Life is beautiful when you allow people to journey with you

So much has happened and changed since my last post, and I am wondering if I can even put it into words. It has been one of the most memorable months of my life. I’ve challenged myself intellectually, made new friends, hit some of the highest and lowest points in health and relationships, and continue to try and heal from a deeply hurting heart. In everything, I see how beautiful life is when you allow people to journey with you, near and afar. 


Deanna, Katie and I at the beach.

Criminal Law

I’m about half way done with Criminal Law, and it has been quite an adjustment. I remember when I was studying for the LSAT, there was a distinct week when I finally noticed a shift in thinking and a new level of understanding of the material. It was so different from my studies in journalism/music/biblical studies. Because I was supposed to start school a year a go, it has now been over 2.5 years since I took the LSAT, and if there are any applicable skills to carry over to law school, they have been lost the hiatus.

It’s been humbling to be around such brilliant people and learning from a great professor. While this type of study does not come naturally to me, I do have the confidence that I will fight through and come out on the other side. This last week I feel like I finally started to see a similar shift in thinking, particularly in the way I read news and think about issues. It’s fascinating.

I have spent an exuberant amount of time with people in my class, and spent many late nights out on the town and days studying, spending time at the beach, etc. I cannot begin to articulate how much your support has meant to me. Each of you mean the world to me, in very genuine ways.

Night at the Navy Pier listening to a live cover band and watching fireworks.

Night at the Navy Pier listening to a live cover band and watching fireworks.

Physical Therapy

I started physical therapy a few weeks a go. Before they can work on my post-op muscular and nerve pain, they have to correct my spine, which apparently is fusing itself together in my neck. This problem has absolutely nothing to do with cancer/surgeries, he said it actually looks like I was hit in the back of the head with a blunt object about 5-6 years a go–Bizarre. In any event, I have at least three months of PT 3x a week to correct this problem. Half way through they will reevaluate and decide if they can add a fourth day in to work on the muscular, nerve pain.

The black line is a normal spinal curve, the red line is mine. Two of the vertebra are already fused in the back.

The black line is a normal spinal curve, the red line is mine. Two of the vertebra are already fused in the back.

Physical therapy has been excruciating, but I don’t know if it’s in a good way yet. Because he’s been focusing on correcting my spine, and not giving attention to my post-op pain, I sometimes feel like some of the exercises I do may be improving my spine, but worsening the post-op healing. I’m in more daily pain now than I have been any other time this year. I’m praying this is just because it must get worse before it gets better, we’ll see.


After injections and radiation from last week, I will find out this Wednesday if I am cancer-free or if I need another round of radiation. I really don’t know what to anticipate heading into this appointment. I get nauseous thinking about it.

I’m praying it’s clear, largely because I want to focus on becoming well again. This whole process has been a bit frustrating because right when I feel like I’m turning a corner toward good health, I’ve had another surgery/treatment/adjustment to bring it even lower and start the building process over. When I finally felt recovered from the first surgery, it was time for radiation. When I felt as though I was finally getting energy back after radiation, it was time for my second surgery, etc.

I’m praying this Wednesday I get the all-clear signal so I can focus on physical therapy and working towards a level of health I once had. In any event, it’s a big week, and I kindly ask for your prayer for strength physically and emotionally.


Thyrogen injections before radioactive iodine and full-body scan.

Update: One month post-op surgery #2

Rolls of thunder echo outside my window, and I find it fitting to write and reflect tonight. It’s my last night before beginning the long-awaited journey in law school. That’s right, tomorrow night, I start school. It’s 9 months later than anticipated, but also not a moment to soon.

Surgery #2 Update

My incision is healing beautifully! I’m so impressed, and certainly satisfied with my change in surgeons. I’m substantially more tired right now, because I don’t think my thyroid medication has been correctly adjusted after this surgery, but I’m doing a great job of faking it! 😉 By around 2 p.m. I’m normally in desperate need of time to recoup–not necessarily a nap, but time to rest my mind and body. I rarely find the time to, but it’s nearly clockwork each day.

My pain is tolerable and I often find myself forgetting about it! My right ear, neck and right shoulder are still numb, but I’ve learned to wear different neck-lines again, no matter how uncomfortable (before anything that rested on my collar bones was intolerable). It’s a game of adaptability and pain tolerance, and I’m winning 😉

School Orientation

Last week we had school orientation, and it not only made me extremely excited about the subject matter (something I’ve been questioning for awhile now), but I have already made some great friends. Every person I’ve talked to has such a unique  and incredible life-story. Either this reflects admirably on Chicago-Kent’s admissions committee, or it shows that as we age, we are given more opportunity to write meaningful stories with our lives that will impact people daily. I believe the latter has the most to do with it.

It’s such a beautiful concept–our life stories are merging together for a few short years to co-write the next chapter in our lives, before moving on to the next. I pray we write a story together that is memorable and noteworthy, not only to ourselves but to our friends, family and community. 

