Monday, September 14, 2009

September 15, 2008 was a scary day for me.

First off, it's been a crazy year. A lot has happened. I praise God that I have made it through everything and I'm still in one piece! I thank God that I am a Christian. I honestly don't know how I would have made it through a few hurdles this past year without Him and without His people. I have learned a lot about myself and about other people. They say, "Times like these, you learn who your TRUE friends are" and that is SO true!!!

One year ago today (day-wise, it was a Monday), I went to the doctor for this irritating rash on my arms. It wasn't too bad, but the itching was seriously about to drive me insane. It would itch and keep me awake at night and burn so badly in the shower. It had spread. It ended up being Poison Ivy, which I'm obviously not very allergic to, or it would have been MUCH worse! I had found a lump on my neck before and not had it seen about. I mentioned it to the school nurse and she didn't seem alarmed, so neither did I. I put it off and put it off. Stupid, I know, but it didn't grown and it didn't shrink and more importantly, it didn't hurt. I decided to ask the doctor about it. She said without hesitation, "That's your thyroid." She said I immediately needed to have it checked out. She told me that it was either "hot" or "cold". Basically, if it was "hot", it was functional. If it was "cold", it wasn't. I decided to keep to myself and not tell anybody what was going on until I knew more about it. MISTAKE! One of the things I've learned is that we NEED people to pray for us, even if we don't know what's going on (especially our parents). I just didn't want the attention... didn't want anyone to worry about me.

I was on Facebook (imagine that!) later that day. A saint that I know popped up and we began to chat. I had debating telling her and her husband and asking them to pray for me. They are awesome and I knew they'd keep my secret safe. I couldn't decide. We talked about weight and dieting and she asked, "Have you had your thyroid checked?" THAT was a God thing! I really think that God put her right there right then so I could talk to someone about it! I'll never forget that! I really began to pray. I was a little worried.

So, a few times over the next couple of weeks, I had a few appointments. 7th period was my planning period. Sometimes I'd have to get someone to cover my 6th period class so I could make it to an appointment, so I'd sign out "doctor" and be on my way. I'm glad 7th was planning! I didn't have to get a sub and I really didn't have to explain anything to anyone.

The next day, I went to the hospital and had a sonogram done on my neck. Not real fun, and when she pressed on it just right, it hurt. That scared me a little more. I prayed a little more. They couldn't tell enough from it, so my instructions were to "Go back to the hospital Thursday and go to Radiology for another test." They did a Thyroid Iodine Uptake Test. THAT was NO fun! The doctor injected iodine, which I have learned a LOT about! I had to be perfectly still for 5 minutes. They did about 5 scans. If my thyroid was "hot", the iodine would show up in my thyroid. If it was cold, it wouldn't. Oh yea, "cold" also meant that it would most-likely have to be surgically removed. YIKES! I ended up with the biggest bruise I've ever had in my entire life on my arm where blood was drawn and iodine was injected. (It didn't hurt). Students would ask, "What happened to your arm?" I'd say, "I just had blood drawn" or something like that. I went home that weekend and Mom saw it. I gave her the same response. I just didn't want her to know until I could tell her more. I went to all these appointments alone and nobody knew it. Mom would have wanted to come to Russellville and go with me, but I didn't want her to worry, and besides, she'd have to make arrangements for someone else to keep Kaden, my nephew. I think it's stupid now that I didn't tell her (or anybody else for that matter).

The next Tuesday, I had an appointment with what I thought was an Endocrinologist at another hospital. A $20 copay for him to ask if I had my X-Rays. UGH! I was SO anxious to find out if this thing was hot or cold! Why would IIII have the X-Rays? So, the next appointment was a little more successful. The "Endocrinologist" ended up being a surgeon. He scared me to death. He told me that it was, indeed, "cold" and that it would possibly have to be surgically removed. He would either to an open biopsy or a needle biopsy to see if it was malignant or benign. (I feel sick at my stomach thinking back about all this). He said that if it were malignant, obviously, it would have to be removed. If it were benign, we could possibly treat it with medication.

