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! 🙂