Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Repetition, Recognition, and Limitations

Part of being a cancer patient, especially with a lot of recurrence, you get sort of used to doing things again, and again, and again, and again. Tests, exams, blood work, doctor appointments, arguing w/ the insurance company, surgeries, radiation, hearing bad news, hearing decent news, hearing hopeful news, repeating said news to family, figuring out the best way to repeat news to friends. Stop. Repeat.

Maybe that's why repeating other life events just seems... natural... to me now. I'm repeating the Bar exam, I'm repeating my job search... I've been comparing my life to limbo a lot, but now that I think about it... it's a lot more like repeat. Now I'm sure it can't stay like this... but for right now, I'm getting to so everything again.

While I started Bar prep classes again yesterday... its actually the job interview I had yesterday that sort of set off this particular post. I wasn't planning on applying for any jobs right now. My classes are at night, the Bar is at the end of February. Obviously, I'm going to spend most every waking minute cramming. So the idea of working isn't particularly high on my list of objectives right now. But then a friend of mine said someone told him about a position working for a congressman, and he wanted to pass my resume along, and it just sounded really cool. And so, I took on my 7th ( I think) interview.

I mean it had it's downfalls... no pay... a year long commitment... really bad pay. But it was a step in the door for something I would be interested in doing. So I went to the interview, she liked me, said I was way overqualified for the job, then asked if I really thought I could juggle studying for the bar and working full time. A recent lawyer herself... I had to be honest... as much as I wanted the job it meant risking another failure, and she understood completely. I would basically be a glorified secretary for a year... it was a step forward but a massive leap back. She also knew that it would be a buffer position for me. Something I would just want to do to fill in until I got my license. She basically said all the things I've considered when looking for in between jobs. And once we got that out in the air, we just chatted like new friends comparing our lives and just... talking.

Mom, in her ever supportive role, reacted by telling me how she worked full time, while raising me, pulling 16 credits, and a 3.8 GPA and still found time to study somewhere in between. I hate, hate, hate, hate, when she compares her life to mine. I appreciate that it was hard for her... I was there... There's about 50 million perfectly true responses I could make to her but choose not to. And even now, it sounds a little too contemptuous to write out. So I'm just going to say I know it was hard for her... but it was a significantly different situation. She went on to even be like, "I wonder if I was a good mother then," and "I wonder how we kept it together then." My response was, " I wasn't a heathen wild teenager." Which basically meant I took care of myself, the house, and kept things working. It wasn't particularly hard... sort of just came naturally to be very prudent and responsible because I could easily see things going all to hell if I wasn't. A remarkably common theme when looking at how I've dealt with the whole cancer bit.

Sorry, I'm sort of pointlessly rambling here. Basically I just don't think she ever looked at the things I was doing to keep things going. Just like now she doesn't look at what I'm dealing with; she only knows how to see what she's doing or has done.

So... I don't want to say I didn't get the job. I think if I had committed she would have taken me in a heartbeat... But I was honest. I was actually honest about what I thought my limitations were. A first for me. And so we agreed that come March, when I'm done w/ the Bar, I'm to give her a call and see if anything is open.

I think for the first time in my life I am afraid to see where my limitations actually are. I've spent a lot of time pushing myself to the limits. Taking on too much work. Trying to do too much in life. And it's been absolutely fantastic. But I'm afraid that right now, if I push it and cross the line... I'll be stuck here forever. This is new to me. Even before cancer, I tried to push what I could handle (of course in a responsible and prudent over-achiever manner... not a crazy partier sense). Threats to my physical life sort of magnified that attitude. But now... its my long-term life that's threatened.

Am I growing up? Am I just growing tired? Is this just a phase? I don't know... but I know its what I need to do.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Please Don't Spam Me

I'm a little irritated that I should need to go and post this, but its become enough of an annoyance that I have to say something. Don't spam my comments. I have comment monitoring on, so sending comments entirely in other languages, or w/ links to UK Escorts, are never ever ever going to go up, and they just waste my time.

My apologies to legitimate readers.