On the way home that day, I hit a huge dog. It was weaving in and out of traffic. It didn't know where to go and ran right in front of my car. I killed it. I cried. Not too badly, but I cried. I must have been emotionally numb because the tears were soon gone. I felt terrible about it! I thought about crying because of what else I was dealing with, but I decided not to. Mom called. She could tell something was up, so she asked what was wrong. "I just hit and killed a dog", I said. Shew! I didn't have to say anything else! (Stupid me!)

Fast forward.

He decided to do an open biopsy and if it were malignant, he'd remove it right then and there. I prayed more. He said there was no reason to do a needle biopsy and that if he opened me up, there was no reason to come back and do surgery later. Understood. He told me about the incision I'd have if I had to have surgery, pretty much going from one side of my neck to the other. He said that I'd be out of work for at 7-10 days. He said I'd stay in the hospital at least one night. He said I'd have a drain. I had a Christmas Concert with school I was preparing for and a Cantata at church coming up as well. I couldn't miss school or church. I just couldn't. I had not cried. I had not shed a tear about this entire sitation. I knew that God was on my side and that I was going to be fine. I really wasn't THAT worried about it. Worried? Sure, but not too badly. Then he told me, "I do have need to be upfront with you because of your career and what you do." I said, "Ok" and I felt my eyes get big and glue to him. He said, "You're probably... chances are... you're most likely going to be hoarse for the rest of your life after this surgery." It hit me. Like a ton of bricks. Tears came to my eyes, but I was NOT going to cry. I'd be fine. For a split second, I thought "Forget surgery. I'll keep it!" I am a teacher. More than that, I am a musician. My voice is my career. I prayed more. He scheduled a day for surgery. I asked if he could do it after Christmas and he said the sooner, the better, so he picked a day. I didn't like it. He scared me. He made me feel uncomfortable. I couldn't let this happen if I had anything to do with it.

I went home that day and bit the bullet. I realized it was not something I needed to bottle up anymore. It was serious. It wasn't something that was just going to go away and me not have to tell anyone any more. "What's that gaping hole in your neck?" "Uh... uh... um..." Yea. Not gonna happen. I called Mom and told her everything. I didn't make it a big deal. I did so well that she didn't even cry! No, no. You don't understand. My mom cries at EVERYTHING! I know that God gave me the strength and the words to say to her that day. She would go nuts thinking I was terribly upset. Part of me was scared to death. The other part knew everything would work out just fine.

I began to pray for the right surgeon. Someone that didn't scare the bajeebies out of me. I sent out an email telling everyone what was going on and that I was praying for the right surgeon. Word got out and many, many people mentioned different doctors. I was confused. I didn't know who to use. I asked God to show me. I would say probably five or six people told me about a doctor at UAB that either they had used or that someone they knew had used, Dr. Glenn Peters.

I met with Dr. Peters (WITHOUT A REFERRAL) and he said, "We need to do this. We need to do this soon." He was so calm and collected and I knew he was the doctor for me. There were 2 assistants in the room with him. I had told him (tactfully) about the other surgeon and that he just scared me. The tone of the other surgeon's voice scared me even. Anyway, I mentioned that he said I would probably be hoarse for the rest of my life. They all three stopped what they were doing and Dr. Peters said, "No. That's not going to happen." He was confident. He said that yes, there was a chance because the nerves that operate the vocal folds lie right against the Thyroid, but he was confident that it wouldn't happen. I felt better. He said there may or may not be a drain. He said I'd go home that day from surgery. He said he'd do the surgery on a Friday and I could be back at school on Monday if I felt like it. Again, people mentioning him to me was a God thing. I never knew of anyone that had thyroid surgery and you'd be surprised at how many people that you know take Thyroid supplements or that have had thyroid surgery or know someone that does or has! How else would I have known of Dr. Peters at UAB? I wouldn't!

So, he scheduled the surgery for the next Friday, October 24th (the birthday of the saint of a lady I mentioned before that asked about my thyroid. Weird!). I was scared, but I was ready to put surgery behind me. Not too long before that, one of our associate pastors was preaching and he said, "You're still here because God's not done with you yet." Of course I worried about my voice, but I had faith that I'd be OK. I trusted God. That was reassurance.

