Rann's FAQ about Thyroid Cancer
(also in this section: Maintenance of Lymphedema, and Tips for staying cool and taking care of the feet!)
2nd - Thyroid Cancer
Q: Where was your second cancer, and how old were you then?
I was 35, during a regular check-up at Walson Army Hospital at Ft. Dix (military doctors are great by the way), when my Internal Medicine doctor noticed a cyst on my thyroid, and referred me out to have it checked. After seeing the specialist, I had a needle biopsy which showed up suspicious, then had part of it removed during one surgery, then a few days later they decided to remove more. It was concluded to be a “follicular” type cancer. They said I would probably die of old age before I died from that.
Q: Did you have treatment for it?
Yes. Because of my history, they put me in the hospital overnight and I had to take radioactive iodine in capsule form. Because the thyroid is so close to the voice box, they didn’t remove all of it during surgery. So the radioactive iodine served two purposes really. It “burned out” the remainder of the thyroid, while killing the remainder of the cancer cells. Someone came in my hospital room dressed out in a space suit, and handed me the capsule which was housed in a lead cylinder. I was kept in quarantine for about 36 hours, and when I was discharged, I was told not to go around children or the elderly for several weeks.
Q: Did you have any side effects from this treatment?
No, not physically. I was given thyroid replacement medicine, which helped a lot. I felt more energetic than I had in years. However, emotionally, I had trouble falling asleep at home at first. Even though they had given me a good prognosis, this was my second cancer, so I began to have a great deal of fear. I don’t think I was afraid of dying. I had an episode before the first surgery where they did not give me a sedative before wheeling me in to the Operating Room. So, when they started the drip to put me under, I was wide awake. It scared me half to death. My heart started racing, and I could hear it on the heart monitor that they had me hooked to. They were all talking and strolling about – until they heard the heart monitor, and all of a sudden it got quiet, and I had everybody’s attention! Thankfully, I went out quick. I think because of that episode, I just became afraid of being put to sleep. Actually, after that, for the final surgery they made sure the anesthesiologist came in to talk to me. Just for me on that day, he wore a Disney shirt, and did a step-down process, s-l-o-w-l-y, so I wouldn’t freak completely out and die! It was funny in a way, and horrible in a way! I’m so glad I’m just writing about it now, reflecting. If you have had this experience, boy, do I feel your pain!
Q: Why did you retire in 1995?
I started working full-time when I was 19, and had been in pain since I was 12 from female problems associated with my abnormal uterus. After the bouts of strep infections, the lymphedema, putting the compression garments on every day, pulling them down every time I had to go to the ladies room, and then pulling them back up again, then re-adjust to fit, I was just literally physically and emotionally worn out. I had worked eleven years full-time doing this, in and out of the hospital with infections, and both of my parents had catastrophic illnesses during this time. My hands were wearing out from putting on and taking off the tight compression garments, and I was chronically tired, and today, I still suffer with fatigue. I’ll do ok for a while, and then all of a sudden, it’s like I hit a wall and crash. I have to take supplements, and rest a lot, and stay off my feet. The pull of gravity on lymphatic edema is exhausting to deal with. I usually do house work in increments. I’ll do a little, and then lie down. Then I’ll go back and continue, and then I know I’ve reached my limit when I feel flushed, my heart will race, I’ll start sweating, and begin to feel irritable. That’s when I know that I’ve gone too far. That’s what I meant about setting new parameters. I hate it. But it’s the only way I can deal with my life the way it is, and I’ve been doing it a very long time. I don’t know that I will ever get used to it, honestly.
I try to stay cool, and relaxed as is possible (these days). My dogs have been a great comfort to me. And I pray a lot, too. I find it comforting and very helpful, when some days are the hardest.
Tip: Lymphedema – Staying Cool during hot weather
I keep about six bottles of water in my freezer at all times. I have two vintage linen handkerchiefs that were my grandmothers (they are larger than what you find now, and dry much faster) that I use to wrap the bottles in when I go out. The hankies are floral, so they camouflage the bottle. If I’m in the car, I lay the bottle in between my legs to cool down my core temp. Also, if I’m sitting in church I do the same thing, and just lay my bible or notebook over it. I just tell everybody they gotta love me just like I am, so… get used to it!
Tip: Foot and Toe Nail Care
First, start with clean hands. Clean your feet with a mild soap and water, getting in between toes, and all around the nail bed area. Take the end of a clean pointed file, and gently clean beside, around and under the nail dirt, salt, and dead skin. I’ve always kept my toenails trimmed. I cut them straight across, and keep them finely filed. I wash them and then treat them with Sea Breeze on a cotton ball. I then use the same thing on them that I do on my face. I put a hydrating toner on them with another clean cotton ball (sides, over and under), and then finish with a non-fragrance lotion, again on top, sides and underneath.
This does several things: it keeps down infection and Sea Breeze is great for athlete’s foot. And the conditioning makes the nail flexible so that the next time you do it the nail won’t be dry and break.
If you missed Part 1 - Goto: Basics/FAQ> Rann's FAQ-Cervical/Uterine Cancer
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