Who’s story inspires you? Tell them.

Skin Biopsy

Last week I went to the dermatologist for the first time. After several years of drum corps (two of which I never wore sunscreen…I know, terrible), I figured it would be good to have a general check up before the summer. To my surprise, they decided to remove a mole from my stomach that day and send it to pathology. I received the results today–it’s a dysplastic (atypical) mole, which is the stage moles gets to right before cancer. (Seriously, I wish I was making this up. hah). Because of these results, I am up to 30% more likely to have melanoma sometime in my life, so I will be going to the dermatologist every six months for a full-body check up.

I am relieved that they took proactive measures and removed it, but part of me is heavy-laden. While I am hopefully nearing my thyroid cancer treatment end, having another cancer scare surface, a multitude of emotions arise. I’ve always been a very healthy person–active, eating well, taking vitamins, rarely sick and never missed a beat. Then 9 months ago the rug was pulled out from under me.

Trying to remove the “cancer” stigma

Since my thyroid cancer diagnoses last summer, the hardest struggle I have faced has been emotionally the last five months. As a 23-year-old single woman, carrying the tainted tag of “cancer” begins to weigh heavily on your heart. Your thoughts frequently turn to feeling like “damaged goods” for anyone who might be interested in you. You start to feel guilty allowing people in because you have this stigma that will never be erased. Think of the people in your life who have had cancer. After knowing they have had cancer, how often do you think of them independently of that title? I know I unintentionally always marry the two. I don’t want people to think of me and think “cancer.” It’s such an isolating thought.

Even though I know I will be fine eventually, and I will live a full life, part of me feels selfish to enter any kind of relationship. I often feel as though I’ve lost a part of my health that I will never get back and this could potentially impact my future kids, so who wants to willingly walk into that mess? How is that fair to them?

I am normally not one to admit any of the above, but I’ve learned from my thyroid cancer community on instagram (several ladies who I considered close friends), transparency for others walking this road is essential. I’m strong and stubborn to push past any adversity, but I’m learning to put my ego aside and let people know when it hurts. Believe me, it’s not easy. If I had it my way, you would think the last 9 months of my life has been a walk in the park.

I am afraid of appearing weak or look like I’m seeking pity, but I’m sure I’m not the only one who has struggled with this, and I want to be honest to anyone who might be following my story and struggling in similar ways. You are not alone.


Surgery #2 and Recovery

As most of you know, I had my second surgery for thyroid cancer April 26, 2013–almost exactly 8 months after my first. I’m surprised I haven’t written until now, but recovery has been difficult and lengthier this time.


I had my first surgery with a different surgeon at a different hospital, so I knew this experience would be different. However, I don’t think I was really anticipating just how much different it would be.

My parents flew in from California to be with me during the surgery and to help me afterward. I picked them up from the airport the afternoon before, and we made it to University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) hospital for my surgery by 5:30 a.m. the next morning. My surgeon showed up a half hour late , so I didn’t get rolled back into the surgery room until after 8 a.m.

When I woke up from my first surgery, my surgeon was right there reassuring me, and it was a matter of minutes before I was in a private room and with my family. This time, I woke up and no one was around me. While the nurse visited occasionally over the next hour and a half, I felt very alone. To make matters worse, I had an allergic reaction to something they used in surgery, which created intense itching under my skin from my sternum to my chin. However, since the nurse wasn’t around very often, he didn’t take the time to listen to why I was crying heavily (I hate to admit this). Since my voice was weak and my throat was in pain, I couldn’t raise a voice to alert anyone’s attention. Instead, I sat weeping in my bed, wishing my family was there.

Eventually after what seemed like a lifetime, a room became available and I was wheeled to a room and able to see my family. The itching intensified over the next 6 hours, without any relief. Since my skin was so numb and I didn’t want to scratch close to my incision, I was rubbing my chin and neck for relief, but my hands felt like they were touching rubber because of the numbness. There was no relief. It felt as though thousands of ants were crawling under my skin and I couldn’t do anything about it. It was truly miserable.

I have very few allergies and interestingly, one of them is Benadryl cream. I have taken Benadryl successfully by pill before, but the nurses didn’t want to risk any further irritation, so they did very minimal dose through my IV and gave me morphine just to try and calm me down. It didn’t get better until my dad convinced them to finally wipe down the surgical prep area. I was only itching where they would have prepped me for surgery, so Dad and I thought my reaction might be from whatever sterilizing prep they used on my skin. Sure enough, after they did this, I felt exponentially better within 30 minutes. Dad said the next day, there was a clear red rash. It was such a rough way to start recovery, especially after being back in a room feeling uncared for and alone for what seemed like an eternity.

The room I was in was a double, which bothered me mostly because my family couldn’t stay as long as they could have if I was alone. For the majority of my stay, I had a very noisy roommate, which made it very difficult to sleep, and without anyone allowed in the room from 8 p.m.-11 a.m., it was rough. I was so thankful when they let me go home to recover.

