Friday, February 26, 2016

About that thyroid...

So back on Oct. 1 I had surgery to take out half the thyroid, a procedure also called a lobectomy, because there was a not-so-nice nodule whose DNA sequencing indicated a somatic mutation (KRAS N61 if memory serves me), which is not great.

Let's back up to last summer: Two fine needle biopsy visits at first weren't enough to call it the big C. This procedure to me hurt like a motherfucker: imagine a long ass needle plunging into your throat as the doctor probes around to draw the cells AND does it four times per visit getting "flash" (which means it catches the sample right). So, with the cells being questionable again they sent this forward for DNA sequencing, which is a relatively new procedure in the scheme of diagnostics. It's for special cases where they're suspicious. Behind the scenes, hospitals have to haggle with insurers to cover what would otherwise cost someone $8k out of pocket, and I'm very grateful that I had good insurance at the time (even with it I busted through my max deductible)!

So they operated, got the thing out, sliced and diced it for study and indeed it was cancer. But it was all contained--the lab report is pretty unappetizing. At this stage, the surgeon said that I could heal up and he could take out the other side to be safe (so that it doesn't reoccur) or leave it be and do checkups/imaging periodically. I was on the latter squad: no more surgery, please. The hospital tumor board concurred (yes, hospitals surgical teams actually meet and recap your damned tumors and have peer discussions on next steps - who knew?) But a bummer happened in my road to recovery. I ended up with surgically induced hypothyroidism. The good news is it's a pill you take at the same time each day on an empty stomach and don't fuck it up and the sun begins to shine again.

Let me tell you how untreated clinical hypothyroidsim felt/feels: like you're trapped in the body of a corpse. What happened to my energy? What happened to my swim speed that was getting so good? What happened to my WILL...to do anything? Why do my joints ache? Why does it feel like I have a hangover when I didn't even drink? Brain fog, pain behind my eyes, weight gain--like vast and sudden, sadness, and sudden carpal tunnel pain where I once had an injury. Sure as shit, my TSH was on a trajectory that I'd never experienced and the endo put me on Levothyroxine, at first way too low a dose. A month later after labs showed slow progress, we upped the dose. I started to feel human again five months roughly from surgery!

Funny thing: I pulled up 8 years of my hospital blood work and could see that my thyroid TSH was on the up-creep (which can happen with age anyhow). My mom was hypothyroid from about her mid 30s, many of those years undiagnosed and it was a tough road til they got her meds right. And still, it's a moving target always! You have to swing by for labs every few months to see what the levels are looking like and tweak dosage accordingly. I'll take that over feeling like shit.

The other thing I did was make some tough choices about what I could handle energy-wise. The two-to-three-hour commute I'd put in on top of days at the office for the past nearly five years were draining. Physically and mentally. I chose to CHILL OUT on the hours and subsequent income and get my health fully back. It's been a sacrifice, but well worth it. Commuting is a piece of cake if your office is right downtown off the boat, but if you actually have to get THROUGH town, say goodbye to any spare time.

Lesson: if things don't feel right, PUSH to get a doctor who will listen to you. It's how we got to the tumor in the first place, then the hypothyroidism treatment. All is well, and I'm back in the swim.

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