I’m not very satisfied with the doctor’s plan to revisit things in one year. I am still extremely tired. My swallowing (and sometimes breathing) are affected by these nodules and my damaged thyroid.
Just two weeks ago, I choked while eating nachos. Pretty serious choking. I thought I was going to die. I live alone and I was afraid they would find Beep eating my body and that my tombstone would say “She died eating what she loved most – nachos.”
I’m keeping my appointment with the doctor at the Medical College of Wisconsin. I’m hoping he will have a plan for dealing with these nodules in an non-invasive way – or at least will have answers on how to deal with them. And the exhaustion. And the brain fog. And the anxiety.
I’m still going to struggle for awhile, but I’m hopeful that the weight of the “C” word being lifted from my diagnosis will help.
But above all, I am thankful to God for answering all my prayers. All your prayers. All our prayers.
I’m humbled and quite overwhelmed at the outpouring of support from all of you. I didn’t realize how much you all care. The texts, emails, comments, phone calls, likes and inbox messages have truly touched me more than I can adequately put into words.
I started noticing some difficulty swallowing in late spring. I felt like I had a lump in my throat – like when you have a cold – only I didn’t have a cold. My sinuses, ears and lungs were fine. I just had a sore throat and didn’t feel like I was running at 100%.
I couldn’t take my morning pills and vitamins all in one gulp of water like I used to. I actually choked on my medication a couple of times.
I felt like something was wrong, but I wasn’t ready to deal with it. June was going to be crazy – I was moving across town, my brother was getting married and I had a three-day sorority conference out of state.
I told myself that if I still felt off after I had gotten through my move, the wedding and the conference, that I’d get in to see my doctor.
On June 29, I saw my primary doctor. I told her that I felt like there was a fullness in my throat/neck and that I was concerned that there was something wrong with my thyroid. I’ve had hypothyroidism for almost six years and I am able to recognize the symptoms when I’m having a flare up. This seemed more than a flare up.
My doctor examined me and said it did feel like my thyroid was enlarged on the right side. She recommended I have an ultrasound to rule out any problems. She also ordered a blood test to see if my TSH counts were off. My counts were off, so she increased my meds again.
I had an ultrasound the following week. I was very nervous but the technician was really nice – even though it felt like I was suffocating as she pressed the ultrasound wand into my neck to get images of my thyroid. I was told that I would get the results in a few days.
I left the hospital nervous, but figured I wouldn’t worry about it until the results were in. I went and got my nails done and was headed home when my phone rang. It was my doctor’s nurse. Just 90 minutes after I left the hospital they were already calling with results.
The nurse said I had multiple nodules on my thyroid and that my doctor was giving me a referral to an endocrinologist. I was transferred to the specialty area to make an appointment.
I made an appointment (but couldn’t get in until August 19) and asked to be put on a wait list. I followed up with a friend who works at the medical college (and whose dad is a retired ER doc). My friend spoke to colleagues who recommended I make an appointment with one of the endocrinologists there (who happens to specialize in nodules and thyroid cancer). A friend’s younger sister who had thyroid cancer seven years ago also recommended this doctor so I called to make an appointment but I couldn’t get in to see him until September 28. I am also on his wait list.
I wasn’t handling this well – that i had all these nodules and I had to wait so long to even have a consultation. Meanwhile, the fullness in my throat is getting worse and every week i notice another head/neck position that makes me hyper-aware of these nodules.
The next week, I got a call from the guy my doctor recommended – there was a cancellation and they got me in for an appointment. Dr. S. did an exam and asked me lots of questions. He said that my thyroid is very damaged and that the damage is irreversible. It’s enlarged all over with multiple nodules on the right side and there’s one on the left side that is 1.7cm. He said this one is suspicious – partially because of its size, but also because it’s by itself. He also said my personal health history as well as family history (aunt had thyroid cancer a few years ago and my grandpa had half of his thyroid removed a decade ago due to suspicious nodules) combined add to the suspicion.
The doctor said that it could be cancerous but he didn’t want to speculate until we did a biopsy. But he said the “C” word and I didn’t hear much else he said after that.
I do remember him saying that depending on the test results, we may take a variety of treatment paths: Surgery, additional biopsies on the other nodules, ultrasounds and close monitoring every six months.
I had a FNAB (Fine Needle Aspiration Biopsy) yesterday. Guided by an ultrasound, the doctor inserted 25 gauge needles into the nodule and removed tissue. Four times. (For comparison, blood donation uses 16 or 17 gauge needles).
