Sunday, September 22, 2013

Hypothyroidism: One Year Later

Over Labor Day Weekend last year, I went to the hospital with an uncontrollable bloody nose. Because I don't think I'd ever had a bloody nose before and certainly not one that wouldn't stop bleeding for close to 30 minutes, I was terrified as I drove myself the four miles to Lake Forest Hospital's emergency room. When I arrived, I was still bleeding and was a nervous mess.

Of course, the ER doctor was able to stop the bleeding, then did a full exam of my nose and throat, and ran a battery of blood tests that (seriously, MORE blood that they took from my hand with a needle! couldn't they have taken some of the blood I'd just lost?) to make sure I was okay to send home. Unable to find the source of the blood and with a clean blood panel, I was sent home with instructions to come back if it happened again and told to see an Ear Nose and Throat (ENT) doctor for follow-up that week.

When I finally made it to the ENT a couple of weeks later, all went well until he found a 2-inch lump on my thyroid that I didn't know was there. Of course, I also didn't know my thyroid was located at the base of my neck.  It didn't hurt and it wasn't impeding my ability to swallow, but he was concerned and sent me for more blood work, an ultrasound, and ultimately, a biopsy.

The ultrasound confirmed that the lump was about 2 inches in length and had completely taken over my thyroid. The blood work confirmed that my thyroid wasn't working at all, which explained a number of physical symptoms that I was experiencing. The best news was that the biopsy came back showing that the lump was completely benign.

To be sure, the two weeks between the discovery of the lump and the results of the ultrasound were the two most miserable weeks of my life. I was an emotional wreck. What if I had cancer? What if it was incurable? I know a number of women who've beaten thyroid cancer and that it's one of the most treatable cancers, but that didn't alleviate the terror I felt that I could die at 41. I was so paralyzed with fear that I mostly kept the whole ordeal to myself. Given that I process things externally, this was quite the feat for me.

Good news in hand, my ENT told me I needed to see an Endocrinologist about the fact that my thyroid didn't work and to determine a course of treatment.

My awesome Endocrinologist sent me for more blood work (yay, more needles!) and then decided that we'd watch my thyroid numbers for a month or two. After two more rounds of blood work that showed my thyroid numbers getting worse each time, it was decided that I would start treatment with Synthroid, a synthetic form of the thyroid hormone.

Finally, my June 2013 round of blood work showed my thyroid numbers back in the normal range, and in August, I realized that I was feeling like me again.

What does "me" feel like? I have almost boundless energy again. I no longer want a nap was 2pm daily. I'm sleeping normally. My skin is in much better shape. My nails are growing again and are no longer brittle. My hair is also no longer so brittle and has stopped falling out. Weight is coming off. My menstrual cycle is like clockwork again.

It was not easy getting to this point. In fact, for months, I believed I'd never feel like myself again. But I did and all those needles were worth it. I still have to have thyroid related blood work, but not nearly as frequently, and I'll be taking the Synthroid for the rest of my life.

Here's what I've learned: Check your neck. Lumps are a big deal, even the benign ones. Your thyroid is located at the base of your neck and it controls an awful lot in our bodies. Metabolism, menstrual cycle, mood, skin, hair, hairs, energy levels, body temperature, and much more. Are you depressed? It may be due to your thyroid. Are you gaining weight and can't figure out why or can't lose weight no matter what you do? It may be due to your thyroid. Has your menstrual cycle gone berserk and you're no where near menopause? It could be your thyroid. I've had zero side effects on Synthroid. It does exactly what it's supposed to do with ease, although it does take a little tinkering with the dosages to get it right.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

New Holiday: Int'l Stay In Bed & Read A Book Day

When I got up this morning, I learned, thanks to social media, that today is Talk Like a Pirate Day. I don't know about you, but I've never been into pirates. Not even Johnny Depp could convince me that pirates are cool.

I'm not going to tell you not to talk like a pirate though. In fact, I think you should do whatever tickles your fancy. I'm all about your right to choose for yourself here. I'm Pro-Choice.

As I showered, dryed my hair, did my make-up, and made important fashion decisions for my day, I could hear many claps of thunder and the sound of pouring rain hitting my roof. I also quickly realized that although it was 7:45 a.m., it looked like midnight outside.

The thunderstorm combined with Talk Like Pirate Day got me to fantasizing about what kind of fake, but widely celebrated holiday would I enjoy and that would have universal appeal.

And thus was born . . .

International Stay In Bed 
and Read A Book Day

Here's how it works:

Stay In Bed and Read A Book Day is a floating holiday that can be used by all adults on any regularly scheduled workday. It will not count against any other paid time off you have (e.g., sick, vacation), although it is a paid day off. You get to choose when to celebrate it each year (see, more of that pro-choice thing) so that it fits best into your schedule. Children are strictly forbidden from celebrating because they need to be in school and they have too damn many days off anyway.

