October 2, 2014
Today, I feel down.
Thyroid cancer is definitely not the easy cancer to have. We are still waiting to find out the histology results from my thyroidectomy. The surgeon took out some of my neck muscle around the malignant lump, just to be sure there was a clear periphery. He also took out the nearby lymph node to test it. I haven’t been able to sleep properly for the last three nights. The sleepless nights started when I stopped taking the Percocet medication, which although mitigated my pain, also made me groggy and loopy. I have many thoughts. Too many thoughts.
While I struggle to find a comfortable sleeping position, I wonder when my neck will stop hurting. I wonder why I don’t feel like my body is mine. I wonder why I’m so tired, all the time. Then, I worry about whether my replacement thyroid hormone medication is dosed correctly. If my fingers start to tingle I wonder whether my calcium levels have dropped. I wonder when I can go back to the gym. I wonder why sometimes I feel light-headed and like I am going to pass out. I wonder why no doctor has asked me at any step of this process how I’m feeling emotionally and mentally. This means that they can’t direct me to appropriate resources if I need them.
I think about all the things I have read on health in my public health journey. Health is not just physical, it is more evident than ever to me now. The endocrinologist, the surgeon, the nurses – everyone was focused on getting this cancer out of me. Nobody asked how I was processing it. Now that the cancerous devil is out, they all seem to be happy. I suppose they have done their job? However, I feel the worst that I have ever felt about this cancer. I think that when I received the diagnosis, yes I was upset but I also automatically went into fight mode. Adrenaline pumping, my mindset was – let’s figure out how to deal with this. Now, I’m exhausted. Battle scar and all, I just want to lie down and give up.
I hope that next week the results come back in our favour, and that the cancer hasn’t spread. But, I need the people around me to recognize that even if that is the case, the battle still isn’t over for me. In many ways, it feels like it is just beginning. People haven’t really been letting me wallow for too long because I have constant “nadhasitters” who are taking turns entertaining me. That is probably a good thing, because I have too much time with my thoughts during the sleepless nights. It feels like my life is on pause. But really, this is my life happening right now, it is just not what I would like it to be. It is important to recognize why I am feeling the way I am, although knowing the theory and understanding why my body is responding this way does not help with the frustration too much. I suppose this is a part of finding the new normal for me.
So aside from being an update, in an endeavour to not wallow in my misery, I have been (not so) subtlety promoting mental health throughout this post and I hope it gives some sense of how I’m questioning what the role of health professionals is. Where do job descriptions begin and end? Throughout writing this series, “Cancer and Me”, I have been trying to address some larger issues. There is still so much to improve in terms of systems that support people with health issues – both from a preventative and treatment perspective.