The first two biopsies were unpleasant but bearable. The last two were so painful. No anesthesia at all. My neck/throat hurt a lot when I left the clinic. Obviously after leaving, I got a frappuccino and went to acupuncture because my anxiety is through the roof and when you have giant needles shoved in your throat the obvious next step is to jab a bunch of needles all over your body.
The last seven weeks have been torture. My anxiety is getting out of control. I’m trying everything to remain calm.
I feel the nodules every time I swallow. Every time I turn my head. I frequently have a sore throat or hoarse voice.
On top of that, despite the increase in dosage, I am still suffering the effects of a prolonged hypothyroid flareup. I am exhausted. All.The.Time.
It takes all I have to get through the work day. I come home and crash. On weekends, I wake up around 6 a.m. and then take my first nap around 9 a.m. Yes, I said first nap. I nap all day.
I even stayed home from work today because I’m just so tired. And my neck is sore. And my voice is hoarse. And my neck is swollen. And I just can’t.
I am working on the anxiety, thanks in part to acupuncture, essential oils/baths, prayers and meditation. But the chronic exhaustion is taking it’s toll on me mentally and physically.
The next few days will be torture as I try to get through the day while worrying about when I will receive a call from a doctor telling me if I have cancer or not. Or if things are suspicious and surgery is recommended for further investigation. It’s all nerve-racking.
Please keep me in your prayers. Send your positive thoughts and wishes for strength and faith that I can get through this.
I have been horrible and spending too much money eating at restaurants and/or ordering take out these past couple of months. It’s sad because I love to cook. Maybe it’s just winter doldrums.
I have recently started working out with a trainer again (Hiya Tracey!) and decided I should probably balance that with some healthier eating habits.
Enter 28 days of eating salads. Or, #28daysofsalads if you follow me on Instagram. I know that in order to make something a habit, you have to repeat it. So, I’m going to eat at least one salad every day this month. Now, that’s not to say that they will always be super healthy (c’mon, who doesn’t love a Caesar salad with extra cheese?)… but I’ll eat a damn salad every day and prove it to you by sharing a photo on Instagram and Facebook.
Editor’s note: This post has been in draft mode for almost six months. I have been debating for years on whether or not I should share my story. I mean, it’s personal. SUPER personal. But, I remember trying to search for information when I was going through this process and there weren’t a lot of first hand – or boob – accounts.
Ok, I didn’t really lop them off for science… but things just sound better when you say you’re doing them for science. Example:
“I’m drinking this beer while writing this blog… for science.”
“I’m eating this pizza… for science.”
Back to the topic at hand – boobs (see what I did there?).
In June 2006, I had a double reduction mammoplasty and lift. In other words, I had a doctor cut off some of my boobs and lift ’em up where they should have been for my age.
Having a breast reduction at such a young age (23) was a risk. If I ever have kids, there’s a good chance I won’t be physically able to breastfeed (which I would like to do if I have kids), because my milk ducts may have been damaged during the surgery. I could have lost all sensation/feeling (in case you pervs really want to know, there is diminished sensitivity but it’s still mostly there). Not to mention all the possible complications that come with major surgery…
But, I was 23 and had boobs that sagged almost to my waist. They were ginormous, heavy and caused significant damage to my spine/neck. A “normal” neck has a curve like this:
My neck curved the opposite direction. As you can imagine, my posture was horrible, I had headaches all the time, I constantly had a rash, my shoulders had permanent indentations from my bra straps and I was almost always suffering from some type of back/neck/shoulder pain or tightness. Physical therapy, chiropractic adjustments, massages and anti-inflammatory medications just weren’t enough.
Not to mention, I was always self-conscious about my breasts. I developed earlier than many of my classmates. In high school, I had a classmate seriously ask me if my breasts were real. He thought that this midwestern 16-year-old had implants. My goodness.
After countless appointments to discuss my care, my primary physician suggested I consider a breast reduction. She said that I was a good candidate and that due to all the x-rays, MRIs and countless therapy sessions, I would have an excellent case to get my insurance company to pay for the procedure since I needed it for medical and not cosmetic reasons. I told her I would consider it and asked if she would refer me to a plastic surgeon. I can still remember the conversation.
Dr. H: I’m going to send in a referral for you to Dr. -. He’s a breast expert.
Me: I’m pretty sure EVERY guy thinks he’s a breast expert.
