The Gift That Keeps On Giving

It has been a while since I posted!  Life has been busy, in an excellent way.  I will start with a family update and move into the meat of the post.

We had a wonderful holiday season.  We were able to spend Thanksgiving in Arkansas with family.  All of the Carlisle side was together for the first time in many years.  Since the last time we were all in the same town, two babies were born.  We spent a long weekend with both sides of the family and felt renewed when we got home.  Christmas was spent just the five of us at home.  Jordan was able to be here for a few days and it was wonderful having all my babies sleeping under our roof!  The new year arrived bringing hope for a better 2022 and so far, so good.  Granted we’re only 10 days in, I will take it!

My job at the church changed as my “boss” went off on new adventures.  If you know her, you know she was more than a boss.  She was a Godly friend who blessed me  in way too many ways to count.  Working with her was absolutely a perk of the job.  I miss her and her family dearly, but distance can’t stop the friendship we have!  Thanks to her leaving, I’m busier at work.  It’s been fun, but different.  We are all being reminded just how much she did and how much of an impact she had!  With all that said, I still absolutely LOVE my job.  I know i’m where God wants me and I look forward to all that lays ahead!

Now, I get to the cancer update.  The title gives a bit of a glimpse into everything I am about to share.  Since I haven’t posted in nearly four months a lot has happened.

I continue to take the monthly injection, Zoladex, to stop my ovaries from producing estrogen.  In addition to that I take a daily oral chemo pill, Letrozole.  These medications are hard on me.  I suffer pretty significant joint stiffness.  Sometimes it’s hard to stand up.  Once I’m up and start moving it usually improves, but the getting up and moving part can be challenging.  Due to this we had to get a new vehicle.  We had a car and standing up out of the car was a challenge.  Oftentimes painful.  We had wanted to convert to an SUV for some time and took this as our opportunity.  Having a car I can step out of is a game changer.  The heated seats are definitely an added bonus when my i’m aching!  My symptoms have improved over the last few months.  The doctor said they should and for many months I was doubtful.  Finally, after about seven months on the medication I have some relief of those symptoms.

I titled this, The Gift That Keeps on Giving, because of some things that have come to light in the last month.  I scheduled an annual exam at my gynecologist.  Dr. P. ran all the standard blood work and found that my thyroid levels were off.  They showed hyperactivity.  My thyroid was overproducing hormones.  She didn’t seem too concerned and said to follow up with my primary care for further testing.  Sometimes the numbers can be wrong and a second test would be needed to confirm.  I left with little concern.  I did not have a primary care doctor so I went to one that Dr. P. referred me to.  The appointment was scheduled for two weeks later, the week after Christmas.

In this two week period I started having significant elbow pain on my right side.  This is the side I had the mastectomy on, but I wasn’t sure if this was related to that.  The pain was at times a level 9.  I had no strength in my hands.  I couldn’t fully extend my arm.  It was uncomfortable.  Of course this happened over the holidays when getting an appointment with a doctor is almost impossible so I took Motrin and dealt with it.  Thankfully I was off work and school and could rest my arm.

The appointment with the primary care doctor came and we went through all my medical history, which takes much longer now.  I told her the primary reason I was there was for a recheck of my thyroid.  During his exam she noted that my heart rate was going 145.  Now if you know me, you know that’s not completely abnormal in a doctor’s office, but over the past year my white coat anxiety had not shown its face.  Through the entire cancer journey my heart rate at the doctor never went about about 115.  I could feel the effects of the racing heart.  My anxiety was off the charts.  I was not able to sit still.  I was breathing fast.  I told the doctor my anxiety history and explained that as soon as I was in the car my heart rate would slow.  And it did, but not back down to my normal resting rate of 90-95.  I should say that a hyperactive thyroid will cause a racing heart so the doctor felt fairly certain that when she ran the blood test again, it would be abnormal.  She put the orders in for the lab and we moved on.

