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Update on Health and Hag Sameach - Mo's Journal
October 17th, 2011
11:40 am

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Update on Health and Hag Sameach
A Happy Sukkot to all who are celebrating. I've had a lovely holiday so far. A lot of folks - online and off - have been asking how I'm doing, so I figured it's time for an update. I'll link to this from facebook, too.

As previously reported, I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer last spring. I don't remember exactly when; I know I started the whole diagnostic round of tests some time in March. I think I got a firm diagnosis in May. It was before the first week in June, anyway, because I remember talking to my brother Joel about it (he had some typically wry comments about it being a "good kind of cancer"), and he died on June 2. Between his death and that of a close friend of mine later in the month, I was focused on loss for a while. I knew I had cancer, and was doing everything I needed to about it, but it was definitely taking an emotional back seat for much of the summer.

I had some problems with insurance during the summer. This resulted in delays before getting treatment, which consisted of surgery at the end of August and Radioactive Iodine (RAI) treatment in September.

If you have to have cancer - and I guess I do - thyroid is truly a good kind to have. At my age and my stage of cancer it's 96% curable. The treatment is brief and much less painful and less debilitating than most other cancer treatments. Follow up is minimally invasive and long term prognosis is very good.

That said, it hasn't been a picnic. My thyroid hasn't been functioning properly for many months and I haven't had any thyroid at all since surgery, of course. I had to wait until after RAI treatment before I could take thyroid replacement meds, so I've gotten tireder and tireder over the period that I was waiting for surgery, and even more so after surgery. I'm relatively new in my current job (one year) so I didn't have a lot of sick leave and since RAI treatment requires isolation I knew I would have to take time then. So I came back to work three days after surgery instead of the three weeks the doctor recommended. And mostly I've just tried to work any day I can drag myself to the office, because I knew there would be some days I couldn't.

Thyroid meds typically take 3-6 months to get dosage right for complete replacement and I started 3 weeks ago, so I have a way to go. But I am truly starting to feel better every day. I'm still not well and because I'm feeling a little better each day I sometimes overestimate what I can do and end up overdoing, but it's just wonderful to feel on the mend and to notice my ability to do things I couldn't before.

My RAI treatment was the week before Rosh Hashanah, and I barely stood at all during services the first day of Rosh Hashanah. By the second day I was standing a little bit more and had an honor that required me to stand on the bimah for 15 minutes. I kind of leaned on a pillar for much of it, but I made it. The following week, on Erev Yom Kippur, I gave a Dvar , and was able to stand throughout it.

Then last week I had to go to the library on Tuesday. I hate going to the library on the days I work in the Bronx because it's a harder commute with more walking and more stairs than my Brooklyn days and, of course, that's harder with a bag full of heavy books. And it's particularly difficult on Tuesdays because that's my farm share day so I have several pounds of vegetables to carry home, too. But I had books due and when I tried to renew them online I found out some were on hold, so I had no choice. Anyway, I felt like it was a pain in the ass to go to the library last Tuesday. But a week before it would have been impossible, not a pain in the ass. I would just have to have paid the fines and denied the person the books s/he was waiting for, because I could not, physically, have done that. I also ushered at shul on both Thursday and Friday last week, which was probably too much, but I did it.

So I'm definitely improving. I am so thankful to all the friends and family who have been incredibly kind to me throughout a difficult period. I certainly hope I've thanked everyone individually but I feel inadequate to the task of conveying just how grateful I am or of figuring out how ever to repay all the generosity and kindness. I have a house full of books and movies that people have given or lent me; I've got so many Fresh Direct gift certificates that for months I can order food any time I'm not well enough to shop; I've received wonderful homemade meals and fruit baskets and gifts of all kinds and cards and phone calls and joke gifts and just an outpouring of love and kindness from friends and family near and far.


I have been so bowled over by all of this. I could never have anticipated this and feel completely blessed in the friends and family I have. I opened up one gift a couple of weeks ago and started crying and Zara asked me what's wrong. I told her nothing was wrong and showed her the gift. She asked, "Why do you always cry when people are nice to you?" I don't really have an answer to that, but there have been a lot of happy tears around my house lately.

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From:davidfcooper
Date:October 17th, 2011 03:59 pm (UTC)
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Happy tears are better than the opposite. It was really good to see you ushering at shul last week. Does pushing yourself and testing the limits of your endurance help your MDs determine the correct dosage for your thyroid replacement meds?
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From:mofic
Date:October 17th, 2011 04:27 pm (UTC)
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Thanks, David. That's an interesting question about activity and dosage but I don't think so, at least at this point. I think for now they're going to go by blood tests, at least until I am at a dosage where I'm in the normal range. I do hear from some thyroid cancer survivors that where you need to be within the normal range to feel good varies from person to person, but I'm not at the point where that would be the case yet.

