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Archive for March, 2012|Monthly archive page

Gratitude and Praise … and an Interesting Dilemma

In Christianity, My thyroid, Tolkien on March 21, 2012 at 6:57 pm

I am really humbled by two things this week: the outpouring of love and support from the people around us, both near and far (that includes each of you who is reading this!) and the amazing response of God to prayer.

I had a surveillance lymph node ultrasound yesterday to evaluate for spread of the cancer. The tumour is in the left lobe of my thyroid, and the lymph nodes on the left are all negative, which is fantastic. There are a few positive lymph nodes on the right, but because this is contralateral to the malignancy, the surgeons feel they are likely incidental, so they’ll check them out intraoperatively (while they’re actually in there with their scalpels) and dissect them then if they look suspicious. But basically, they feel the risk of distant metastasis is low. Praise God! As I mentioned before, we knew that papillary thyroid carcinoma is a very good cancer to have, in the grand scheme of things, as it’s not aggressive and responds well to treatment. There are plenty of people who have gone through this and been fine. But because mine was large and has apparently been sitting there getting comfy in my annoyingly-welcoming thyroid (“Make yourself at home! Can I get you a hot cocoa? A warm bath?”) for several years, the concern for spread was higher. The relief we all feel is rivaled only by our awe and thanks at how quickly and generously this particular prayer was answered. Psalm 28:7 says it perfectly.

I’ll never be able to say thank you enough, but thank you for praying and for your continued prayers! My personal faith has always been sort of average, and I’ve always envied the strong faith and spiritual life of many of my brilliant, impressive friends. But in looking for Bible verses to meditate upon daily over the past weeks, I’ve been really amazed at what a difference that particular exercise has made, even as someone who grew up reading the Bible. God’s listening. It’s pretty incredible.

So now, we’ve reached an interesting decision point. Yesterday I met a surgeon at [prominent academic hospital] where Tolkien is a resident. This hospital is tops and the surgeon was really impressive. So nice and took the time to answer all our questions without making us feel rushed, which are not always qualities surgeons are known for. (To all my surgical friends, naturally YOU are the exceptions to this rule!) My top choice would be to go with him. However, he has a 3-4 month waiting list. He said that’s because the only way he can control quality is by limiting the number of operations he does a day (which I totally believe) and that that’s why he’s in academia, since in private practice the pressure to see more and more patients and book more and more surgeries does not allow for the practice of that kind of careful medicine. My thoughts on this sad aspect of healthcare could fill another blog entry, but let’s not digress. Today I saw another surgeon at a medium-sized private hospital. He too was very nice, and he gave me an OR date 4 weeks from now. So … go with the surgeon I really liked at the better hospital (where Tolkien is on staff, which could come in handy) but wait till I’m old and grey, or go with the surgeon at the slightly less-prominent hospital who is probably nearly as good and just move the heck on with our lives? Tough decision. The other thing is that pregnancy is verboten until 1 year (some say 6 months, but my endocrinologist is old-school) after the radioactive iodine, which is a couple of months after surgery, so putting off surgery also increases the time till we can try to have Peanut #2, and obviously delaying childbearing in these times of fragile fertility is not a super-awesome idea. Neither surgeon is worried about spread if we wait the 3-4 months, but I kind of want to just get this over with. First Surgeon said he would try to get me in earlier than 3-4 months, so we will see. Now we’re praying that the right decision will be made clear.

So that’s where we are … and thank you again to all of you. I’ll keep updating here when there are things to report. In the meantime, though the thyroid is certainly a very fascinating topic, let’s talk about something else, shall we? Is anyone else bored by Andy and Erin on The Office? Anyone? 🙂

Today’s Moment of Awe

In Christianity, My thyroid on March 18, 2012 at 3:15 pm

First of all, I can’t possibly thank you all enough for the Facebook messages, e-mails, and calls we’ve received. How much easier are our burdens when they are shared! I am so grateful for every one of you, and please know that we are sending love and best wishes right back. I will thank you all individually as well, but just wanted to acknowledge you right up front and tell you how appreciated you are.

Just a quick thought for today. Throughout my life, and I’m sure many of yours, I’ve had numerous instances where I suddenly knew with a flash of clarity that God was using someone to speak to me. Today was another one of those instances. In church this morning, the woman giving the sermon opened with, of all verses, Matthew 18:20. The very same verse I blogged about yesterday. For my non-Christian friends, there are over 31,000 verses in the Bible. What are the odds that on this day she would pick that exact verse? This same speaker then went on to talk about a difficult time in her life — which began when she had a tumour in her thyroid.

