“There’s a chance you have cancer but I don’t want to speculate until we know more.”

(cross-posted at Losing It Without Losing Me)

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“But don’t worry. Even if it is cancer, you’ve probably had it for months or years – waiting a few weeks for a biopsy isn’t a big deal. This cancer grows slowly.”

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Let’s back up.

I started noticing some difficulty swallowing in late spring. I felt like I had a lump in my throat – like when you have a cold – only I didn’t have a cold. My sinuses, ears and lungs were fine. I just had a sore throat and didn’t feel like I was running at 100%.

I couldn’t take my morning pills and vitamins all in one gulp of water like I used to. I actually choked on my medication a couple of times.

I felt like something was wrong, but I wasn’t ready to deal with it. June was going to be crazy – I was moving across town, my brother was getting married and I had a three-day sorority conference out of state.

I told myself that if I still felt off after I had gotten through my move, the wedding and the conference, that I’d get in to see my doctor.

On June 29, I saw my primary doctor. I told her that I felt like there was a fullness in my throat/neck and that I was concerned that there was something wrong with my thyroid. I’ve had hypothyroidism for almost six years and I am able to recognize the symptoms when I’m having a flare up. This seemed more than a flare up.

My doctor examined me and said it did feel like my thyroid was enlarged on the right side. She recommended I have an ultrasound to rule out any problems. She also ordered a blood test to see if my TSH counts were off. My counts were off, so she increased my meds again.

I had an ultrasound the following week. I was very nervous but the technician was really nice – even though it felt like I was suffocating as she pressed the ultrasound wand into my neck to get images of my thyroid. I was told that I would get the results in a few days.

I left the hospital nervous, but figured I wouldn’t worry about it until the results were in. I went and got my nails done and was headed home when my phone rang. It was my doctor’s nurse. Just 90 minutes after I left the hospital they were already calling with results.

The nurse said I had multiple nodules on my thyroid and that my doctor was giving me a referral to an endocrinologist. I was transferred to the specialty area to make an appointment.

I made an appointment (but couldn’t get in until August 19) and asked to be put on a wait list. I followed up with a friend who works at the medical college (and whose dad is a retired ER doc). My friend spoke to colleagues who recommended I make an appointment with one of the endocrinologists there (who happens to specialize in nodules and thyroid cancer). A friend’s younger sister who had thyroid cancer seven years ago also recommended this doctor so I called to make an appointment but I couldn’t get in to see him until September 28. I am also on his wait list.

I wasn’t handling this well – that i had all these nodules and I had to wait so long to even have a consultation. Meanwhile, the fullness in my throat is getting worse and every week i notice another head/neck position that makes me hyper-aware of these nodules.

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The next week, I got a call from the guy my doctor recommended – there was a cancellation and they got me in for an appointment. Dr. S. did an exam and asked me lots of questions. He said that my thyroid is very damaged and that the damage is irreversible. It’s enlarged all over with multiple nodules on the right side and there’s one on the left side that is 1.7cm. He said this one is suspicious – partially because of its size, but also because it’s by itself. He also said my personal health history as well as family history (aunt had thyroid cancer a few years ago and my grandpa had half of his thyroid removed a decade ago due to suspicious nodules) combined add to the suspicion.

The doctor said that it could be cancerous but he didn’t want to speculate until we did a biopsy. But he said the “C” word and I didn’t hear much else he said after that.

I do remember him saying that depending on the test results, we may take a variety of treatment paths: Surgery, additional biopsies on the other nodules, ultrasounds and close monitoring every six months.

I had a FNAB (Fine Needle Aspiration Biopsy) yesterday. Guided by an ultrasound, the doctor inserted 25 gauge needles into the nodule and removed tissue. Four times. (For comparison, blood donation uses 16 or 17 gauge needles).

