Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Life is but a dream

“We sometimes congratulate ourselves at the moment of waking from a troubled dream; it may be so the moment after death.”
 Nathaniel Hawthorne 

Death is a scary concept.  No one knows exactly what happens to us after death, and the unknown can be terribly frightening.  But we all have our ideas, our hopes, or our faith about what happens after death.  These thoughts are usually kept in a far corner of our minds and only pulled out when needed, but perhaps if these thoughts were shared or brought out in the sunlight more often, death wouldn't be so scary.  

Last week, I lost my eldest cousin, Lynn.  Lynn was a person who inspired others.  She was a yoga instructor for twenty years, and she poured her passion into teaching and nurturing others.  When we were children, Lynn was the eldest of the six cousins, three boys and three girls, our leader and the one who paved the way.  I used to spend hours watching her, playing with the dolls she had grown out of, and so wishing I could grow up to be like her.  She was wicked smart and had a funny sense of humor.  The three female cousins used to go shopping with our grandma for our November birthdays; we were all born in different years but within a week of each other.  I would watch as the older girls picked out clothes that were fashionable and beautiful, and I couldn't wait to be able to wear what they were wearing.  But despite our age difference, Lynn never treated me like anything but an equal.  She came to the very first Thanksgiving I hosted by myself and made me feel at ease when I was freaking out.  We didn't get to see each other much as adults, but we always communicated during the November birthday week.  It's hard to grasp that the three girls have become two in the blink of an eye.

It's always terribly difficult for those of us who are left behind.  We ache for the person we have lost.  Sharin, Lynn's sister, and I talked about that first moment of wakefulness in the morning, the sweet moment where the fabulous start of a new day has begun.  Then in the next moment, you remember.  You remember what you have lost, and the ache starts all over again.  I don't know how to make that go away.  I don't know how to soothe that pain and that sadness.  I have no idea how to make a family complete again.  There is so much I don't know, but there are some things I know for certain.  

I know in my heart that Lynn has gone on.  Trying to put into words how I feel about it all has been difficult.  Perhaps, as Hawthorne wrote, death is like waking up after a dream, a good or a bad dream.  It's the reward for what we went through in life.  When the kids ask me questions about what happens after people die, I feel comfortable telling them what I believe.  I believe, simply, that we are happy.  We are in a place that makes us happy, be it on a beach or in the mountains or at home. We are healthy and laughing and full of joy.  We can watch the sunrise and the sunset with no fatigue and nothing to distract us.  The best part is that we are with the people and animals that we love.  I believe that there is no such thing as the passage of time, so as people on Earth join us, it's like they have always been with us.  We all fit into each other's lives perfectly and with utter joy.  There is no pain, no sadness, no tragedy, and no misery.  Things are simple, peaceful, and the epitome of beauty.  That's exactly what I believe and exactly what I told my children.  The more I think about it and talk to them about it, the more at peace I feel.  And maybe that's all we can do as those left behind: we can try to feel better and be at peace.  

Namaste, Lynnie.  Give Grandpa and Grandma hugs from all of us, and may you forever have your sunsets.  

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Double or nothing

What a week.  My little Ford Flex drove into the city and back four times.  Thanks to Mother Nature, Wednesday's trip was a little more difficult than the other days.  It took us over three hours to get to Northwestern due to icy roads and a few jack-knifed trucks.  That was the day of the actual RAI dose, and I wasn't allowed to eat before I drank it or for two hours afterward.  Thank goodness Trevor is a patient man because I am certain I wasn't super peachy to be around.

Fast forward to Friday.  I drove back into Northwestern for my WBS, whole body scan for all of you non-medical people.  I'm pretty sure I have an honorary degree in endocrinology at this point, so I know what's what.  The scan itself was easy: I got to change into gorgeous hospital clothes, including some lovely non-slip socks, and lie down on a table for ninety minutes.  I had a blanket that came straight from a warmer, and the technician tucked the blanket in all around my arms.  I was like a snugly warm burrito, and I'm pretty sure I fell asleep, even with a large machine one inch from my face.
I imagine I looked something like this.
(Credit: distractify.com)

I felt very light and free driving home that day because I had made it through the worst of the week.  That feeling went away as soon as I got a phone call from my endocrinologist.  I wasn't even home yet, so I didn't think it was a good sign.  I mean, she's not the kind of gal to just call to say hi, you know?  Apparently, the WBS had gone well.  Score!  However, some rogue thyroid cells showed up.  Boo!  There is no way to determine if these cells are cancerous or not, so we have to get rid of them.  You may be asking yourself how this will happen.   I get to do the RAI once again!  Double down, baby!    Next time, the dose will be a full treatment dose instead of a small test dose.  Once again, I'll get to hum some Imagine Dragons to myself.  Get it, y'all?  "Radioactive, radioactive..." Good stuff.

