Friday, October 31, 2008

Test Results

The test results are in and....yay! Although my thyroid is enlarged and absorbed over 60% more or the radioactive material than the average thyroid, there are no nodules, growths or tumors. I'll be starting medication soonk which I'm hoping helps lower my heart rate, increase my strengh, give me more energy, help me to sleep better, lower my core body temperature, sooth my shakiness and make me feel all around better. We'll see...

I'll keep you updated but now I'm going to sleep because I kept dozing off as I typed this. Sorry if there are errors, but that happens when I sleep and write.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Just Thinking

A collaboration of the thoughts that are rumbling through my brain as I toss and turn sleeplessly tonight: health, ministry and depression.


My throat is sore. Usually, I get about three sore throats a year--one in the fall, one in the winter and one in the summer. Generally these sore throats last one to two days and are merely the first symptom of a virus that will soon follow with a stuffy nose and then finish with a nasty, lingering congestion in my chest. So, when my throat started feeling sort of sore last Friday evening, I tried to prepare myself for the onslaught. Usually preparations would consist of doses of Airborne, Vitamin C, Echinacea and Zinc, hoping to boost my immune system enough to fight off or shorten the duration of the virus. However, there are certain vitamins and supplements that I am not supposed to have for the week before my Thyroid Scan. I'm not entirely certain which ones to avoid, so I'm avoiding them all. Thus my preparations have included more sleep and lots of water. I mean LOTS of water...even more than usual. Well, today makes the third full day of sore throat and still no other symptoms have appeared other than white streaks on my tonsils (which you really don't want me to detail here!), and tender, swollen lymph nodes (a rarity for me). These could be symptoms of Strep throat, especially since I don't have any other cold symptoms that would indicate a virus. But generally Strep is accompanied by a fever higher than 101, and my temperature seems to be settled at 99.5 (which honestly could be the overactive thyroid as well as anything else). So...not really sure what to do, other than wait it out a day or two more. If it continues I probably will have to go to urgent care for a culture--which I'd really like to avoid since lab fees are so atrocious! Okay, enough whining...on to other things.



So, my thyroid scan is on Thursday, but I have to go in on Wednesday to ingest the radioactive iodine. I'm not supposed to eat or DRINK anything for four hours prior and an hour after. I'm sure that just knowing I'm not supposed to drink anything will make me ravishingly thirsty. I'm the sort of dork who carries a 32 oz. water bottle around in her purse, because I have a (mildish)fear of being thirsty and without water. So, that is probably the thing I'm most worried about regarding the scan: thirst. Not too bad, eh?

Of course there is the "Other" thing--which honestly I haven't been too worried about at all. Malignant thyroid tumors are very, very rare according to the nurse practitioner and the internet. So, like I said, cancer really isn't a very big concern of mine. But that doesn't mean I haven't thought about it--or imagined it at least.

It's strange. The students that I worked with over the past three years were the roughest, toughest, craziest, neediest students I have ever interacted with! While God was kind enough to encourage me by allowing me to see how he was working in the lives of some of the students, I felt as if others of them had walls of iron around their hearts and souls. They were so caught up in their world of school and boyfriends/girlfriends, and popularity and... shoplifting, that I sometimes felt that as I spoke to them and lived with them and loved them, my words and actions were being carried away by the wind before reaching them. I frequently felt that only something huge would shake them out of their little worlds they were so caught up in. I began to believe that one of the things that would reach them the most would be to see followers of God experience tragedy. I felt that the students would remember better the Truth the Lord had spoken through me if something happened to me to ingrain it upon their minds. I wondered if God would choose to take me away in a car or other accident, as a way to shake them out of their comfort zones and make them think about their mortality and the life that is offered to them freely in Jesus. I began to pray that God would do whatever it took to reach these dearly-beloved creatures of his--even if it meant death or serious illness for me (please don't think me a martyr--I knew well whose presence I would gain, and even ached for Him at times.) Well...needless to say, God did not choose to impact these kids through the methods that I had contrived. But if something had happened to me--even a year ago--I could imagine the fruit that could come from it!