The first two biopsies were unpleasant but bearable. The last two were so painful. No anesthesia at all. My neck/throat hurt a lot when I left the clinic. Obviously after leaving, I got a frappuccino and went to acupuncture because my anxiety is through the roof and when you have giant needles shoved in your throat the obvious next step is to jab a bunch of needles all over your body.

The last seven weeks have been torture. My anxiety is getting out of control. I’m trying everything to remain calm.

I feel the nodules every time I swallow. Every time I turn my head. I frequently have a sore throat or hoarse voice.

On top of that, despite the increase in dosage, I am still suffering the effects of a prolonged hypothyroid flareup. I am exhausted. All.The.Time.

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It takes all I have to get through the work day. I come home and crash. On weekends, I wake up around 6 a.m. and then take my first nap around 9 a.m. Yes, I said first nap. I nap all day.

I even stayed home from work today because I’m just so tired. And my neck is sore. And my voice is hoarse. And my neck is swollen. And I just can’t.

I am working on the anxiety, thanks in part to acupuncture, essential oils/baths, prayers and meditation. But the chronic exhaustion is taking it’s toll on me mentally and physically.

The next few days will be torture as I try to get through the day while worrying about when I will receive a call from a doctor telling me if I have cancer or not. Or if things are suspicious and surgery is recommended for further investigation. It’s all nerve-racking.

Please keep me in your prayers. Send your positive thoughts and wishes for strength and faith that I can get through this.

Please also send ice cream. Preferably this:

Photo: LauraLeeMarx
Photo: LauraLeeMarx

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Elimination Diet: Day 1

It’s been awhile for Amy and I, between her travels, both of us being crazy busy at work, and the holidays…let’s just say it has been busy. Look out for lots of stuff to come, especially on this new elimination diet I am on.

In the past few months, my food reactions have gotten worse. I am already on a gluten-free diet, but that is not seeming to be enough at this point–plus I overall eat pretty healthy. I eat whole foods, my veggies, and all that jazz–but I am obviously reacting to something. I have been getting terrible stomach aches, nausea, bloating, my skin hating me and more–fun stuff, huh?! 

I have been contemplating doing an elimination diet or something similar, but I wanted to check in with my doctor. After seeing my doctor, who focuses on holistic medicine, she also agreed this would be a good first step. She gave me a ton of great info to set me on the right path.

While an elimination diet may not be the most fun, if it will help me feel better and heal my gut, I’m in. Plus, I would much rather find out what foods may be an issue for me and not eat them, than have to take medicine to feel alright when I eat. I also work in the natural food industry and over time have learned a lot about whole foods and nutrition, so it seems less scary–which is good.

I will write another post about what an elimination diet all entails, but here it is in a nut shell. No soy, dairy, gluten, eggs, peanuts, sugar, caffeine, alcohol, corn, nightshade vegetables, red meat, citrus and any other foods you know or think you may be reacting too. The only food I am really adding on to this is oats, as some people what have a gluten intolerance sometimes have issues with oats. So that is a good amount of foods I can’t eat…and I am most freaking out about the caffeine and dairy…I mean I am from Wisconsin, so cheese 🙁 However, I can eat A LOT of food — from rice and quinoa to chicken, lots of fruits and veggies, most nuts and more. So, I do have options. I think the biggest part to the success of this is planning and having a positive outlook–which really is two key pieces to be successful in anything.

SS Elimination diet-day

Day 1 went well. Here is what I ate today:

  • Breakfast: Plant-based Protein smoothie
  • Snack: Banana and Cold-pressed juice (with no citrus)
  • Lunch: Rice and Vegetable Coconut curry
  • Dinner: Rice, Collards and Salmon 
  • Snack: Almond Butter and an apple
  • Beverages: Water, Herbal Tea, La Croix

Biofreeze #Protip

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My wrists and forearms have been showing the signs of carpal tunnel syndrome. I am certain it directly correlates to the amount of time I’ve been spending on the computer. You see, I got a promotion in May (YAY) and have been managing a gigantic project at work that launches at the end of the month. I’m working 10-12 hour days AT work, then coming home and working some more.

