Surgery Complete-Recovery Mode in Full Swing

The New Kaiser Hospital

Surgery is done. I am in recovery mode at the moment and feeling very thankful and grateful to my friends who are helping me and Miss Elsie the Cat.

Here are a few things I have learned. Because I had a similar surgery done last April, no two surgeries are alike. Removing half a thyroid is different than removing the other half. When one has half a thyroid left there are certain things that one doesn’t have to be as concerned about.

A few logistics are needed here. I won’t detail it too much as I prefer none of you to get funny or pass out.  There are these little glands, four of them that sit on or next to the thyroid, known as the parathyroids. They control calcium in our bodies. Most of us know that calcium is important to our bone growth. Did you know that calcium is important to muscles as well? Those little parathyroids sometimes like to go into shock when they are manipulated or handled. It can cause a dip, sometimes a big dip in the calcium and our heart may not work so well if that happens.

Why is this important? I ended up spending the night in the hospital post-surgery so that my calcium level could be monitored, just in case. Everything went well and I was discharged the following morning. I was surprised to find out I would be staying. Cynthia, my major support person was surprised as well.

An example of the rooms in the new hospital.

In view of the larger picture, this was just a small blip. If I had to stay in a hospital for the night I could not have been in a better place. The Kaiser hospital in San Diego is brand new. On the floor where I stayed, every room was private. Cool. When they wheeled me in I discovered a beautiful view of Mission Trails Regional Park and Miramar- the Marine base. There was the hugest TV I have ever seen hanging on the wall in front of the bed. I could watch TV, I could watch movies, I could surf the internet, I could watch videos about my health. I could even order my meals, all on that screen.

Remember that I live in about a 200 square foot space so this room and all the amenities were amazing. Drawn behind the TV screen was a picture of the Santa Rosa Mountains in the Anza Borrego State Park. I love the desert, so it was nice to see a view I know well and love.

Beyond all the amenities was the staff. The nurses, aides, and student nurses were amazing and kind and generous with their time. They let me sleep through the night. Yes!!!! Everyone cared for me well and lovingly. I was in good hands with people who appeared to love their job and cared about me.

Now I am back at Cynthia’s and Ward’s, recovering, being fed and loved. Today I am achy and sore, tomorrow I am sure I will be better. It is hard to be patient and allow myself the downtime to recover. Usually, the body wins out and off I go to take a nap.

Miss Elsie, meanwhile is hanging out with Nancy a long and good time friend, who Elise has always liked. I am sure she is getting loved and cared for. I hope Nancy is enjoying her company as well. Elsie can be Miss Personality when she chooses.

So, there is an update. I am still alive and working on thriving again. I will know the biopsy results in about ten working days. My main job currently is to rest and recover and enjoy the attention.

Thank you, all of you for your support and caring and loving thoughts as I worried my way into and out of surgery. Today I am thankful for every single one of you, known and unknown who encourage me and support me through my life.

Yes, I am still breathing.

 

Breathe

This time of the year is always a bit difficult for me. I arrive back in San Diego to get all my medical and dental completed for the upcoming year.

Dr appointments loom or have already been finished. My annual mammogram is complete. Although it has been almost ten years since my diagnosis of breast cancer, this time of the year I notice I become slightly anxious as I await the results of the mammography. I have about ten days to go before the results are in.

This year, 2019, is a bit more difficult. I have surgery on Friday to remove the other half of my thyroid. I have cancer. I have papillary thyroid cancer. My left thyroid will be removed to prepare me for the radioactive iodine treatment that will seek out any thyroid tissue that is left anywhere in my body.

Today I had my pre-op appointment with my surgeon. Dr. Ressa has followed me through breast cancer treatment and now the thyroid. These visits are never easy for me. I have a lot of questions. Being a nurse makes it harder because I read a lot. Being a one-time cancer survivor increases the number of questions and concerns as well. Having had almost six months to anticipate this coming Friday has allowed me to evaluate and add more questions in my mind.

