Won’t Start a Fight (Ha!) And I’m Not Your Captive, Turn Me Loose Tonight Cause I’m Radioactive…Radioactive….The C Word Part II

So, where were we? Ah, yes. I was in Greenville and the complete and total ass doctor had just given me the bad news: that I had thyroid cancer and the good news: that he had found it.  I was in shock.  Actually, I was starting to freak out just slightly.  I called my family and closest friends-mainly because I needed to hear myself say it over and over just to believe it.  We stayed another day with Daddy-O and headed back to the ATL to start scheduling the surgery.  It has been so long now, that I cannot remember the name of the surgeon, but she was a female and she was highly recommended by the complete and total ass–because she was supposedly really good at getting all the thyroid tissue out in one big swoop.  I was getting bombarded with a lot of technical information.  If they got all of the thyroid tissue out at once, then I would only have to have one dose of the radioactive iodine (RAI).  If there was too much thyroid tissue left after the surgery, then I would have to have a smaller dose of RAI to burn out the remaining tissue and then later have a larger therapeutic dose.  What this essentially meant was that if this bitch did not get all the thyroid tissue out the first time, I was going to have to go hypothyroid twice.  So, on January 4, 2006, at St. Joseph’s Hospital, this female surgeon removed my thyroid.  I woke up screaming, “Somebody get these Goddamn things off of my legs!!” It was those awful Thrombo-Embolic Deterrent Hose that help prevent blood clots and deep vein thrombosis.  I hate them with a passion.  Mothah was horrified.  I was coming out of anesthesia.  I could hear her off to the side saying, “Jennifah, watch youah language!” and I couldn’t have given a tinkah’s damn about my language.   The next thing I remember is nurses running in and trying to help calm me down. I could hear Mothah apologizing to them for me, as if I weren’t really in there and didn’t really mean what I was saying.  I was in there and I did mean it and I remember it like it was yesterday! I hate those leg things!    I am pretty sure they dosed me up with something-probably so I would stop cursing.  And there was this terrible pain in my right eye.  I told the nurse and she tried to pass it off.  I was insistent.  I could not open my eye.  It was watering and oozing.  I just kept cursing and they finally got a damn eye doctor in there.  Apparently, they had scratched my cornea in the operating room–badly.  This was not my day.  The eye doc put some gooey stuff in my eye and then put a patch on it.  I was still quite groggy.  The leg things were still pumping up and down and the nurses refused to let me take them off.  I looked down and there was this awful tube hanging down with a clear bulb that was filled with blood and gunk.  I followed the tube with my eyes as far up as I could.  Mothah was sitting right there when I realized that the tube was coming out of my neck.  Oh. MY. GOD.  WHAT THE HELL IS THIS? I yelled.  “Jennifah. Calm down. It’s a drain.” I thought I might just faint right there.  I hate hospitals and surgery and blood and guts and anything that has to do with stuff like that.  The fact that there was something hanging out of me like that was about to throw me right on over the edge.  I thought I might have a panic attack.  Mothah got me up to go to the bathroom to look at it.  I looked like Frankenstein.  A Pirate Frankenstein.

