Just A Tiny Bit Of Cancer

Overview of the thyroid system (See Wikipedia:...

Overview of the thyroid system (See Wikipedia:Thyroid). To discuss image, please see Talk:Human body diagrams (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Demi, one of my oldest best friends has just been diagnosed with thyroid cancer. “The good kind of cancer” as she was told. “If you are going to get cancer, have thyroid because it is contained.” It’s not like breast cancer or bone cancer or ovarian cancer and it’s not pancreatic so be thankful for what you have. But, it’s one weird way of thinking even though I guess I can understand it. From what these doctors have said she has the “good” kind of cancer but she’s not feeling so happy.

She had waited a good two and a half weeks for the results from her thyroid biopsies. They weren’t unclear, they were short-staffed and it was around Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Try not to be sick around the Holidays, please.  I did research for her especially from my neighbor across the street, who had gone through the same, exact process six years ago.  She said and I quote:”If I can give any advice, I would tell her not to take the chance that I did and only have half the thyroid removed. If there is suspicion of cancer, let them take the whole thing out. You don’t really need your thyroid anyway.” I totally agreed, because if it was cancerous, why have two separate surgeries?

Coming from my family where three out of three of us are on Synthroid (brand name only which is like a Bible to us) I talked to my friend daily. She had slide after slide of her thyroid tested without surgery, all results came back “inconclusive.” What the hell is “inconclusive” anyway? Who likes “inconclusive?” You sure can’t celebrate but there’s no reason for weeping. Inconclusive is just that, to me, basically a shrug of the shoulders signifying “we have no idea,  could go either way “60 percent chance there is no cancer, 40 percent chance there is” quoted top specialists at both Memorial Sloan Kettering and St. Francis Hospital in New York according to my friend.

Finally, on New Year’s Eve she gets the call from her surgeon and it IS cancer. I stop breathing, I am in shock and so is she. I remember saying to her “Wait, what?” She tells me again. We are both in shock. So now she waits, until the puffiness around her scar from her first surgery goes down before she goes in again for the rest of her thyroid to be removed and a nodule to be removed as well. More surgery, more anesthesia, more pain. It was the first time that she and I, usually pessimistic, chose to be positive and optimistic and spiritual. The one time. As soon as I heard the news, I looked at my husband and said “see what happens when I am optimistic?” He replied dryly: “I was waiting for that….”

I knew my best friend, stubborn, beyond stubborn,would not heed my neighbor’s advice or mine. If it didn’t NEED to come out it was staying inside her body. I can understand that (well, I cannot) but I knew she felt this way. This dear woman will not even take an aspirin or any type of medicine unless she absolutely is forced too. Compared to her I am a junkie waiting for Methadone. Having Fibromyalgia I know pain, all too well and even with prescribed medicine it does nothing for the pain.

When she told me that she did, indeed, take the pain medicine in the hospital and stayed overnight I was in surprised but happy she was open-minded. Now, post surgery, her surgeon is getting annoyed at her repetitive questioning. You know that tone: “AS I SAID BEFORE…” not good. But, good for my friend that she keeps asking until she gets her answers. Way to go, girlfriend.

She has another three weeks to go until the next thyroid surgery. This time, I’m wearing black, I’m feeling negative, doomed and totally pessimistic. Bad news all around. We both are. We deserve it. That’s what best friends are for.

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The World Just Changes A Little Bit

Burning match (cerilla ardiendo)

Image by John C. Shaw via Flickr

I just received news from my sister that her friend Allison passed away last night. I knew Allison but had only met her once or twice. She was a very warm and charming woman who was my sister’s neighbor. She leaves behind her husband and a daughter, the age of my nephew, Jon, 21. She died of breast cancer.

I have a friend that lives around the corner who is also dying of cancer. She too had breast cancer and then brain cancer. We don’t ask questions, they are a very private family. No matter what her condition is she tries to attend, her children’s basketball games or important events. She doesn’t care about being seen in a wheelchair or weighing barely 90 pounds or the fact that her mouth dragged down and over to the side, why should she? She is one of the best moms I have ever met. She will be with her three children as long as a single breath is left in her body.

Two years ago, when she was still able to walk, unassisted, my neighbor and I would each run to our windows to keep track of her. If we saw her walking alone, one of us would crush our feet into sneakers and pretend that we had walked too, and join her to keep her company. She wouldn’t ask for help, but we knew that we couldn’t let our friend walk unsteadily alone. She refused to use a cane; but she was happy for the company; we were happy to see her.

If we made “extra” food for our families, we would simply drop platters of freshly roasted chicken, baked ziti and meatballs at her door with a loaf of warm french bread or a tray of fudge brownies. When she could only drink liquids my new specialties became soup; peach soup in the summer, chicken soup in the fall. They never asked for meals but they always welcomed it. We would call before we brought a meal over and ask if it was a convenient time; sometimes we left it on the wooden bench near the door. We never saw our friend on these visits; we didn’t have to.

My best friend from high school, Paula, had breast cancer and finally now, after about 6 or more hospitalizations, a double mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiation, infections and reconstructive surgery, she is trying to heal. It has been a long road for her. Another friend, Margie, with thyroid cancer, said she doesn’t think about celebrating her five-year anniversary of being cancer free; her oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering said that “once you have cancer, you are never cancer free.” I don’t want to believe that but it is sobering.

I am sorry for my friends, I worry in advance for all the important women in my life. I am grateful for every healthy minute of our lives, and I understand how fragile and unpredictable life is. I am incredibly grateful. The world changes a bit, doesn’t it, when another person dies, when a soul leaves the body. It’s like a candle or a match, one after another, forcibly being blown out while it is still burning bright. It seems that their lives are extinguished way too early, too violently and too harshly. Snuffed, taken away, burnt, dead. “I knew she was going to die” my sister said sadly to me” but somehow it isn’t the same until it really happens.”

Dedicated to all cancer survivors and those we lost who live on in our hearts.