OK, I'm really getting tired of typing. I'll finish up later...


OK. Where was I? Oh yea. Once word got out about me having to have surgery, I could tell people were praying for me. There were a couple of things that could have been devastating that I will not say here that ended up good instead of bad. I don't understand why the outcome was what it was! The only answer was that I was in God's hands! I just remember feeling a sense of peace and it was like I could feel the prayers. It was an overwhelmingly awesome feeling!

October 22nd rolled around and I packed my bags. I would leave the next day immediately after school and go home to Mom and Dad's so that they could take me to UAB for surgery that Friday. It was the right side of my thyroid that was enlarged, so they would remove the right side only, biopsy it while I was asleep and take the left side out if it was malignant. I was scheduled to go into surgery anywhere from 7:30 to 8:00. It seems like we had to be there by 5:00 to check in and all, so we left home at about 3:00 that morning. Yuck! The nurse must have told me five times "I'll go get your family". The Anesthesiologist came in and introduced himself. He said since he would use a smaller breathing tube to help protect my voice. Thank you!!!

They FINALLY rolled me back at about 20 'till 12! GAH! I remember people telling me that I would wake up and wonder what happened from surgery, that I would have no idea time had lapsed. They were right! While I was waiting hours for the nurse to get my family, I'd doze off and wake up thinking, "AM I DONE?!" and then I'd realized I hadn't been anywhere yet and doze back off (repeat several times). My previous pastor and my current pastor, who I BARELY knew then, were there bright and early and stayed until they knew I was OK. I will NEVER EVER forget that! They also came in when my family did and prayed for me. SO sweet! Believe me, I was praying, too! Oh yea, and Mom cried. :) So, they rolled me back to the OR after starting my IV 12 hours before (j/k). It was FREEZING in there. If I'M cold, IT'S COLD, folks! I mentioned it and they said Dr. Peters liked to hang meat in there. He could have! So, they got me some warm blankets after they got me situated. I was scared. They were going to do WHAT to me?! MOVE me to the operating table?! NO THANKS! I'll get up myself and do it! Yea, right. Just like they didn't let me keep my clothes on. Stupid hospital gowns! Ugh! :) So, they hoisted me over on the operating table and got me situated. I had always heard of people saying they make you count and you don't get very far before you're gone. I remember couting to seven and I was out. They told me surgery would take about an hour. I woke up just a few seconds later and it scared me because I knew I wasn't supposed to be awake! Dr. Peters and several people were hovering over me. He started saying, "Miss Morgan, Miss Morgan. Wake up. You're doing fine! Just keep breathing! Breathe!" Then I realized I surgery was done. I asked, "Is it over?" Dr. Peters said, "Yes, and you're doing great! Just keep breathing. Your thyroid was bigger than we thought" (they had said it was golfball-sized) "It was about the size of a baseball". No wonder I could feel it in my neck! The nurse asked about pain on a 1-10 scale, 10 being the worst. I said, "Maybe a 2?" It hardly hurt! I found out later that Dr. Peters was pretty sure it was benign because of the consistancy of it.

If you're still with me, you must be bored. I'm beginning to realize I'm really writing this for myself because I will forget most of it if I don't, but if you want to keep reading, read on!

My mouth was SO dry! My voice was REALLY raspy, but I could tell it wasn't really hoarse. PRAISE GOD!!! I thanked Him!!! I begged for something to drink. They gave me ice. I told 'em to keep it coming! The nurse was really sweet. I have no idea what she looks like because I couldn't turn my head, but she talked to me about whatever and made me feel like a person, not a patient. I really liked that.