Anyhoo, that's the scoop.  The first week of June, I'll do the whole injection/RAI/WBS dance again.  I also get to do a low-iodine diet for a month before the next RAI as well as going off my Synthroid.  The idea is to starve my cells of iodine so they gobble up all the RAI that will consequently take them all out.  There's something really creepy about that if you stop to think about it.  If you had any plans to stop by to say hi, I would say to avoid most of May and the beginning of June.  I'll be tired from the lack of meds and glowing after the RAI.
(Credit: loyarburok.com)

Despite being terribly lonely for my family this week, it hasn't been all bad.  I have done a lot of reading and even gotten some organizing done.  Quite frankly, I'm humbled by all of the kind thoughts people have sent to me, and the kind things people have done for me.  I thank you all so much for thinking of me!  Lots of thanks have to go out to my parents for hosting 75% of the Wellses overnight as well as keeping them fed, entertained, and out of trouble.  Mostly.  Trevor has been incredibly supportive and patient, even sharing a twin bed with Dallas one night.  But I'm counting the minutes until tomorrow afternoon when I can hug my family members again.  I need, NEED, some super snuggle time, and I need it soon.

Just because I miss them and they're so stinkin' cute.

All in all, it wasn't the news I was hoping for, but I'm not discouraged.  I'm ├╝ber-confident that we can hunt down and kill all the straggler-cells that have felt the need to stick around.  Too violent?  Nah, just perfect, I think.  Sorry, thyroid cells, but you're not welcome anymore.  Be gone!  Good day, cells.  I said good day!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Call it what you will

Until recently, I didn't know that quarantine and isolation had two different meanings.  Quarantine is separating healthy people who have been exposed to a disease to see if they become ill, and isolation is keeping sick people away from others so no one else becomes ill.  Fascinating!

Isolation, solitude, sequestration, seclusion...no matter what you call it, it's happening next week.  As of Wednesday, I am going into isolation after getting a test dose of radioactive iodine (RAI) at Northwestern.  As Lottie would say, don't freak out before I finish my sentence.  Nothing is wrong, but this is a follow-up test as I reach the second anniversary of my thyroid cancer diagnosis.  The RAI is used to see if any thyroid cells survived the total thyroidectomy; if there are any still around, we have to get rid of them so the cancer doesn't return and/or possibly spread.  No biggie, I promise.

I foolishly picked an endocrinologist in Chicago (although can you really blame me?) and so I get to put plenty of miles on my car next week driving to and from the city.  I visit my doc Monday and Tuesday mornings for injections of Thyrogen, a drug that basically makes me hypothyroid without having to skip weeks and weeks of my Synthroid.  Score!  I'm always exhausted and achy as it is, so can you imagine how I would be sans thyroid meds?  It's probably best not to think about it.  The downside to the Thyrogen is the crazy price tag.  Let's just say when the Humana representative told me how much of a co-pay I had to pony up, I found myself wishing I had a Victorian fainting couch and some smelling salts.

Me without meds
(Credit thebabycupcakes.blogspot.com)

 So that brings us to Wednesday.  I have to start fasting Tuesday night at midnight; considering I got to bed around 9 most nights, that shouldn't be an issue. Then, Wednesday morning, I go to the nuclear medicine division of Northwestern Hospital to get my very small dose of radiation.  After I drink that cup of loveliness, I have to come straight home so I don't infect anyone else, and I still have to fast for two more hours after that. Me without food is maybe worse than me without meds.  I return to Northwestern Friday morning for a full-body scan that will take approximately ninety minutes.  And thus ends my visits to the big city for the week.

Due to my radioactive status, I have to go into an isolation of sorts.  I can't be around the kids from Wednesday through Sunday, and I can't be around any adults for 48 hours.  Trevor and the kidlets are going to be spending quality time at my parents' house while I fly the yellow flag from home.  I wish Godspeed to them all.  Although I often find myself longing for time alone where I'm not interrupted every six seconds by the call of "MOOOOOOOOOOOMMMMMMMM," I am going to miss all of their faces so, so much.  I have mad love for the minion at Apple who invented FaceTime so I can at least give virtual kisses goodnight.

I have been selfishly and greedily hoarding books and magazines to keep me company during what I call The Incarceration.  I have loaded up my Kindle with cheap titles that I found on BookBub, and I have a certain series on Netflix that I am dying to finish.  I have grand plans to organize the storage area of our basement as well, but the books and the general sloth sound far more appealing.  However, I guarantee that I will not feel good about sitting around the house like a bump on a pickle, so it may be the perfect time for spring cleaning to begin.  Visions of uncluttered surfaces run rampant through my head...

(Credit: crappypictures.com)

Basically, this is just a heads-up for all y'all in the Region.  If you see me out and about on Monday, March 17, and I'm glowing or more frantic than usual, you can blame it on the radiation and The Incarceration.  However, if I'm looking suspiciously like the Incredible Hulk or Spider-Girl, back away slowly and do NOT make eye contact.  Maybe that's how you escape wolves and not superheroes, though.  In any case, I have a feeling it'll be a very happy wearin'-o'-the-green for me this year.