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Two week update

Today marks two weeks since the removal of my thyroid.

Perhaps I should’ve updated more often, because now the first week is kind of a hazy memory.  I started weening off the pain meds at about one week.  Then, on Monday, I drove for the first time.  I still have to turn my whole torso to look behind me, I can’t tilt my head back much at all, and it still feels like my neck is sewn on too tight.  My incision is pretty dark and is about 3 inches across – longer than I thought it would be.  I’m used to it now and am taking pictures as it heals.

Almost from the day I got home, I had a good bit of energy.  When they handled my thyroid to cut it out, it likely stimulated it to release a bunch of extra hormone into my bloodstream before it was removed.  I experienced palpitations during surgery (I was told by the anesthesiologist) and for a few days afterward, but they felt very minor compared to those I experienced in my hyper days.  Because it is often difficult for me to take it easy when I’d rather be productive, I don’t think I allowed myself as much rest as I really needed.  I forgot that just because I felt fine didn’t mean that there wasn’t a big slice across my neck that needed healing, and that the body heals when at rest.  So two nights ago I crashed.  My digestive system started acting crazy, I had terrible cramping all night and into the next morning.  The minute my morning green smoothie hit my lips, it felt like my entire intestinal tract went into spasm and I couldn’t even stand up straight.  I was informed that I was probably dehydrated on top of not getting enough rest.

In an effort to aid in my further healing, I rested all day yesterday with my kitty Lilly, who did not leave my side and is currently napping next to me as I write this.  I got a full night’s sleep, took an easy walk and then napped three or four times throughout the day and still went to bed and slept like a log.  I must have needed it.  I’m taking it easy again today, drinking plenty of water and resting.  I ran the essential errands – kitty litter, kitty food, and groceries.  I have all these other things that I’d like to do today:  make soap, clean out the refrigerator, put my laundry away, clean the kitchen floor.  Then I remind myself that there is plenty of time to do those things and the priority now is rest and healing.  I go back to work on Tuesday and I’m not going to take the chance of exhausting myself during the time that I need to be recovering.  It’s easy to forget that my body is using a lot of energy to regenerate tissue and heal the space where my thyroid used to be, I just need to step aside and give it the opportunity to do so.

I don’t really know yet how the synthroid dose is suiting me, since I’m only two weeks out and I still have my own hormone running through my bloodstream.  My educated guess is that I’ll start to have an idea starting at about six weeks out from surgery.  I’m hoping for a relatively seamless transition since I feel I’ve already paid my dues over the last six year roller-coaster ride of hormone fluctuations.  I’ve already wasted too much energy on anxiety and feel there’s no more to spare on something so useless.  From here on out, I can only look forward.  I promised this to myself before the surgery and so far that promise is holding solid.

I have a follow up appointment with my surgeon on Monday and another with my Endocrinologist on Wednesday.  I am fairly confident that they will both tell me that everything is looking good and that I’m recovering nicely.  It’s really strange.  I have to keep reminding myself that I’ve already done it.  That the surgery is behind me.  I feel like along with my thyroid, the surgery removed a lot of the weight of the world from my shoulders.  Granted, I still have my struggles, like anyone does, but I feel lighter.  I’ve always laughed easily, but the last couple of weeks have been full of laughter and ease that were hidden in shadow, previously.  I have a tremendous sense of freedom and relief.

I feel joyful that I can walk around with my hair back and my head held high.  I almost feel as if I had plastic surgery.  I’ve rid that sense of shame and embarrassment formerly choking me.  I may have a big red slice across my neck, but I feel good and proud and slightly bad ass about it.  It’s proof to me and everyone who sees me that I’ve faced one of my biggest fears and came through with flying colors.  It’s my own permanent merit badge.  I love my scar and life!  I am a walking medical miracle now.  Without the little pill I take every morning, I would slip into a myxedema coma and die within a matter of weeks.  We are all lucky to be here, to be alive.  “There, but for the grace of God”, I genuinely get it now, to my core, and I hope to hold it with me further on this path.  All we have is now, and right now is good.  In that spirit, I’d like to leave you with another lesson in the words of Pema Chodron:

The Path Is the Goal

What does it take to use the life we already have in order to make us wiser rather than more stuck?  What is the source of wisdom at a personal, individual level?

The answer to these questions seems to have to do with bringing everything that we encounter to the path.  Everything naturally has a ground, path, and fruition.  This is like saying that everything has a beginning, middle, and end.  But it is also said that the path itself is both the ground and the fruition.  The path is the goal.

This path has one very distinct characteristic: it is not prefabricated.  It doesn’t already exist.  The path that we’re talking about is the moment-by-moment evolution of the world of phenomena, the moment -by-moment evolution of our thoughts and emotions.  The path is uncharted.  It comes into existence moment by moment and at the same time drops away behind us.

When we realize that the path is the goal, there’s a sense of workability.  Everything that occurs in our confused mind we can regard as the path.  Everything is workable.

I would like to say, again, a big, big thank you for all the support I have been receiving throughout this experience.  Well wishes, flowers, smiles, hugs, thoughtful texts and inquiries, prayers, vibes, and all the rest.  It’s truly had a positive influence on how well things have gone so far and has helped lift my spirits overall.  Thank you, thank you.  What an incredible healing force you have all been.

