More Bumps in the Road

It’s hard not to feel like a whiner when writing a medically-related blog.  I would love to gleefully announce I’m “all better”!   But since this bumpy journey continues, and I promised to keep you updated, here you go on the latest.

I recently had my 6-month follow-up with Dr. Facts, my nasal surgeon.  I had been mentioning that my right side/valve still felt restricted ever since the surgery, but he kept saying it was “residual swelling” and “still healing”.   But when I mentioned it again at my most recent appointment, he confessed that the surgery apparently wasn’t totally successful and I still have some collapse of the valve.  Though it’s better than pre-surgery, I am obviously disappointed.   I was really looking forward to breathing normally again (selfish I know!).  Basically it feels like the right side of my nose is too narrow/small and not enough air gets through when I breathe in.  It also is continually stuffy on that side, especially at night, which leads to an annoying pressure/fullness in my face.  I basically wake up on most mornings feeling like I have a bad sinus infection on the right side, sometimes accompanied by a mild to piercing headache on that side.

So my nose isn’t working all that great and at the moment not looking all that great as well.   The scar gel I’ve been applying to 7 of mine 9 incisions sites caused a persistent flare-up of dermatitis under my nose (I had an incision right across the base of the tip I was putting the scar gel on).  I’m hoping that some topical steroids will finally wipe that out, but in the meantime have the allure of an allergy sufferer who has been picking her nose and failing to wipe the crusties (gorgeous!).

And then I became hyperthyroid (which is the opposite of “hypothyroid”).  In early March my endocrinologist increased my dose of Synthroid (synthetic thyroid hormone).  Since hormone effects appear gradually, at first I thought I was feeling pretty good.  My energy seemed to be picking up.  But then I started to notice strange symptoms, like I felt hot for the first time in years.   I’m the person who is always cold; keeps a coat rack of sweaters in her office and sleeps under a mound of blankets.   Especially at the gym, I was really sweating (and I rarely ever sweat, even when working out).  I also couldn’t focus at work.  At first I thought maybe I was stressed, though I didn’t *feel* stressed.   My mind was racing in 1,000 directions and I couldn’t focus on a single task for more than a few seconds.  And then I started having trouble sleeping.  I couldn’t reach a deep sleep and felt like I spent the entire night half-awake telling myself to “GO TO SLEEP!”  But all these symptoms were also somewhat vague and not knowing what to look for, I couldn’t blame them entirely on my medication.

And then I hit “bottom”.   If being hypothyroid feels like living under water, being hyperthyroid feels like being on speed (not that I would know personally…though I can attest it’s similar to being overdose with Prednisone).   I think the feeling can best be captured by recalling the scene in Something About Mary where the elderly neighbor is frantically vacuuming her apartment.       That was me.  For a while.   And then I found myself getting really angry, again for no discernible reason, and ended up spending a couple days crying uncontrollably at my desk at work, again for no reason I could think of.    A friend of mine referred to being hyperthyroid as “having rage”.  It was not fun.

After several calls to my endocrinologist who seemed skeptical at first (even with a TSH of 0.08 – which is nearly off-the-charts low), I was prescribed a lower Synthroid dose and started to feel better almost immediately.   Of course it’s all a dosing game – that I can never really win.   My levels start heading in one direction and then the other….and the “target” is always changing as my lifestyle and age is always changing.   Welcome to the “new normal”!

And just when I thought I was getting the hormones under control, I woke up 3 days later to an extremely painful, inflamed paratoid gland (salivary gland).   Apparently the radiation damaged my salivary glands as it passed through, which caused scar tissue to develop in the valves, narrowing them.   This makes them prone to “clogs”, stones, and infection.   I seem to be lucky yet again in experiencing this potential side effect, which can manifest any time during the first year after RAI (in my case my glands inflamed the day after I ingested the RAI and now again 5 months afterwards).    So I headed back to Dr. McPreppy’s office [he operates on salivary glands] and he confirmed the damage and assured me that “most” people experience this for “awhile” but it eventually goes away.   In the meantime, the course of treatment is to massage the gland, apply warm moist compresses, take pain killers, and antibiotics if infected.  There are also prescriptions which can help thin the saliva or decrease the inflammation and surgery can help some cases.    I personally have found that screaming profanity, grunting, and gripping the nearest hard surface also helps, basically implementing your preferred labor coping techniques.

Disappointment = waking up starving, being forced to fast for over an hour, sitting down to your delicious weekend waffles, and being shot with a heart-stopping pain as you attempt to take the first bite.    No waffles for you…ha ha ha (says fate)!

So at this point I’m looking for where the pavement starts….when again does this become “smooth sailing”?   When’s the next exit?    Are we there yet?    This trip was so 2011 and I’m ready for a new path.

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