36 stitches and a drain!

36 stitches and a drain!

Physical Healing

After my first surgery, they sent me home the second day with heavy bandaging on my neck and nothing else. This time, I went home after three days with no bandaging, and I had a drain in my neck for five days. While it was bizarre to have to drain a bottle of liquid from my neck several times a day, it is clear that my incision is healing much better and with a much slimmer line than last time. It was also much more comfortable not having thick bandaging to deal with.

Removing the enormous drain

Removing the enormous drain

The surgeon removed 47 lymph nodes from my neck. Raise your hand if you knew it was possible to have that many nodes in such a small area? I didn’t. This is after having several removed in my last surgery and he even left one chain of nodes on my left side and cleared everything else out.

Forty-seven. Wow.

The swelling on my neck and chin was much more apparent and lasted much longer this time (I’m still slightly swollen), though I’m not surprised. He said some of the cancerous nodes he removed were imbedded in muscle in the thyroid bed. and after reading the surgical report and seeing some of the major maneuvering they did in my neck, I’m surprised my swelling was equivalent to my overall body weight. For example:

“After rolling neck contents into the internal jugular vein, a combination of sharp dissection using a 15-blade scalpel, as well as blunt dissection with a tonsil clamp and division with Bovie electrocautery, was performed to released the neck contents off of the internal jugular vein.”

GROSS (and kind of awesome). The first time I read “rolling neck contents,” I gagged a little. hah

My chin practically disappeared for more than a week. It was a beautiful day when my dad looked at me and said, “Hey, I can see your chin!” 🙂

The first day I really noticed the swelling going down.

The first day I really noticed the swelling going down.

My pain level this time around is also substantially more, as well as the area left numb. Last time, I was numb under my chin and around my neck and never gained back feeling. This time, I’m numb from down on my right shoulder up to slightly above my chin and my right ear is completely numb (I’m seriously considering getting a new piercing, since I can’t feel it!). At the same time, these areas also have bizarre sensitivity, where clothing and touching certain areas feels like pins and needles. Wearing shirts with a normal crew-neck collar is completely out of the question right now, and extremely uncomfortable.

When I came home for recovery, my pain level was high, but no medication was helping. Until yesterday, there was a constant dull pain in my shoulder and sharp pains that changed day-to-day. The dull pain has lessened, but sharp pains remain, especially when I have to take a deep breath–a sharp pain in the back of my neck shoots down my spine. I’ve tried the narcotics they gave me, with no success, and every kind of anti-inflammatory, to see if it stemmed muscularly but who knows. I saw my surgeon this morning, and while he doesn’t know why I’m having the pain I’m having, he’s not concerned. I’ve given up on medication, so I’m just waiting it out.

The good news is, I’ve lost 5 pounds.

Emotional Healing

Healing emotionally has been a bigger challenge this time around. After last surgery, I returned to letters/packages/cards from my friends all over the country–I felt so loved. I definitely feel supported this time around as well, but there have been many dark days as well, and days where I feel isolated. I am thankful my parents were able to be here for my surgery and that my dad extended his stay for a week to help me heal. If they weren’t here, the dark days would have been unbearable.

One thing I’ve learned over the last 8 months is how much harder this journey is the longer you’re on the road. The longer you’re dealing with the same issues, the less people ask and the more isolated it becomes. I have started to think about all of the people in my life who have been on similar journeys, and I wonder how many of them felt truly uplifted lately. I encourage you to do the same. If you know someone in your life who has been struggling with any kind of issue for a long time, while it may be old news to most people, it’s something they are dealing with every moment of every day. Reach out–Give a hug, send a card, shoot a text, show support, let them know they’re on your mind. It can make all the difference.

Lately when I lay in bed at night, all I can think about is how much I can feel God’s presence. For some reason, late at night in the quiet of my room, I feel closest to him. He’s tangible–real. I feel as though the worries on my heart are already in dialogue with the One who loves me more than I could ever comprehend. I often get overwhelmed, sometimes to the point of tears, knowing that He wants to walk this with me. I remind myself Jesus is enough… I don’t need anything else. I’m not sure this has ever resonated so strongly.

Law School

I start school May 29. It’s been a long time coming, and now it’s approaching fast. I was also offered a scholarship for housing downtown for a year. I signed the lease yesterday. Below will be my view starting this August:

Photo May 05, 1 43 46 PM

Highest highs and lowest lows

Wow, what a whirlwind of a weekend. I’m still finishing up my duties with Halftime Magazine, but I needed to take a moment to digest everything that has happened in the last week–it has been quite the roller coaster.

I went to the hospital the night before I left for Indy and Dayton, because I had burning in my chest. I have a higher chance for blood clots these days, so I wanted to make sure everything was OK before I drove (driving more than an hour in the car, increases the risk for blood clots as well). I would normally ignore slight pain like this, but I know I can’t do this anymore. They never found the solution to the burning, but since there was nothing alarming in my charts, I convinced them to let me leave.