My life is so different now. Before I spent my days loving many students, encouraging their faith and trying to help prepare them for their lives. Now I spend my days loving one woman, trying to serve her with patience, and help care for her and love her on her journey to death. While I must confess that before I struggled with pride, now I struggle with impatience and a sense of futility and uselessness. My circle of influence has reduced itself to one person, and when she is gone, what can be said of what I've done? (This is my human thinking, by the way. I would never have undertaken this if that was what I truly believed. I know in my heart that God is pleased with humility and servanthood and care for the widow in need. I know my Grandma is a person and I want her to be well cared-for and loved until the day she dies, and I think that is important. But sometimes I don't feel like these things are important--and those are the moments that I feel overwhelmed by a sense of futility.)

So...back to thyroid cancer--which I am fairly confident I do not have. In my thinking through of the rare possibility, I find myself saying that it would be ridiculous. To think that when a crisis could have been beneficial to so many, it did not come. But now, when it would seemingly be beneficial to no one, and detrimental to the one person who now relies upon me--now is when it becomes a possibility.



There is nothing fun about depression--regardless of what emo-band teens may say about depression and musical inspiration. But I actually do feel blessed that I have experienced mild depression stemming from different sources. I believe that people experience depression steming from at least three sources: physical depression, emotional depression and spiritual depression. Now the tricky thing is that not only can depression stem from more than one source at a time, as whole beings we may find that the state of our spirit, our [metaphorical] heart, and our bodies can interfere with one another.

When I was in Jr. High, I was angry and sad and lonely (who wasn't!?) and I lost the will to live. There was really nothing terrible in my life, but for some reason my emotions became exaggerated and the negative ones seemed to overshadow my life unbearably. I really didn't have any clue what was going on at the time--all I knew was that life hurt and I wanted to stop hurting. Despite the plans I had formed, I made it through middle school. Eventually things slowly improved. My life wasn't that different, but my feelings became much more manageable. I believe that I was suffering from a standard emotional depression.

Several years later I experienced a different sort of depression. I did something that was wrong, and realized shortly thereafter that I needed to confess my actions to a particular person to make it right. I was terrified of admitting what I had done, and so I decided not to confess. I promised myself (and God) that I wouldn't do the same thing again and wanted that to be enough. But it wasn't enough, because my sin still wasn't made right. I stifled my conscience for several months--and they were terrible months. I felt bad, I felt sad, I felt angry, I felt horrible. But still I refused to make things right. Soon I was experiencing psychosomatic symptoms: stomache-aches, nausea and general malaise. Finally...FINALLY...I relented. I went to the person and admitted what I had done (and they forgave me very graciously I might add). Suddenly I felt free! I was happy. My stomache-aches and nausea had disappeared! It was great, truly amazing. My spiritual disobedience had caused spiritual depression, and making things right with God and man was my cure.

My second year of college, I was in a hit-and-run car accident with my brother, Eric. Our tiny hatchback Toyota Tercel was stopped and a cargo van struck us from the rear corner, spinning us in a circle and flipping us upside down. The car was mangled, but Eric and I crawled from the wreckage with no broken bones. I did suffer a concussion a concussion which wreaked havoc on my brain. I was forgetting things; I couldn't concentrate; reading became more difficult; I failed a test for the first time in my entire life (A's and B's before); my gpa dropped from 3.8ish to 2.5ish. Also my emotions changed--they once again became overwhelming. My anger was violent and frequent, my sadness was dark and hopeless. I couldn't sleep. My appetite diminished. I found excuses not to hang out with friends. At some point, I realized that I had text-book symptoms of depression, and saw a doctor. She prescribed medication, which restored chemical balance to my brain. Within a week I felt like myself again. The physical and emotional trauma that I had experienced had caused a chemical imbalance in my bran and the medication solved my issues until my brain went back to normal (about 9 months later).