Did you get my email about book club dates? Sorry it took us so long to get back to you.
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From:mamajoan
Date:October 17th, 2011 04:00 pm (UTC)
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I'm glad you're on the mend, and hope you continue to feel better every day!

The concept of happy tears seems to be really hard for kids to grasp. I've had numerous conversations about them with my kids (usually focused on the bittersweet kind of crying that parents do when kids hit milestones) and they just aren't getting it yet. Maybe because it is pretty hard to explain!
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From:mofic
Date:October 17th, 2011 04:28 pm (UTC)
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Thanks, Joan. Yes to the milestone tears. I cry at bnai mitzvah even when I don't know the kid!
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From:Rachel MA
Date:October 17th, 2011 04:01 pm (UTC)

I cry when...

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people truly understand how I feel about something. It's clearly a hangup from my childhood when I didn't feel well understood. Maybe your reaction is similar.
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From:mofic
Date:October 17th, 2011 04:29 pm (UTC)

Re: I cry when...

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That's an interesting thought but I don't think that's it. I think I'm just a cryer - I cry any time I feel strong emotion, positive or negative. And I've been feeling profoundly grateful lately.
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From:knittingwoman
Date:October 18th, 2011 11:31 am (UTC)

Re: I cry when...

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That's me too. it drives some of my grown up boys crazy but the older I get the more I cry at all strong emotions. my dd has learned to ask me if I am happy or sad when she sees me crying (yet again:)).
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From:mofic
Date:October 19th, 2011 11:21 am (UTC)

Re: I cry when...

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LOL on asking whether you're happy or sad! Better than asking "What's wrong?"
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From:mofic
Date:October 17th, 2011 04:31 pm (UTC)
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Thanks so much. Yeah, I think we "met" on lj after all this was already going on. My Hebrew name is Dvorah bat Moshe v'Rivka Rachel, although feel free to use whatever portion of that is your custom for mi sheberach.
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From:talktooloose
Date:October 17th, 2011 04:59 pm (UTC)
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If you're crying because you're not sure you deserve the love, let me assure that IMHO, you deserve the love of friends, family, and communities in spades. You are generous, loyal, and enthusiastic in all those circles.

Keep getting better, my friend.
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From:mofic
Date:October 17th, 2011 08:50 pm (UTC)
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Well, that made me cry, too. Thanks, Jonathan.
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From:monitorscreen
Date:October 17th, 2011 10:21 pm (UTC)
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I'm glad you are getting better and that you have many friends and family who love you :-)

Hope you will be feeling well soon!
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From:mofic
Date:October 18th, 2011 12:43 am (UTC)
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Thanks, Mon!
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From:thinking_lotus
Date:October 17th, 2011 11:20 pm (UTC)
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did you get the books I sent?

Glad you're feeling better and capable of happy tears as well as the other kind :-)
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From:mofic
Date:October 18th, 2011 12:42 am (UTC)
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Yes, I got them. Thanks so much! I thought I'd emailed you. Sorry about that. And yes happy tears are a good thing to be capable of!
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From:lilacsigil
Date:October 18th, 2011 01:48 am (UTC)
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I'm so pleased to hear that you're recovering well, and surrounded by love and care. It took me exactly 6 months to get the dosage right and I've felt tremendously better since then.
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From:mofic
Date:October 18th, 2011 11:13 am (UTC)
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Thanks. I'm loving hearing from people who've been through this and are well now!
From:rpics
Date:October 19th, 2011 12:58 am (UTC)
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glad you are on the mend. when do you think you are up for some travel?
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From:mofic
Date:October 19th, 2011 11:25 am (UTC)
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Hey, glad you got the books. I've been meaning to email or call - I've just been crazed with work and Jewish holidays and so on. I went to a shul friend's sukkah for dinner last night and it was a totally lovely evening but getting there from the Bronx after work just about did me in. Anyway, I'm off for holidays again tomorrow and Friday and home much of the weekend, so let's try to catch up. I want to hear how your trip to Montreal went.

I definitely feel up for travel if it doesn't involve standing long periods of time on multiple subways while carrying lots of heavy produce after a long day of work (which is what happened last night). What do you have in mind?
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From:bodi_kat
Date:October 23rd, 2011 05:14 am (UTC)

Happy tears, indeed!

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I'm grateful to hear you are starting to feel an improvement in your health. And while I'm not *surprised* to hear about people showing you how much they care, it's always nice to hear about it.

I'm glad your prognosis is good, I rather like having you around :).

*hugs*
Bodi
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From:mofic
Date:October 23rd, 2011 12:28 pm (UTC)

Re: Happy tears, indeed!

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Thanks! Hey, I'm going to be in Winnipeg in the spring. Maybe we can get together.
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From:bodi_kat
Date:October 23rd, 2011 07:00 pm (UTC)

Re: Happy tears, indeed!

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I would absolutely LOVE that.

BTW, I recently found out that several friends of mine were friends with your brother. I think I may have met him once as well, years ago, in passing.

You are continiously in my thoughts.
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