High fives all around for talking my way out of staying overnight and for taking the time to stop home and bring good reading material!

Photo Apr 15, 9 12 14 PM

I cannot stand the tube they leave in my arms for IV’s. Boo.

WGI World Championships

After being released from the hospital around 11 p.m., I had to finish packing and get everything ready for driving down immediately after work the next day. It was rough waking up around 6 the next day after this ordeal, working 8-5 p.m., and then driving down to Indy, but I made it safely!

As expected, WGI World Championships was incredible. After playing marimba in indoor percussion for nine years, this was my first year aged out and watching from the other side. I came with Halftime Magazine, and enjoyed manning the booth with our editor, watching shows in the lot and inside, as well as interviewing people for the magazine.

Photo Apr 19, 10 45 37 AM

I enjoyed all of the groups I watched, and I was especially proud of my home team, RCC. It was bizarre not performing with them, but it was a joy to just sit back and soak it in. I adore the members and staff–so many wonderful memories.

This is my favorite weekend of the year, and it has been what I’ve been looking forward to since I moved to Chicago, and especially since I was diagnosed. Knowing that I would be reunited with so many dear friends, kept my spirits up on the lowest days. When I returned from Italy, after I learned I would be having surgery again, I found a box at my apartment of over 45 letters of past and current RCC members and staff. It was so special, and I anxiously waited for the day I could see everyone in person again. It had been nearly a year.

Letters from my RCC friends.

Letters from my RCC friends.

I was sick to my stomach excited to see everyone! I am extremely thankful, however, that people weren’t expressing pity when they saw me, but instead reciprocated the pure excitement I felt (THANK YOU!). At the same time, I had so many heart-felt conversations with people who have been following my story. Three people in particular offered so much love and support that I would have never anticipated. I am blessed (have I said that enough lately? 🙂 )

It has been non-stop since I got off work last Tuesday and drove down here. After several nights of 3-5 hours of sleep back to back, my body is in dyer need of recuperation before surgery on Friday. Or maybe not, I’ll have plenty of time to sleep then 😉

RCC's finals performance.

RCC’s finals performance.

Rest in peace, Sue

While I was gone, I received the incredibly sad news that a dear friend lost her battle with cancer Friday night. Since I moved to Chicago, I have had the privilege of spending time with Sue and grew very attached to her emotionally. Every time I saw her, she quickly asked how I was doing and told me she was thinking of me all the time… I tried to show her that there wasn’t a day I didn’t think of her.

I struggled a lot with Sue’s kindness, because her cancer was so much more progressed, but still she wanted to know how I was doing. It made me sick with guilt many days. I wrestled with God and asked why He was going to take a wife and mother from this world, and leave me, a single woman with no dependents.  I spent many evenings in prayer and tears over this–and until recently, I never told anyone.

A week a go, I was over at her home, and she was quickly declining. Everyone there told me that she continually asked about me. I walked into her bedroom, and sure enough, she immediately asks how I am doing and tells me she thinks of me all the time. It took every ounce of control to not completely lose it right there. She wanted to know about my surgery, but also about my trip to Italy. It was beautiful to see her smile when I talked about some of my favorite parts of my trip.

I will never forget the next day–the last time I saw her. My friend Kim and I were talking to her about heaven, and as she closed her eyes, I wondered if she could already see glimpses of it. I noticed moments of peace wash over her, and those moments were unforgettable. She was telling us she can’t wait to be cancer-free and to give my Aunt Bonnie a hug (Bonnie passed away suddenly almost exactly three years a go).

Sue passed away while I was in Dayton for WGI, and I felt terrible for being away. I haven’t really had time to process this yet, and while writing this, the weight is starting to set in. I am so sad that I will be having surgery Friday and likely won’t be able to come to her celebration service.

Sue was a beautiful, kind, spunky, hilarious, compassionate, selfless and Godly woman. Please keep her family and friends in your prayers during this time, she is greatly missed.

Sue and her beautiful daughter (and my dear friend/cousin), Casey.

Sue and her beautiful daughter (and my dear friend/cousin), Casey.

I love you, Sue, and I am so blessed to have known you, and I am truly forever changed. Please give Aunt Bonnie a big hug for me–I can’t wait until we are all reunited again. It must be so beautiful where you are; I can’t wait to see.

Redemption to my story

Since my trip to Italy, life just continues to look up.

The new job is great. I feel valued and challenged at the same time–which is the perfect balance. I have been getting up around 5 a.m. most mornings to get my runs in for the 1000 mile challenge and packing a healthy lunch and working vigorously from 8-5 p.m. I love feeling productive again.