It was supposed to be outpatient surgery, but my calcium levels dropped and I had to spend the night.  Joy.  I got to go home the next day, after they took that damn drain out and left me with vertical steri-strips covering my stitches on my neck.  All I needed were some knobs on either side of my neck to complete my Pirate Frankenstein look, as I was still having to wear a patch over my right eye.  It was better, but the scratch was pretty awful.  I had to go for follow-up’s to the eye doc for several weeks after.  So….after the pathology report was back, I had to go to see the surgeon so she could tell me what the deal was.  I went alone because I was all like “I got this”.  I so did not have this.  What she told me was that I had Papillary Thyroid Cancer, which was the most common type of thyroid cancer; however,  mine was Tall Cell Variant (TCV).  TCV is aggressive and deadly.  Because mine was only slightly outside the nodule, but definitely not outside the thyroid, they did not think it was in any lymph nodes, which was a good thing, and it meant it had been caught very early.  It also meant that even though it was TCV, it could be treated with RAI and I would be F.I.N.E.  Now, because this was happening to ME, and because I was about a week post-op, and on an emotional roller coaster, this is what I heard her say:  “You have Tall Cell Variant Thyroid Cancer.  It is very aggressive and it can kill you.”  The rest of it was like listening to the grown ups talk on Peanuts: “whomp whomp whomp whomp….. ” I got to the parking garage and had a ginormous nervous breakdown in my car.  Here it was: the news I had known was coming: I was dying and was going to leave JC a widower and Mini Me and The Middle Child motherless.  I was being punished for my PhD in Partying and all of my other sins that I had committed.  It was all my own fault.  I deserved it all.   So…the next step was to find the doctor who was going to administer the RAI.  That would take place at Emory.  In Nuclear Medicine.  Talk about scaring the shit out of me.  Nuclear Medicine?  When I went for the first visit, I had to take a test dose of RAI.  This makes your insides light up where there is thyroid tissue.  Since the complete and total ass had supposedly directed me to the world’s most wonderful surgeon, I expected that there would be zero lighting in my body.  Wrong.  Huge light up in the neck area.  The bitch was not wonderful except that she did such a great job that I can hardly see where she operated. That is all.  There was, in fact, SO MUCH thyroid tissue left, that I was going to have to have a 30mCi dose of RAI- JUST to burn out the remaining tissue! I wanted to hunt her down and hurt her.  This meant that I was going to have to go on the low-iodine diet TWICE and go hypothyroid TWICE.  Shit. By the end of it, I did not want to hurt her, I wanted to kill her.  The low-iodine diet meant that I got to eat shitty rice cakes from Whole Foods and natural peanut butter.  And basically nothing else.  Just about everything we eat has iodine in it.   Let me now tell you about “going hypo”.  It is rarely done anymore, but in 2006, it was still protocol.  In order to have RAI, a thyroid cancer patient had to stop taking their synthetic thyroid medication–Synthroid, Levothyroxine, Armour Thyroid, etc. for 3-6 weeks in order to allow their thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) to rise well above the normal level for RAI to be most effective.  This meant 3-6 weeks of unequivocal HELL.  Going hypo means different things for different people.  For me, it meant the following: complete bat-shit-crazy.  I was paranoid.  I had black circles under my sunken in eyes.  I lost weight-probably mainly due to the fact that I was only eating the shitty rice cakes from Whole Foods and the natural peanut butter.  I had zero energy.  My hair fell out in clumps.  I could not drive because I felt like cars were coming at me from all directions. It was painful to even ride in a car because of the same thing.  I have a vivid memory of us driving on the top loop of Spaghetti Junction, and I jumped down into the floor of the car, crying, because I thought we were going over the edge.  Now, in my defense, I think part of that had to do with the fact that JC was driving, and that, my friends, is an entirely different story, but most of it had to do with me being hypothyroid.  I cried all the time.  I thought I was going to die.  I constantly thought about whether or not this cancer was going to kill me and whether or not I was going to leave Mini Me and The Middle Child motherless.  I was 35 years old.  I had made a lot of mistakes in my life.  A lot.  I had been sober for 3.5 years at this point.  I would think about the AA Promises and laugh.  It only gets better? Who the fuck were they kidding?  Seriously.  This shit was supposed to be better?  It seemed to me that my consequences started after sobriety.  What was the point?  I could not socialize because I would get caught up in all of this bullshit.  It sucked.   What sucked even more was that on the day that when I would finally take the damn RAI, I would have to then drive myself to Madison and stay in the upstairs of Mothah’s house, totally isolated from the rest of the world, for a period of one week, because I was radioactive.  On the day that I was scheduled to receive said dose, I nervously drove myself to Emory and dragged myself down to Nuclear Medicine, where I waited for at least an hour, crying.  Then, somebody called me into an office to inform me that THEY HAD RUN OUT OF RAI and I would have to go home and wait until the next day.  To say that I got upset does not begin to cover it.  I completely lost my shit right there in Nuclear Medicine at Emory.  HOW THE HELL DO YOU RUN OUT OF RAI? I yelled.  I HAVE BEEN WAITING AND WAITING AND THIS HAS BEEN PLANNED AND LOOK AT ME!!! I AM A TOTAL WRECK!   I was a wreck–that is FO SHO.  I was crying hysterically.  They asked me if I wanted to sit down and calm down and I said hell no.  I was going home.  They said they would call me when they had the RAI. I said whatever and left.  Of course, this meant that I was going to have to go back and show my face there again after that lovely temper tantrum, but I did not care.  I went home and cried in bed for the rest of the day.  In fact, I think I had to cry the rest of the weekend and I did not actually get to go in for the RAI until Monday–this had happened on a Friday.  So, I went when they called and I took the little pill, which is all that RAI is.  It is a pill full of radioactive iodine.  It does not make you feel funny or anything.  Then I drove to Madison and was quarantined for a week.  Mothah brought me my meals to to the top of the stairs and left them there.  I slept and watched tv and cried because I was alone and hypothyroid.  It sucked.  I was about half way through, but I did not really know it at the time…..All I could see was darkness.

