My world, slowly and then with increasing momentum, proceeded to collapse.
It started with a pain in my left shoulder. The pain was sharp. It hurt. Swimmer’s shoulder, I thought. Wrong! The pain grew throughout my body. My hands and my wrists, my feet and my toes, my ankles and even my elbows joined in the onslaught. Inflammation throughout my body spread like wildfire. I was in total pain.
I went to urgent care. I was put on a prescription anti-inflammatory drug. The doc thought it might be polyarthritis rheumatica, an autoimmune disease. I was instructed to see my primary as soon as possible for further testing. No luck. No appointments available for a month.
Finally, one evening when I could no longer take the excruciating pain, my son drove me to the ER. I will always appreciate the ER and the ER Doctor. Labs, x-rays, IV and drugs were soon being done. My sed rate was over 100. The rest of my labs also showed massive inflammation. I was given IV steroids and pain medicine and started feeling much better as the medicines pumped into my body. Finally, I was instructed to see a rheumatologist ASAP and sent home on steroids.
Within a month I was diagnosed with a severe rheumatoid arthritis, an auto-immune disease. Chronic and progressive. I eventually felt better on methotrexate, prednisone and meloxicam. I still had inflammation and I still simmered. I had no time to dwell on my situation.
What does this have to do with cancer? You might ask. Well, it was several months later, after a CT-scan that problems with my thyroid appeared. I was sent to an endocrinologist and was told I might have thyroid cancer. I didn’t believe at the time that it was possible. I was still reeling from the RA.
A US guided biopsy proved that I had invasive thyroid cancer. I was sent to see the surgeon to plan the surgery. I was still struggling with the RA and had added Plaquenil to my drug list. I was in stunned mode but keep moving forward.
Surgery done and now on Levothyroxine for life.
I have a follow-up CT-scan three weeks after the thyroid surgery. The results in, I am quickly sent for a mammogram and an US. I’m given a biopsy the same day. Two days later I was given the diagnosis of breast cancer. You’ve got to be kidding! First an MRI and then off to another surgeon. I had the breast cancer surgery 5 weeks after I had the thyroid cancer surgery.
I am exhausted, in RA pain although less than initially. I have two radiation treatments to go.
This was the first year.
I had had no time to absorb any of this.
I plodded through. One step in front of the other. I had no anger, no fear, no ‘why me?’ I was in survival mode. I just needed to keep moving forward. That was all I could handle.
Next was breast cancer radiation. Complex procedure. Personally invasive. My radiation experience is on my blog: http://cancergirlnewmexico.com. At http://cancergirlnewmexico.com/2014/11/11/a-marked-woman/ . A few months later I had the radiation treatment for my thyroid cancer. That too was a complex process, but doable, isolation and all.
Within two months, I was in a cancer rehab program. I was working out, taking a ton of drugs and expected to mend. I graduated from the rehab program and had added swimming back into my exercise plan. Life was finally getting better 20 months later.
Then it happened. My RA went into a total flare. I was in severe pain. My body wracked with pain. My feet had shearing sharp pain that made it almost impossible to walk. This was a big shock to me. It was like getting a cancer recurrence. I knew my RA was going to keep progressing, but I wasn’t ready for it to happen now.
Then my doc dropped the bomb. I was not a candidate for the RA wonder drugs as I was too high a risk of developing another cancer. My choices were limited. (See http://marysarthritis.com for my RA experiences.)
Leflunomide was one of the few choices left. My doc’s concern was that this medicine would be just too taxing for my liver. Another month and still in trouble. I was switched from the pill to methotrexate injections for better absorption. Both are presently helping my RA.
Finally, and this took a long time, I came to understand that the RA and possibility of more cancers will be with me for the duration. I have had to learn to manage my pain and to manage erratic energy levels. This means I am unable to take on any time consuming projects or to participate in events that last longer than I can endure. I can do short stints.
I have let go of the endless frustrations of trying to be what I once was. I no longer push myself too far. I still am able to do many things. I no longer stress out over things I just can’t do right now. I have learned to adapt.
I am an evolved me, not a new me, and I am proud of my ability to have a good life with many new adjustments.
My life is no longer collapsing. I do know how to keep my world a happy and satisfying place. My world is a good world. However, I know for a fact, that if I end up in another downward spiral as I know I probably will, somehow I’ll manage and adapt to my situation. I am resilient and I am adaptable. Living is well worth the effort.
This brings me to the end of year two.