Law school

The most exciting news since my last post is that I have registered to start law school this summer! Instead of waiting until the fall, I have registered to take Criminal Law this summer. I could not be more excited. We had an admitted students weekend last week, and I met some awesome ladies from my entering class, as well as a few people who would’ve been my classmates this year, who I have been connected with via Facebook. It was so encouraging to meet them in person and to feel so welcomed and supported. I can’t believe I would already be finishing up my first year–so much has changed since last August.

Chicago-Kent College of Law entering students

Chicago-Kent College of Law entering students

I also received exciting news that I am one of five finalists for a full tuition scholarship. I am so thankful to even be considered in the top five, and it would radically change my life if I am actually blessed with this gift. I am trying not to get my hopes up, but it’s so exciting to think of the possibility.

Surgery #2

There is still a small chance I won’t be able to do the summer class, but I am doing everything I can to make it happen. The only reason I would pull out is if a complication from my second surgery (April 26) is too great for me to handle on top of school.

As I mentioned before, there is a high chance of at least temporary damage to my vocal chords this time around. They are putting a large tube down my throat to hopefully prevent permanent damage, but in doing so, my vocal chords will be stretched and could be damaged up to six months post-surgery. We will have no idea until I wake up that morning. The Assistant Dean of Admissions has been so supportive and understanding–I can wait until the class is supposed to start and make my decision. She said she would easily shift my start to fall if I need to and I wouldn’t lose any money. She was the same person I talked with last August, when I had to defer school, so she has been following my story.

My story arc

Lately I have been noticing a certain redemption in my story that is starting to unravel. There has been a story-arc to the last eight months of my life which I could never have prepared for. Someone told me being diagnosed with cancer soon after moving across the country and then having to defer law school a year is just a “detour in my life,” but I would have to disagree. The longer I walk this road, the more I realize how instrumental this chapter of my life is. Instead of a detour, I believe it has firmly directed me down the road I was already journeying toward.

While I still have another surgery and a few more months before I can see if I am cancer-free, the countless blessings and answers to endless prayers I have seen realized in the last month is the hope I have been seeking and waiting patiently for. Thank you, Jesus.

In those days when you pray, I will listen.If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.I will be found by you,” says the Lord. (Jeremiah 29:13-14)


My April calendar picture…

Italy, new job, surgery #2 & possible complication

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve written, and I’m pleased to say it’s because life has been busy! Some big news items for the last few weeks include my trip to Italy, starting a new job and finding a new surgeon/scheduling my second surgery.


I went to Italy for nine days with my dad; it was beautiful and special. We spent the majority of the time in Rome, but took a day trip to the coast and a day trip to Florence. We were in Rome long enough to see all of the major historical places and take time to experience the culture as well. We ate a ton of pasta and pizza and drank a lot of wine–It was fantastic. It also felt great to master the train system within Rome and walk all day, every day (It made eating pasta and pizza every day acceptable 😉 ).


My top 5 favorite places/things:

  1. Michelangelo’s statue of David (in Florence)
  2. Vatican museum and tour (Sistine Chapel)
  3. St. Peter’s Basilica and square (We were able to watch the Pope’s inauguration there, too)
  4. The Colosseum (the Rome marathon was happening around it when I went to see it!; see below)
  5. Il Peperone (restaurant we went to twice because we liked it so much the first time. Amazing gelato and the waiter remembered us!)


For all of my pictures check out my public albums on Facebook: Album 1, Album 2.

New job

The Monday I returned from Italy, I had a final round interview which included a presentation I had to give to a group, including the CEO. Jet-lagged and all, I landed the job and started the next day! I am now working for a detective agency downtown Chicago and my job is in social media marketing. It’s a fast-pace environment, and I truly feel as though my input is highly valued. It’s great to be have some place to be and to have a team to work with. Since surgery last August, I’ve been really seeking an opportunity to get back out there, and I’m so happy to have one.

Second Surgery

The most recent news came yesterday. My last post mentioned my needle biopsies, but I never followed up to say all of those samples came back positive for cancer. However, I was anticipating this news, so I wasn’t surprised when my endocrinologist said it is certain I need another surgery. Unfortunately, he also said he thinks much of what remains was probably left behind in the first surgery, so he told me I needed to look for a new surgeon. This was sad news for me, because my surgeon has been the most responsive and caring of all of my doctors. He’s my favorite, but I was directed elsewhere.

Yesterday, I met with a new surgeon who is nationally recognized and part of University of Illinois at Chicago Hospital–a nationally recognized hospital as well. After waiting 2.5 hours to see the surgeon, I could tell he’s very intelligent and experienced. Even though he isn’t the most compassionate person I’ve met, I can tell he will do a great job. He said they would be entering in the same incision and then extending it a little further up the left side, because they need to remove lymph nodes on both sides of my neck, from up near my jaw, to behind my collar bone. He also told me they’ll be able to remove scar tissue and my scar will likely be even slimmer than it is now. This was all good to know and not to far from what I was expecting. By the end of all of this, I swear I’m going to have the most slender neck you’ve ever seen! Some people get liposuction, I just get major organs and lymph nodes removed. Cheers!