In order to invoke Stay In Bed and Read A Book Day, you simply need to email your employer and let them know by 6:00 a.m. local time on the day you are celebrating. You may not provide advance notice.

I recommend you choose a snowy or rainy day so that you are not tempted to get out of bed, but it is up to you. If you want to stay in bed and read on a perfectly nice sunny day, go for it.

That's really all that's required.

Here are helpful FAQs because I know you have questions:

1. Am I required to remain in bed alone? Absolutely not. If you'd like to have company, enjoy!

2. Is there a number of people I'm allowed to have in my bed on Stay In Bed and Read A Book Day? No. As long as they are all consenting adults, you can have a party, in bed.

3. Do I have to read a book or can I read my Kindle or a stack of magazines? Again, it does not have to be a book. You may read your Kindle, the newspaper, magazines, mail, or anything else you'd enjoy reading. The only thing forbidden is work related reading.

4. Do I have to read? Can I engage in other activities in bed? Of course! I encourage it. You may sleep or engage in any other activity that can be done in bed in a reclining position. You may engage in these activities alone or with the companions you have in bed with you, as long as they're consenting adult people.

5. Can I wear a costume when I celebrate? Sure. Feel free. Playing dress up is fun.

5. Is there anything else I should know? Pace yourself. The last thing you want is to over exert yourself and have to call in sick on the day after Stay In Bed and Read A Book Day. That's just bad form.

6. Can I post pictures of my celebration of Stay In Bed and Read A Book Day on social media? Yes. Use the hashtag #StayInBed and please keep the pictures G-rated.


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Reason, Season, & Lifetime Friends - Not a Repeat, a Three-Peat

I originally wrote this post on February 12, 2008. I published again, almost exactly 12 months later, on February 1, 2009.

Tonight, I'm publishing it for the third time because it still resonates so deeply with me and remains one of my absolute all time favorite blog posts. Five and a half years after its original publication on Little Merry Sunshine, I find myself going through a Season change. Yes, we are literally transforming from Summer to Fall, but some of my relationships are also transforming. Some are ending and others are just beginning. I see it quite clearly; perhaps more clearly than I've seen it ever before in my life.

So it's through the dual lenses of grieving the relationships ending and hopefulness for the ones just beginning, that I share with you my most fundamental beliefs on relationships of all kinds.


I have always believed there are three types of friends: Reason, Season, and Lifetime. None of them is bad. In fact, they are all equally important.

Reason Friends come into my life for a specific reason - to help me grow, to help me learn a lesson, etc. Once the reason is over, the friendship comes to its natural end. Sometimes work friends fall into this category. We may become very close to Reason Friends and share many intimate details from our lives, but they are still Reason Friends. I usually mourn their departure, but sometimes it's so gradual neither of us notices until it's too late. I also usually hope that our paths cross again.

Season Friends are in my life for a period of time. Some of my friends from college fall into this category. They were there for those 4 years, but after that Season in our lives was over, we went our separate ways. I always mourn when these friendships end because it means a significant time in my life is over, but it is also a time of exciting opportunity. Like Reason Friends, I hope my life path will cross again with my Season Friends.

Lifetime Friends, however, are my touchstones, my lifeblood. Without them, my life is empty. They are there through the thick and thin, exuberance, and sorrow. No matter what happens in our lives, our friendship remains. Sometimes we aren’t as close as others, but we always come back together. The thing about Lifetime Friends is that we can be apart for a decade or more, but when we finally come back together, it's like time has stood still and we pick up right where we left off. Being a Lifetime Friend has nothing to do with when the friendship began. It could be a 40 year old friendship or a 4 week old friendship.

Please don't misunderstand me. I don't treat any of my friends differently. Most of the time, I don't even consciously know which category they fall into.

Because February is the season of Love (and not just the romantic kind), it reminds me to tell my friends how much I love them. I know I don't say it often enough. But I do really and truly love each of my friends. So this Valentine's Day, I'm sending big hugs and kisses your way.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Like Nana, Like Jessica

I've shared my experiences with Nana visiting me since her death here and here. She visited me again last night/today.

Background: Last night's dinner was Grandmother themed. No, it wasn't all soft foods, suitable for the denture crowd. Dinner consisted of my Grannycago's Grilled Chicken (That's my Gardner Grandma, who lived in Chicago. She hated that name, so I loved it even more.), Nana's Rice, and Christopher's YaYa's Green Beans. My dinner was heavenly and the leftovers are even better.  Doesn't this meal look divine?