Here is what has not helped me while waiting to have this surgery.

  • I have heard the good stories and the bad. It does not help me to hear that this is a “good” kind of cancer to have. There is no “good” cancer!
  • It is good to hear positive outcome stories, it truly is, however, I would encourage those who say this not to devalue my situation. At present I am anxious and a bit worried.
  • Surgery is surgery and not to be taken lightly. I am not taking it lightly and I would like others to not brush it off either.
  • Don’t question if I caused this cancer. Don’t tell me that if I had done something different I wouldn’t have cancer. It seems that only people who have not been challenged with this diagnosis say these things.

The bottom line? I have cancer. That statement alone is overwhelming and a bit lonely. How is it lonely? I have found since Jim died, I have no one to talk to daily about things that make me happy or things that concern or frighten or discourage me. I miss having that daily person to check in with and support me no matter what. Even when I might have done something stupid or said something out of character, Jim was there to give me a hug or counsel me through indecision and worry and often lead me in the right direction to correct wrongs.

It is hard for me to do this for myself. I can, it is just harder. In my current lifestyle, I find I have to push myself to interact with others. Often the campgrounds are full of air-conditioned RVs. When these hot Santa Ana days are upon us, very few people come outside or interact with their neighbors. I don’t blame them. It is “hot” in San Diego county these days.

Joining cancer support groups sounds like a good idea. I have joined a few thyroid support groups on Facebook. They are filled with nice, mostly women. Here is the deal with these sites. The women who post are having issues pre or post-surgery. I now avoid them as surgery looms nearer, they scare the heck out of me. I find I am overwhelmed on these sites. I feel sorry and sad for these people who are going through difficulties and I worry about me and my outcome. I have taken a hiatus from these groups until I am post-op.

When things like this arise, I miss my family. I have two sisters and two nieces that live over two thousand miles away. Their lives are busy. When things like this come into my life, even if I recognize it is complicated, I would love to have them show up on my doorstep and take over for a week or two. As a rational adult, I recognize this is not possible, yet the little girl in me still wishes that one of them would show up anyway.

This is where friends have stepped forward to help me out over the next few weeks.

 

Miss Elsie the Cat

  • My friend, Nancy, is taking Miss Elsie the Cat into her home and life. She loves kitties and Elsie has always really liked her. It is a good fit.
  • Cynthia and Ward are taking me into their home for the weekend post-surgery. When I think of this offer it brings tears of gratitude and caring to my eyes and heart. I am so thankful for their caring and support. With their support and encouragement, I will be on the road to recovery and dancing quickly. (They are members of the Scottish Dance community in San Diego).
  • Phyllis is my go-to friend. She will help in any way that I will let her. After traveling for two months in Africa we still remain good friends. That is an accomplishment in itself.
  • All my friends near and far will be loving and supporting me. I feel so fortunate to be loved by so many.

Now I need to take a deep breath, push worries aside, walk into Friday with positive thoughts for the best of outcomes. I need a mantra for this. So far the only one I have come up with is “breath”. The other mantra I have had for years is “You are a good and caring person and worthy of being loved”. I often say this to myself as I look in the mirror morning and night. Now I say Breath.

Asking for thoughts and prayers is a statement that has been degraded over time. There have been too many situations over recent years that have made me hesitate to ask people for this. Instead, I will ask you to send a breath my way on Friday filled with whatever you want to fill it with. It will help me walk into a current unknown future. I have no doubt that I will feel the love and support.

Moving forward, one step at a time.

 

 

 

Driving West, The Cancer Word, Moving On

Sunset over Lake Erie

In mid-September I left New Jersey and my sister’s home and began heading west. Elsie the cat and I moved back into our little home on wheels and took off. I have been slowly making my way west, exploring Pennsylvania, stopping to visit family in Ohio and taking time to bird watch along the south shore of Lake Erie.

I spent three lovely days visiting good friends, Helen and Norb, in Chicago before once again heading west. I am now in Lincoln, NE visiting with good friends, waiting out a cold front that is coming through before once again heading west.