However, he did bring some slightly scary news that I wasn’t ready for. Part way through our visit, he led me to another room and decided to do a Laryngoscopy to see my vocal chords (that’s a terrible and bizarre feeling, by the way). He said there’s enough remaining in the thyroid bed that there is concern of damaging my vocal chords in surgery. To help prevent this, they will be putting a special tube down my throat during surgery to hopefully help prevent permanent damage. However, in doing this, he said my vocal chords will be stretched and I will likely have damaged chords for 1-6 months AND this still doesn’t ensure no permanent damage. I wasn’t prepared for this.

I didn’t really tell many people after the first surgery, but my lower singing register was damaged/removed through the surgery. I can start singing chromatically descending down a scale and suddenly it’ll just drop off–no sound. It was hard to come to terms with this, and the thought of any further damage to my singing or speaking voice is very scary to me. Music is such a large part of my life, and while most people know I play instruments, I don’t know how many people (unless you knew me growing up), know how much singing means to me. If I lose my voice, I just don’t know… It also worries me to think about how this could effect my law school start, but one day at a time. Surgery is scheduled for April 26.

HOWEVER, maybe I will just develop a sexy raspy sounds-like-I’ve-been-smoking-for-fifty-years kind of voice, and then I can pursue singing jazz in a night club as a part-time gig for the rest of my life. I’d be OK with that.


Needle biopsy, Round 2

There has been quite a development and shift of events since my last post. I was under the impression I wasn’t going to be able to have my needle biopsy done until after Italy. Well, turns out the scheduling person was confused by the two appointments I scheduled with her. She told me I was having another ultrasound this week and my appointment April 2 was my biopsy.

I got a call this week with instructions for my “procedure” Thursday. I was confused because they told me not to eat 8 hours before and this shouldn’t matter with an ultrasound. After several transferred phone calls and several confused hospital staff members, I learned I was having my biopsy this week (two days a go) and my appointment April 2 (which they said was also a biopsy) is the follow up.

Apparently my endocrinologist wanted to make sure he saw me as soon as possible after my trip to Italy and after he returns (he’s gone for over week after I get back). Even though he is fully booked through April, he scheduled me for my follow up to discuss results of my biopsy,  the first slot he could on the day he gets back, which happens to be a slot reserved for biopsies. This is what confused everyone. The hospital schedule has me in a biopsy slot, but only because my doctor was adamant about seeing me then. It certainly brought some comfort to know my new endocrinologist would go out of his way to fit me in as soon as possible when he returns.

First Needle Biopsy (August 2012)

My first needle biopsy was our first attempt to learn if I have cancer. Most people know I am stubborn when it comes to pain, and I can mentally convince myself something doesn’t hurt. I must admit I take some pride in my ability to not cry in physically painful situations. There have been few times when I haven’t been able to hold back tears.

I vividly remember my first needle biopsy. They were only sampling one spot, so they didn’t numb me. However, it was a particularly difficult spot to biopsy, so it took them four times to get useful cells. I was fine the first three sticks, but the fourth time I couldn’t control it anymore, and I started to cry. Still, it was also one of the most tender moments for me, because while my eyes were closed and I silently cried, my surgeon gently dabbed my eyes and cheeks with a tissue. He was very sweet, and while I was in there alone, he made me feel cared for.

Second Needle Biopsy (March 2013)

I had my second needle biopsy Thursday, March 7, and this time around was a different experience and unfortunately, more painful. I went to a different hospital, because my endocrinologist ordered the tests, not my primary doctor. As a result, instead of having one nurse and my trusted surgeon, I had two doctors, and two medical residents around me at different points in time. It was louder, busier and a less private appointment. At least one of the male residents was flirting with me between the ultrasound and biopsies. hah. 😉

My biopsy last fall dealt with a lymph node that was very easy to feel and see from the outside of my neck. This time, however, I was getting a biopsy because several spots appeared on my scan after radiation treatment. Because they are not obvious to touch, they were using an ultrasound to find where they were going to biopsy and then they went into each spot.

I have had a few ultrasounds on my neck by now and most of the time they put a ton of gel and while it feels weird, it doesn’t bother me at all. This time, however, they put very little gel on my neck and they pushed so hard on my neck that it actually hurt… a lot. I was anticipating the biopsies to hurt, but not the ultrasound. Unfortunately, I already started to tear up before any needles touched my skin.


Then the doctor came in to prep me for the biopsies. He told me they decided to biopsy four spots on the right (even though there are also spots on the left), and they would numb each spot. Well, unfortunately each time they numbed me, they went in twice with a needle–once deep and once right under the skin–each time injecting a burning, painful solution for about 45 seconds. With four biopsied spots, this meant eight painful numbing injections, not to mention the biopsies themselves. The last spot also required a much larger needle, which finished off the procedure with quite the bang.

