Cancer Remembered: A Success!

This post is part of a month-long series on my cancer experience of 2013. They originally appeared on my blog at
I’m good. The kids are good. The surgery was successful and I AM CANCER FREE!
So I went to the doctor last Wednesday…and she said my scar was healing “beautifully.” First things first…she got over the strep throat and the 8-hour surgery with a lot of nervous 20-somethings. You know on the medical shows when the residents are trying to the “good surgerys?” That was me on June 10! They were trying to get in on my thyroid!!!!! Random yes, silly yes, but what do you think I’m supposed to be in a situation like this?
I go back to UT Southwestern in about 3 weeks to have my blood drawn. Here’s what we’re doing now…regulating the synthetic thyroid hormone in my body. And the way we regulate is totally trial and error.
So right now, I take 1.5 pills each morning. It take about 6 weeks for the medicine to get in my system, so we will check my blood levels again in 3 weeks. She will request a Complete Blood Panel (CBC) because they need to check my white blood count, red blood count, and all the other things they check when they look at your blood.
Two other things that WE SHOULD NOT WORRY ABOUT but we should look out for are my heart rate and my anemia. While I was in the hospital, I was diagnosed with anemia. I kind of knew that my iron count has been kind of low. To fix it, I take prescription iron pills…they are a little bit stronger than the over the counter vitamins.
I have to take my thyroid medicine on an empty stomach first thing in the morning…then I have to wait at least four hours until I take the iron pills with food.
On my heart…here’s the deal. Part of the big tumor was pushing up against my heart in addition to the lungs. So my heart kind of got used to working a little bit harder for me. Now the the tumor is gone, the heart is still pumping really fast because that’s what it’s used to doing. So we have to re-train the heart to pump at a normal rate. I had an EKG when I was in the hospital, so I’m good. It just doesn’t need any extra crazy in my life. We will kind of watch and see. I don’t have to take any medicine for that.
The other meds that I’m taking (with food, when I eat) are a thyroid multivitamin, and Aleve. Yes, I do still have some pain, so I only take that as needed.And finally, until we check the blood levels, I’m also taking calcium supplements…again, at least 2 hours after I’ve taken any other medicines.
To manage all these medicine rules, I set a notification on my Google calendar that tells me when I’m supposed to take it all. How do people remember all of this?


Cancer Remembered: Prepping for Surgery

This post is part of a month-long series on my cancer experience of 2013. They originally appeared on my blog at
I am in countdown mode. The past few weeks have been strange for the thyroid and me. About 10 days ago, the thyroid shifted. Which means that as I was happily cruising along with hyperthyroid symptoms, it all came to a halt when the gland stopped producing the hormone…at all.
So I then struggled with hypothyroid issues…the biggest of which for me me is the fatigue. We tried it all (with the doctor’s consent of course), and finally, I think I can live with it.
Usually people who are hyper or hypo have medicine that can control the shifts, but unfortunately, since I am prepping for surgery, that is not an option. We had to treat my symptoms with vitamins, diet, and limited stress.
That being said, I am VERY excited to be having surgery soon. Two weeks to be exact! The surgery date is June 10, and my friend Cheron asked me to tell you that she is wearing red in honor of me that day.If you feel so inclined, I’d love for you to do it to. (AKA friends, I realized this is a stretch…but you know….:)
Medically speaking, I do have a few things to do to prepare for surgery. I do these neck exercises several times a day so my neck muscles won’t spasm during surgery. I also have to take calcium supplements because a low thyroid function = low calcium in your body. And lastly, no ibruprofen or aspirin products until the end of June.
The kids are not out of school yet…they have another week. But boy are they ready! Next year I will have two middle schoolers and one in junior high. Really?

Cancer Remembered: Breaking the News

This post is part of a month-long series on my cancer experience of 2013. They originally appeared on my blog at

One of the cancer blogs I read regularly is written by a woman with Stage 4 metastatic breast cancer. She writes a lot about communication — especially on the things someone should and should not say to a person who has been diagnosed with cancer.

