Life After Thyroid Cancer

Hello all. The last time I was here, months ago, I had great hopes for the future and a general upbeat nature. Since then, it has been a bit of a whirlwind of ups and downs with some amazing highlights but some serious low moments too.

A few days after my radioactive iodine treatment it was pretty easy to feel ready to get my life back. There was certainly an adrenaline like feeling flowing through my veins of regaining control of my life and body. It’s the sort of thing we hear from people recovering from all sorts of illnesses in real life and on TV; it made me appreciate living so much more and I want to make the most of every second.

But being told we are cancer, or illness, free doesn’t magically make everything better. For some there are changes that will take time to get used to seeing in the mirror or waiting for them to change again; hair loss, weight gain or loss, breast removal, scars and so much more. Even the smallest scar can leave people pausing in front of the mirror, running their hand over it and trying to find a way to cover it up. For others it isn’t a change in appearance, at a glance the person looks average and healthy, but having to deal with their whole body system and routine needing to change as a result.

Thyroid issues are easily missed unless a specific set of bloods are done and get sent to the right specialists. Symptoms can be linked to so many other things and without looking at them all together, usually a challenge with time restricted doctor appointments, they are easy to miss. Fatigue, depression and weight changes can all be linked to environmental factors and almost everybody could attribute it to some form of stress or general mental health issue. They can go on so long that a person slowly becomes a shell, unable to function and when the problem is found end up feeling a bit lost in trying to locate their normal and healthy again. Even when the problem is identified it is hard to know where thyroid issues end and other issues begin.

If you go to a doctor saying you feel sad, depressed, fatigued etc they are unlikely to do bloodwork to see if there is an underlying problem. It gets taken as a psychological issue and you get given medication and put on an extraordinarily long list for therapy. But when a thyroid problem, in my case I discovered I had (or you could still say have because it never really goes away) Hashimoto’s an autoimmune disease that attacks the thyroid and causes it to act in irregular ways, gets diagnosed and it turns out that mental health can be impaired as a result it becomes impossible to wonder how much it actually impacted.

Sadly, discovering this during biopsies of my thyroid during it’s two stage full removal didn’t magically solve my mental health or a stream of other issues and for some things made it worse. I might technically be in the clear of cancer but the ghost of it stills lingers on my shoulder as it does with many survivors.

It turns out your thyroid is sort of like the battery of your entire body. Without it and the right level of hormones it would normally produce you feel exhaustion like never before. Think not sleeping for a week, running a marathon and not sleeping for another week. Waking up in the mornings feels like an assault course; having the medication and being all hazy and in and out of it for a good hour after taking it and not being able to have coffee to keep you going means you basically have to fall back asleep until it kicks in. This is one thing for people with no other health conditions but throw in something like Marfan Syndrome where you need beta blockers to slow things down before you can get on with your day and they take an hour to kick in, and you can’t have them within an hour of your thyroid tablets kicking in, it makes getting up not only feel like an unwanted chore but absolutely impossible.

At least you are getting a lot of good sleep right? Catching up for all those late nights and early starts over the years. How very wrong you are. You will never feel rested again and instead will wake up from night sweats and vivid dreams, often nightmares, and often more exhausted than you were to begin with. Your mind desperately starts to fight the urge to sleep because you can’t put your sleeping brain through all that for another time. It reaches the point where you get down to sleeping two or three hours split through several naps because the fear of what happens when you go to sleep becomes so huge. And even if they do get you on that right medication dose it can change over time and start it all back up again. You need to magically overcome all your fears and past trauma quickly or thyroid induced sleep delusion will kick in very quickly. Goodbye another inch of sanity.

Do not have an 8am start job that is over an hour away as it means you have to set your first alarm at 4:30am just to start taking medication and trying to wake up. You will sleep through and turn off all ten alarms and miss work or be late several times. You will try be clever and change your start time to 9:30am but your body still struggles just the same to function. If you weren’t already depressed before diagnosis or during treatment the feeling of not being able to function like the most average of humans will at the very least crush your soul.

Remember that even when that hour has passed to enjoy that coffee you still need to wait another three hours to enjoy a bowl of milky cereal because, even though you need calcium supplements after your parathyroids got damaged during surgery, you have to wait four hours after the thyroid medication for high doses of calcium. If you have those low calcium tingles in the morning, the sort that cripples you in pain and makes you stumble on the way to the bathroom, well tough luck. This is your life now, you are just going to have to chew those horrific banana flavoured things like there is no tomorrow for the rest of the day and hope eventually it offsets the morning pains.

