The Day I Chose To Live

I was .3lbs away from my goal.  Less than half a pound.  I was training to finally run the Tely 10; a long awaited goal of mine.  Vic was blowing minds with his weight loss journey.  We were a healthy, happy couple who literally loved their life together.  We thrived more together, than apart. As is always the way with us.  It was summer; a gorgeous one and we were soaking up the unexpected time together.  Long walks, ice cream treats to break the brutal humidity, and conversations about nothing and everything.

After a routine ultrasound, I was told I needed surgery to remove a nodule that was sitting on my thyroid.  It was front and center – giving me the look of an Adams Apple, stylish really!  It was something we knew was coming.  My ENT had been watching it for approximately 2 years and told me up front that I would need it removed when it reached 4cm; no arguments, as it would affect my breathing from there on out.  Done.  I knew it was coming before the results came in.  I couldn’t run sprints like I was doing prior.  I was finding it hard to get those deep rhythmic patterns going during my run.  So the date was set, September 30, 2016.  It was a routine surgery, with just a couple of days in hospital and then 2-4 weeks recovery with minor restrictions.  Easy Peasy!

We were in the midst of redecorating our entire apartment.  Something I had wanted from the moment we moved in.  So we got to painting and I made lists of things I could tackle while recovering.  Not only did we get ALL of the rooms painted, JUST in the nick of time finishing just two days before pre-op, but most of the decor was bought as well.  I was nervous, but excited more so.  I was looking forward to hitting the pavement again, putting this nonsense behind me before Christmas.

On surgery day, I went in on time and came out with no complications.  Hopped up on Morphine, I asked for an orange Popsicle and chicken from my favorite Chinese restaurant.  Although they laughed at me in disbelief, my mom and Vic left to get just that.  The nurse came in mid bite and laughed; “I’m guessing you don’t need that IV anymore?”  I was sore and sedated, but feeling great.  The next morning I was released and on my way home to more Popsicles and soup.  The days following were great.  Less than a week afterwards, we walked the 5km CIBC Run for the Cure and a few more days later I was finally able to sleep without being propped in the most awkward of positions.  Exactly a week post-op, I received my acceptance letter for MUN.  I was in for January to begin the journey to my education degree.  Twice I returned to my ENT’s office for checkups and the pathology results.  Twice I was told I was healing beautifully and quickly, but the report still wasn’t in.

4:22pm on Tuesday, October 22, 2013 the phone rang.  The pathology report was in and they found cancer on the side of my thyroid – Stage 1 Papillary Thyroid Cancer.  Not on/in the nodule they had removed, but somewhere else entirely.  The news sent a shock wave through our home.  I was numb for a few days, but had constant company to hand me tissues and make me laugh.  I continued life as normal, though a second surgery was being scheduled.  We had a sleepover with our niece and nephew, just a few days after the news and I even had a photo session with my beautiful cousin and her family.  Shortly after though, I caught a nasty chest infection.  I couldn’t shake it for the life of me and was handed a pretty brutal round of antibiotics in a desperate attempt to get me better for the next surgery.

The next appointment I had with my ENT, I was told that this surgery would be slightly different.  Given that they would be taking what remained of my thyroid, I would have to take a replacement hormone from that day forward.  I would be in hospital for 3-5 days, with my release being dependent on my calcium levels.  Sure . . . ?  December 2, 2013 was the new surgery date.  Leaving me making a list of all things Christmas for the month of November.  Christmas shopping, Christmas groceries, Christmas decorating.  You name it, I wanted it done.  They couldn’t give me a recovery time period beyond the 4-6 weeks and that would take me in to the New Year.  So Christmas came early to our home that year.  Heading to the hospital on the 2nd, I had not a thing to do besides wrap presents and that I could take my time and do.

I came out of surgery very similar to the first time.  Only this time, I felt weak.  Kind of like Bambi weak; wobbly.  After being poked every few hours to keep check on calcium levels, I asked – or more like begged – to go home the next morning.  The nurse practitioner didn’t think I should, but said she would call my ENT and see what he said.  An hour later, I was sprung.  This time with a longer list of restrictions and things to watch for as I was leaving early.  I had zero energy, was still wobbly walking to the car (no wheelchair for this girl!), but chalked it up to just getting over the infection and the surgery.  After I was home for a few hours and slept some, I was still unsteady.  I looked at Vic and asked for bacon.  I knew my iron was low at this point.  A few hours after I polished off the entire package, I started to come around.  Crisis averted!  That night I sat on my living room floor and wrapped a few presents.  No surgery was going to keep me down.

I didn’t give the cancer another thought – until December 10, 2013.  My first visit to the Endocrinologist.  She walked us through things, discussed possible treatments and then told us there was spots found on my lungs and I would need a CT scan as soon as possible to rule out that the cancer had spread.  Hold.  The.  Damn.  Phone. I remember distinctly thinking to myself that she was wrong.  I had had a chest infection and that’s what she was seeing.  None the less, I returned home that day after Vic continued on to work, and cried as I have never cried before.  There were a few moments like that, over the following days, but that one was the worst of it.  I jumped into absolutely everything after this.  I started school the first week of January, followed by driving lessons and a full time job.  Apparently I was attempting to be Superwoman; not that I would’ve admitted it though.  This continued for 4-5 months and I finally had to give in a cut back a little.  Only I didn’t cut back at all.  I stepped down from my position at work to a part time one, but then started booking photography sessions.  I was still so shaken by what had happened, virtually out of no where, that I was in a mad rush to do everything I had on my bucket list as quickly as humanly possible.  The catch was, I was half assing it all and enjoying none of it.