 

Stay Tuned for Part III on thepsychomother.com

Sorry! This is a long story! It’s hard to tell all at once! 🙂

 

 

We had taken a leap and joined a church that we loved and still do, and had actually changed our religion to Episcopalian in front of God and everybody at the Cathedral of Saint Philip, in a huge ceremony after completing a very long and boring class, and we  were all up in it.  It was the summer of 2005.  Mini Me had just turned seven and The Middle Child was three.  The Baby was not even a figment of our imagination at this point.   One Sunday, JC and I were asked to participate in the Episcopal Diocese Softball Tournament that was taking place that afternoon.  Our church needed players.  I was not a team player. Never have been a team player. Never will be a team player.  I do not like team sports at all.  I don’t really like teams.  I don’t care for team work.  I prefer to work alone, or maybe with one or two other people…but that is really neither here nor there.  Nevertheless, I said okay, mostly because we were all up in it.  The kids went along to watch.  It was actually more fun than I thought it was going to be.  We won the first game and moved on to the second, which was at a totally different location.  I can remember thinking how nice this was–spending quality time with my husband and our children, playing a team sport together with our church family…..again, all because we were all up in it.  So….the second game was almost over, and whoever was in charge of our team decided to make me play catcher.  ME? CATCHER? Oh, HELL TO THE NO!  All I had to do was look for the ball, they said.  And catch it if it came my way, they said.  Right. Whatever.  It was a beautiful day.  It was hot.  It was sunny.  Looking back on it, I was kind of behaving the way I have seen five year old’s behave in the outfield…..daydreaming…….gazing into outer space…thinking about what I was going to do later that day….that’s when I caught the ball.  With my throat.   I vividly remember it.  It took my breath away.  I fell to my knees.  I thought I was going to start throwing up blood at any second.  My life started flashing before my eyes and I just knew I was going to die right there, in front of JC and Mini Me and The Middle Child.  People were rushing to me and they got me off of the field.  After about 15 minutes, I really felt okay, but I sat out the rest of the game.  The kids sat with me because, of course, the whole thing had scared them half to death.  We decided that I should probably go to the hospital and get checked out–just to be on the safe side.  The guy who had thrown the ball at me, um, I mean to me,  was at the University of Georgia on a partial baseball scholarship.  The ball had hit me hard.  We went to the hospital and the doctor wanted to do a CT scan, just to make sure there was no internal bleeding.  There was not.  He said that if the ball had been a baseball, instead of a softball, it could have killed me.  He told me that I needed to follow up with my doctor the next week, which I did.  My doctor sent me for another scan.  When it was over, the radiologist came out to speak to me.  She said, “I am not supposed to tell you anything about your results.  You know that, right?”  I said I did know that.  She continued, “You have something on the back side of your thyroid.  You need to have it checked out.  No doctor is going to be able to see it or feel it, just doing a normal exam.  It needs to be biopsied. Don’t wait.” This news, of course, scared the shit out of me.  I thanked her.    I am still thanking her in my prayers at night, and I have no idea who she is.