Suddenly having to go through a low iodine diet for a while around radioactive iodine treatment seems like a breeze because we all told yourself that the diet was just temporary to get ourselves all fixed up. Now it’s just a list of rules of when things become acceptable to eat and drink but if you still have something like the hashimoto’s in your system then there’s further recommendations to follow again. You can’t just nip out for breakfast, you have to check menus in advance and watch everything you touch. A nuisance for the average person, a further soul crushing experience for somebody that was previously soaked in foodie things.

Even if you do go out for breakfast you will feel like you look awful. It will take the doctors ages to get the right level of medication so weight changes, usually weight gain through under medicating, are likely and with under medicating comes dry dull skin and brittle hair and nails. You will go to brush your hair and end up with never-ending strands of it all over the place and a mystery as to how any is left on your scalp, you will catch yourself in the mirror and see a dry peeling patch of skin on your ear whilst running your hand over the other to discover discoloured dry patches, you will rub your nails from your anxiety and they will splinter down the middle and no amount of dewy foundation and highlighter seems to bring your puffy dull face to life. Most people wont be able to see the changes but to you they are huge and sadden you and make you hate your body more than you already did (something you never thought was possible).

In a months time I need to resume being an average functioning adult with a job and needing to make funds to have a roof over my head etc but four months later I’m more drained and struggling than the days after surgery and after treatment.

There is one thing I can be thankful for though. At the end of my last post I said “I just hope there are some people along the way to nurture and protect me” and there really are. There are some real gems in my life that I am thankful for that support and help me every single day.

The above is a snapshot into the reality of struggles post thyroid cancer and how it impacts on daily routine and ability to function. Each person is different and each recovery is different but this is my story; one of frustration, disillusionment and sadness that I have become a shell of the already depressed shell I once was.

I Am Back V25.1

I am back. Mentally, physically and emotionally I feel like I have sprung back to life and am ready to take on the world and hit the keyboard for the blog once more. Okay, I’m not ready to take on the world but you get the idea.

How many times have I said that though? How many times do we all wake up on a morning and declare it will be our day, week, month or year? But right now I’m ready and with my life shifting it seems right to focus on channelling myself back into the things that I love and enjoy.

Screw the schedules. Forget the expectation of content. Don’t expect a cohesive theme or logic from one post to the next. But when there is something I will be pouring my heart, soul and joy into it to make it a piece that I am proud to have my name attached to. I miss having my name attached to words, I left journalism around five years ago, and whilst this is likely to never feel the same it is a close enough second.

Turning 25 at the start of the week has me pumped.

My thyroid cancer treatment is basically all complete as I had the radioactive iodine last week, the physicists seemed positive with the scan results and now it is just going to be checkups for the next five years. Since I swallowed that capsule I have slept so incredibly well, a feeling I had forgotten, as the hidden internal stresses just melted away.

I got the all clear to hit the gym again so I have reactivated my membership and have a plan on how to really put a consistent effort in this time around to make it a 12 months of getting to look like the image I envisage for myself in my head. Okay, the idea in my head involves more than just hitting the gym and changing my physical appearance but also my mentality and general life but we all have to start somewhere.

There are some incredible people around me. There are two friends in my life that I am so thankful for meeting, love chatting to daily and seeing whenever I can. Without them I would never have started going to the pub on a night out, venturing to London more and actually talking about things that make me smile, laugh and cry. It blows my mind that this time last year I did not know them at all and I cannot wait for the year to come with both them and hopefully meeting a few more amazing people along the way.

But above everything I know who I am and what my interests are. I know where I want to go, who I want to be and the sort of people and environments I want to surround myself with. In the last couple of months, hell even in the last few weeks, so much has clicked into place for me and it is so exciting to suddenly feel like a strong independent unique person.

And who am I? What are my interests? Well I’ve picked my camera back up, am typing words into this blog, have started to do more arty type things again, want to get out and about in nature more, spend time enjoying tea (the drink rather than the evening meal) more inside and outside the house, go to watch live music and also to read in parks. I created a playlist that actually makes me happy to listen to without skipping songs or feeling some sort of shame, I am back to going out the door by myself and just living life. This is the year for developing me, being happy for me and exploring the world for me. I know who I am but I want to really grab that with both hands and run with it from now on.