There’s been numbness, tingling, pins-and-needles, shooting pain, etc. 

It’s a lot of fun.

I happened to have an appointment with my chiropractor last night so I asked him if he had any recommendations. He took a look and did some soft tissue work.

Oh.Mah.Gawd.

It was so tender – especially around both radial heads (heads of my radius bones in both forearms). I almost screamed out it was so painful. He said I am definitely developing CTS but that I am also showing signs of golfer’s elbow – which is awesome because I sure don’t golf.

Anyways, he prescribed medical-grade wrist splints for each arm and said I should ice and take it easy. 

Things were so sore today, and since I am about to head out to a baseball game, I figured I would apply some Biofreeze gel to calm things down. I am NOT wearing these braces to a baseball game.wrist splint

So, I applied the Biofreeze and then went to the bathroom before I started packing up the car. BIG GIANT MISTAKE.

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Be careful what you touch after you use biofreeze

I forgot to wash my hands before using the bathroom.

I think you know where this is going.

There is some mentholated tingling going on in places there shouldn’t.

This has been a #protip.

Let me tell you a story

This one’s for all the naysayers. For all the people who say depression is all in your head. For anyone who has been affected by this disease.

***

Let me tell you a story. A story about a girl. When this girl was 19 and home from college for winter break, she got very sick. She had debilitating headaches every day. She couldn’t leave her bed. She slept most days because that was the only way to keep the headaches at bay.

Her family became growingly concerned about her health and encouraged her to see her doctor. Her doctor ran some tests which were mostly inconclusive, and then referred her to a neurologist.

Unsure of the cause of his patient’s headaches, the neurologist ordered an MRI. He was concerned there may be an aneurism or tumor.

Thankfully, when the MRI results came back, no aneurism or tumor was found.

But that didn’t mean the girl’s headaches had gone away. The neurologist ran some additional diagnostic tests and concluded that the cause of the girl’s headaches was a chemical imbalance.

The girl had low levels of serotonin in her brain.

The neurologist explained by using the following example:

“Let’s say that most people, have a serotonin level of 10 out of 10. People with severe depression are at a 1 out of 10. You’re somewhere in the middle. For you, right now, the chemical imbalance is causing headaches. It could easily lead to depression over time.”

So the neurologist put the girl on a low dose of Zoloft (most widely known as an anti-depressant). The neurologist gradually increased the girl’s dosage until her headaches went away.

The neurologist warned that the girl could never go off the medication “cold turkey” or there could be serious side-effects and mentioned that she would most likely be on this medication for the rest of her life. You see, if the chemical imbalance wasn’t rectified, she could fall victim to her debilitating headaches again or become clinically depressed.

As her doses increased and her headaches became less frequent, the girl quickly bounced back to life. She was no longer sleeping all day. She wasn’t taking copious amounts of Aleve or Advil to get through the day.

All she needed was that one little pill.

But then, about a year or two later, the girl thought she knew better than her neurologist. As is typical of young adults in their early twenties, the girl was “college poor” and working her way through school. She mismanaged her money and was dangerously close to falling behind on her bills. Since her headaches hadn’t been very frequent, she thought she could maybe just skip her pills for a month. Her pills cost about $50 or $75 a month (which was a lot of money for her).

She started cutting her pills in half, to make the ones she had at her apartment last a little while longer.

But then, things started to change. The girl became very moody. She kept to herself. She never wanted to hang out with her friends, family or sorority sisters.

Then one day, the girl’s best friend and pledge sister sat her down and asked, “What is going on? Something’s not right. You’re not yourself. I struggled with depression in high school and I’m seeing a lot of these signs with you. What do you need? What can I do?”

The girl began to sob. She knew something was wrong, too. And she knew what the cause was – that pesky chemical imbalance.