About midnight, I went to sleep and had a dream about being at Nana's house with both of my parents for the last time. We were cleaning out the house to put it on the market, just as we did almost exactly 12 months ago. In my dream, we were having breakfast when in the door walks Nana. We had a lovely visit, got caught up on the last four years since her death, and then she left.

Okay, now you know the context of what I got up to today.

You should also know the following story about Nana:

About 20 years ago, when Nana was still working at NationsBank (now Bank of America), I would call her almost nightly to check in with her. Sometimes our chats were short and sometimes they were long. Nana was never a complainer, so it struck with me some concern when she began complaining in all of our calls about how much pain she was in. Every night, she would tell me how badly her feet hurt after work and she just didn't know what to do. Maybe, she would say, it was time to retire (she was almost 80). This went on for at least a couple of weeks. It was hard to hear about all the pain she was in because I was in DC and there was nothing I could do. One night, she got on the phone and just couldn't stop apologizing and telling me how embarrassed and ashamed she was, but didn't mention the pain in her feet. I didn't understand and couldn't imagine what was causing all this embarrassment and shame. Finally, she explained that as she was taking off her shoes that night, a bunch of balled up tissue paper fell out of one and she realized that both shoes had tissue paper stuffed into the toe of each shoe. Her feet were in so much pain because her size 7 triple narrow feet were essentially crammed into size 5 triple narrow shoes.

This morning, I was rushing around getting ready for work and decided that the only shoes that would work for today were some super cute black patent leather flats that also hurt my feet so badly I can barely walk by the end of the day. The things we do for fashion.

I slipped on the flats, looked down and saw what I thought was a piece of white paper towel peaking out of the top of the left shoe. I took it back off and bent down to remove the paper towel only to discover that it wasn't paper towel. It was a huge hard piece of grayish cardboard stuck in the shoes to help them keep their shape. My feet were being pinched by this cardboard.

Needless to say, I couldn't stop laughing. Like Nana, like Jessica.

Then I looked up, thanked Nana for the visit, and told her I look forward to next time.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Congratulations Diana Nyad!

For the past three years, I've been glued to Diana Nyad's pursuit of her lifelong dream to swim from Cuba to Florida. She's attempted to achieve her goal five times since she was 28 years old. She turned 64 a couple of weeks ago.

Don't know who Diana Nyad is? Never heard of her? Leaving aside that you may live under a rock, she is a world renowned swimmer. In the 1970s, she was the greatest long-distance swimmer in the world. Oh, and she's a Phi Beta Kappa member of the Lake Forest College Class of 1973.

As I said, she's attempted this swim FIVE times. First, when she was 28. She did not make it and at the age of 30, after setting the world distance record, she quit swimming. In January 2010, she realized that her dream was still alive and well, burning deep within her. So she started training and training.

She made her second attempt at the Cuba to Florida swim in August 2011, because she wanted to prove to other 60 year olds that it's never too late to pursue your dreams. Just 29 hours after she started, she had to abandon her dream due to weather conditions and box jellyfish stings.

Just one month later, in September 2011, Diana tried again, but was again stopped because of box jellyfish and Portuguese Man-of-War stings.

Never one to quit, she gave it another shot in August 2012, this time covered in a special jellyfish suit, but that attempt failed too. Three days later and only half way to her goal, she was forced to stop due to a horrible storm that put her swim too far off course and jellyfish stings.

Just about 52 hours ago, at 9am ET (August 31st), Diana Nyad began her fifth and final attempt to swim from Cuba and Florida. Just before 2pm ET today (September 2nd), Diana completed her swim. 110 miles in 52 hours without a shark cage.

This time, the universe seemed to be on her side. According to her team's blog, the first jellyfish siting happened this morning and Diana hasn't been stung. The weather has been practically ideal, with just relatively brief storm.

Diana gave an inspiring TedTalk in October 2011. Watch it. I promise you'll be glad you did.

CNN has also done a great job covering Diana's journey.

Watch the trailer for The Other Shore, the movie about Diana's journey.

President Barack Obama congratulated Diana shortly after she arrived:

Listen to Lake Forest College Athletic Director Jackie Slaats talk about Diana Nyad on WBBM Newsradio.

Diana's pursuit is heroic. She has not only pushed herself beyond her own limits and lived to tell about it, but she's inspired millions of other people around the world to stop beating themselves up, forgive themselves for the times they fell short, and told them that dreams are ageless. For Diana, this is about proving that no matter your age, you can be your best self.

For me, she answers the timeless question that I grapple with daily: "What would you do if you were not afraid?"

What would YOU do if you were not afraid?

Congratulations Diana! Foresters around the world are celebrating your victory today!