at least online. Chilling really.

A long, hot, sad summer for sure.  I'm certainly ready for it to be over, and I'm looking forward to fall.  Here's hoping the cooler temperatures bring happier times with them.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Side Effects

So, remember when I told my endocrinologist that I wasn't experiencing any side effects?  That was totally not true.

It started the next morning.  At least, what I noticed started the next morning.  I was talking with my mother over breakfast.  Suddenly, part of the vision in my left eye was blurry.  There was a small blurry arc-almost like something was off with my lens (my eye's actual crystalline lens- I don't wear contacts).  It was weird, but I didn't want to say anything.  I was pretty sure my mother would freak if she thought something was wrong.  I just kept rubbing my eye, hoping it would just go away.

After five or ten minutes it did.  My left eye was just a little achy for the rest of the day.  I was worried all weekend though.  What if it happened again?  Would I be able to drive?  Read?  I told my husband and I also had full intentions of calling my endocrinologist and eye doctor the following Monday.  And then I didn't.  Nothing else had happened over the next three days, and it felt silly to call.  I promised myself that at the slightest hint of something wrong I would call.  Really.

Then I noticed a few other things.  Water hasn't tasted right to me since the radioactive iodine treatment.  I can't explain the taste.  It's just off, sort of sharp.  Of course, I certainly didn't think the issue was with me.  I walked around for a week thinking it was the water.  I finally asked the husband if he had changed the water filter since June.  He had.  Interesting.  Still not sure the problem was me.

Until I had an 'amazing!' chocolate chip cookie.  That tasted really fucking bland.  I said as much to the husband, who looked at me like I was crazy.  So then it dawned on me.  'Or, ' I said, 'this rai has effected me more than I originally thought.'  As the week went on I realized that cookies, brownies, a lot of baked goods, just didn't taste like I expected them too.  It was a bummer.  But what can you do.

Most recently, the sides of my mouth have split.  It seems that they're very dry.  At first I was blaming it on a tube of lip gloss that I'd decided was too old and should have been thrown out.  On a whim I googled the condition to see if there was an rai connection.  There was!  Which also explains why my nose is so dry.  Seriously.  So painfully dry.  I'd been blaming that on allergies, even though my allergies have never made my nose quite this bad before.  RAI.  It's just explaining everything.

Truthfully, I hate that I'm actually experiencing any side effects.  I'm just not that person.  I don't usually suffer side effects of drugs.  My body normally just takes it and moves along.  The husband pointed out that these side effects are really minor and- in all likelihood- temporary.  Which is true.  And it's way better than having cancer.  But my lips and nose still bother me all day.  It's low-grade pain, and it's minor and temporary, but it still kind of sucks.  I bought some Eucerin Aquaphor for my lips today.  Fingers are crossed that it will bring some relief.  At the very least, that it will keep things from getting worse.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Following Up

Two days after the scan I was headed back to Oakland to meet with my endocrinologist.  One thing that I hadn't counted on was the Pitt students coming back to campus.  There are dorms on Lothrop St, and part of the street was blocked off so the students could move in.  Traffic was a headache.  I was at least ten minutes late to the appointment.

Turns out that was just fine.  Everyone else was late too.  As a result my doctor was running late.  He came into the room thirty minutes after my appointment time and was very apologetic.  Then we talked about the results of my scan and where we would go from there.

Like I was told earlier in the week, the results were great.  Right where everyone wanted to see them.  My doctor was very happy.  He wanted to know if I was experiencing any side effects from the radioactive iodine.  None so far.  He also wanted to know how I had done with weaning.  Had that been really hard on me?  On the baby?  I told him that, while neither one of us had been happy about it, we were fine after several weeks.  And if that was going to be my biggest complaint it was really ok.  I knew how much worse things could have been.  (And can I just say?  I'm surprised that he even asked.  I'm really liking Dr. E.) 

With that out of the way, my endocrinologist wanted to talk about moving forward.  First, there was the issue of my thyroid medicine.  Based on my last bloodwork, he had decided that the dose (125 mcg) wasn't high enough.  He was bumping it up to 137 mcg.  We would check bloodwork again in six weeks to make sure that the dose was ok.

Also, he wanted me to come back in three months for an appointment and to have more blood work done.  They would be screening me for cancer, making sure that nothing had returned.  If that looks ok, I'll come back six months after that to have another screening.  And if that's also clear, I'll go on a yearly screening cycle.  It's good to have goals.

The last thing he asked me about was the calcium that my surgeon had me on.  Did I still want to be on that?  He felt that my current dose was too low to make much of a difference.  I told him I was supposed to meet with her in September to go over the dose (of course, one thing that I have let slip is making that appointment.  oy.).  He said we could talk about it in three months if I would rather wait.  At this rate it just might come to that.

With the appointment over, he handed me my bloodwork script and sent me on my way.  At the front desk, I tried to make my appointment to come back in December.  He's booked through the middle of January.  Of course.  The woman at the front desk said that she would have his secretary call me to see what we could work out.  Suddenly, I'm not too optimistic about getting that September appointment with my surgeon.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Last Scan

The Tuesday after my isolation started, I went in for a follow up scan.  My scan was at 8am.  It was weird to have the whole routine feel so familiar.  Parking in the garage, making my way through the hospital, over the pedestrian bridge, and down to radiology.  Even the guy from nuclear medicine didn't call out my name.  He just looked at my folder, saw me sitting in the waiting room, and motioned for me to come back with him.  We were old pals by now.