I am ready to bloom. I just hope there are some people along the way to nurture and protect me.

Sunflowers in the light

Daily Goal Setter*

In the last couple of months I have felt a bit lost. Not in a downward spiral of a mood sort of way but more just in a monotonous life routine of waking up, trudging to work and then returning home to eat and sleep again. A self-inflicted routine where I pushed things like blogging, walks and all the other things I enjoy aside. Getting gifted a daily goal setter planner by Mål Paper has really helped me to refocus my wants and goals for today and also in years to come.

I love lists. I currently have a note saved on my phone that is a list of lists that I need to create. Putting things down onto paper, ordering priority and fixing it into my mind really helps me to stay focused and appreciate what is and isn’t essential on a given day. Therefore, I got fairly excited when I was offered the chance to give the daily goal setter a go.

Of course, I chose a nice muted pink that has gold embossed writing on the cover. It would be amazing if they offered a monogramming service for either the front or the spine of the cover as this would make it feel even more special and look extra delightful. The quality of the paper inside is wonderful too and I am able to write using a fine point sharpie and the ink not be visible on the other side (and being able to write in big bold colours really helps motivate me to stay on track). But the design feature that excites me most is that it has not one but two ribbons for marking your location which given the planner has two distinct sections is logical but still welcome for making the usability of the product that bit more enjoyable and less clunky.

The front of the planner gives you a handy little guide and recommendations as to how to go about creating your lists, focusing your mind on tasks and being able to reflect on each day. From reading these pages it quickly becomes apparent that this is aiming to be more than a simple plan your life piece and instead be incorporated into a general life wellness routine of affirmations and joy.

With a section for long-term, medium-term and short-term goals you are able to jot down things in a way that allows for you to quickly flick to them at the start of each month to plan what you can do to work towards those goals. From there you have monthly, weekly and daily breakdowns of what tasks you have to do and it encourages you to follow a structure that identifies importance on these tasks rather than just writing everything down in a way that gives it the same priority; something that many of us fall into the habit of when we think of things we need to get done as we fixate on it rather than considering that some items have a little flexibility.

The daily breakdown pages also feature sections of things to be grateful for, daily affirmations, great things that happened on the day and a little scale for you to rate how your day actually went. If there was a short one or two lines for a note underneath this that would make the page layout completely perfect. For people used to using lists, like myself, purely for what needs to be done in a way these additional details of things to fill out prove quite a challenge to begin with but once they are part of the routine it is easy and enjoyable to do and allows for a moment an additional focus on wider life.

If you use the planner everyday you get about six months of daily planning from it but because the pages are undated you can use it as much or as little as you like. For me I am likely to use it on weekends and days off from work as whilst there are things that need doing around the working routine there is not usually enough to justify writing it down in a list and it is rarely that urgent that it cannot wait until the weekend anyway. Perhaps those that have a more hectic office life or work from home would find this a useful addition to their workplace.

This is a really great planner, coming in at approximately £20, and I am looking forward to using it more and more over the next few months and especially as I refocus my mind and life to what is really important to me (more on that soon).

What I Eat In A Day #4

1st May 2019

Breakfast

Hunger hadn’t struck at this point, I haven’t really felt hungry these last few days and when I do eat I’m finding myself full up super quickly, so I kept it incredibly basic with a satsuma.

Lunch

Yesterday we nipped into town and went into the Sainsbury’s where we were lucky enough to be able to snag a few things on discount. We meant to have the garlic pizza bread with dinner last night but ended up forgetting so lucky me devoured it for lunch and throughout the afternoon. Once upon a time I could have eaten it all in one go but I had to space it throughout lunch and afternoon snack time.

Cheese garlic bread

Dinner

My partner ended up having food out so I treated myself to Chinese for dinner. I got one of the deals that meant that there would be plenty left over and the value of them just makes so much more sense than getting a single dish with a side of rice etc. It was yummy, even if it did takes ages to turn up. I had taken some fishcakes out of the freezer for us to have those with some pitta and salad but as I was going to be eating alone it seemed silly to go ahead with that and instead that’s food for 2nd May sorted!

Dessert

As if I hadn’t already consumed enough calories for one day, my partner then came home with some Dairy Milk fruit and nut which I quickly had my share of before snuggling into my duvet and trying not to fall asleep at some super early time.

