Inspired by a little-known picture book from the pen of Bethany Tudor, this is a diary, of sorts, where I document some of my thoughts, activities, and ideas as I explore the challenges met by the characters in the story: hard work, the care and nurture of others, housekeeping skills, life changes, charity, community, and cooperation, among others. Like Samuel and Samantha, the ducks in the tale, I struggle and succeed, cope and celebrate, work and play, handling the tasks that come my way. I invite you to join me on my journey.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Finally Reading the Sourcebook

Yesterday, after eighteen years as the wife of a cancer survivor, I finally started reading The Thyroid Sourcebook by M. Sara Rosenthal, Ph.D.  The first edition of this book (now it its fifth edition) was published in 1993, the year King Richard was diagnosed with medullary carcinoma of the thyroid, a dangerous, often hereditary, type of cancer that does not respond to radioactive iodine or radiation therapy.  So why now?  Why read the premier book on thyroid treatment after all these years?  Well, for one, I wanted to make sure I had the latest information on follow-up care for my husband and, two, I wanted to offer the book to the family of a newly engaged young couple at church (the bride has been diagnosed with thyroid disease) and I couldn't do that in good conscience without first reading the volume.

Living with a thyroid patient is no picnic.  Every day means dealing with some manifestation of two issues:  the reality of a physiology with a compromised organ (or, in my husband's case, no organ) and the reality of a medication that has side effects.  Most days, I am uncertain which is going to show up, biochemically speaking, but whichever issue makes an appearance, I try to cope with grace.  Note the symptoms of each issue;  those in bold are the ones I have had to deal with over the years.

Synthroid® Side Effects

Rapid or irregular heartbeat
Chest pain, breathing issues
Increased sensitivity to cold
Muscle weakness
Pale, dry skin
Puffy face
Hoarse voice
Elevated blood cholesterol level
Unexplained weight gain
Change in appetite
Muscle aches, tenderness, stiffness
Weight loss
Pain, stiffness, joint swelling
Muscle weakness
Frequent bowel movements
Brittle fingernails & hair
Excessive sweating
Heat intolerance
Forgetfulness, slow thinking

Impaired fertility

Decreased bone density

Other unusual medical events

Most, if not all, of these symptoms are relatively mild or nonexistent for my husband these days, either that or I have become so inured to them after eighteen years that they only seem mild to me now.  It wasn't always like that.  The first few months after surgery were a very different story, as our first endocrinologist tried to settle on an optimal Synthroid® dosage for King Richard.  She eventually had him taking 325 mcg of levothyroxine daily, an amount we later discovered was so high that, most of the time, my poor husband walked around in a state of profound hyperthyroidism as his doctor attempted to force his TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) level to register zero on a bloodwork run.  Such was the accepted therapy for medullary thyroid cancer at that time, thinking that suppression of TSH would prevent recurrence.  At least that is what we were told back in the early 1990's.  Thankfully, my husband and I eventually found our way to an excellent specialist who adjusted his Synthroid® dose down to a more normal level (~175 mcg), not in the stratosphere.

So why do I want this young couple to be armed with the information in this book?  Quite simply:  divorce.  Over the years, King Richard and I have encountered a number of couples that have dealt with some kind of thyroid disease, be it thyroid cancer, Graves disease, or hypothyroidism.  To date, of the couples we know in our locale that have had to deal with thyroid cancer, ours is the only marriage still intact.  I do not say that to brag, nor do I say it lightly.  As I said before, living with a thyroid patient is no picnic.  Ending up with a thyroid patient after several years of marriage is one thing.  Taking on a thyroid patient as a "young couple in love" and having little or no knowledge of what you are getting into could be disastrous;  at the very least, it could lead to years of emotional damage.