She knew that what she needed was her medication. But she couldn’t afford it. The girl’s BFF told her to call her parents.

The girl’s parents had noticed some of the signs as well and were relieved their daughter had a friend who was looking out for her. Who saw the warning signs. Who helped her get the help she needed.

Of course, the girl’s parents said that finances should never be a reason why the girl couldn’t get her much-needed medication. So they paid for her meds for the following months until things started to balance back out.

The girl realized that this chemical imbalance caused more than just her headaches. If untreated, her life could quickly head into a downward spiral.

It’s now been more than a decade since that girl learned that lesson. She hasn’t always remembered to take her medication faithfully every day, and when she does forget, she’s usually reminded within a couple of days with one of those debilitating headaches. 

If she misses more than a day, she feels the overwhelming weight of the early stages of depression.

The girl and her BFF
The girl and her BFF

Obviously – if you haven’t figured it out – I am that girl. 

I am that girl who used to hide behind the fact that she took an anti-depressant daily and would tell any pharmacist, doctor or nurse who asked why she took it, “Oh, it’s NOT for depression. I get headaches.” 

I am that girl who was afraid to be labeled as someone who suffered from depression because of society’s negative labels of mental illness.

I am that girl who takes a little pill everyday to keep her happy and headache free.

I am that girl who was lucky enough to have loving family, friends and a BFF who cared about her and pushed her to get the help she needed.

I am that girl.

All the baby succulents

It’s been a couple of weeks since my last succulent propagation update, so I figured I should share what’s happening!

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As you can see, I have lots of succulent leaves that have sprouted babies and even more that have started rooting.

By the end of summer, I should have a bunch of babies ready to sell or swap!!

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I’ve been sharing some of my more successful propagation efforts. But that doesn’t mean that all of my efforts have been successful.

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When I see a leaf shriveling or becoming translucent, I remove it from my propagation pots. There’s no point in spending more time on it, unless it’s a special/rare plant I’m trying to propagate.

More Succulent Rescues…

This past week, I was “gifted” a plant arrangement in desperate need of some TLC by some coworkers who found this in the office of someone who recently took a new job.

Succulent Rescue

As you can see, it was in rough shape. There were actually three different plant varieties in the basket, but my coworkers took one of the varieties out.

I did some research and figured out that the vining plant with pretty yellow blooms is actually a succulent! It’s a calandiva. It clearly was reaching for sunlight for a very long time. 

The most difficult part of this plant rescue was not figuring out what to do with the Calandiva – It was a succulent and I knew if I just snipped them and made cuttings, it would survive and be much healthier. The difficult part came when trying to free the other plant from the mess of roots in the pot!

I split the plants between three new homes. Most of the calandiva is in a plastic pot with the right kind of soil and lots of rocks for draining. One cutting is now in a vintage animal cracker tin, with two other succulents and lots of rocks. The other plant (I didn’t really investigate what it is), is now in another plastic pot and enjoying having its own space for roots to grow.

Succulent Rescue

Next week, I’ll be answering some of the questions I am often asked about caring for succulents. If you have a question for me, post a comment below!

Oh, and in case you missed it… head over to our Facebook page! I now have some succulent arrangements/terrariums available for sale in the Milwaukee area! Sorry to those who aren’t in SE Wisconsin – I haven’t figured out how to ship these safely! Here’s a sneak peek:

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Succulent Propagation Update

Almost 5 weeks since I began my first major succulent propagation effort. We are making a lot of progress. Lots of pink roots and li’l baby plants sprouting. I’ve added some more leaves to the big ceramic container and hope to see some growth from them soon.

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My second propagation experiment started two weeks ago. We’re making good progress here, too! This pot is mostly sedum rubrotinctum and graptosedum. 