Honestly, if I had not struggled with depression, not only would it be difficult for me to recognize it in others, but I think I would also be much less compassionate and understanding. I am glad that I can empathize with others in their struggles (although theirs are often more severe and longer lasting than mine have been). I'm also able to offer hope to people that things can be and will be better than they are now.

And that's a truth that I'm reminding myself about once again. Another of the many symptoms of hyperthyroidism is depression. I can't remember when the last day was that I didn't cry and feel overwhelmed. Fortunately, these acute bouts of feeling hopeless, useless, discouraged and lonely are only taking up small parts of each day. I'm thankful too, that I understand what is happening, and that I can assure myself that my feelings (however overwhelming they may feel), are temporary and that life will feel much more uplifting once we can fix this silly thyroid.

Sorry for any typos or grammatical errors. It's late afterall, and since I may actually be starting to feel sleepy...I'm not going to go back and proofread.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Endocrinologist's Office

My original appointment at the endocrinologists was for Friday, October 17th, but on the 8th they called and told me they had an opening if I could make it in that afteroon. My appointment was with a nurse practitioner with lots of experience treating abnormal thyroid function.

She told me that there are four things we can do: 1) ignore it and hope it will get better on its own, 2) treat it with meds, 3) kill off part of the thyroid with radioactive iodine, or 4) surgically remove part of my thyroid. Since I had already waited for months, she recommends starting with medication as soon as possible to help me feel better. She also wants me to get a scan, where I ingest a small amount of radioactive iodine that will be absorbed by my thyroid making it easier for them to see what's going on in there. In the meantime, she took a more specific blood test, (T3 and T4 test), which showed that level of hormones produced by my thyroid are four times that of a normal thyroid. (an upper-limit of normal would be 1.25 and my result was 4.45). My scan is next week on the 23rd, and after she gets the radiology reports from that, she'll have a little better idea of whether my thyroid is just enlarged or if there are nodules on it or something else. Once the scan is done, the practitioner will put me on thyroid medication and we'll see how well they work. If they don't do the trick, then we will have to consider options 3 or 4. Please pray that the medication would do that trick--and that ultimately my thyroid could regulate itself normally! While God has provided financing for my current medical costs, future radioactive treatment and surgical options could be costly.

I almost feel silly detailing all this information here, but I figured my many medically-minded relatives (ha! how's that for accidental alliteration) like details. Honestly, hyperthyroidism is a fairly common condition that is generally only serious if left untreated. I've never really had a medical condition before though, so it's all new to me.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

A Full Day

So, this morning I awoke looking forward to tonight, when three young ladies were coming over for a book club meeting. This was to be the first time two of them had seen my house and I, like a new mother, was excited to show them my baby! Of course, I wanted to change it and bathe it first and all.

First things first: I threw on a t-shirt and yesterday's jeans still smelling reminiscent of nephew messes from the day before, and quickly rinsed my face and brushed my teeth. Grabbing Gram's morning pills from the container atop the fridge, I made my way down the hall and into her bedroom. "Good morning Gram! How are you this Tuesday morning? Did you sleep well?" I was happy to hear that she didn't remember, which usually means she slept most the night! The next hour was dedicated to assisting with the first half of her morning routine.

Leaving her to the easier second half, I started a load of her laundry and then straightened up the living room. Leaning against the fireplace was an unassembled end-table/magazine-rack that we wanted to put next to Gram's bed for her to set things on and store newspapers under. I opened the packaging and tackled the project, which I expected to be as easy as the toy chest I assembled earlier this week. But it wasn't. When did directions become so illiterate-only anyway? I mean, I certainly don't mind the drawings, but could someone please put a sentence underneath the diagram saying, when attaching the legs, be sure that the large holes are facing away from the short side, and the small holes are facing toward the short side. Well, they didn't so I had to take the legs off and do that part over. In the end, it turned out well, but took me 30 minutes longer than I had hoped it would.