Thoughts and Feelings

I’ve struggled these last couple of days but things seem to be plateauing back out a bit now. The period from hell is over HOORAY but that means I can no longer blame that on being incredibly tired and lacking in energy. This whole shift in hormones is wild.

Bailed on going to the gym this morning and instead had a soak in the bath before tackling some chores (whilst watching a range of Netflix and YouTube of course) and treating myself to a face mask and doing my nails. Whilst doing all that I thought I caught a glimpse of something out of the corner of my eye and proceeded to turn the place upside down on the hunt for this ‘glimpsed’ rodent. I couldn’t locate anything or any sign (noise, droppings etc) of one. Basically it turns out I am going crazy.

What I Eat In A Day #3

27th April 2019

Breakfast

Leftover popcorn from the night before totally constitutes as an acceptable breakfast on a Saturday morning right? Good because alongside some slightly tart blackberries that is exactly what I had.

Blackberries up close

Lunch

I made the most of the cheese I purchased yesterday and had cheese on toast.

Dinner

There is a trend to my day here because I had pepperoni oven cooked pizza. I needed the carbs though. I had it whilst I was doing my makeup so it was quick to cook and easy to eat.

Snacks

I finished off those strawberry laces from a couple of days ago during the course of the day.

This isn’t exactly a snack but at 4am I had a lovely chicken sandwich and fries from McDonald’s. My diet coke made it home with me and into the fridge.

Thoughts and Feelings

Another restless night of horrific nightmares and a painful stomach didn’t exactly put me in an enthusiastic mood for the day. Generally the pain subsided throughout the day though and I’ve just been able to chill out.

My body still felt good and a little alive after the gym yesterday which really gave me a little boost for going forward and getting back into the gym more regularly. Hopefully it will help me to battle the temporary decrease in thyroid hormones that impact in metabolism by allowing me to maintain my weight if nothing else.

Went on a really good night out that wasn’t particularly planned and I bloody well needed it. I loved my makeup, the company and the pub too. It felt good to have some sort of normal in my life. Got home at 04:15 which is always the sign of a good night!

My makeup for a night out

What I Eat In A Day #2

26th April 2019

Breakfast

I was really feeling like having anything to eat but appreciate the importance of keeping energy levels up and sticking to a routine so settled for two slices of Warburtons Toastie bread with Flora light lovingly spread across it.

Lunch

The snack section explains it. Having said that I did make myself a cup of Whittard’s Toffee Apple tea and it warmed my tummy and eased some of my pains. It’s such a lovely tea, it’s on my list to repurchase sometime soon.

Dinner

My partner cooked dinner again today. Hooray. Tomato vegetable pasta with bacon. I did get cheese to have with it but we didn’t have any of it. Perfect after going to the gym.

To go with dinner

Snacks

First it was just one fizzy strawberry lance and then it was five. By the end of the day it was 16. Most of them were consumed in the name of ‘lunch’ though.

An Oreo doughnut. One of those pre-packaged in the supermarket type. Still it wasn’t too bad. It did get me thinking about some of the amazing doughnuts I’ve had in the past though.

Some sweet and salty Tesco popcorn. Post gym I wanted to get something and instead of crisps went for something a little healthier per portion size!

Snack of strawberry lances

Thoughts and Feelings

I had a terrible nights sleep that included the sort of nightmare that wakes you up. Once awake my period cramps returned immediately and kept me awake for a while. One of the things I’ve discovered in doing research is that my lack of periods for nearly a year were almost certainly connected to my thyroid and now my current remaining half isn’t quite there with enough of the hormones and is resulting in the worst period of my life. It’s also likely to blame for the ongoing night sweats which I had the joy of last night too; if the medication to come in the future stops me drenching the sheets that would be fantastic. The issue with being awake is it gives you time to think and as you think you slowly go off the idea of things like breakfast.

I’ve felt a bit out of sorts and ill one way or the other for a few weeks so hadn’t made it to the gym. That combined with my right thyroid lobectomy and it being Easter I maybe hadn’t gone for a month. Despite feeling ouchy I pulled on my gym gear, walked there, did 60 minutes of actual exercise and walked back again. I took it slow and steady but it felt good to be back at it again. I need to do something to offset all the sweet treats I eat!

