Tuesday, June 30, 2015

A Journey Through the Twilight Zone Towards Compassion - Patti J. Smith

I’ve always been known for putting a humorous spin on things, even if it’s something serious….today is one of those days.
Back around 2007 I noticed a small lump right below my Adam's apple. It wasn’t that big, but I decided to have it checked out. My doctor told me it was a fatty tumor (guess when the thighs get full, the fat moves up?). Anyway, she didn’t appear concerned and said removing it would be considered cosmetic and not covered under insurance (yeah like I would voluntarily have my neck cut into).

The lump wasn’t big enough to warrant hiding it with turtlenecks, which would definitely violate the dress code for San Diego in the summer. I accepted my fate and moved on. As time passed, my new friend grew (like my thighs) which prompted another doctor’s visit. This time she decided an ultrasound was in order and lo and behold, I had two tumors on my thyroid. One was almost the size ping-pong ball.
She referred me to an endocrinologist for a needle biopsy, which was about as pleasant as a root canal, but he couldn’t get a definitive reading due to the amount of fluid build-up. Great, I thought, I’m carrying a water balloon around my neck. He suggested a thyroidectomy.
The surgery wasn’t that bad, in fact, I was only in the hospital for two nights. I healed quickly, started on thyroid medication and returned to my normal routine sans the pudgy accessory. I did still have a little lump which was the dreaded fatty tumor (darn thighs), but because the tumors were removed, it was no longer as pronounced.

About three weeks later, my surgeon called and asked me to come in. Must be a follow-up, I thought. So much for thinking … he advised me the pathologist wasn’t quite sure what to make of my tumors and sent them to Italy for evaluation. Italy? Why wasn’t I invited to travel with them? They were part of my body. Anyway, that pathology lab determined one of my tumors was malignant. My heart raced, eyes filled with tears and I braced myself for the “You have so many months” statement. The surgeon patted me on the leg and said, “Don’t worry, they got it all, but to be safe we’ll do a radioactive iodine treatment.” He explained that the thyroid absorbs iodine in your system so if there is any remaining thyroid tissue floating around, it will be fooled into absorbing radiation (bwahaha). For two weeks I couldn’t have iodized salt, seafood, dairy products, eggs, bakery products, chocolate (ouch) or anything that had red dye #3 (including shampoo and conditioner).
When the two weeks were up, I was admitted to the hospital for the treatment. When they took me to my room, I felt like I was entering the Twilight Zone. Everything in the room was covered in plastic….the bed (except for the pillow and covers), phone, television, remote control, toilet, sink – anything I could possibly touch was covered. The radiation safety officer entered with a metal tube holding the radioactive iodine pill. I had to open the cover and drop it in my mouth….and then he said to “just relax” and I’d be released the next day. Relax? I just swallowed something that could very well make me glow in the dark, I was in a room that probably increased the profits of Saran Wrap, and couldn’t have visitors. Heck, when my meals were delivered I heard the nurses arguing outside over who was going to crack open the door and slide the tray in. I wasn’t allowed to have any personal items in the room such as a laptop or cd player, as they would become contaminated. I spent the night watching television, reading (the book had to be paperback as it had to be left behind and burned), and talking to friends on the phone.
The next morning the safety officer returned (finally, a visitor!) and brought in a Geiger counter to see if I was safe enough to be released from isolation. Woo Hoo! I was free! My husband would be able to pick me up.
Now, you would think that was the end of it but noooooo … I was still in glow in the dark status, just not as severe. I was told to stay at least 3 feet away from everyone (including pets) except for short periods totaling less than 1 hour each day, for the first 5 days – staying at least 6 feet away most of the time. Also, I had to stay the same distance from small children or pregnant women for 8 days and not kiss anyone. I’m not done…. I had to sleep in a separate room, or at least 6 feet away from any other person, use separate bath linen and launder them and underclothing separately for one week and wash eating utensils separately for one week as well. Although I didn’t have to buy an overabundance of Saran Wrap, I was relegated to the guest bedroom with a little gate (so my dogs wouldn’t sleep with me) … jailed in my own home. My husband, bless his heart, did his best to keep me company (across the hall).
After the first five days of exile, I scrubbed down both the spare bathroom and guestroom. I washed everything I wore and slept on, hugged my husband and cuddled my dogs – counting the days until I could roam freely through the world without avoiding children and pregnant women.
On a more serious note, I got a clean bill of health, praise God and am still cancer-free today. The experience was definitely surreal but a good one. It heightened my compassion for those less fortunate, longing for companionship, a loving touch or to just be acknowledged with a smile - the elderly, the sick, the homeless...the list goes on. The smallest gesture can make a big difference in someone’s life.

Where can you connect with Patti?
Follow her blog: http://www.gridirongrannyfootballfanatic.blogspot.com/
Goodreads: www.goodreads.com/author/show/7306825.Patti_J_Smith
Twitter: https://twitter.com/gridirongranny5
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PattiJSmithAuthorPage
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  1. Wow, Patti, what an ordeal! Praising God you are now cancer free!