Each biopsy, they shimmied the needle back and forth on the masses under my skin, shaving off cells to use as samples. Needless to say, as the numbness wore off the next couple hours, some intense soreness and pain lingered from the internal damage done. Two days later, there is still some remaining soreness.

However, I did laugh quite a bit when I first saw myself after the procedure. They used an orange sterilizing solution on my neck which had the appearance of a terrible fake tan, and the accumulation of all the numbing made the right side of my face numb and eye droopy. It was quite the sight.


I’m very happy this is over, but even more pleased to hear that I should hear my results Tuesday, (March 12), before I go to Italy. I was concerned they would hold out until my appointment April 2 to tell me anything. It would be hard to wait nearly a month to hear results. No matter what though, I’ll be headed to Rome on Wednesday with my dad, and I can’t wait.

Current Soundtrack

You call me out upon the waters.
The Great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find you in the mystery;
In oceans deep my faith will stand.

So I will call upon your name
And keep my eyes above the waves.
When oceans rise my soul
Will rest in your embrace,
For I am yours and you are mine.

Your Grace abounds in the deepest waters.
Your Sovereign hand will be my guide.
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me;
You’ve never failed
And you won’t stop now.

So I will call upon your name
And keep my eyes above the waves.
When oceans rise my soul
Will rest in your embrace,
For I am yours and you are mine.

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders.
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever you would call me.
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my saviour.

I will call upon your name
Keep my eyes above the waves
My soul will rest in your embrace
I am yours and you are mine.

Thyroid cancer follow up scan

Today I met with my endocrinologist to discuss the results of my first tests done since radiation (neck ultrasound and blood work). The goal was to see if the radiation I was given after my full thyroidectomy and radical neck dissection surgery had taken care of anything remaining.

Unfortunately, not only does it appear radiation did not take care of everything, there is increased soft tissue density in comparison to the scans taken when I was unexpectedly hospitalized a few weeks after radiation. As a result, it is likely I will have to undergo another surgery sometime in the next couple months. While it cannot be confirmed right now, my doctor said he would be very surprised if the tissue was benign, because:

  • The tissue has increased
  • I had about 3x the amount of radiation the normal patient receives, and if there was any remaining loose tissue that was not cancerous, it should’ve all been killed off by the level of dose
  • I have high thyroglobulin levels, which is considered a “tumor marker.” If everything was gone, they would expect the level to be less than 0.1–my level is 4.2.
  • There was one mass they were able to measure as 1.3 x 0.7 x 1.1 cm (which is pretty large, especially in the tight muscle grouping in the neck), and several smaller masses.

So what now?

  • March 7: Another ultrasound to see what kind of change there has been since the last scan (about 3.5 weeks will have gone by).
  • March 13-22: My dad and I go to ITALY! He has business for only three of the days and the rest of the time we will be able to spend together exploring. We might even go on a day or two trip to Greece while we’re there! I couldn’t be more excited for the time away. Growing up, whenever we went out as a family we’d say we’re going to “party like a bunch of Norwegians:” 🙂

    Photo Feb 27, 5 06 37 PM

  • April 2: Needle biopsy of all the masses they are most concerned about after the ultrasound
  • End of April/Beginning of May, surgery?

The good news is, we are very close to the right dosage of thyroid medication! We are hardly a fraction away, and because I’m awesome, I don’t even take a dosage that they manufacture now. I take one pill everyday and once a week I take one and a half pills. Because it is a long-acting drug which accumulates over time, I’m able to do this. Science is fascinating, isn’t it?!

Photo Feb 27, 3 25 52 PM

It seems like such a prolonged timeline. It’s hard to believe because of my endocrinologist’s availability, It’ll be over a month until the biopsy. I’m trusting nothing drastic will happen between now and then–we’ll see. I really shouldn’t be complaining, it is such a privilege to have access to these kinds of tests and facilities. It’s humbling.

If I have surgery, they will follow up with another scan three months later to see if I need radiation or if I’m clear…this will once again be around the time I am supposed to start law school. I am PRAYING this doesn’t come full-circle. It would be disheartening to begin another year and have to pull-out again for medical reasons. We’ll cross that bridge later, I have scholarship applications to finish 😉

Overall, I am doing very well with this less-than-pleasant news. I’m at peace and calm. Right now, the main concern I really have is if surgery will interfere with the Indianapolis mini-marathon I plan to run on May 4. 🙂

There’s a peace I’ve come to know
Though my heart and flesh may fail
There’s an anchor for my soul
I can say “It is well”

Stepping outside comfortable

Several months have gone by, and part of me has become over-the-moon excited to jump into law school this fall. There’s a burning desire to go and challenge myself in a way I have never been challenged and to be a fraction closer to making an impact in this world.