Friday, December 11, 2009

60+ Christmas Cards

I went to a funeral tonight. I am.... not so good with funerals. I avoid thinking about the person. I fuss about what to wear. And I search for exits like I run the risk of being trapped there. I feel awkward in churches now. Especially Catholic churches, where I know all the words to all the songs, and can't help but compulsively sing along. Tonight, as most people in attendance got up to receive communion I watched as my step-grandmother got up, but my Aunt, her husband, their two children, my parents, me, and my uncle and his wife... didn't move. And it was a relief b/c I was afraid of being the black sheep that wouldn't get up. I know I can go through all the movements, but really my heart just isn't in my religion anymore. But that's not what this post is about... it was just merely an observation.

There was well over 200 people in attendance at the funeral. Pat had a way of making every individual person feel like they were her best friend in the world. It's hard not to shed a tear for someone like that. But it also makes you think a lot about who would show up at your funeral.

Death doesn't consume my every waking moment quite the way it did when I first heard the word cancer. I think in general, even though thyca isn't all that deadly... its still the "c" word; it just triggers thoughts about what comes next, and what I would like to have done.

Funerals are tricky. I know that I want everything planned out before hand. I don't want a loved one guessing what I would and wouldn't want. I like old traditions. Like coins over the eyse to pay the ferry... I think that's pretty neat. But I believe I'd want to be cremated. I would donate everything possible to medical stuff. Even my retinas, if they are able to use them. Science has kept me alive this long, and in reality thanks to science I'm essentially living on borrowed time. It's good to give back.

I wouldn't want a big Catholic mass... A little awkward with how many non Catholics, or even Christians I have as friends. Maybe just a reception hall. I don't even know if I want my ashes there. I do know that if I did have some sort of service, I would want the recessional to be a New Orleans style funeral march... Pat chose "I feel good"... The immediate change in pace made almost everyone cry.

I would want to film my own message. Say my goodbyes. I would set up a slide show. I know a handful of songs I love: Beatles, "In my life"... the Cure, "Please remember me"... and Violent Femmes "Sweet World of Angels"... plus a few up beat songs. And I would write letters, if I had the time, to those that would need them.

But sitting in the church tonight, I couldn't help but wonder who would come to my funeral? Think of which friends would be devastated... who would help with arrangements... tonight, my mom arranged someone to do the flowers, and my step-dad delivered all the alcohol to the reception. All for his mom's best friend. Would someone do that for me?

How many lives have I really touched? How many enough so that they would want to say their farewells? How loved am I really? I'm not good at telling people or showing people how much I care. I'm emotionally reserved... or defunct... in that area. But I consider a lot of people to be much closer friends to me than they might know. I'm not great at keeping up communication, but I do it more than a lot of people. And I have little ways of showing that I care. Like Christmas Cards.

This year, I've already written out more than 60 Christmas cards. They go to friends and family. To random people I've met during my travels. To old friends I want to reconnect to. To old bosses, and doctors, and a couple of teachers that have affected my life. At first I questioned my motives. Am I just shallowly filling out cards? I question my motives on a regular basis, if you can't tell. I can't help but wonder if I'm really as genuine as I want to be. But for the cards... its my way of showing these people that they have impacted my life in some small way. Just enough to keep me thinking about them... even if I don't say so on a normal basis. I would like to think that has some sort of impact on people. Even if i can't write a note in every single card... just the idea that your being thought of or remembered... thats a good feeling.

And its only something that's gotten worse since i got cancer. I'm afraid of being forgotten. I want people to remember me. And I want them to know I remember them.

So do I think that several hundred people will show up to my funeral if i died tomorrow? I don't know... maybe. I'd like to believe that all these people, that I write my cards to, they have been impacted by me in the same small way as they have me. And there is a certain satisfaction with that.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Dealing with Cancer

Today, I am going to direct you over to CancerDirectory.com, where you can see my post, "Have you cried at all?"

They asked me to write about facing or dealing with cancer. It was a pretty fun little assignment, and like most outside ideas, got me thinking about a whole schlew of things I hadn't thought about in a while.