They rolled me back into a room. I drank a Sprite, did fine, no nausea. That was the best Sprite in the world! The nurse told me when I felt like I could that I could put my clothes back on and head out. I didn't feel too bad! Just a little weak and couldn't turn my head too comfortably. I reached down and couldn't feel where the incision was. It was lower. I expected to feel all kinds of bandages. Nope! There was nothing on it! I had be teased about being super-glued back together. That's pretty much exactly what they did! People asked me what the worst part of that surgery was. I can still honestly say the ride home on I-59 N. That road is SO bumpy! It hurt! We drove my car and Dad wasn't used to the brakes, either. UGH! I went home to Mom and Dad's and slept. Lortabs knock me OUT! I remember being really week for several days. I had to learn to sleep on my back because I couldn't turn my head very well, or raise or lower it too much without feeling like my head was going to fall off. I really thought my incision was going to rip open a few times! Eeew! Dr. Peters started me on Synthroid which you have heard of if you take any kind of thyroid medicine. It's very common. I was to take it and eat 5 Tums 3 times a day for the Calcium. Interesting. I remember getting cramps in my legs, then after those Tums, I'd be fine. Strange!

I went back to school that next Wendesday, I believe, then to church that night. I was weak as a kitten. My post-op appointment was that Thursday, October 30.

I just remembered... when I saw Dr. Peters the first time, he told me they were going to run a scope up my nose and take a look around at my throat when he was telling me about surgery. So, his assistant comes up with this thing and I was like, "OH! You mean NOW!" So, he said, "This may hurt a little" and ran that thing up my nose. It DID hurt! Made me want to sneeze! Anyway, that was funny because I thought he was talking about during surgery.

So, I went to my post-op appointment from Russellville. Mom had talked about meeting me, but I figured there was no sense in it. Dr. Peters just wanted to look at my incision and make sure everything was going well. So, he comes in and looks at my neck. He said, "Wow! Your incision looks really good!" I said, "I KNOW!" I could NOT believe it hadn't even been a week and it was healing SO well! He said, "Well, surgery went well..." I said, "Yea, I thought it did, too!" It was SO much easier than I thought it would be!!! I never imagined it would be that easy to do and to recover from! He said, "It went so well we're gonna do it again." I said, "Are you serious?" He nodded and "Yea. The biopsy showed some malignant cells and we don't want this cancer to spread, so the left side needs to come out, too" or something very similar to that. I don't really remember much more about that visit other than him saying, "...and I want to do this Monday. I want to get in there before you heal much more." My voice was fine. The breathing tube made it a little scratchy, but it was fine. I prayed some more. The fear of losing my voice came back. Did I really have to go through all that worry again? I just kept telling myself that if Dr. Peters could do it once, he could do it again. I had faith that I'd be fine. Why would Got put me through one surgery and have me worry so much to put me through another sugery only 10 days later and repeat those same worries that I didn't need to worry about in the first place. There was no logic there, so I knew I'd be fine. I really was. The thought crossed my mind a lot, but I knew like the pastor said, "You're still here because God's not done with you yet" and I hadn't done ANYTHING but go to school ONE day since my first surgery.

OK, so I had to call home and tell Mom and Dad. HOW in the WORLD was I going to tell them this?! Over the phone at that! So, I devised a plan. I'd come up with good news to go along with the bad news. So, I called and said I had good news and I had bad news. I asked Mom what she wanted to hear first. She said the good news. Shoot! I hadn't come up with anything yet! What IS the good news?! OK, well, I had to take a pregnancy test before surgery, so I said, "I'm not pregnant!" She laughed. I wanted to cry (but I didn't). So, I told her. I guess no mother ever wants to hear their child say, "I have cancer". You don't stop thinking there, trust me. There was no way to tell how long the mass had been there. There was no way to tell what caused it. There was no way to know if it had already spread. You don't just think, "Oh. I have cancer. I'll have this surgery Monday and it'll be gone." It goes further than that. What if it was all in my lymph nodes like those poor people that I mistakingly saw on the internet while looking up "thyroid surgery". Let's just stop right there. I think letting Mom know Dr. Peters said it was "minimally invasive" helped. It helped me, too! Again, I sent out an email asking people to pray. I was SO blessed with the responses! I was blessed with cards and phone calls and food and emails and all kinds of people letting me know they were thinking about me and praying for me while I was recovering from my first surgery.