Grandma had never come out from her bedroom, so I went in to check on her. She was engrossed in a "good movie" and didn't want to come out to eat so I brought food in to her, before I began preparing the food for tonight. I mixed up a white enchilada sauce and added chicken to the mix, then wrapped it up in giant tortillas topped with more sauce. The mixture went further than I had expected, so I ended up with 1 and a half pans of enchiladas! I put them in the fridge to be cooked in the evening.

After a rainy bit, the sun had now been out long enough to semi-dry the front yard, so I grabbed a rake an attacked the leaves that had abandoned the two trees on my property. I remember raking with my dad when I was little--it was easier with him! This project also took me longer than I had hoped and by the time I was finished, my right shoulder was aching again (it's been hurting since I moved, but very much so since trimming my trees on Saturday and Sunday). I decided it would be easier to spray off the driveway and walkways than to sweep them, so I hooked up my brand new hose, attached a nozzle onto it and turned the water on. SSPPHRITTZZZ!!! Immediately I was doused with water and splashing dirt as water exploded out of a hole in the hose, dousing me and the flowerbed with a high-pressured stream. I quickly saw this wasn't going to work, and turned off the water, grumbling to myself about how Bi-Mart better come clean up the mess their faulty hose caused!

I slushed my way back inside, dripping from the waist down and glad that I had waited to clean the floors until after finishing the yard. Once in drier clothes, I cleared and polished my table, then reset its runner, placemats and centerpieces. It was time. I pulled the vacuum out of its closet and pushed it around the carpet. I considered sweeping the tiled hall, dining room and kitchen, but decided the vacuum would do fine today.

By now it was 5:00, and I decided to call the guy with a pantry cabinet that I had found on Craigslist the night before. I turned on my computer and glanced through my new emails. One was from one of the book club girls. She wasn't going to make it afterall. Bummer! I missed her, but what can you do. I thought I'd check on the other two girls. I texted them both. One of them replied that she was too busy to come tonight. Great. That left Jess, me and Grandma with a pan and a half of enchiladas! Not only that, but since Jess had already seen my house, I suddenly lost all desire to dust, do the dishes in the sink and clean the porch and screen door. I called my mom to see if the family wanted a pan of enchiladas, but she already had pans to make turkey noodle soup. Oh well.

I called the Craigslist guy and was happy to hear that he still had the pantry. I got dimensions from him and went to my car to see if there was any possible way I could fit it into my Camry. I reclined the passenger seat as far as it would go and measured from the rear driver's side corner to the glove compartment. I was about 3 inches short. Bummer! I called the guy again and asked offered him extra $ if he could deliver it to me. Thankfully he had a truck and was willing!

I took a quick shower, washing off the house grime and yard dust, and put on clean-smelling clothes. Ahhhhh. Nice. I told Gram I'd be back in a half-hour, jumped in my car and drove to the nearest supermarket. I bought cheese and got cashback so I would have enough cash to pay the Craigslist guy. Upon returning home, I popped the half-pan of enchiladas into the oven, and began clearing space where I wanted the pantry. Then Jess came and we chatted for a while. Then the Craigslist guy came and Jess and I carried the pantry inside and set it up. Craigslist guy offered me a $10 discount for the tiniest scratch on the side. I thanked him and took the discount realizing I had overpaid him for delivery anyway!

When the enchies were ready Grandma, Jessica and I ate our fill and had some after-dinner conversation. Ibrahim called and Jess happily flipped through old photo albums while he and I caught up a bit. Eventually we hung up and Jess went home. Gram and I finished our day with ice cream and then I changed the laundry and she folded.

Even though I didn't get done everything I wanted to do today, it's one of those nights where I crawl into bed satisfied that I was busy and worked hard. It was great catching up with two of my friends I don't get to spend much time with these days, it was yummy eating ice cream and I am so excited to have a pantry so that I can actually finish putting away things in my kitchen. Maybe tomorrow. Good night!

