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.