For all of my friends that are experiencing very cold conditions at night, I am afraid I am going to bypass you this time. Why? 10 degrees F. is just a bit too cold for my rig. I am going to be driving south and then west so I don’t have to winterize my little home on wheels.

I will arrive in San Diego on October 20. I am scheduled for surgery to remove the other half of my thyroid on October 25. With the support of my doctors I put off this surgery until after my grand summer vacation in Africa. Now I have to move ahead. I guess the vacation is over.

I have been contemplating, otherwise known as thinking, about my life coming up. I am nervous about this surgery. I am apprehensive about the outcome. A few days ago I woke in the morning with the realization that I am experiencing the “C” word for the second time in my life and I am feeling a bit overwhelmed, a bit nervous, and a bit scared, and a bit emotional. Ah life continues to hand out the surprises.

There is another feeling I have been experiencing this time with cancer and that is the sense of feeling very alone in this big wide world. When I had breast cancer, Jim was alive and was my major every day support. This time I am having to create my support team. And, honestly?, I am missing Jim.

After seeing Jim go through head and neck cancer I swore that was the one type of cancer I did not want to tackle. Now here I am. I am trying very hard to separate the two experiences yet that is hard to do. I know they are different kinds of cancer but seriously who cares? Cancer is cancer and it is a hard thing to handle.

I know I have heard all the words; “I have a friend (aunt, sister…) who had thyroid cancer and they had their thyroid removed and are fine”, “If you are going to have cancer, this is the a good cancer to have” (that is a horrible thing to say to someone, there is no good cancer to have), “you will be just fine” (how do you know?), “God never gives you more than you can handle” (bull on this one-don’t ever, ever, ever say this to anyone-ever), “It is a simple surgery” (What? there is not simple surgery). And the words go on.

On the positive side of this is that my friends are stepping forward.

  • During the weekend of surgery, Nancy is taking care of Miss Elsie.
  • Cynthia and Ward are taking me into their home to love me pre and post op.
  • Phyllis, I know, will be waiting in the wings to help however I will let her.
  • Helen and Dave, my friends in Lincoln told me to let them know if I need them and they will get into their tiny home on wheels and head west. (this was enough to bring tears to my eyes)
  • My friend Sharon, in southern Utah wants to be contacted post surgery so she can, from a distance love and support me.
  • My immediate family are too far away to physically help out, but I know they will be supporting me from a distance.

I am more than a bit overwhelmed by my friends near and far who will be loving me as I face this newest challenge in my life.

And in the midst of all this “C” stuff well here I am, once again in another October. Today would have been Jim’s birthday. Yesterday he went into the hospital for the last time. Six days from now I have a birthday. The day after my birthday Jim died. Now I have surgery on the 25th. Well isn’t that an actioned packed month. October seems to be more and more a month I struggle to get through. I appreciated when November 1 comes around.

Isn’t this an uplifting post? I have always tried to be honest with who I am in the moment and what I am going through. From the moment I posted my first post I told myself to write from the heart and I hope that I have succeeded in doing this.

Today this is who I am and tomorrow, well, I may be different. Tomorrow I will be moving south and west. Just like the other snowbirds I am heading to the sun and warmth. To my friends in San Diego, I will see you in about ten days and I look forward to reuniting with you.

In the meantime I will drive and explore and be amazed at the places I see. I will remember to breath, deeply and long and relax. And yes the camera will be coming out and join me for the ride. Miss Elsie is as always is my sidekick. I am looking west toward the rest of my life.

What To Do When I Am Sleepless

This Friday I am scheduled, finally, for thyroid surgery. I have planned this out. I feel confident that this is the correct thing to do and yet….sleep has been sporadic this week. I go to bed and my mind is full of random thoughts. Sometimes I fall asleep only to wake a few hours later. Then I cannot return to dreamland.