Rachel and I had tickets to see Wicked in Atlanta that weekend. Mom asked if I was still going. "YES!" I let Rachel drive. Wait. I asked Rachel TO drive and we went on about our bad selves and saw Wicked, which I HIGHLY recommend to ANYONE who enjoys musicals. It was INCREDIBLE! We went back to Albertville late that night, then I drove to Russellville for church the next morning, then back to Albertville so Mom and Dad could take me to UAB for surgery the next morning. Sounds familiar, huh? The good thing this time was that I didn't have to be there until 6:00 AM, so we didn't have to leave the house until 4:00 AM this time. :)

Same as before, but they got me back a LOT quicker and they gave me a Prilosec for nausea just in case. I think it was about 9:30 when they wheeled me back. The Anesthesiologist was a different guy, so I mentioned using my voice a lot and the smaller breathing tube to him and he said he'd definitely use it. YAY! My pastor was there AGAIN. I could NOT believe it! He stayed again until I was out of surgery, then my previous pastor and his wife came I guess while I was in surgery. Again, I will NEVER forget that!!! My previous pastor lives in Trussville, but STILL! My current pastor? It's at least a 4 hour round trip! GAH!!! WOW! I am blessed!!! I woke up and again all I wanted was ice. The pain was worse. They gave me more meds at least three times. I had a gash in my lip. I'm assuming maybe it was when they put me back on the bed and I bit it or something. It hurt SO badly! They gave me dental paste. It helped. I was in the recovery room for a while that time. I'd doze off and the nurse would say, "Keep breathing. Just keep breathing." I'd doze off and hear a beep, then she'd remind me to breathe again. I guess I was forgetting to breathe. :)

They wheeled me back into a room and the nurse came in. He stopped and said, "Wait. Weren't you just here?" It was funny. We said, "Yep! Just last Friday! 10 days ago" and explained. He was Mr. Super Nurse. He was incredible! He got me some Sprite, but it didn't go nearly as well as it did after my first surgery. I was SO nauseous! I tried to sit up and couldn't. I was SO weak. I could hardly lift my arms up to the bedrails. I decided to chill for a little while. I thought it was so ironic that they didn't give me a Prilosec before my first surgery and I was fine, but did the second one and I got so sick! I guess it was because I kept asking for more pain meds. That's the only thing I can figure out. I do remember Dr. Peters coming in and saying everything went great and that it was a little more difficult because I was still "soupy" from my first surgery. Gross! HA! He also told me that I had a drain this time. SO gross! I could NOT stand that thing! Dad had gone to get the car and bring it to the back door so it'd be really close. I finally mustered up enough strength to put my clothes back on. They had to tell Dad to wait because I just couldn't go anywhere yet. After the first surgery, I went to put my clothes back on and I made everybody leave. The nurse came back and freaked out because they left me in there by myself. HA! So, we didn't do that the second time. I had to have help with that stupid drain anyway. I finally was feeling like I could walk out the door. They wouldn't let me. Ugh! Here Mr. Nurse Man comes with a wheelchair, but then Dad comes in and says we weren't going anywhere because my car battery was dead. Lovely. I'm FINALLY ready to go and can't go anywhere. The UAB PD came and jumped the car off and we were on our way home. I-59 was NOT my friend!

It took me longer to recover from that surgery. I assume it was because I had not completely recovered from my first surgery, but still, it wasn't a difficult surgery to recover from. I was anxious to get home and let everybody know that once again, my voice was a little raspy, but that I could praise God knowing it wasn't hoarse and that I was fine! I'm SO thankful for all the people that prayed for me! I'm thankful that God put certain people in my life and certain people in their lives! People were telling me I was on their prayer list at church or that their Sunday School classes or Bible Study groups were praying for me. People I didn't know were praying for me. It was amazing. GOD is amazing!!! It took me a couple of months to be able to say that I felt like I was regaining my strength. Dr. Peters prescribed Cytomel to me, a cousin to Synthroid, a thyroid supplement, until I would take the next step and say hello to Radioactive Iodine Therapy.

That's enough typing for tonight. I think my fingers are going to fall off. There's more to this story, and I'll get back to it later. The most important thing is that my voice was FINE. The school Christmas Concert was a success as was the Cantata at church. I even sang a solo! To GOD be the glory!!!