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Thyroid-less

On Dec 21st 2015 I conquered one of the scariest things I have had to do. I underwent a total thyroidectomy. What is a thyroidectomy? It is a surgery to remove my entire thyroid. Your thyroid sits at the base of your neck. To do a thyroidectomy they would have to gently move my vocal chords and cut out my thyroid.Needless to say, I was terrified. My surgery was scheduled for 1:30pm, and I had to be at the hospital at noon. As with any surgery you have to fast the night before. No liquids or food after midnight. For me, the food was no issues, however, no liquids was not fun! I live on coffee. Ok, I lied, I LOVE my coffee! Needless to say, when we arrived at the hospital I was tired and pretty thirsty! My nerves were a wreck and I was scared. I got checked in, and they got a I.V going…The I.V insertion was likely my only I’m brave point throughout the whole ordeal. She was about to inject lidocane before inserting the I.V. I asked why, she said to numb the area because I.V needles are pretty big. I’ve had many I.V’s before (I’ve had 4 kids after all) and never had lidocane before hand. First time I had lidocaine was during my biopsy. And it wasn’t plesant, that stuff burns. I asked her to just do the I.V and not use the lidocaine. My surgeon, Dr.Jabiev was running a little late with his last case so we were waiting a bit. Around 2:30 he came in and signed my neck. I also had met one of the two anesteaologist. The first one I met, he didn’t seem too friendly. He was very soft spoken and really did not do anything to make me feel at ease. We had explained to him the last time I was under general anesteshia (i had knee surgery when I was 10) I ended up throwing up afterwards. I had also mentioned this little bit during my pre op phone interview. Around 3 the 2nd anesthesiologist came in with the surgerical nurse. It was go time. They were going to give me a “cocktail” right before wheeling me to the operation room to help calm me down. I liked this anesthesiologist.He was nice, and funny and put me at ease. I kept thinking “there is no way the meds are going to hit me before we get to the operating room.If i see that room I’m going to panic.” That wasn’t the case. I don’t know what they gave me but it hit quick. According to my mother and husband I kept saying I felt drunk! I don’t remember the ride to the operating room at all. All I remember is seeing the big surgical lights above me and yellow tile on the wall. That was it.The surgery took 3 hours- he was finished around 6pm.I don’t remember being in recovery, or being moved to another building.My first coherent memory was after midnight. I was not feeling good at all. I had major sore calfs (they couldn’t figure out why), My throat was raw (from the breathing tube) and I felt horribly sick to my stomach….that horribly sick to my stomach ended up with a big mess. I felt so bad for my nurses. Let me tell you though, with a neck wound and throwing up- it was not pleasant. But my stomach felt better afterwards!!!Apparently I am one of the few no matter how much anti nausea medications they pump in, have post operative vomiting. I guess I don’t handle anesthesia very well. Overall besides not being able to speak above a whisper I was doing well.They were managing my pain really well. I was able to see my surgeon the next morning. My calcium levels were good and was given the ok to go home!

I am almost 2 weeks post op now and I am doing well. I lose my voice every now and again, and I am tired, a lot. My body is relying solely on synthetic hormones to regulate my metabolism, heart rate, body temp etc. Think of it this way, your car takes 93 octane gas to run in top performance…You put in 83 octane. It wont run in its top proformance. My hormones are like that, but more like 80 octane.I see my surgeon on Tuesday to get find out the staging of the cancer. I wont see my endo until the 15th. Once I see my endo I will find out about radiation.

Sorry there are not more pictures, I had fully intended to do photos in recovery…however I was not anticipating being out of it or so long!

I want to thank everyone that has sent cards, made donations, texted me, and emailed me. It meant a lot.

Tomorrow,I celebrate my 33rd birthday, with a positive outlook!

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Surgery Date

I got the call from my surgeons office today. I will be having surgery to remove my entire thyroid Dec 21st. Because my surgeon is one of the very few specialist in the area this is the only time they can fit me in. Originally my surgeon told me beginning of Dec. His assistant said he really doesn’t handle his schedule she does. On a positive note, this will allow me to finish this semesters courses on time. *phew* and it will allow me recovery time without worrying about my grades slipping because we go on winter vacation until the end of January. So right now, graduation is going right on track. However, the downside to surgery on Dec 21st, its 4 days before Christmas. I should only have to stay in the hospital 24 hours, pending no complications and my calcium levels are ok. I will explain that really quick. Behind our thyroid are 4 parathyroid glands. Sometimes they are attached to your thyroid sometimes they are not. They control calcium absorption in your blood. The slightest damage to these in surgery, or even remove causes them to not absorb calcium efficiently. After surgery if my calcium levels are not in dangerous range, I will be able to leave and recover at home 24hrs post op. Another downside, all funds between now and surgery will have to be saved to cover my time off from my normal everyday job and my husbands full time job so he can care for me. Instead of saving and spending money on our four kids for Christmas it will go to cover bills and lost wages. My mother has started a go fund me to help alleviate some of the burden. We are currently at $595 which is absolutely amazing.

Even if you cannot donate, please take the time to share the link. It means just as much <3

Erika’s Fight    <—-LINK

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Battle Ready

No one really expects to hear “you have cancer.” Well at least I didn’t. But Nov 2nd thats exactly what happened.I have Papillary Carcinoma of the Thyroid. Im in the prime of my life. I have so many great things going for me! I have 4 beautiful children, I’m graduating college this spring cum laude and with PTK honors. I have a thriving business, and I am helping market another business. So being thrown the curve ball cancer, just was not in my game plan. As a photographer, my camera is my format. It is my means to show the beauty I see in the world. So what better way than to process what I am going through, and to maybe help others than documenting it with my camera, through my eyes. My fears, my happy moments, my sick moments, and my brave moments. For those of you who do not know my story, or are reading it for the first time I will give a quick run down.