Miss Elsie

I can become frustrated or I can enjoy these sleepless moments during the night. The first thing that occurs is Miss Elsie, sensing I am awake will leave her cushy bed on the front seat and come snuggle with me. These moments are pure joy and I treasure them.

Then I begin to listen and feel. Now that it is warm enough I sleep with my windows open. I can feel the gentlest of breezes coming into the van. If I listen hard enough I imagine them whispering to me, telling me the tales of the invisible presences. I imagine the wind brings Jim’s touch to me from out there. I like the coolness on my skin. Once in a while the breezes will blow in sweet smells of flowers in bloom. Sometimes the smell is not quite as pleasant, meaning there might be a skunk close by.

I am in coyote country. I guess most of us are now. They have seen them on the streets of New York City. There is something special when the pack howls in the night. It reminds me of all those spaghetti westerns-sitting by the campfire with howling in the background, just prior to the cattle stampede. The coyotes are very vocal, at night, in the hills around Santee Lakes. Their multiple voices add to the special moments in the quiet of the early morning.

If I am involved in a good book, I may  read for an hour or so before I, once again, attempt to return to sleep. If any of my computers are near-by I may play a few games. Mostly I like to lay, listen and feel and pet Miss Elsie so her purr can add to these quiet moments.

I have two nights to go. I will not be surprised to be waking in the wee hours for these next few nights. Nerves are just nerves and I am so sure they are part of a very normal process. I look forward to returning to a better night sleep next week. Although I will miss the Elsie moments.

I am the first case of the day on Friday. I enter the hospital at 5:30 A.M. and hopefully will be out of there by noon. I am holding on to the best case scenario. It is hard to ask for thoughts and prayers, these are terms that are so overused in today’s world. If you can, drop a thought my way on Friday morning. The power of others loving me can do so much to help the healing process and good, very good outcomes.

Until then I look forward to what tonight brings.

 

 

The Date-Surgery is Scheduled

A little over a week ago I got the call from the surgery scheduling department. I am going for thyroid surgery, first case of the day, April 5. That sounds so easy to say. It gets put on my calendar. I still feel strongly this is the right thing to do and yet…..

I am nervous. As soon as I got the date, seriously, within twenty four hours, I was down with a cold. I have rarely been sick, despite healing from breast cancer, Jim’s death from cancer, selling the house and other such events that show up in my life. Yet the day after being given the date for this upcoming surgery I get sick. What the heck?

This is a big leap of faith. Faith that I have chosen the right course of action. Faith in myself. Faith in my doctors. Faith in the system. Faith in just about everything. Here is what I know, I feel strongly that this is the correct course of action. That has not wavered. I really like my surgeon. He is kind and strong and competent and treats me like an intelligent human being. This is a good thing. I also like my endocrinologist. He is another good man who has never said the words…”there is no need to worry”. I asked him not to ever say those words after I first met him and he never has. He is also knowledgable and competent and compassionate. I feel like we are a team.

I am getting my alternative healing team on board as well. I want to go into surgery as healthy and strong as I can be. It is time to book appointments for massages (Beth), acupuncture (Gayle) and myofascial release (Kelly). My background is in holistic health education-that is what my masters says-so I want a complete and whole team to help me go into surgery and heal in record time after surgery. It is a commitment I make so that I can be back into my life fully as soon as I can.

One recovers from colds. I am in the recovery phase. I am glad to be out and about and seeing the world at large, after lingering on the comfy chair in my friend Phyllis’s condo, watching Marvel Comic movies and sniffling and sleeping away five days of my life. Thor is still one of my all time favorites.

The good part is that Phyllis and I have a huge handle on our upcoming trip to Africa this summer. Whoo, planning takes time. Despite my sniffling and sneezing we are down to the last few reservations. Africa is on the radar. It certainly gives me something to look forward to. Now it is time to get down to reading about South Africa and Kenya. I need to learn Lightroom (I just subscribed). It is time to delve more into my camera and find more magic in the camera body and it’s lenses. Ooh and I get to go shopping.

