Anniversaries are always a bummer. It doesn’t matter what you’re remembering, celebrating, or lamenting because it really just means you’re a year older. And getting older sucks. It sucks especially when you start to feel it; you know, really feel it. It’s the day when you realize that hanging upside down on the monkey bars is not only unenjoyably, it’s a bit torturous.
I recently celebrated a rough anniversary. A year ago July 5th, I went from being a normal, totally healthy 30-something to a “sick person”. It would have been nice to have been able to look back on the past year and think “wow, that was rough, I’m glad that’s over!” or “look how far I’ve come!” or something somewhat uplifting or inspirational. But instead I found myself mourning the loss of my fit, healthy, dependable body, which has been replaced by one that is chronically compromised. That isn’t to say I don’t have “good days”. We’ve all heard the Cancer cliché of “good days and bad days” because it’s true. But it’s more like having periods of “somewhat normal” mixed in with periods of “OMG this totally sucks.” You never get “over” it, you just get a little more used to it.
The anniversary was at least buffered by being on vacation with my family. But it didn’t go unnoticed, and at the time was just too hard to write about. Which is why I don’t want to dwell on it now (hey, look over here at my burgeoning belly!).
So what’s been going on – aside from the self-indulgent anniversary party? Lots! Well, lots of Doctor’s visits….lots…and lots…and lots. The real benefit of having to constantly leave work to sit in waiting rooms, is falling behind and then having to work nights/week-ends (when you already work a full time job and take care of two kids)! It’s especially fun when your four-year old bursts into tears as you head to the office on yet another Sunday morning to return at dinner. Good times I tell you!
So why so many visits? Seems I just can’t help myself. Actually, it’s been mostly the OB/GYN – Endocrinologist paring, with the occasional side of primary with all the regularly scheduled stuff like my upcoming bi-annual dentist visit. After passing the first trimester screen, our “mid-pregnancy” ultra sound detected a “bright spot” (assumed to be a calcium deposit) in the baby’s heart. We then did some follow-up testing and it turns out baby boy or girl (we’re not finding out) is just fine and the “spot” is no big deal (doesn’t affect the function of the heart at all). We also learned that the placental tear (sub chorionic hemorrhage) had apparently totally healed up! Which just goes to show, “when in doubt, work-out” (copyright pending). Undoubtedly had I “rested” for that entire time my ass would be even wider than it is now (shudder).
Meanwhile aside from the baby drama, I’ve been nagged by residual surgical/radiation “side-effects”. The worst is salivary gland damage from the radiation, which causes (now both) salivary glands to swell and become extremely painful. They also stop producing normal amounts of saliva, and then occasionally squirt a very thick, VERY salty shot into my mouth (yum!). They’ve taken on a life of their own – sometimes they seem to be working and then without warning I’ll try to eat bread or a cracker and I can’t swallow it. It’s like trying to eat a pack of Saltines with a really bad hang-over (if you haven’t tried it, I highly recommend you do so you can cross it off your bucket list). So to try to counter-act the problem (since according to my surgeon all treatments are off while I’m pregnant), I drink tons of water….or order soup.
The other fun coincidence is that the scar gel I was using on my face caused dermatitis (which is basically just “irritated skin”). Again, I could get rid of it with prescription medication….if I wasn’t pregnant. Well, at least you know why I’m walking around with what appears to be a nasty rash under my nose. It’s not by choice, let me assure you.
And probably my favorite thyroid-cancer + pregnancy side effect is coughing. Seems that a restricted airway, plus increased mucus (due to a combination of “pregnancy rhinitis” and “young kid cooties”) plus acid reflux makes for the perfect cough storm! I’m a pretty good cougher…I can cough, and cough, and cough. I’m sure my coworkers love it (especially since I usually keep my office door open). It’s also a big hit at the gym – I can cough through abs, chest press, pretty much anything that requires being less-than-vertical. It seems to be particularly active in the evenings, perfect when you want to watch a movie (just ask my husband).
So dry mouth, rash, and coughing pretty much sums me up. That and having to adjust my thyroid medication every four weeks (yeah – why didn’t anyone warn me what a pain in the ass that is?). It’s not just a dose change, it’s a “dose schedule” change. I used to take the yellow pill every day except Mon. and Thurs, when I took the blue pill. Now I take the blue pill every day except Mon. and Thurs. when I take the yellow pill. I hope that’s OK because I was skeptical that my pregnancy over-stressed-at-work brain could handle a more complicated switch. Plus, since my thyroid pills require fasting, I take my pre-natal vitamins in the evening….which is easy to remember when I’m not trying to get dinner on the table for two very opinionated and occasionally irrational kids. Wait, did I take my vitamins or was I GOING to take them before I let the dog out and picked up the plate of food that just fell on the floor? Needless to say I think both the hubby and myself were quite relieved to see that the baby had two arms and two legs. Whew!
So now that we have hit the 5 months or “half way mark” and baby seems to be doing just fine I’m excited to consider this a “normal pregnancy” (well, aside from the aforementioned grievances). Starting this week I will be no longer seeing my OB and will be returning to the midwife who delivered our first child, peacefully at home between lunch and dinner (seriously, can you beat that?). [For our second birth she was unfortunately on maternity leave and I delivered unexpectedly in the tub in the middle of the night, thereby creating a no-sleep baby monster.] I also (think/hope) have found a new primary care physician to help coordinate all my appointments/labs/treatments – which if it works out, will be a big relief.
Lastly, although I haven’t been posting frequently, I do think of you all every day and think of updating you daily. The well wishes, donations (THANK YOU!), and good thoughts have all been graciously appreciated. I’m continually touched by the generosity of those around us most recently by the fabulous women and instructors at my gym who, when I’m running late from the office, set-up my equipment for me right in front of the fan. Maybe they’re afraid I’m going to collapse mid-set, but I’m not ashamed to be sucking the cool air. In looking back over the past year (as totally crappy as it was), I am amazed by how many friendships have been reaffirmed, strengthened, and discovered. And for that, it’s been a good year.