Sorry to bore you with a kind of dull entry, but it was just a good day and I felt like writing about it. If you feel cheated, you can have a free enchilada. ;-)

Sunday, October 5, 2008


Grandma was taking a nap in armchair in her bedroom. I went and awakened her to give her some pills. The first strange thing was that she would hold her straw cup about an inch away from her mouth and then make a sucking motion with her lips, like she thought she could get it from there. I helped her put the straw in her mouth, realizing that since the pills were a little late, her motor skills might not be at their best. Meanwhile I told her about working in the yard in the rain and how now I was cold and my shoulder hurt. She dropped some of her pills and I picked them up and watched carefully until they were all swallowed. I figured it would be best for her not to keep napping if she wanted to sleep well tonight, and so I asked her if she wanted me to turn on the TV in her room.

"You better not do that," she said in an ominous voice. I looked at her and couldn't tell if she was joking or serious.

"You don't want to watch TV right now?" I asked her. "Are you thinking of going back to sleep?"

"No, I need to be holy." Again I was confused, wondering if she suddenly thought that Murder She Wrote and Matlock were somehow evil. Then she followed with, "I need to do some holy work." What? Did she mean she wanted to read her Bible? I was so confused.

"What kind of holy work do you need to do?" I asked.

"Well....I need to.....what does he do?" she fumbled.

"Who is he?"

"You know, him. Uh....."

I waited for her to think of the name.

"Galen," she finished.

"Are you aking what my dad does for work?" I tried to clarify her question.

"He drives trucks," she attempted to answer the question herself.

"No, Gram, my dad does Payroll for Multnomah."

"Oh, but he works with the trucks and the cars," she offered.

At this I had to chuckle, "No Gram, Dad doesn't do much work on cars."

"Oh." This "oh" sounded very confused.

"Do you want to come hang out with me in the living room?" I invited.

"No, I'll stay here."

"Okay." I figured she was so confused she wouldn't remember what she'd said before about tv, so I tried again. "Do you want me turn the TV on for you while you're in here?"

"No! It's enough of that. We need to mend our ways."

"Umm...okay Gram. No TV for now. Are you hungry or are you still full from the big late lunch?"

"I guess I'm still full, but I don't know why."

"It's probably because you ate almost all of your giant plate of food and you didn't finish eating until mid-afternoon."

She seemed like she was going to fall back asleep. "Do you want to lie down on your bed?" I invited.

"In my bed."

"Do you mean for the night? Do you want to go to bed already for the night?"

"I think I better. I think you want to go to bed now," she replied.

"Nope," I said with forced cheerfulness, "I'll be up for a few hours still. It's just after 7:00."

"Well I better," she persisted.

"Okay, are you sure you don't want food first? A snack or something?"

"No, I'm just real tired."

By now she was seeming a bit more lucid, so I tried to see if she remembered what she had been
saying before.

"Hey Gram, do you know what my dad does for work?"

"He works with math," she answered.

"Yeah, that's right," I figured it was sort of right, "He does math for the Payroll."

"And what do you think about watching TV?" I tried to sound casual.

"I don't think that's a very good idea," she persisted.

"Do you want me to help you up?" I asked her in the midst of getting her ready for bed.

"I don't think you should help me."

"Why not?"

"Well, you worked so hard today, I think I should do something."

"Gram, you don't have to do anything. It was yardwork--so it was cold and tiring--but it wasn't terrible. It gave me a good sense of accomplishment. Besides, I want to be able to help you."

She consented. She finished getting ready for bed and then I helped her into it. We made plans for me to wake her up for her pills at what would normally be her bedtime. I asked her one last time, "Would you like me turn on the TV for you to listen to until you fall asleep?" (You have to understand that it's not so much that I'm a pusher for TV as that I was curious to see if she would persist in her idea that TV was evil and she wasn't going to watch it anymore. But that seemed forgotten.)