What I Eat In A Day #1

My life is changing. Most of it is for the better. I want to document my days but in keeping with the blog and my love of food I thought doing What I Eat In A Day posts could work quite well; including recipes or quick how to guides when suitable. Reviews, on the odd chance I go somewhere that I go somewhere exciting, will still be kept separate and then just linked in to these posts.

A job promotion in a different hospital means more money and more of a chance to have a positive impact on patients lives as they go through some of what could be the most scary moments of their life. It also means I need to be more on the ball with my breakfast, lunch and snack choices as it’s a longer commute and I’d really like to be able to save some money by taking things with me rather than succumbing to the canteen everyday.

But amongst all that joy and excitement, combined with seeing family and friends to go on unexpected adventures, is a harsh reality. I’ve been quiet over on the blog for a while and there has been a reason. As well as death in the family I have had to deal with my health.

In August 2018 I had a CT scan which showed an incidental finding of thyroid nodules. In December 2018 I finally chased to asked if I would be getting an appointment to investigate this (a rarity given how people usually comment on my irresponsible approach to my wellbeing). On the 27th February I had my first thyroid FNA (fine needle aspiration) which proved inconclusive. On 27th March I had another which returned with Th3f meaning it could have follicular malignancy but they still can’t really tell. On the 15th April I had my right thyroid removed and sent for further testing. On the 24th April I was told that the nodules which took up a huge amount of the half of my thyroid were indeed cancerous and I would need to have the other half of my thyroid removed, go through radioactive iodine treatment and then take synthetic thyroid hormone for the rest of my life.

In honesty this blog series is as much about keeping me sane as it is about talking about some tasty, and probably very standard and mundane, foods. I’m hoping it will grow into something exciting and also bring my love of experimental cooking and baking back out.

That’s enough of a rambling introduction though…

25th April 2019

Breakfast

Two slices of white toast with margarine and co-op blackcurrant jam – e.g comfort food breakfast that is in no way healthy for you but ow so delicious. You know its serious when I buy a loaf of Warburtons Toastie bread!

Jam on toast for breakfast
Mid-morning Snack

A large handful of green grapes. I’ve had some pretty hit and miss grapes recently but these ones are crunchy on the outside, burst full of juice and actually have plenty of flavour to them too.

Bunch of green grapes

Lunch

A nap. Seriously my body decided 12:30 – 14:30 was perfect napping time.

So at 15:00 I sat down to a lovely bowl of co-op minestrone soup. Comforting and full of some sort of goodness!

More grapes. Ill people eat grapes and oranges right?

Minestrone soup in a duck egg blue bowl
Afternoon Snack

Twelve strawberry laces. Because apparently six is a portion size but given I’m not the size of your average five year old I was obviously never going to listen to those rules and the minute you have seven you might as well just go all the way up to twelve.

Dinner

My partner cooked a very filling and tasty vegetable curry with white rice and a samosa. It was a bit of an unusual combination of vegetables but it hit the spot of comforting heat in the belly.

Vegetable and potato curry on a bed of rice in a large bowl

Dessert

Chocolate cheesecake slice, again from the co-op (I promise we shop in less expensive places as well!), which had a super chunky biscuit base and was ever so delicious. A real nice treat and helped to give me a little evening pick me up.

I thought the cheesecake was the end of my day but a 42g pack of Galaxy Minstrels also landed in my tummy.

Chocolate cheesecake slice
Thoughts and Feelings

I shared with my parents, family and friends the news today. It proved to be incredibly draining. I told a few people yesterday and found it a relief to get it off my chest but today it felt much more like I was having to admit the truth to myself. Honestly, even with the fairly upbeat attitude I am managing to apply to everything, it got to me and left me feeling a little daunted by everything.

In hindsight the 3/4 bottle of white wine last night probably wasn’t the greatest of ideas but it was bloody well needed last night to just sit there and wallow for a few minutes before getting a bit giggly and tipsy whilst singing away to some music (sorry neighbours I kept all my voice nerves in strong health after my first surgery!).

Decided to avoid going to a meeting tonight where people that would have seen my updates might be in attendance. They probably wouldn’t come up to me and try to discuss it but I just simply couldn’t take the risk and didn’t particularly want to face anybody. I’m going to the gym tomorrow where I’ll catch up with a friend and that’s much more the level of socialising I’m wanting right now.