While you are there, I recommend perusing the site a bit. Rather than being another cancer support network, its more like an information hub. It brings together the latest in cancer news and events, reviews support sites and books, showcases bloggers, has a physican's directory, and more.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Thyoliday Blues and Truths


Thyroid diseases and thyroid cancers are fun, right? Unfortunately not; they deeply affect us as patients and our families, indelibly leaving an imprint on our minds, bodies and souls. None of it is easy. If we’re going to bring awareness to this disease, we have to come together as a family. Our collective voices have the power to invoke change. Because the holidays are a time of celebration with the people we love and a time to reflect, what better way to ignite change, and move our stories forward, oh and have a laugh along the way, than to connect with each other?


1) Have the holidays and your experience of them changed since you've been diagnosed?

I was about to say no to this question when I was suddenly smacked by the realization that one of the biggest changes in holiday's is directly related to the thyca. My having cancer got my parents to talk to one another. Not just talk, they've become friends... friendly even. It's weird. Its weird to have my dad show up to holiday things w/ my mom and step dad, and step dad's family. It's weird to have my parents coordinate things without yelling or using me to play telephone. I don't think I watched them interact this much since we moved to the US when I was 5. They did the split up/get back together thing from 6-9th grade, and then that was it. Then I went in for surgery, parents sat on opposite sides of the waiting room forcing me to wander back and forth and chose who to sit next to, then I wake up post surgery to them laughing and making jokes over me. I thought i must have been on some good morphine. So yeah, in that respect, cancer changed everything for my holidays.

2) What is your favorite holiday food/dish from childhood? What is your favorite dish now? (Did you have to change your diet at all since being diagnosed?)

Butter cookies... and still butter cookies. My diet changes on regular basis. On the LID, obviously that's a change. Back in the day, once i got off the LID I basically yo yo'd the other way... F*k salads... and lettuce... evil green leafy plants. But then just trying regular dieting. Trying to figure out how not to eat soy or walnuts b/c it interferes with the thyroid meds in ways i'll never understand. Man I want some butter cookies....

3) Off the top of your head, is there one comment from friends or family that sticks out in your mind as a what-were-they-thinking kind of thing that brought your disease front and center for everyone at the holiday function to hear about?

I think I get the 20 questions at every function. Or worse, the unsolicited advice. But this isn't just based on the cancer, and there hasn't been anything front and center that sticks out.

4) How do you get through the stress of the holidays, paired with a disease? What are your coping strategies?

Butter cookies

5) Do you feel the need to enlighten and educate your loved ones about your disease when you get together for holidays, as people are often curious about our illnesses? If so, how do you educate them?

No. I avoided educating my family like the plague. It goes back to the 20 questions bit. They tend not to be good listeners, nor perceptive ones. Like when I change my tone, and stop eye contact as to say, "and we're done talking"... I have a strange family dynamic like that. No one really wants to hear what I have to say, they just want everything to be ok, and voice their advice on how they would handle things and criticize what they think I do wrong.

6) Has your disease ever showed up at the wrong time on a holiday and ruined the day or moment?

Senior year of college spring break, officially told i had cancer, surgery w/in the week. College graduation, just started LID. Every summer break except this year since 2005 begins with either surgery or a round of radiation (be it ablation or dosimetry)... Last year, Christmas break... I had a tube running through my eye to my nose... Lots of antibiotics and glasses for christmas... and new years... I've also skipped a few spring breaks to do my thyrogen stimulated stuff...

I just want to point out here, when i first read these questions, I really didn't think I had anything to say. I think I had actually blocked out all of this stuff, like family reactions, the connection to holidays... maybe it was just selective brain fog...

7) Have you thought about submitting a letter to Dear Thyroid? If so, would your letter be a love letter or a hate letter? Would it be to your thyroid or from your thyroid?

I submitted a letter a few months ago, from me to my thyroid... definitely a hate letter. A bitter angry break-up hate letter. I loved it. I fueled it with about 4-5 years of anger and rage. I'm now totally stumped about another letter as I'm pretty sure I covered everything possible the first time. But I'm thinking if I do it again it'll be from my zombie thyroid... seeing as my level of recurrence is remarkably like sequels to bad horror movies. "yes there were just a few cells left, totally undetectable, but they mutated and took over the world... aaaaaaaaahhhh"

8) If you could tell the world one thing about thyroid disease (or thyroid cancer) that you feel they don’t understand, what would it be?