As luck would have it, there was an endocrinologist on staff at my primary care doctor’s office, so I made an appointment.  I did not like this man from the get-go.  He was a complete and total ass.   He said that indeed there was something on my thyroid, but it could be a hematoma from being hit by the softball.  He said, “let’s give it three months and check it again.  If it’s still there, we will biopsy it.”  “Fine,” I said.  I had a lot going on. I was teaching Art three days a week at a small, private school in Stone Mountain, and I had gone back to school and was commuting to Athens to UGA two days a week.  I had decided that I needed to pursue a degree other than the PhD in Partying that I had earned back in 1991.  That degree had gotten me nowhere as far as a career was concerned.  I was also married and had Mini Me and the Middle Child.    Around this time, Mini Me was keeping me on my toes with his hypochondria. The principal would call me on my cell phone and say, “Jack is in the office and his thumb hurts really badly and he says he needs for you to come and get him.”  I would say, “Is his thumb black and blue and swollen?”  The answer would be NO.  I finally had to tell the school that unless Jack had thrown up, had diarrhea, had a fever of over 99.9, was bleeding profusely, had passed out, or had died, and there had been a witness that could verify any of those, not to call me–especially when I was in Athens!  I have never been able to claim to have a boring life, nor have I tried…… I left my appointment with the endocrinologist and forgot about my follow up that would be in December…the same week as final exams.  In fact, I never thought about it again, until I was going through some papers…in December, and the appointment card fell out into my hand.  I looked at the date.  It was for the next day!  I had my French final that day, but I could actually make the appointment and then get to Athens and have plenty of time.  So I went.  And the thing on my thyroid, a nodule,  was still there. So, the complete and total ass doctor did a biopsy, which hurt.  He stuck a long, thin needle into my neck, using an ultrasound for a guide, and drew out some fluid–several times.  It was not pleasant.  He stuck a few Band-Aid’s on my neck and I left for my final exam.  Since I had endured such trauma, I treated myself to lunch at the Outback Steakhouse when I arrived in Athens.  I ate and studied and then went to my exam and never thought about the biopsy or the nodule again….until the day after Christmas when the complete and total ass called me on my cell phone.  We were at my Daddy’s in Greenville, SC.  My phone rang and when I answered it, the ass said, “this is Doctor So and So.” (I honestly cannot even remember his name now) “I have some good news and some bad news. Which do you want first?” I said, “Well, I guess hit me with the bad news first.”  “Okay, the bad news is that you have thyroid cancer.  The good news is that I found it!”  I told you this man was a complete and total ass.  I guess now maybe you believe me.  After he said the C word, I did not really hear much else.  We would have to schedule surgery…blah blah blah…..I shouldn’t worry…..blah blah blah.  I was stunned.  Cancer Really?

The C Word Part 2 Coming Up Next on thepsychomother.com

 

 

Talkin’ Bout the Car Wash…yeah yeah yeah yeah

 