"That would be nice," she said. I turned on the tv and put it on her Hallmark channel.

"Good night Gram." I sat on the edge of her bed and rubbed her arm affectionately. "I sure hope you get lots of rest and wake up feeling clearer. You had me a little bit worried earlier."

"I'm sorry."

"That's okay, you just seeemed really confused and it made me wonder what was going on with you." I paused, then continued. "Do you remember what you were saying at all when you were on the recliner?"

"I was talking about your mom."

"You were talking about Dad. You said he was a truck driver."

"I did?"

"Yeah. And then you said you couldn't watch TV because you needed to do holy work and that we needed to mend our ways."

"I said that?" she chuckled incredulously.

"Yep...I'm glad that you think it's funny now. Maybe you were having weird dreams of some sort when I woke you up."

"Huh," she said curiously not confusedly.

"Well, g'night Gram. I love you."

"Thank you honey, I love you too."

I shut her bedroom door and shook my head. "What in the world was all that?"

My New Church

I am now attending First Covenant Church on 45th & Burnside. The "Covenant" refers to their committment to one another and not to any particular theology that may share the term. (So calm down, everyone!) :-) I am super-excited about and really enjoying my new church. I guess you could say it's that infatuation period where I see so many things that I like about the church, without knowing it well enough to know the problems that I'm sure exist somewhere as they do in pretty much any community of people.

I found the church by a fluke--they were in a random article and I looked up their denomination online since I'd never heard of it before. I liked the orthodoxy, yet simplicity of their doctrinal statement, so I decided to put it on my list of churches to visit. It was one of 20-some churches that I visited, and when I was nearing the end of my list I was beginning to detest being a visitor and long to settle somewhere. First Cov was the place that I was most drawn to, and so I decided to go for a month or so before committing. In the meantime, I asked the pastor some questions that I had about the church, and was pleased with his answers. After 8 weeks of "visiting" (I kept fearing that some "red flag" would come up, and so I put off committing), I decided I truly wanted to be a part of the community. Since then I have joined a care group, and am hoping to soon begin helping out with the youth ministry. I am excited each day that brings me into contact with people from this community and I am eager to get to know more of the people and to become more involved with the church.

Some of the things that attracted me to the church from its website were...
  • The simple affirmations of belief that covered the basics of Christian doctrine.
  • The grace that the community extended to one another in areas of Christian practice.
  • Some of the missionaries and service organizations that the church supports were listed
  • Yes, I'll say it even though it's unpopular midst my family and friends: the church ordains both men and women to ministry and leadership, a position that I have grown into on my journey to seek God's heart for the church.

Some of the things that attracted me the first day there were...
  • The church laughed with one another over silly technical difficulties.
  • People seemed casual and comfortable
  • There was a sense of community midst the members of the congregation
  • There was a wide age range of people.

Some of the things that I have loved since then are...

  • Old and young enjoy enthusiastic and heartfelt musical worship.
  • The church takes a church mission trip, not a youth one--this being a long-time dream of mine.
  • Solid biblical teaching, that addresses the tough questions.
  • My care group spent the first 30 minutes of our meeting identifying some of ways we will serve the community and those in need this year.
  • We take communion every other week and there is a variety in the method used which keeps things fresh and not mechanical.
  • They love one another.
  • They laugh with one another.
  • They care for one another.
  • I can see myself serving there.

I am realizing though, how much time it will take to know these people. At my first care group meeting last Thursday I felt so proud because I learned 14 people's names. But then when we began to share prayer requests I realized how little a name tells me. Someone would ask for prayer for so-and-so, and I would have to ask the kind woman next to me, "Who is that?" "Her daughter"..."their friend"..."grandson," etc. I never realized before how difficult a prayer meeting at Cascade could have been for a newcomer. When someone there shared a prayer request, I had no problem understanding because I knew the names of their family members and the situations that their family members were in. Seriously, it will take years and years and years--if ever--to know these people like that. But I'm trying to learn!