Today, I am going to share with you the things I’ve learned that I should say and not say when breaking the news about cancer. Unfortunately, you will probably have to break the news regarding a medical condition to someone in your life (that’s just the way life works), so I am here to help you through the process.
When I was first diagnosed in January, I felt the best way to inform people was to say it matter-of-factly; almost blurting it out. One moment, I would talking about the spring registration schedule, and the next minute I’d say, “I have cancer.” Once I said it, I would scramble to come up with words regarding the good prognosis, the fact that it’s a “good” cancer, anything.Then the conversation would usually end with the listener in tears and me feeling insensitive. “Why is she crying? I’m the one with the cancer.”
But it was my approach. And now, I’ve found myself breaking the news more and more since I returned to work from the non-surgery. (Yes, I’m still a little salty…the date.) I’ve found that a lot of people knew I was out, but some just thought it was coincidence, or I was at a meeting at another campus, etc. And with that comes a wave of me breaking the news all over.
So here’s what I’ve learned:
1. Start talking about the affected area. “Toni I haven’t seen you in a while, how have you been?” “You know, I’ve been off because my thyroid has been acting crazy and giving me a lot a problems.”
This is good because it sets the stage. The listener can decide if they can handle more specific news, or if they are done. Let’s continue, shall we?
“Really, Toni? What’s it doing?” “Well, it bounces back from hyperactive to hypoactive and I have a goiter. It appears that the goiter has an underlying malignancy, which means I have thyroid cancer.”
2. Give them a moment to respond in the way they are comfortable.I usually end up saying something like, “See I told you it was crazy.”
 Now…telling someone you have cancer is 10 percent about you, but 90 percent about them. They will instantly remember their uncle, or cousin or friend who has had the disease and no matter what your prognosis is, their mind will travel.
3. Relate the news to a celebrity. I am very thankful that Brooke Burke-Charvet announced her thyroid cancer when she did. I actually told her this on twitter yesterday. (You know how I feel about pop culture and social media.)
Once I announce my condition, I follow up with, “Did you see the lady from Dancing With the Stars on television? You know she just had thyroid cancer too?”
This helps because our society loves celebrities, and we tend to think they are invincible. But in reality, they get cancer too.
4. Tell them how you will keep them informed. Once people get over the initial shock, they need to know how they will keep up with your progress. Tell them they’ll see you until surgery in June, they can read your blog, whatever. Make sure they know how they can stay updated.
5. Before treatment starts, let them see you “live” with the disease.Some days, I wish I could say,  “I have cancer” so I’m staying in bed all day. But I can’t. There’s middle school drama, teen whispering, and college students who need my fashion advice. Continuing to “live” is just as important for me as it for everyone around me.
*Note: The fashion advice comment was a joke. Well, kind of.