Coupled with this certainty is the ever-present anxiety, doubt and fear. I have read and heard countless times how important it is to choose a career path concurrent with your talents and natural gifts. However, I have not read much literature encouraging people to step out into uncharted territory and pursue a dream that is so far from what is natural for them.

When I think of my natural gifts, I think music, teaching and writing. Part of me always reverts back to this, because I know I could pursue these arts for the rest of my life, be somewhat successful and my cup would be filled.

Still, I can’t help the deep-seeded desire to impact the world through law. The seed was planted nearly four years a go, and its root is deep now.  My heart continues to be broken for those enslaved today, and the smallest bit of empathy I have learned through my health struggle through the last six months has only made it stronger.

People who have known me since I was little are still taken back and slightly confused by the path I am pursuing. As I mentioned, it does not seem natural for me. However, I can’t help but feel as though the Lord will bless me on this journey. I can’t help but know this desire of my heart is pure.

I was just reminded of the story of Moses. God calls Moses to be a spokesman and Moses basically says, “But really, I’m terrible at speaking, I’m not the right guy for you.” Then God more or less says, “Really?” and then He assures Moses He will give him the right words and direction. I sometimes feel like I have the same conversation with God.

Lydia: But law? I’m so awkward and I am not suave enough.
God: Really? Did you forget who I am? I’ll be right there with you–you have nothing to worry about.

The injustices of the world today will only truly be challenged when people devote their entire lives to seeing even the most minute change. I have heard the length of time it takes for a single case to finish, for a handful of people to be rescued and for societal norms to adjust so these injustices are prevented from happening again.

I can’t help but feel so deeply called to this life, I am ready to do what it takes. I know it may not feel natural for me, I know won’t be easy, and I know it won’t be comfortable, but this is where Jesus steps in. I am remaining open to His guidance as I make my final decisions leading up to this fall, and I pray I am susceptible to whatever it is He draws me to next, and I pray my heart is brought closer to His and closer to those His heart aches for–the poor, the weak, the hurting.

“In different times and in different ways, our [God] offers us a simple proposition: Follow me beyond what you can control, beyond where your own strength and competencies can take you, and beyond what is affirmed or risked by the crowd – and you will experience me and my power and my wisdom and my love.Gary Haugen, Just Courage

Learning to grieve and finding hope

I can’t believe it is already February!

I went to Minneapolis a little over a week ago to visit a bunch of friends from my cycling tour this last summer, as well as my dear friend Andrea from drum corps who I hadn’t seen since 2008 DCI finals. Seeing this group was refreshing and filled my spirit, but it was also very challenging.

Andrea and I in Minneapolis.

Andrea and I in Minneapolis.

Learning to Grieve

The weekend in Minneapolis surfaced emotions I suppressed throughout this healing process. I realized I am beginning to grieve, and I am beginning to understand more deeply that nothing will ever be the same. As an optimistic person, coming to this realization was difficult (and even harder to admit on here–my pride sometimes gets in the way). Cognitively I have known this from the start, but emotionally and spiritually I hadn’t let it sink in.

The weight of this realization is heavy and I humbly ask for your prayer and support as I move forward and begin to grasp the beauty of what lies ahead. Having control and an understanding of my body (metabolism, energy, weight, etc.) brought me confidence and I realize now, much of my worth and self-image. I will never have the ability to completely control these aspects of my life again, and I’m going to have to deal with it –and I am.

“Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” Proverbs 31:30

Law School

Last week I received my acceptance letter from Chicago-Kent College of Law. I wasn’t prepared for the emotions that were paired with receiving this letter. I immediately remembered when I received the same letter last year, sitting in my apartment in California. I remember the day I chose to uproot and move across the country again, and the peace that came when I put the letter on our fridge after making my decision. It’s been quite the ride to get to this point.

Maybe I’ll wait to put it on the fridge this time, until after I begin classes 😉

Many of you know I woke up from surgery last August and found a video tweeted to me by a professor I would have had for 1L Contracts. He sent me a tweet of my would-have-been classmates cheering for me. It was a very memorable and special moment–it made me feel remembered and cared about by people I have never met. You can watch the video here:

This weekend, I received another encouraging note by a stranger:

Screen shot 2013-02-04 at 10.39.34 AM

Finding Hope

Little moments like this bring me hope and peace. I struggle with days where I feel useless, embarrassed and guilty for not already finding full-time work or school, and feeling as though I’m disappointing those who know my drive and my passion to be on the move and help people in more explicit ways. While there is a level of irrationality in this, I think it comes full circle, back to the grieving process.

I hope my transparency doesn’t come across as “woe-is-me.” I believe it is important to be honest about this walk, and I am learning not to undermine some of the deepest struggles I have faced, internally and externally. I pray that people who are walking through similar situations will find this blog honest and true, and not glamorizing or overly dramatic.

Again, thank for reading my words and being part of this journey with me. Your encouragement has been steadfast and appreciated–you are loved.