Removing an entire thyroid is not a cure for thyroid cancer... its a treatment... a painful life altering treatment... even radiation is not a cure for thyroid cancer... it does not go in and kill cancer... it goes in and kills thyroid cells, which presumably have cancer.

9) What is the greatest misconception regarding thyroid disease and thyroid cancer?

I have no idea... probably that it's an easy cancer to have, the best cancer you can get... doctors that say this should be smacked, or at least glared at... what should be said is that this is the cancer that is least likely to kill you and that it is treatable... don't spin it to sound like a walk in the park. Its misleading.

10) What is the stupidest thing someone has said to you regarding your illness that, to this day, still makes you laugh or makes you angry?

This happened while carving pumpkins for Halloween this year. I can't remember exactly what I was doing but my livestrong bracelet just snapped. One of my friends just blurted, "looks like cancer won." Mind you, if you read my blog, you should know by now that i can take and throw back some pretty bad cancer jokes, but for whatever reason that actually just hit me like a brick.

And seeing as I don't want to end on that story, I'll end on a more amusing one. I was visiting some friends up north and we were at a Renaissance fair, along with some of their friends that I didn't know. As we're leaving there's this giant... and my friends' friend, was like, bet he has a thyroid problem. My friend Andrew went on an instinctive hug/back pat, "i'm so sorry," ... "dude, not cool"... while i meanwhile was cracking up.

Dear Thyroid is a literary thyroid support community and blog. Thyroid patients are invited to submit Dear Thyroid letters; love letters and hate letters, among other thyroid literary things, such as Thyrants, Thygraphs, Thykus, Thyetry and Thysongs, etc. Our goals are for all of us as a community of patients to connect with each other and our diseases, and to bring awareness to thyroid diseases and thyroid cancers, we need and deserve a face and a voice. For our non-literary crew, we have monthly Flickr pools. Recently, we launched Dear Thyroid Local Meet Ups for offline support. Dear Thyroid Forums are forthcoming in December.

Friday, December 4, 2009

The Least Common Denominator of Death and Illness

When I first wrote this post on Friday afternoon, things were different. Rather than change the original post, I decided to just write this bit at the beginning. Our close family friend, Pat Stetic lost her battle against cancer tonight. All of my thoughts go out to her and her family. RIP Pup, you will missed.


Being told I have cancer, again, and again, and again has sort of worn down my reaction to the news... at least my initial reaction.

But in a scary new way its started happening when I'm told something is wrong w/ a friend/family member. I like to believe I'm not really cold. And I care, I really do care, and I think about it... but I just seem to be lacking the emotional response. And I'm thinking that it might have something to do with just how bombarded I have been lately with bad news.

I guess it started w/ my aunt dying in May. Then my cousin on my dad's side committed suicide in October. It was discovered that my mom's dad had two aneurysm. He went to have surgery on the one, but it became a more complicated and invasive surgery because he has so much tar built up in his system that they couldn't get to it. He was in the hospital for a week over Thanksgiving. My step dad's mom got three bad reports in one day. Her cousin, a woman who I networked with about a year ago in an attempt to get a job, was diagnosed w/ a rare cancer and given a week to live. A close friend, and my neighbor that I've shared drinks with caught a lung disease and died w/in the week. And a very close family friend, who I have been close with as well, took a turn for the worse in her fight against cancer. We were told just before thanksgiving that she was only expected to live another day or two... she's still hanging on. That day, my step-dad's mom ended up in the hospital w/ crushed vertibra. She came home, and a week later was back w/ blood clots and pneumonia just in time to spend Thanksgiving there. The brother of my cousin who died ended up in a major car accident, but is doing better. But then his dad had a heart attack last friday, after thanksgiving; thankfully he is back in good health this week. Then today one of my friends informed us that her husband was just diagnosed with testicular cancer.

I'm emotionally numb at this point. My mom, she can cry at a drop of a dime and openly show how distraught and attached to people she is. I can't. I don't know why. I think my reaction emotions are all mental. I tend to think and dwell on these things. For the last bit of news, my reaction was more of a "finally, someone I may actually be able to support and be helpful." It's also hard to know how to react because of how distant I really am from all these people. I've felt like a perpetual third wheel to all sides of the family for most of my life. Often, even telling me what's going on is sort of an afterthought.