Cancer Remembered: What Doesn’t Wait

This post is part of a month-long series on my cancer experience of 2013. They originally appeared on my blog at
I took a little blog hiatus to spend time with family during the past 10 days or so, but I have been working on a post for you as time has allowed this week.
There’s not much news on the medical front. There’s a lot of faxing, emailing, and reviewing of blood tests going on right now. I do have a surgery date, but of course there’s a story surrounding it, and that my friends, is a blog post all of its own. 🙂
I have the news of the century! Through this health circumstance, I have learned to slow down. Yep. There are just some things in my world that must take a backseat to this cancer. I have had to re-evaluate my priorities and rest more, yadda, yadda. And I’ve definitely recognized that I can’t do it all, be it all, live it all.
However, in all of my resting and prioritizing, etc. I have noticed that there are just some things that won’t stop for cancer. And of course, I’d love to share them with you.
1. Tonsils don’t stop for cancer.
If we are friends on Facebook, you may know this already. But if we aren’t…get ready. CJ and Tyra had their tonsils removed this week. Our family doctor and the ENT made it very clear…I can either have this done now, or I can deal with when I’m having surgery, going through chemo, radiation, etc. According to the doc, I couldn’t wait until this summer…they were just that bad.
Neither Jada nor I have our tonsils. Problems with tonsils are hereditary, so I kind of knew this would happen one day. I just didn’t think it would be in 2013. But it was.
The tonsils woouldn’t wait for the cancer.
2. Dogs don’t stop for cancer.
I love dogs and cats. And you all know about our dog Nelly. We also have a cat, Sammy  and Frida, Nelly’s sister joined our family in January.  Unfortunately though, she is no longer with us. She had cardiac arrhythmia (congestive heart failure). Her heart wouldn’t stop for my cancer either.
4. 4th, 5th, and 6th grade doesn’t stop for cancer. (Contributed by Jada.)
Science fair projects. Orchestra concerts. Choir practice. ITBS and STAAR testing. Teachers who fuss about everything. Homework. Spelling words. The writing process. Silent lunches. None of that stops for cancer.
5. Texas Weather doesn’t stop for cancer.
Temperatures in the 70’s today, snow and ice storm tomorrow. I never knew this when I moved here 18 years ago. But, it doesn’t stop for cancer either.
6. The Lovelorn Heart of a Middle Schooler does not stop for cancer. I have two middle-schoolers. One of them woke me up at 2:00 a.m. on a school night to talk about Isaiah, George, Emily, and Porschia (all names have been changed to protect the innocent.) My middle schooler (I won’t disclose which one) was concerned about all of the other middle schoolers who like each other and want to “go out” with each other. So what did I do? I had no choice but to listen, and give my opinion when asked. Because the lovelorn hearts of middle schoolers do not stop for cancer.
7. Television does not stop for cancer.
Thursday nights on Facebook are hilarious. Almost all of my friends are hovered around the hit series “Scandal.” It’s my understanding that there is a new episode tonight…wooo wee! I don’t watch it, but I don’t need to. The play by play is available throughout social media and I can’t escape it. It doesn’t stop for cancer at all.
The one television show I do watch? Dallas! There is something about that show that just gets me giddy knowing that I live here. Thank goodness, the television show Dallas didn’t stop for my cancer.
8. Great friendships don’t stop for cancer.
This I am thankful for. I am still able to talk to those who I love regularly. We still laugh and text and email. I’m very glad that great friendships don’t stop for cancer.
9. The good memories don’t stop for cancer.
The kids and I are more careful at the type of memories we are creating. Going to the inauguration was amazing…and exactly what we needed at the time.
10. Medical research doesn’t stop for cancer. Medical research is constantly evolving. It’s fantastic how a diagnosis in the year 2000 can yield different results in 2013. I will always support research activities because this is one thing that should NEVER stop for cancer

Cancer Remembered: Feeling Antsy

This post is part of a month-long series on my cancer experience of 2013. They originally appeared on my blog at

It’s Friday…and I have a confession. I’ve been feeling a little antsy this week. We are going through all of the surgery scheduling stuff and I must say, it’s left me a bit impatient. I’ve talked to the nurses, the doctors, the insurance company, and we still don’t have a date. And that’s what I want….a surgery date. But as soon as I dealt with it during morning prayer a couple of days ago, the Universe let me know something. I’ve got a story to share with you in case you are ever really antsy too.

Earlier this week, my friend’s brother died. He was a throat cancer survivor, but in January he was diagnosed with an aggressive form of stomach cancer. When I heard about his passing, I immediately called me friend to offer my condolences and we talked about his experiences.
Before long, we discovered that he and I had something in common. We have the same oncologist. And then it hit me….I may not have a surgery date because my doctor was ummmm….trying everything he could to save this man’s life. This man who I know…who’s the brother of a good friend of mine. This man who I’ve attended summer barbecues with. And then I started thinking about the status of other cancer patients in the Texas Oncology Offices. Staff members could have been making hospice arrangements for those who don’t have a good prognosis, and they could be fighting with insurance companies regarding cases that are truly life and death.
And you see, my case is important. My cancer is serious…but I’m not fighting death right now. I’m enjoying life….I have a sore throat, Benadryl and Zyrtec are my friends, but I am living. And that is something that I should enjoy, and not be antsy.
As we enter into this weekend and the start of the Spring Break season for many, let’s put our energies toward living and not freaking out because the proverbial “they” have not done what we we want them to. And in good time, we will have the information that we need and I will have a surgery date.