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Some of my leaves are showing signs of over-watering so I’m hoping if I wait an extra day or two between waterings, the wrinkly leaves will get better.

wrinkly

On a sad note, one of the leaves from my big, fat pachyphytum bracteosum was coming loose so I popped it off today. I’m hoping it will propagate. I has a sad. I love these big leaves!

pachyphytum bracteosum leaf

Finally, I am so excited that my pleiospilos nelii rubra (split rock succulent) is splitting! New growth is starting to appear!

pleiospilos nelii rubra

Succulent Rescue

I visited my local nursery this weekend and saw this in the succulent section.

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AS IS?!? Also, markdown to $6 from $14.99? Of course I accepted the challenge. But I had my work cut out for me.

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Here are a couple of arrangements I made with the “as is” succulents along with some others in my collection.

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Tuesday marks four weeks since I started my succulent propagation project. Let’s just say things are going pretty well now.

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Look at all the pink roots growing! There’s also a number of small plants emerging. Every day I see new growth. Can’t wait for them to get big and strong!

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I have a problem

One of my favorite things to do each year is attend the Bay View Garden and Yard Society (BVGAYS) Annual Plant Sale. They always have a great selection of local vendors and the plants – oh they are so much healthier and happier than plants you’ll find at Home Depot or Menards.

I was excited that one of my favorites, Tiger Lily Garden Market, was there again! They are one of my favorite places to find healthy, well cared for succulents in the Milwaukee area. Of course, I am always “rescuing” succulents from other places. But, Tiger Lilly just has a great selection. I mean, look at these beauties!

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I got a bunch of new succulents, because, obviously, I have a problem.

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I got a pot of sedum rubrotinctum aka “Aurora,” crassula radicans aka “large red stonecrop,” pachyphytum bracteosum, Aloe variegata aka “Gator” and crassula perforata. Oh and I finally have a living stone!

Lithops aka "Living Stones"
Lithops aka “Living Stones”

Isn’t it funny looking? I’ve been wanting one of these for awhile, and I’m glad I finally have one! I’m excited to watch it bloom and then grow new leaves this fall/winter when it goes dormant.

After seeing all my succulent posts on Instagram, my mom asked me if I would arrange a succulent planter for her.

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I combined sempervivum, aeonium aka “kiwi,” kalanchoe thyrsiflora aka “flap jacks,” senecio talinoids mandralis aka “blue” and echeveria aka “perle von numberg.” I used a large, shallow terra cotta pot and finished it off with river stones.

Because of my succulent addiction, I of course had to make one of my own with my new succulents. 

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As I was planting my new friends, I found that the aloe plant had started a li’l pup!

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At first, I also included some sempervivum, but then today I moved them and added crassula capitella aka “campfire plant” and kalanchoe luciae aka “flapjacks.”

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I planted the large red stonecrop in an antique teapot.

Crassula Radicans aka "Large Red Stonecrop"
Crassula Radicans aka “Large Red Stonecrop”

Yes, I have a problem. You see, today, I put together this pot with three varieties of sempervivum aka “hen and chicks.”

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Before I leave you and put the kabosh on purchasing any new succulents for awhile, I’ll share an update on my propagation efforts. Finally, after 2+ weeks, we have itty bitty pink roots beginning to emerge!

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Twins

This weekend, our cousin Maggie graduated from high school. Since the festivities were in Minnesota, I made the trek up to spend some time with Emily!

Imagine my surprise when we got to the hotel after Maggie’s party and I saw the dress Emily had brought for the graduation ceremony.

We started laughing hysterically. Of course, we’d be all matchy-matchy.

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I am wearing this colorblocked piped trim a-line dress from eShakti. Emily is wearing the Banana Republic Milly Collection Blue/White Colorblock Pleated Maxi Dress.

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matching twins

BTW, have you tried eShakti? I have purchased soooo many dresses from them! Look for a blog post soon!  If you haven’t tried eShakti, shoot me an email (amykant-at-gmail.com) and I’ll send you an invite where you can save $35 off your first purchase!