This scan was much like the one I got on Day Zero.  We went to the same room and used the same machine.  The only difference seemed to be the time.  It felt like it went much more quickly.  Maybe ten minutes?  And then I was shown to a waiting room to get the results.  I didn't have to wait long.

The same doctor and resident showed up to give me the good news.  Everything looked great.  Even that small faint spot in my chest area was gone (almost certainly saliva as the doctor had suspected).  The only activity that could be seen was in my thyroid cavity, which is where the radioactive iodine should be.  I was told that the rai would continue to work on the remaining thyroid cells for about another month, and by then the remaining thyroid cells should be dead.

Can I just tell you how strange it feels to be happy that part of you is getting killed off?  I know that, in the end, my thyroid cells were doing me no favors.  But still.  Very strange.

So that was it.  I was free to go.  I headed home to try to get some things done before my family arrived.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Isolation Cinema in Review

Some spoilers and a very long post ahead.

Movies I watched while at home in isolation.  (Yes, my movie-viewing is rather out of date.  Such is life with a toddler.):

1) Repo Man
2) The Other Guys
3) Thank You for Smoking
4) The Kids are All Right
5) Bridesmaids
6) Super
7) Due Date
8) Grey Gardens
9) The King's Speech
10) Slumdog Millionaire
11) The Help

This is actually the order that I watched them in.  Repo Man was the only movie I had seen before- and it's one of my favorites- so finding it on tv shortly after I got home from receiving treatment was sort of comforting.  And funny.  Because both me and the car were radioactive.  heh.  I thought it was quite the coincidence.

Thoughts on the other ten movies...

The Other Guys and Due Date were both funny enough and mindless.  My husband and I both read Thank You for Smoking years ago.  I was glad to finally get to see the movie.  I thought it was very well done and that Aaron Eckhart was a great choice for the role of Nick Naylor.

Grey Gardens was ok.  I wanted to watch the original after learning of the HBO prequel.  It's supposed to be a cult classic, which I found intriguing.  Mostly I thought it was sad.  I couldn't decide if there was mental illness, a lack of money, or a lack of knowledge on how to keep up the house.  (Feeding the raccoons that live in your attic?  I can't even.)  It was probably some combination of all three.  It was interesting though, particularly when they would talk about life when the kids were growing up.

The movie that I found really disappointing was Super.  I had really wanted to see it- the premise of regular guy Rainn Wilson becoming a superhero sounded like a lot of fun.  But I wasn't sure about the religious aspect?  It was kind of clumsy and non-committal.  Like, he was 'chosen', or his wife was, and Jesus kept popping up, but the filmmaker seemed to be unsure of how far to take it and how committed The Crimson Bolt should be to God.  And let me just tell you now how much I hated the ending.  gah.  I know fans of the movie would say that I didn't get it, but I'm pretty sure that I did.  It was pathetic and I just didn't like it.  Too bad because Kevin Bacon was actually pretty great (as usual) in the movie.

The King's Speech was another movie with a great cast.  Very solid and very well done.  The Kids Are All Right also had a great cast- I love Annette Bening in everything I've seen her in.  She's fantastic.  And I really liked the movie too.  Although I wasn't completely sold on a couple of things.  Mostly Laser's character.  I get that he wanted to track down his bio dad and that he was at a vulnerable age where he really felt the need for a male role model around.  As a result, he wants to track down his dad, play on every sports team, and hang out with some juvenile delinquent.  And that's what I didn't understand.  Why would he hang out with Clay if he supposedly loved all these sports and was having a great time?  I'm not saying that they'd never be friends, but wouldn't he have other jock friends too?  Why were we only seeing him getting male bonding time with the kid who was a total tool?  That didn't make sense to me.  Neither did Paul's reaction at the end of the movie.  I'm not convinced that he would have felt that crushed, but maybe I'm wrong about that.

The other three movies I'm going to say were definitely my top three favorites of the week.  Bridesmaids, Slumdog Millionaire, and The Help were all fantastic movies. Bridesmaids was the funniest movie I saw all week, and I was definitely in need of a comedy.  Although it was sad in parts- I actually cried when Annie had to move back in with her mom.  Still very funny- especially the airplane scenes.  Calling it The Hangover for women sells it short- besides, they never even make it to Vegas.

Slumdog Millionaire was really good.  There's a lot of controversy surrounding the movie for different reasons.  Since this is just a quick-ish rundown of the movies I watched during my isolation week, I'm not going to go into it. I have mixed feelings about some of the things I've read.  But as a story about love, family, and getting rich on a game show, I think it really holds up.  Great story, good acting, gorgeously filmed.  And although it was billed as a feel-good movie, I cried at the end when Salim was killed.  Bittersweet.  What can I say.  I'm a big crier.

Which brings me to the last movie.  The Help, which was awesome, but I think I cried my way through a good portion of this movie.  The subject matter is, of course, upsetting. But there were also so many other things to be sad about in the day to day lives of the characters.  Still.  Beautifully written and acted.  Bryce Dallas Howard was so good and her character was such a horrible horrible person.  Viola Davis was incredibly good too.  I know you're supposed to feel hopeful for Aibileen when she gets fired in the end, but all I could think about was how sad it was for Mae that Aibileen would no longer be in her life.  Probably because Mae was not much older than my daughter is now.  I'm getting choked up just thinking about it.

So, movies, yea!  I have missed them and it was good to do some catching up.  No idea when I might get to indulge like that again, but it was definitely the highlight of isolation week.