But I continued on the crazy train.  Ignoring every one of my family, friends and doctors who told me I needed to slow down.  During this crazy whirlwind, I had medical hiccups, that no one seemed to be able to pinpoint.  I was told it was stress and would go away when I slowed down.  Twice I was taken off work and nothing.  No change.  I was sent for so much blood work over the first year, that I now have scar tissue, making for a painful experience every time.  I was sent for two EKGs, with an elevated heart rate both times.  My neck and thyroid levels were checked countless times – nothing.  Stress, stress, stress, stress.  It was frustrating beyond belief.  I could no longer exercise at all, because when I did I would be light headed and feel faint.  I could no longer eat carbs unless I wanted to look like I was 5 months pregnant.  I was unable to focus on school work anymore, I couldn’t retain anything at all.

The summer of 2015 seen a huge fall out with my parents over a ridiculous work issue that got brought home, followed by me being taken off work for 6 weeks with a huge flare up.  Two weeks into my ‘time off’, Vic and I were rear-ended in a car accident.  We were on our way home, he had just gotten off work, and stopped at a red light – *BANG* – next thing I knew I was stood on the sidewalk in the rain talking to the young guy that hit my car.  From there, it was the beginning of the end for me.  We were both off work indefinitely, attending regular physio and massage therapy, and had no money.  We filed for our sick benefits and filled out the paperwork for our insurance and waited.  And waited.  And waited.  We were in a financial state I didn’t even know was possible.  We had bills bounce all over the bank account, which they called me about.  16 years with a bank and not one missed payment.  We were running out of groceries and feared of losing our apartment.  We would argue, scream and I would even cry (and I’m totally not a crier!).  Not that either of us did anything ‘wrong’, just tension and stress running at an all time high and no one else was around.  I started staying in bed for hours after I woke up.  Constantly wanting to sleep, though most times I couldn’t sleep and would simply lay there looking at the wall. At night I would wait for Vic to fall asleep and let the tears flow.  I hated my life.  I was emotionally, physically, and mental spent.  I felt as though I had nothing left in me.  I felt like a failure.  I felt ashamed and alone.  I felt hopeless.  I lost interest in absolutely everything and didn’t want to see or speak to anyone.  I lay awake at night wondering what life would’ve been like if I had passed on instead of my aunt.  I had officially hit rock bottom.  There was no support for us.  We had spoke aloud how it felt as though everyone in our lives had failed us through this experience.  His work wouldn’t take him back until he was 100% and mine told me “why don’t you just quit” when they received one of my doctors notes.

We managed to see it through financially.  Just barely.  I switched family doctors and in the Spring of 2016, sat in his office and spoke the words, “I need your help.”  I was scared.  Terrified really.  I had no idea how my life had gotten to this point, but I knew I needed to try everything humanly possible to make it right again.  I seen him twice to talk about everything and after his own assessments, he wanted to discuss medication.  I have an aversion to unnecessary medication, so I requested to see if I could do without it for now.  He was hesitant at first, but agreed as long as I didn’t take the option off the table.  I agreed.  I sought out counseling immediately and attended regular appointments.  It helped a lot, but wasn’t quite enough.  There was still something off.  I knew to start moving forward, I need to cut my insurance claim and company loose.  They were a two ton weight, dragging me down.  I also knew there was a link missing in connecting the dots to the troubles I’ve had since the second of my surgeries.

So after having my thyroid levels checked for the 100th time, I started tracking my food and activity on a daily basis.  Two weeks ago, I finally told my doctor what I thought it was and he agreed.  I was sent to get my iron checked.  One week ago today, I received my long awaited answer – in the form of an iron supplement.  7 days later and I could kiss the man for FINALLY giving me what I have been begging and fighting for, for the last 3 years.  I feel like my old self again.  So much so, I spent 5 minutes jumping around on my bed earlier!  I’ve laughed until I cried, have eaten an entire large pizza (over a few days!), and even enjoyed reading again.  I have met with various people at MUN to map out things going forward and am anxiously awaiting my return to school.

Although things aren’t all rosy, and Vic is still off work (I left my job with support from my doctor), I feel a renewed sense of hope for the future.  I’m no longer terrified of the darkness, though I’m always conscious of myself in various situations.  That day I lay in wonder over how life would’ve been should my aunt still be here and I wasn’t – I was thankful for the man lying next to me.  Because it was his face; his love; that kept me hanging on.  That made me pick up the phone and make the appointment.  That made me reach out and ask for help.  Because our life and our love is worth fighting for.  It’s worth pushing through the darkness, inch by inch for.  Because I get to live each and every day with my best friend and together, we’ll get through anything.


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