Dr. H: *laughs* * rolls eyes*
Me: I’m just saying.
Dr. H: Well he is an expert in breast reconstruction – he does a lot of surgeries for breast cancer survivors.
Me: Thanks for the clarification. Now I feel like an asshole.
Sidenote: I just googled my surgeon’s name. He now has a website. With before-and-after photos of surgeries like mine. THANK GOD I DIDN’T FIND MY BOOBS ON THAT SITE. And no, I won’t tell you his name.
I remember walking into the doctor’s office and trying not to compare it to the only images I knew of plastic surgeon’s clinics – you know, the ones I saw on Dr. 90210 or Nip/Tuck (which was my FAVORITE show at the time). I remember hoping my surgeon was as gorgeous as Nip/Tuck’s Dr. Christian Troy (but less of a dick). He was very nice but definitely a plastic surgeon. He wore a suit that probably cost more than my car and reminded me a little of Dr. Robert Rey of Dr. 90210 (not in looks, but in demeanor/personality). He was clearly gifted and very intelligent. We talked for awhile, he examined me and then things got awkward. He measured. He took pictures. He measured some more. It was super embarrassing. Here was a 40-something strange guy manhandling my girls… well, for science.
The doctor said I had very heavy, dense breast tissue. He agreed with Dr. H that, based on my history and his examination, I would have an excellent case to present to my insurance company for medical coverage for the procedure. He answered a bunch of my questions and sent me home with some pamphlets and paperwork if I decided to go forward with the surgery.
I don’t remember how long I thought about the decision. It was my last year of college and I was taking a full course load and working full-time (45+ hrs a week) at the TV station. Luckily, I had excellent insurance coverage at the time.
After I made the decision to have the surgery, it was almost six months before my insurance approved the claim and cleared me for surgery. My doctors, therapists and HR director at work all fought for me! Thank goodness they did – that surgery would have been expensive!
The story I told most people (especially coworkers) was that I was having back surgery. Which was kinda sorta true. I was having surgery to fix something that was causing back problems. Friends and family knew what was happening. Some coworkers knew… and I wonder if they thought it was odd that I came back to work only wearing baggy men’s polo shirts for months after surgery.
(The real reason for that was I couldn’t wear an underwire bra for about six months… and even with my reduced cup size, the only non-underwire bras I could find were sports bras. No padding or extra lining. GAH. I needed extra room to cover up the parts of my anatomy that – to this day – still require some type of padding to prevent a 24/7 embarrassing situation. Ladies, you know what I’m talking about.)
The recovery was difficult. I can’t lie about that. I couldn’t lift my arms. My mom had to change the dressings ON MY BOOBS. I sobbed as she changed the gauze. I mean, I was 23 and my mom was touching my bloody boobs. I had frozen peas or carrots down my shirt at all times. I couldn’t shower for a week. It was a couple of weeks before I could shampoo my own hair.
I’d have to say the weirdest thing about recovery was “phantom boobs.” You know how after someone has an amputation, they talk about being able to feel the missing limb? That’s how I felt. I had severe pain – but it was two inches beyond where my boobs now were. It was weird. It was funny. It was months before the phantom boobs went away.
Would I do it again? Absolutely. Even with the oozing incisions that got infected, the painful weeks following surgery and the scars I’m left with – there’s no way I would go through life with those things. Seriously. They were monstrous. Almost five pounds – FIVE FREAKING POUNDS – were removed.
Besides… when else in my life will I sit in a plastic surgeon’s waiting room playing the “WHAT SURGERY DID SHE HAVE” game with my mother. I mean, really. That was awesome.
I kept this surgery a secret for awhile. I didn’t want people to judge me for having “cosmetic” surgery. But over the past five years, I have become more open about sharing that I had a breast reduction. Hell, I make jokes about the best weight loss I ever had – five pounds in just HOURS.
So that’s the story of chopping off my boobs for science. I welcome your non-pervy questions in the comments below.
Of course, one of the reasons why I decided to go through with the surgery was that my breasts were so big it was difficult for me to work out. I used them as an excuse to be lazy. I thought that after I recovered, I would be able to lose the weight I gained in college.
Well… it’s now been more than seven years (and six months since I started writing this post) and I weigh even more. Sure, I lost almost 40 pounds a couple of years ago. Then, I kept getting hurt. I kept pushing myself too hard. Then I had to cut back on the exercise, but didn’t modify my food intake. I was training for half marathons, and even when you’re trying to lose weight you need to keep a certain food level so you don’t pass out. I’m just saying.