First stop: Victoria Falls

Here is something I have learned about myself over the last many years. I am not fond of planning holidays. Jim always had to sit me down and firm up plans after days of putting it off. I love to travel. I am not a big fan of planning. And…I used to be a tour manager. What? How does that work?  I don’t know. I actually enjoyed putting together a tour. The more I focused on the planning the smoother the tour went.

I tend to be lazy. My traveling in a mobile home, my RV, has given me the ability to decide at the last minute. What direction am I heading? Who or what do I want to see? Does that campground look good? How about a road into the National Forest or BLM? I find this lifestyle lends itself to last minute decisions.

For now, I am once again stationary in San Diego. I have a great support team of friends around me. Even though I am stubborn and think I can “do it on my own”, I know that I will reach out to all these people who have supported me without question over the past six years and longer. I am glad they are around. I am glad they understand my stubbornness and show up any way.

And then there are those of you who are far away or who I have never met. With all the support known and unknown, I am ready to walk forward to April 5. And..I will come out the other side ready to travel east.

Always Moving Forward.

 

 

 

 

Plans & A Change of Plans

I am getting ready to become mobile in my Roadtrek with Elsie the Cat. Around this time I start to get questions from  others: What are your plans for this year?” “Where are you going next?” I often hesitate because I really don’t know the answer.

I was hoping to go to mainland Mexico with friends for the winter. The rig is ready, diesel fuel supposedly can be found better on the mainland than Baja, Elsie is set (records and shots are up to date), and then…..

I am staying within a day’s drive of San Diego for the next few months. Why? Yes indeed, why, is a very good question to ask.

Returning to San Diego is always an unknown. Can I come in and get back out without anything too caustic happening? This year I limped in and I am walking out, however, I will be back sooner than planned.

Surgery is pending on my thyroid. A pesky little nodule that was found seven years ago, following a bicycle accident, is growing a bit too fast. It is growing a bit too fast for the endocrinologist and my surgeon and me. The biopsies have been benign and the choice of what to do was left to me. Oh great leave a decision up to a Libra (sic).

After weighing all the alternatives, taking into account my history of breast cancer and my favorite surgeon retiring in a year- I decided now is the time. Now is a relative term. Sometime in the next twelve weeks I will get a call from Kaiser giving me a date for surgery.

Although heading for the desert is my goal-I plan to leave on January 8-the desert is going to be a little closer than originally planned. It is time to rediscover the Anza Borrego and the California desert. Palm Springs is on the agenda, too. When I get “the call” I will be a comfortable day’s drive back to San Diego.

So these are the facts yet the truth is, although I made the decision with wise and good input from people I respect, it is still surgery. If I take the time to let this chain of events into my every day consciousness, I am a bit nervous and unsure.

i don’t know the outcome. I don’t know what surgery will be like. I don’t know what recovery will be like. I know I will need to go on medication. What will that be like?

And even more basic questions involve the logistics. Where am I going to stay? How do  I get to day surgery and how do I get home? Where is Jim when I need him? How do I do this on my own? And the list goes on.

Here is what I do know. I want everyone to support me in the most positive way they can. I don’t want to hear any horror stories. You don’t need to share surgical or medical horrors with me. I already know them, remember I used to be a nurse. I don’t need anyone second guessing my doctors or the medical health care system I am a part of (Kaiser).

Please don’t suggest alternatives. You can trust I have researched them. My full medical team includes all of the above doctors mentions and an acupuncturist, a massage therapist and more. Hopefully I have got it covered.

What you can do is to tell me good stories and good outcomes. Give me a call. Divert my attention. Love me a lot or love me a little.. And if you can’t be positive then be silent and wish me well.

Meanwhile it is time to finish up in San Diego and get some hiking in. I need to find a few slot canyons and, hopefully enjoy a bit of warmer weather. It is time for Miss Elsie to roll in the desert dirt and sand. It is time to adventure into the New Year with as much gusto as I can.

Happy New Year and on to new adventures.