There’s no such thing as a creepy coincidence when it comes to God. I knew he was telling me to listen, because he is here with us. The sermon itself went on to talk about how community multiplies our joys and lessens our griefs, and what a true message that is. And how lucky we all are, as humans, to be entitled to a relationship with God! What strange incident of happenstance has happened in your life that made you think of God?

An Unexpected Journey

In Christianity, My thyroid on March 17, 2012 at 4:54 pm

My gynecologist’s office is one of those very nice doctors’ offices with very boring magazines. A few weeks ago I was sitting there waiting for a regular yearly well-woman checkup with absolutely nothing to read. That was because I was still slogging my way through M.F.K. Fisher’s The Art of Eating at the time, which is an endless 745 pages long and which I wasn’t going to carry around with me and risk herniating a disc for. So I was at the mercy of the waiting room reading material, which consisted of a December 2011 Sports Illustrated, a few issues of The Economist, and twenty-two Web M.D. Magazines, which if I’d read one I’d read them all. (Seriously. They were all copies of the same issue.) I spent the time mentally ordering the list of remaining errands I had to do that day before picking up Peanut, and I was already pre-emptively checking off that appointment as just another one of those errands. Until I got in the room, my gynecologist started her exam, and she told me she thought she felt a thyroid nodule.

I assumed the nodule would turn out to be either non-existent or a benign adenoma. I remember thinking “Man, this just set me up for 2 months of dates with the healthcare system for nothing.” Because now I was going to have to have an investigation, beginning with an ultrasound. Which, a month later, I did. The day after that, I got a voicemail from my gynecologist saying I needed to talk to my primary care physician. Two days after that, my PCP got me in to see an endocrinologist. Six days after that, I was lying on a table with a needle in my neck getting a biopsy. And five days after that, I got a call from my endocrinologist as I was driving. I pulled into the parking lot of a Dunkin’ Donuts so I could take it. It was the same Dunkin’ Donuts our real estate agent had taken us to for breakfast one morning two years ago when Tolkien and I were first moving to this city. I don’t know why that memory popped into my head, but these things are so strange. I remember fixing my eyes on the store’s brick wall as he told me the results, and oddly, I wasn’t even that surprised. All I could think about, over and over, was the same thing. I am 32 years old, and I have cancer.

I’ve suddenly joined a club I never imagined joining, but I guess no one ever does, right? I’ll post updates on this blog as we go through this experience. Right now, what we know is that the type of cancer I have — papillary carcinoma of the thyroid — is good, but the size is bad. We know I will have to have a thyroidectomy and radioactive iodine therapy afterwards. I’m meeting with two surgeons this week at two different hospitals and will hopefully choose one and get a date for surgery soon after. We will also hopefully find out more about prognosis and whether it has spread this week as well. Most importantly, I know that God is good. I know that the power of prayer is real. I know that the power of multiplied prayer is real. “For where two or three are gathered in My name, there am I among them.” — Matthew 18:20. I know that I’m blessed to have such wonderful people in my life, family and friends who are gathering as spiritual warriors to surround Tolkien, Peanut, my parents, Baby Howie, and I. If you are reading this, know that I would greatly appreciate your prayers too — and would be happy to do the same for you. I’ll post again soon … and to all of you, you know who you are, thank you!

Rush-ing to Judgment

In Christianity, Politics on March 6, 2012 at 5:06 pm

I feel like a neglectful mother, having let so much time pass between posts on this blog. But rest assured I was not lazing around on the Riviera with a cocktail in one hand, spending my days ordering around a succession of butlers and selecting sequined swimwear. In fact life has been pretty eventful over the past few months at Chez Much, plus I’ve been posting on my other blog project, so time got away from me. But here I am again, and what has inspired me to write today? None other than, and I never thought I’d say this, Rush Limbaugh.