I’ve spent more than a year now on the injured list. I’ve started baby stepping to working out and then something happens – my ankle swells up, I get a sinus infection (with a side of vertigo), I throw out my back… It is SO FREAKING frustrating. Two years ago, I was nearly halfway to my goal weight. I felt great. I worked out five times a week. I GAINED BACK ALL THAT WEIGHT and a little extra. For good measure.
Damnit. I didn’t want this post to go to a dark place when I decided to finish it and publish. But I haven’t blogged in months. Because I haven’t had anything to share. I’ve been eating feelings and OMG I AM SO OFF TOPIC NOW. Kthxbai.
So…last night I ran. I ran for the first time in nearly 14 months. I wasn’t planning to run. It just happened.
I am camping with my family and just before dinner last night I decided to walk down to the bathroom.
After a few steps, I felt magic in my legs. My quads were loose and stretched. I felt my muscles come to life. They yearned to run. I figured, what the heck? Might as well try running the couple hundred feet to the bathrooms.
When I got to the bathroom moments later, I felt my legs had come to life. I quickly took care of business and decided I would take the long way back to my campsite.
Muscle memory kicked in. One foot in front of the other. I felt alive.
My lungs burned. But I kept going, with a ridiculous smile on my face.
I was determined not to stop to catch my breath. I refused to walk.
It wasn’t far. It wasn’t fast. But that didn’t matter.
You guys. I can’t tell you how much in AWE I am of my dear friend, Jamie Johnston. YOU GUYS SHE LOST A PERSON. A FRICKIN PERSON. 186 down, 14 to go. Plus, she’s running her first ever half marathon this Sunday. She is my hero. She is also going to smoke it (13+ mi training runs done in sub-2 hr fashion).
Jamie (HYMEEEEE), I’m proud to call you my friend, my Alpha Gam sister and an inspiration to someone like me who has struggled with my weight my entire adult life. Once my ol’ ankle is healed, I will be back in action. And I promise you. One day, WE WILL RUN A RACE TOGETHER.
Remember last year when I was trying to convince you to do a 10k with me? LOOK AT YOU NOW. Friends, send some good juju to Cleveland! Wish I could be there to cheer you on, Jamie.
If my sister wasn’t graduating from college Sunday, I would SO BE THERE.
Yesterday, my mom commented on how surprised she was at how I’ve been tolerating the pain during recovery. I haven’t been complaining (of course, the drugs have been helping). She is just amazed, especially since in the past week, I’ve made amazing progress and made it yesterday with only taking 4 pain pills all day!
I told her that this weekend I realized that the spot in my ankle that had been giving me the most pain over the past 8+ months is the exact spot where my surgeon found a surprise fracture (and fixed it with a screw).
Basically, I’ve been walking around since July on a broken ankle.
I am such a badass.
I guess I’ve just gotten used to the pain.
I can’t wait to finally walk around without pain or discomfort!
Things I found out when I looked at medical billing (pre-insurance) for my surgery:
A pregnancy test costs $77 (I could’ve gotten one at CVS for less than $10).
The screw they put in my ankle cost $81.06.
An extra 30 minutes of surgery costs $1,618.
An extra 30 minutes of anesthesia costs $383.50.
Repairing ligaments costs $6,582.
Exploring an ankle joint costs $4,363.
So far, the total for surgery is $32,916.89. Still waiting to see what insurance will pay. Hoping this doesn’t set me back too far. Right now what it says I owe will hurt the wallet a bit, but won’t break the bank. I have pretty good insurance, so I’m hopeful the final total won’t be too much!
Today I said goodbye to my cast and hello again to Das Boot!
And more good news from my doc. My ankle is looking great! (Ok, really, it looks like a gross rainbow, but medical-wise, it’s looking good). Incisions are healing well. Doc says I’ve been doing everything right. Wahoo! I can start putting weight on my foot as tolerated and in a week or two I can start weaning off the crutches!
There’s even more good news! I can go to my friend’s wedding Saturday (just the ceremony, but still, wahoo!). I was so worried that I wouldn’t be able to attend. Oh, AND, I was cleared to start working part-time from home next week and then to head back to the office (as tolerated) on the 25th! SQUEE! You guys, I was so worried I was going to be out of the office for another month (which I would not be able to afford).