I mentioned to her my arm.  I thought I had injured it in some way.  Tennis elbow or tendinitis.  I told her the pain I was feeling and she said, oh I knew immediately when I walked in the room you had lymphedema.  I was caught off guard, but not completely shocked.  I was told prior to my surgery that because lymph nodes would be removed, lymphedema was possible.  To explain, you have many lymph nodes throughout your body that serve a major role in eliminated waste and fighting infections.  They serve as a sort of filter.  Since I had two removed from under my arm, the lymphatic fluids cannot drain as easily.  Thus, fluid build up in the arm causing pain and discomfort.  My arm didn’t appear swollen to me, but to her it did.  I was told to get a compression sleeve that would go from shoulder to wrist and wear it as much as possible.  I did and it has seemed to help some.  If I don’t move it enough it still stiffens, but that could also be because of the afore mentioned mediations.

The next day my lab results came back and the numbers were far worse than two weeks prior.  I was referred to an endocrinologist as hyperthyroid cannot be treated by a primary care.

After seeing those test results and being referred to a new specialist I was upset.  Within a span of 24 hours I had two brand new diagnosis.  The lymphedema could directly be tied to the cancer treatment and the thyroid is more than likely thanks to the chemo and radiation.  There is a family history of hyperthyroidism, but we may never know what brought this on.

I cried.  I was so ready for 2022 to be my year of good health.  I was so ready to put all of the last 18 months of treatment behind me.  I was ready to forget 2020 and 2021, health wise, and start new.  Here is three days before the new year and bam, a new issue.  A new fight.  I went through feeling like, I don’t want to fight a new battle.  I felt like, wasn’t cancer enough?  I wallowed for a few days.  Honestly, I kind of still am, but I beat cancer.  I’m alive.  I can’t a thyroid.  I can handle some swelling.

I co-teach our 10th graders on Sunday mornings.  This past Sunday we were discussing doubt in our faith.  We talked about how everyone has it.  Even the people closest to Christ, the Disciples, had doubt.  Our story was when Jesus cured the young boy of evil spirits.  The father of the boy doubted that Jesus could heal his son, because the Disciples had not been able to.  Jesus questioned him about his doubt and, i’m paraphrasing here, Jesus said, I can remove these evil spirits, if you believe I can.  We then talked about Peter and his doubt.  How Jesus told him to step out of the boat and walk on water.  Peter didn’t hesitate, he stepped out and indeed walked on water, until he looked back at the raging sea and doubted.  Jesus then had to rescue Peter and told him, again paraphrasing, to trust and look Jesus in the eyes.  When we lose sight of God, we doubt.  We must always keep Him in our sight.

This past month, I doubted.  I questioned.   You hear people say all the time that they are going through something and go to church and the preacher’s sermon speaks directly to them.  Sunday’s lesson to our 10th graders spoke directly to me.  I had allowed myself to lose sight of God.  I had allowed myself to doubt.

Cancer will forever be a part of my story.  Cancer, i’m sure, will continue give gifts of new diagnosis or symptoms as i continue my journey. There will always be fears of the cancer coming back.  I will always have scars to remind me of what I have been through.  I will never get back to “normal”.   But I’m alive.  I’m thankful that I’m here to have these problems.  While  part of me wants to forget 2020 and 2021, they have shaped who am I today.  The larger part of me is actually thankful I went through it, because others will go through this  and I can help them.  2022 still carries new hope.  I don’t know what this year will bring.  All I know is that with God, my support system, and my medical team, I can handle it.

One final thing, a friend, Christy, I met along this journey shared a video that I would love all of you to see.  She’s survivor and she too has told her story.  She, along with myself, are continuing to tell the “after cancer story”.  I will share that video on my Facebook page and I would love for you to watch it.  While our stories aren’t exactly the same, the things she feels, I do too.  Christy and I have never met in person, but we are part of a support group on Facebook and her posts and videos have been such a blessing to me!

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