In Sept I went to get a physical for work. The doctor performing the physical had noticed a lump in my thyroid. I never noticed it. But then again, how often did I touch my neck, never. I thought nothing of it, I was like I probably have a under active thyroid. Many of you know I suffer from major fatigue. It has been an on going, and relatively recently, getting worse problem for me. However, I keep a crazy busy schedule. I secured a PCP (I did not have one because my ins just switched over). My PCP ordered blood work. We both were so sure it would come back my thyroid was under active which would cause the nodule. Results came back- my levels were fine. I was shocked. The next step was to do a ultrasound of my thyroid. Well that came back with some major red flags, and I learned I have more than 1 nodule. I had 2 large ones and 1 smaller one on my left side, and 2 small ones on my right side. The tech told me that was good- that meant the chances of it being cancer was less. Which- turns out is a complete myth. So I left thinking ok, well its just buildup or tissue. Doctor calls me- I need a Fine Needle Aspiration Biopsy. This scared me. Im not going to lie, I was more scared of the biopsy than the thought of cancer (I really thought I did not have cancer- so it was fair to have this thought process). Its well know in my family and friends that I do not handle medical procedures very well. I suffer from anxiety (as well as PTSD, depression but thats for another time). Let me tell you, my anxiety hit the roof when I was told I would have to do a biopsy. I had to get a needle stuck into my THROAT. No Thank you! But I did not have a choice. I figured ok, I can handle one stick. They numb you I can do it. My prep talk lasted until I got into the procedure room. They told me my mother in law would have to leave. I burst into tears. Im a big baby, Ill admit it. So they numbed my throat, which let me tell you, lidocaine shots hurt! The doctor did the first pass and I felt it. It hurt. I then learned I had to do this 5 more times! I felt the 2nd pass as well so he administered more lidocaine. which hurt again. I didn’t feel the last 4 passes, which I am thankful for. I was shaking so bad, it shook my bed. I thought ok, this is the worst of it, I’m done. Yeah destiny has a way of messing with you. I was told it would be 2 business days for the results. Those 2 business days seemed like an eternity. At 5 pm on Friday I called my doctors office to see if they were in. They were not. I was frustrated. I would have to go the who weekend with this over my head. Im at work so I went back to doing whatever it was I was doing and my phone rang. It was my doctors office. The nurse looked in the system one last time to see if they were in because she felt bad. They were in. She said they hadn’t been transcribed yet. I had cancer. She didn’t want to tell me. She told me to wait until I spoke to the doctor on Monday. I use Monday’s date as my official day since he’s my doctor. After speaking with my doctor he told me he would set up the appointment with the specialist and I would hear back. An hour later my nurse calls I am to see the surgeon on Thursday (today). Well that was fast. I still haven’t even processed the fact I have cancer yet. Which leads us to today. I am seeing Dr.Jabiev at Baystate. He specializes in thyroid surgery. He does 150-200 a year. That is a lot. I trust his expertise and he’s overall a very nice guy!

Where I stand now: I am to have a total thyroidectomy. Meaning- they will be removing my entire thyroid. They will also be removing my cervical lymph nodes as he is pretty sure my cancer has spread to them. He checked my lymph node near my ear and said it was suspicious but will leave it for now. Because of the size of my nodule (was 2.7 cm in sept, but measured 3cm today) I have had this cancer for a long time. So I wish I could say “hey we caught it early” I cannot. I will be having surgery in the beginning of December, I will find out the set date next week after they run everything through my insurance. After my surgery- which will not be pleasant I will have to do radioactive iodine treatment. Also known as RAI. I will become radioactive and will have to stay in isolation at the hospital for a few days. Once I leave the hospital I will have to stay somewhere other than my house for another few days because I will still be radioactive and my doctor does not want to put my children at risk. Before I do RAI I will have to do a LID diet. LID is a low iodine diet. After my radioactive vacation I will get a full body scan to see if and where exactly the cancer has spread. Because I have had this cancer for not a few months, but at least a few years, I am at a high risk of it metastasizing to my lungs and bones. If it has spread there will be treatments to be determined at that point.

 

Ive already been told by a few nurses that “at least its the good cancer.” or “you got the better one of the cancers”. Cancer is cancer. My battle will be just as enduring, just as scary, just as important as someone with a different form of cancer. By saying those things, you minimize what myself, and other cancer fighters go through. I will endure a scary surgery, and radiation,sickness,brain fog,fatigue,and a beautiful scar on my throat. I will also have to do annual blood tests, body scans and ultrasounds as well as rely on medication-FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE. I will also have to worry about reoccurrence. Papillary Carcinoma has a high rate of reoccurrence. So while it might seem like all is well and good, I will have to worry about it coming back. Because there is no such thing as “Cancer Free” after a diagnosis. This will also affect my children. Al be it I hope in a good way because I am a fighter. Many of you have asked if there was a way you can help. Fundraising is being set up. I earn more than half the income in our family. I will need to take work off for surgery, recovery, and my treatments. My husband will also have to take work off to help take care of me. We also have 4 kids to take care of. Not to mention, this is all happening right before Christmas. I will update everyone when the details are given to me.

I can tell you this. I will graduate this spring. I will walk across that stage and get my degree, even if I have to be in a bubble. I have cancer, cancer does not have me.

This is my journey, this is my battle, this is my story through my eyes.

Fight Like A Girl!

 

XO Erika

 

 

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Yay!

As many of you know, last year I had lost my entire website! Finally, after months of putting it off I have things back up in running! Currently the contact me page is not set up, but that will be done shortly! Thank you dearly to my friend Alex for assisting me in getting this up again! Enjoy!

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