I wish I could be closer to people, especially my family. It took me years to get back in touch with my dad's side of the family. He lost touch with them, there was a fallout between them and my mom over a bad joke. And I was the one left out, growing up with the knowledge that family can in fact cut you out. Mom's side of the family isn't much better. I don't think anyone has made any attempt at interacting with me as an adult... maybe my aunt a little bit. But no one ever calls me just to talk or anything. I just don't feel like I have a relationship with any of them. Love them, care about them... but not attached. And my step dad's family... well, closest thing I've known to having extended family around, but i came into the family at about 13... and will always sort of be the random step child.

Thursday, December 3, 2009


Today I opened gmail, and typed in "cancer" only to see a million and one different e-mails that have been piling up since August. After the bar exam, I just haven't been keeping up with very much of anything other than job searching... and attempts at dating that went down in flaming glory (something I need to get around to writing about). Part of this I've mentioned in bits and pieces over the past few months as I'm afraid I was getting too wrapped up in the cancer stuff... the other part is, well... I get yelled at if I spend too much time on the computer at home. I'm 26, and I get scolded. Something about how I should be pounding the pavement and going law firm to law firm soliciting myself. I hope there are other lawyers or law students out there reading this b/c the reaction I've gotten when I told lawyers this is something along the lines of... "hahahaha only if we can charge you for showing up on our time." And the last part of this is that I'm a little bit lazy/a gemini w/ a relatively short attention span. The mere fact that I've been fairly consistent at blogging for about a year now floors me.

But, now I'm back in the library, where I will find a million and one ways to actually avoid studying.

Today, was going over the backlog of cancer e-mails. First, I just went through and deleted all the Planet Cancer comments... I always read them, just never delete them. Then I worked my way backwards. There's a lot of up and coming health sites out there looking for bloggers, and ways to advertise. Wellsphere, Everydayhealth, Navigating Cancer, cancer physician's data base... Do I really want to participate in all of them? Do I really want to post links and publicize them to you all? Are you other health bloggers also being inundated with these e-mails?

I mean I love the ego stroke. I love people telling me that they enjoy my blog, find it inspiring, think I have a unique outlook, etc. etc. But I have no idea how much of these are just form letters w/ my name and blog pasted in. So I've been going through these sites, and everything has its own little appeal. A lot of repetition. Then it occurred to me that people searching for info on their different diseases and things all end up in different places. Some sites might appeal to some people more than others. And for me, to get the blog noticed that little bit more, and to provide a good hub for thyca information, I should just get myself out there as much as possible. How else would my blog take over the world?

One of the more interesting requests I got was for a book. They asked if I wanted to review an early edition, or to do a book giveaway on the blog. I thought that was pretty cool, but I'm not big on reading health books. I know how weird that must sound considering the original idea for this blog, and how many other blogs I read... but books are my special place. I know going to different legal conventions and things, people talk about all these books they've read on international affairs and things, and they ask me what I think, and I look at them and say something along the lines of, "the last book dealing w/ international affairs that I read for pleasure was Jingo by terry pratchett." I am working on reading "Everything Changes"... It sits next to my bed in a pile with "An ordinary Man", "Dracula", and "Pride Prejudice and Zombies"... my Pratchett book of the month tends to be in my purse. So I think it's a cool idea, and I'm totally flattered by the offer, and maybe if I didn't read at a snails pace I'd seriously consider it, but right now... book reviews just aren't my thing.

So to wrap it all up: If you have sent me an e-mail that I never responded to, I'm sorry. If you still havent' gotten a response by the time you've read this, I've managed to carelessly delete it, and you should e-mail me again. I'm in the library everyday, so I'll be back to being responsive. If you want to ask me to blog on your site or to put up a link, I'm a sucker for that kind of stuff (though I'm not just posting every link, I do try to maintain some quality control).

Here I go jumping back into the blogosphere... next up, I'll be posting my Thyoliday Blues and Truths for Dear Thyroid on Sunday 8-)