Discordant Thoughts on Year Eight

Next week I will have my eighth annual neck ultrasound and blood work at UCLA.

Fuck this shit.

It still takes up too much space in my brain and time away from my life.

Can I just stop all of this and decline these tests?

I am what is now being called in the ATA’s new guidelines a patient who is having, an “indeterminant response to therapy.” I have detectable antibodies and additional biopsies have been done, but they were benign, or the sample was too poor for evaluation. So I sit around and wait for something to happen. That’s how I have spent the last eight years, after all. Waiting for something to happen and nothing has happened except I have suddenly become old and exhausted. To the outside, this inertia is not evident, but to me it is heavy and ever-present.

Eight years ago, my thoughts about thyroid cancer and my health was that there was nowhere else to go but down. Because I was rapidly losing weight, others had the opposite expectation. I tried to find the optimism for myself. I moved to Los Angeles for a man who quickly disappeared, as they tend to do. I also moved for a job that did not work out then took another job that is also not working out while taking a toll on my health. I cannot count on my career as a source of satisfaction, yet I have nothing else going for me.

To men, I am as invisible as a size 8 as I was at a size 24. The Myth of Being a Former Fat Girl is dispelled on my ringless fingers. I could blame cancer for that. I was much sunnier before the diagnosis, before my doctor failed to manage his counter-transference and pulled me into his personal darkness, before the man I took a leap of faith for slapped me across the face for no reason and never spoke to me again. But I kept trying. Therapy. More therapy. Failed experiments with anti-depressants. Of course, I am one of those people who gained weight on Wellbutrin. I have kept trying though, and always believed this was to my credit.

Running with a burst of optimism I felt during the four weeks I took Wellbutrin, I summoned all the energy I could find to work through the months-long process of applying to graduate school. After an application season that was essentially a failure, I am now faced with going $120K+ into debt or not going at all. The only school that admitted me is a private university that counts on graduate degree programs for revenue. I am not going as paying that off will be the rest of my life. If I were ten years younger, I think…things could be so different.

I cannot imagine being 36 years old without all of this baggage from having cancer. I have no idea where I would be or what I would be doing without it. I am certain many of my decisions would have been different. I would not have waited to so long to apply to graduate school. I would not have ever met the man I moved to Los Angeles for, or bore the burden of my doctor’s inappropriate behavior. I do not believe that people are basically good. I am still waiting to be proven wrong.

So, here I go: year eight. My endocrinologist will look at me with pity (her empathy face needs some work), tell me I am too fat, my high T4 needs to stay that way, and that I need a support group. She is my 3rd endocrinologist in four years and while she is an improvement over the last two, I find her barely tolerable. But I will play my part of Pliable Patient and hope I do not cry out of anger, frustration, inertia, or fatigue. Maybe this is the year I will finally be told I have no evidence of disease (NED). I can always hope.

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