My stepsisters came to stay with us every other weekend, and it was something I had grown to look forward to.  I had lived for 15 years with only a brother, and found that I really liked these stepsisters  a lot–in fact, I grew to love them a lot over the years.  One of them, Lyn, is 6 months older than I am, and we were in the same grade in different schools.  Lyn is short for ‘Carolyn’, and she is Grandmothah Bennett’s namesake.  When the girls were at our house (their father’s house), this meant that Grandmothah was sure to show up at any given time.  We could bet money that she would be there bright and early Saturday morning.  When we got a little older, this really sucked if we had sneaked out and had 1  (or 3)  too many Budweisah’s….  Grandmothah Bennett would come barreling down the driveway at Robin’s Nest Farm in her white Bonneville with the navy blue velour interior about 8:00am–like clockwork.  The yip yip dogs (a term used to describe a rat terrier and a mini yorkie, who thought they could eat you alive) would go ape shit when they would hear her car screech to a halt, kicking up gravel.  She would stub out her lipstick-stick stained Misty Menthol in her already overflowing ashtray, then she would put her giant purse on her lap and dig through it for 10 minutes until she found her lipstick.  She would flip the lighted mirror down on the sun visor and put her lipstick on–moving her lips and holding the lipstick perfectly still.  I have said that she was the only person I have ever known who could do that, but actually, I have seen The Middle Child do it! It’s an art! A REAL talent.  Anyway.  She would then fling her car door open.  I swear a Cheech and Chong-worthy smoke cloud would billow out as she hoisted herself out of the car, giant purse on her arm.  Always in her chunky heels, she would teeter on the brick walkway, up to the door and yell into the house until somebody came to the door–all the while, the dogs barking their heads off at her.  God she was a sight.  We would come into the kitchen and she would want us to all give her a hug.  I say all.  She would take a hug from me, but she really meant just her grandgirls, and I wasn’t really one of them–not at that point, anyway.  I became one over time, but at the time that this story took place, I was still relatively new to Grandmothah, and she was not the most…well…she wasn’t the most accepting person right off the bat.  After a few minutes of visiting, Grandmothah told us she was headed to the car wash in town.  Since it happened to be just a week or two away from Lyn getting her learner’s permit, Lyn asked Grandmothah if she could drive her to the car wash.   Grandmothah always said “yes” when everyone else said “no”–just like any good grandmother does.  So….again, if my memory serves me, we just said that we were going to ride with Grandmothah to the car wash, still in our pajamas (because this was small town Saturday and we were not going in anywhere),  and Lyn and I went out and I got in the back seat with 2 bags of trash that smelled like they had been there for 2 weeks, and Lyn got in the front and Grandmothah drove us out of the driveway and pulled over and then let Lyn drive to town.  (Yes, I do realize that was a really long sentence.)  We had made our clean getaway.  Now, I could have it confused.  Mothah could have known.  We could have just kept it a secret from Bob.  It has been 30 years, so forgive me.  The car wash was at Speed Break, which was a convenience store on 441.  In fact, it was the hang out, drive-by spot at night for teenagers.  Don’t ask me why.  We are talking about Madison, GA in 1985, 1986.  There were 2 or 3 stop lights at the time.  It was not the booming metropolis that it is today.  Here is another place where my memory is foggy.  I cannot, for the life of me, remember who drove into the car wash!  Either Lyn drove in, or she and Grandmothah switched again and Grandmothah drove in.  Anyway, whoever drove the damn Bonneville in, drove it in crooked.  And by crooked, I mean, half off the track.  And this car wash was not one of those with the great big round red and white bristly brush thingies.  This was a new ’80’s car wash.  It was a big silver thing that was elongated and revolved around the sides of the car. I remember saying that it was going to hit the car because we were not on the track, and I clearly remember Grandmothah barking back at me, “It will be FINE!” So I shut up, which is what she intended for me to do.    It started in the front and went around the driver’s side and around the back,  fine. When it started going around the passenger’s side,  I knew we were going to have a major problem.  It hit the side of the Bonneville.  It made a terrible noise and kept going all the way up the side.  Lyn and I looked at each other and our eyes got big and Grandmothah started screaming in the Misty Menthol voice, “OH DEAH FATHAH HELP US! HELP US!” And Lyn and I started laughing.  It was the uncontrollable kind of laughing.  The I-might-wet-my-pants kind of laughing.  Then, Grandmothah turned around and pointed a crookedy finger at me and screamed, “JENNIFAH! GET OUT AND GET THIS DAMN THING OFF THE CAH!” like I was Hercules or something.  Remember now, I was in my pajamas.  Which were actually yellow scrubs from the Greenville Hospital System. I had cut the pants off at the knees.  Oh, and…I was barefooted.  It was 8:00am when Grandmothah arrived at our house, remember? So, I got the hell out of the car.  I was actually relieved to get a breath of something other than old trash.  The car wash thingy was still spewing out water and soap, and it was stuck hard onto the Bonneville.  No amount of my trying to move it would budge it.  My laughing problem was not helping either.  I got back in the car.  Now, all I could smell was soaking-wet-2-week-old-garbage, Misty-Menthol-infused-velour.  I thought I might throw up.   Grandmothah made the executive decision that we would just drive right out of there.  “It’s not a good idea”, I said, “It will really tear up the car, and it will break the car wash.” Grandmothah said the car was already torn up and she did not give a damn about the car wash.  So, again, I shut up, as was the intention.  I say that I shut up, but you must understand that Lyn and I were laughing so hard this entire time–that awful kind of can’t-stop-laughing.  The kind of laughing that physically hurts.  So, whoever was driving, drove the Bonneville right out of the car wash.  There was a horrible sound and an even more awful noise, as the giant thing left a huge, black dent in the car and ripped the passenger’s side view mirror off and left it dangling by some wires.   I remember saying, “We should really go tell somebody” and I remember Grandmothah saying “HELL NO!” and I remember laughing. Lots and lots of laughing.  When we got back out to the house, Grandmothah said, “DON’T TELL LYDIA!” Lydia would be my Mothah.  I guess she did not want us to tell her because Lyn did not even have a learner’s permit yet and Grandmothah let Lyn drive.  I don’t know.  That’s why I said several times–my brain is foggy on this one.  But one thing was for sure, we told Lydia the minute we walked in the door.  We had to.  She was standing in the kitchen and saw us drive up.  Lyn and I had barely gotten out of the car good before the Bonneville was kicking up gravel and Grandmothah was gettin’ the hell outta dodge.  I was soaking wet with soapy water and smelled like trash and Misty Menthol’s. And Lyn and I were still laughing. Hell, it has been 30 years and I am still laughing….

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