As you may have heard, Rush Limbaugh has come under fire (and, may I say, deservedly so) for referring to a female Georgetown law student who testified before a House committee as a “slut” and a “prostitute” because she was speaking in support of the Democratic national health care policy that would require her Jesuit institution to cover birth control under its health insurance plan. What bums me out about this? That part of what he said was right — but it will never be civilly addressed because it came from the mouth of a hypocritical, undereducated, misogynistic buffoon. My parents used to listen to his radio show, for no other reason than to attempt to treat hypotension non-pharmacologically, I believe, but I could never tolerate more than a minute of his vitriol before diving for the radio dial with the desperation of a starving man presented with, say, a perfectly cooked French fry.

Look, I didn't really want to include a picture of Rush Limbaugh.

What I find very frustrating about this whole situation is that Limbaugh’s basic opposition to this issue is correct. It is absolutely absurd, and a clear violation of the liberty to which this country pays so much lip service, to openly require a religious organization to provide something to which it has consistently and clearly been opposed. To speak specifically about the players in this case, Georgetown University is a Catholic institution. By virtue of that history, they believe that contraception is wrong. Just because other people don’t — even if a majority of others don’t — it is 100% unjustifiable to mandate that Georgetown go against their long-stated beliefs. And we should all be frightened if this law comes to pass. Is the freedom of each of us safe only if everyone else agrees with what we think?

To be clear, I do not believe birth control is wrong. And I do believe in universal healthcare. I’ve seen too many patients lose their homes and everything they own because they were unlucky enough to be diagnosed with cancer or get hit by a car. Make no mistake, this isn’t just a problem for poor people (as if that would make it OK to ignore) — we are all in danger of the exact same thing happening to us. That’s because very few of us in this country can afford even one medical catastrophe, but insurance company lobbyists stir up politicians to oppose government healthcare by ranting about the right to “healthcare choice”; as if my right to choice is more important than others having any healthcare at all. Healthcare is not like car insurance, either — you’re not likely to go bankrupt because of one car accident, but you very possibly could once your medical insurance company decides they don’t feel like paying to treat your chronic disease anymore. That being said, I don’t agree that supporting universal healthcare means compelling all institutions to follow a liberal worldview. I do not personally believe that birth control is wrong, but I do believe in someone else’s right to believe that it is wrong. And just as they are not able to prevent others from using birth control, so too should others not be able to force them to provide it.

But it’s really quite aggravating that the person who called attention to this had to be Rush Limbaugh, for crying out loud. I don’t understand why Republicans allow such morally repugnant people — Limbaugh, Newt Gingrich, etc. — to be their spokesmodels. Limbaugh is a hypocrite who railed on drug users while concealing his own addiction, is on his fourth marriage, and is cruel to others. Solely on the basis of his treatment of other people, he should be disqualified from having a platform. (Of course there are Democrats who, by the same criterion, should also be denied an audience. Believe me, I ain’t partisan.) There is no way anyone could argue that the way he spoke of Sandra Fluke, the Georgetown student, was the way a Christian should speak about a fellow human being. There is no way. And he has done it again, and again, and again. At this point, if he wants people to actually listen to any good points he has to make, he should probably not be the one to say them. Because he had to be such a jerk about it, everyone is now just assuming that if he said something, it can’t have been a valid point at all. Thanks a lot, Rush.

The political terrain I inhabit — social conservatism, fiscal liberalism — is kind of a lonely place to be, at least in the U.S. I don’t know if another country out there has a political party that would fit me. I believe abortion and guns are wrong, and I believe social programs and spiritual families are right, among other things. To me it seems a very logical manifestation of a Christian mindset: help the poor and your fellow man, adhere to Biblical morals, don’t promote violence. But obviously very few people feel the same, since I don’t fit either of the major two American parties. That’s OK, because we’re theoretically allowed to disagree. But the poison-filled atmosphere we now seem to live in is choking civil discourse to death, and it’s a little scary. Have you perused the comments section of any major website lately? I actually had to ban myself from reading them anymore. The hate directed towards anyone who dares open their mouth gives me chest pain. But we can’t give in to bullying, from either side, and abandon our values just to have an easier life.

Ultimately, you can’t have your cake and eat it too. If you believe birth control is fine (as I do), then enjoy your right to live as you please. But enjoying that right means that you also have the duty to respect others’ rights to live by their beliefs. Just as they cannot compel you to stop, you cannot compel them to start. And if it’s that important to you to have your school cover your contraception, realize that there are very few places in this country that won’t do that. Be fair to everyone and, rather than demanding that a centuries-old institution bend to your will … because who knows who will one day demand that you bend to their will? … don’t go to Georgetown.