 

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Posted by on April 20, 2012 in Total Thyroidectomy

 

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Do Over.

I had an epiphany yesterday.  As positively as I may seem when writing about this experience so far, ending my posts on the positive note, I hadn’t felt that way offline.  The entire past few weeks, I’ve been emotionally and physically tied up in knots.  My shoulders have been up to my ears and I couldn’t loosen up despite stretching and massage.  I was flailing about desperately.  It put a strain on my emotional well-being, my physical well-being, and the well-being of a most important relationship.  I have to say, I was really surprised when taking the perspective of the outside observer.  I normally lean into the dark, messy, scary parts of life.  I am not afraid of my emotions, I understand that they pass through like a storm or a cold, and know not to identify with them or let them envelope me.  I normally would consider myself pretty strong and feel like I always pull through when things come down to the wire.  I was surprised to see how difficult I was making this on myself, how much resistance I had, and quite frankly, with how little grace I was approaching this ordeal.

My Mom and I did a Native American ceremony, like we’ve done for most of the big events in my life, to help me to say goodbye to my thyroid the night before the surgery.  I did some heavy emotional and spiritual work for over two hours.  I realized that I have so many personal issues tied to this decision.  In many ways, I’d felt like a failure by not being able to heal myself and that cutting it out is equivalent to giving up/quitting/failing.  I questioned whether I’d been on the verge of healing and was I giving up right before some great success, like healing wasn’t possible sans gland.  I’ve chosen to give up the illusion of control and the most fundamental form of self sufficiency.  These are difficult things for me to give up.  Letting go of my thyroid goes against some of my very strong convictions.  Many times it’s the belief systems that are harder to let go of than anything else.  This is the work I did Monday night.

I made some progress, enough that I was able to go through with it all before the surgeon called it off.  I woke the next day feeling pretty depressed.  I wrote about it.  I did indeed go for a walk, which made me feel better, but those feelings crept back in later that evening.  I couldn’t sleep, I was feeling desperate, looking to cling to something, some kind of guarantee.  Looking back, I know that it was all in an effort to avoid, to resist, to shield myself from change, from fear, from the ache of loss.  The irony is that all of these attempts just exacerbate those feelings that I was so desperately trying to avoid.  We can not both fully live and avoid these messy bits.  They are part of life.  I was reminded of this the next morning.

I awoke Thursday knowing that I could not continue to approach the situation the way I had been, and I picked up Comfortable With Uncertainty, 108 Teachings on Cultivating Fearlessness and Compassion, by well known American Buddhist nun and author Pema Chodron.  Among others, I read the following passage, which spoke to me and opened me to epiphany:

The Three Poisons

“In the Buddhist teachings, the messy emotional stuff is called klesha, which means poison.  There are three main poisons:  passion, aggression, and ignorance.  We could talk about these in different ways — for example, we could also call them craving, aversion, and couldn’t care less.  Addictions of all kinds come under the category of craving, which is wanting, wanting, wanting — feeling that we have to have some kind of resolution.  Aversion encompasses violence, rage, hatred, and negativity of all kinds, as well as garden-variety irritation.  And ignorance?  Nowadays, it’s usually called denial.

The three poisons are always trapping you in one way or another, imprisoning you and making your world really small.  When you feel craving, you could be sitting on the edge of the Grand Canyon, but all you can see is this piece of chocolate cake that you’re craving.  With aversion, you’re sitting on the edge of the Grand Canyon, and all you can hear is the angry words you said to someone ten years ago.  With ignorance, you’re sitting on the edge of the Grand Canyon with a paper bag over your head.  Each of the three poisons has the power to capture you so completely that you don’t even perceive what’s in front of you.

The pith instruction is, whatever you do, don’t try to make the poisons go away.  When you’re trying to make them go away, you’re losing your wealth along with your neurosis.  The irony is that what we most want to avoid in our lives is crucial to awakening bodhichitta.  These juicy emotional spots are where a warrior gains wisdom and compassion.  Of course, we’ll want to get out of those spots far more often than we’ll want to stay.  That’s why self-compassion and courage are vital.  Without loving-kindness, staying with pain is just warfare.”

That was the one that blew it wide open for me.  I’ll spare you a line by line analysis as to how this resonated with me, but the short story is; the reason I’ve been having such difficulty is because I’ve been using every trick in my book, every old pattern from childhood to try to avoid these poisons as if they’d kill me.  Hilariously enough, as most of the lessons in my life tend to be, it is all due to a decision I made.  Oh, life, you’re such a prankster!  After reading several more passages on the heels of this one, I realized that I can simply decide to let go, let that stuff in, breathe, and enjoy the life I have rather than be consumed by avoiding.  I did, and instantly my body loosened up, my mind freed up, I felt like I got my life back, like I could be me again.  This surgery being delayed gave me a chance to do it over again with some dignity and grace.  I found something bigger to lean on, something that won’t crumble under the weight of me and something that creates space and light within me.  I just need to remind myself if the vices start to tighten again.

 

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