So...I will offer the book to them when I am finished with it.  Hopefully, they will find it helpful and will graciously listen to an elder who has walked the path before them.  If not, then I will continue to make myself available to them for advice and counsel should they ever have the need or the desire to ask for it.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Critters in the Garden

A lovely little garter snake
Photo by Plush Duck

...and a lovely little wooly
Photo by King Richard

This afternoon, my husband mowed the lawn (possibly for the last time this fall) and tuned up the lawnmower in preparation for winter storage.  When he was leaving the backyard (with the mower running) to work in the front yard, he found this little guy.  Fortunately, he saw him before he ran him over.  Unfortunately, he brought him in the house to share him with the rest of us.  I am not a fan of wildlife in the house.  Well, of course, I yelped and "asked" him to take the little critter outside.  My daughter, on the other hand, was thrilled and immediately followed her dad outside to investigate.  We don't get many snakes of any size in our yard, so no opportunity to experience nature should be squandered when it slithers past.  They had a great time.  I took the picture and went back in the house.  A little later in the day, the wooly guy showed up.  I love my yard! 

Monday, October 10, 2011

A Pleasurable Solo

Photo by King Richard
On Sunday afternoon, my family and I attended a wonderful organ recital given as part of the Music at Central Series at Central Baptist Church in Norwich, CT.  The organist was my daughter's instructor, Nathan Bayreuther, who currently serves as Director of Music down the shoreline at the First Congregational Church of Madison, CT.  The program was well rounded, featuring pleasantly playful pieces alongside those that were musingly meditative.  The highlight of the 90-minute performance was a four-hand encore of Stars and Stripes Forever, executed by Mr. Bayreuther and his long-time acquaintance, Mr. David Warfield, the Music Director at Central Baptist.  The recital was followed by a small reception with the usual delicious goodies that the congregation is known for.  If you ever have the opportunity to attend one of the Music at Central offerings, I encourage you to do so.  This year, the season features a barbershop quartet, the Shoreline Ringer Handbell Ensemble, Celticity, and Mr. Charles Callahan, another organist.  See you there!

Recital Program
Festival Toccata by Percy Fletcher
Organ Concerto in G Minor by Handel
Meditation by Leo Sowerby
Music by Theodore Dubois
Toccata by Joseph Callaerts

Friday, October 07, 2011

A Float!

Photo by King Richard
The other day, King Richard changed the brake fluid in the clutch control system of his Toyota Tundra.  When he first opened the reservoir tank, the fluid was black, really black.  So black, in fact, that the float visible in this photo was invisible.  That's right, invisible.  This is how the reservoir tank looks now, and how it is supposed to look.  If you haven't checked your brake fluid in a while, it might be wise to do so before the snow flies.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Car Parts in My Sink

Coil springs, clean & shiny
Photo by Plush Duck

About two weeks ago, my beloved husband laundered his greasy garage towels in my washer, necessitating some experimentation with scum-removal techniques.  After a few tries, and some help from Koalagirl, I managed to get the goo off the agitator and the wall of the washer tub.  Today, King Richard decided to wash the coil springs from his Toyota Tundra in my kitchen sink.  The purpose of this activity:  to clean the grease from them so they could be painted.  That's right.  My hubby-mechanic is painting truck parts in an effort to stave off rust.  This time, the procedure is part and parcel of a shock absorber replacement job.  The procedural paint subjects:  the previously mentioned coil springs and some bushing washers.  I really don't mind that he is so excruciatingly meticulous.  He often performs such preventative maintenance on our vehicles.  It saves us a ton of money in car repairs.  I am just not a big fan of the smell.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

An Opportunity to Help

This afternoon, I went to the local grocery store to procure ingredients for the planned Sunday entree, Cranapple Chicken.  My daughter invited her "little brother" to dinner, a young man who has been a family friend since she was ten and he was eight, so she wanted to try something new.  Anyway, as I entered the market, I was met by an older woman who was handing out donation slips for a meal ministry at one of the area churches.  If I wished to participate in the fundraiser, I could either make a monetary donation or I could purchase food items from a predetermined list.  If you would like to help as well, visit the F.A.M.I.L.Y. Kitchen website.  Also housed at the F.A.M.I.L.Y. Kitchen:  the Groton Animal Pantry, a place where people who need help feeding their pets can obtain free dog or cat food.  Check out these charities if you are in need or if you would like to help!

Note:  No compensation was received for any referrals or mentions in this article.