Category: From The Mind Of Blaze (page 1 of 18)

A Word On Thyroid Disease

January is Thyroid Awareness Month, and as someone who has dealt with thyroid issues, I would like to share a post I wrote back in January of 2015 for my first blog. If you find yourself with any of these symptoms, please, get yourself checked out as soon as you can. Early detection is key!

 

As you may or may not know, January is Thyroid Awareness Month. As someone who has dealt with thyroid disease, and ultimately, thyroid cancer, I feel it is my duty to share my story as well as some information on the tiny butterfly shaped gland that controls so much of our overall health.

First, some quick information on the thyroid gland. The thyroid gland is located in your neck, just below the adam’s apple. It releases hormones that control nearly every cell in your body. It is also highly responsible for your metabolism and sleep patterns. Too many of these hormones cause your body to speed up, while too little causes it to slow down. Thyroid disease affects as many as 200 million people worldwide and if left untreated can cause a whole host of problems, including infertility, Alzheimer’s, strokes, and death.

Here’s a nifty infographic that highlights some of the common symptoms of thyroid disease. While this is by no means an exhaustive list, these are some of the most common complaints.

Like many others, it took a long time before I realized what was wrong with me.

I’ll start off by saying I’ve never been the healthiest of people. My immune system has never been the greatest and I’ve dealt with everything from asthma to GERD to kidney stones on top of my mental health issues. When I was about 20, I went into my OBGYN for my yearly exam. During the visit, they felt my neck and noticed a lump in my throat. Combined with changes in my menstrual cycle and sudden weight loss, they referred me to an endocrinologist.

After running through my symptoms, they ordered some blood tests and found that my thyroid was slightly overactive. They also did an ultrasound of my neck, which revealed nodules on my thyroid gland.

They scheduled me for a biopsy, which basically meant they stuck hollow needles into my neck to pull out samples of tissue from the growths. These came back benign, but they ordered me to come in every 6 months to recheck them. I also had to get more blood tests to keep an eye on my hormone levels. They weren’t high enough to be of concern at that point, but they were certainly high enough to cause some issues.

Around the time I was 22, I started losing even more weight at an alarming rate. I chalked it up to spending long hours on my feet and not eating well. Food seemed to run right through me, which I assumed was due to my many digestional issues.My hair began to thin and I became more “manic” and much more easily agitated than normal. I didn’t sleep well, which wasn’t all too unusual for me. I was always restless…even more so than normal. I also began to develop some weird tics, most notably a twitch in my eyebrows.

At the time, I remember family members questioning me about drug use. This was humiliating and infuriating to me. I was drinking more than I probably should have been (I was a college kid, after all), but I wasn’t doing the type of things I was being accused of. I had no explanation for what was happening to me and I didn’t like it one bit. No one understood. I felt like I was going crazy as I waited for the doctors to figure out what was wrong with me.

At my next appointment, they found that my levels were much higher than they had been previously and that I had more nodules forming on my thyroid. This of course, meant more biopsies.

I went to my follow up appointment alone, despite offers from my mother and Almost-Husband to come with me. I figured it would be no big deal. They’d tell me my thyroid was over-active (which I knew) and I’d be given some medication and be on my way. I drove the hour and a half to the hospital where my specialist was located, jamming out to my music and feeling an immense sense of pride at the fact that I was doing this alone, like a real adult.

I’ll never forget the panic I felt when the doctor told me the news. There were cancer cells present in the samples they had taken. I listened in stunned silence as the doctor told me that thyroid cancer was treatable. She told me it was a very small amount of cancer and that we caught it early enough that I would make a full recovery. She described the options I had. I could take a radioactive pill that would kill my thyroid, or we could do surgery to remove the side that was effected. I told her that I needed time to think about it and to talk to my family and she was very understanding. She referred me to a radiologist and I was on my way.

I held it together until I reached the parking garage. It was a beautiful day outside and I was parked on the very top. I remember finding a small amount of comfort in that as I stood looking over the surrounding area. I took a deep breath and got into my car. I called my mother and immediately broke into tears. I had cancer. Cancer. I was terrified. I was devastated. I was lost. After telling her what the doctor had said and taking a few minutes to calm down, I called Almost-Husband. Like my mother, he apologized for not having been with me. I told him it was okay and repeated the one thing that made it seem okay: it’s treatable. Once I was calmed down again, I drove home, crying in spurts as I made the long journey.

At the appointment with the radiologist, I decided that I couldn’t go through with it. The idea of swallowing radioactive material just didn’t sit well with me, nor did the thought that I’d have to be on medication my whole life. This was especially concerning to me as I was concerned about how that would affect my future fertility. With the surgery, there was a possibility that my levels would even out on their own.

I’ll never forget the doctor laughing at me when I told him I wanted to do the surgery instead. It made me angry. I felt humiliated. I remember thinking that it was entirely disrespectful and that it was my body, so I should be able to make the decision on my own. After the consultation I went back to my specialist and told them I wanted the surgery. The risks were minimal, the most concerning for me being the possibility of paralyzing my vocal chords. However, it had to be done.

I was 23 when I had the left side and isthmus of my thyroid removed, leaving me with a nifty scar on my neck. Everything went off without a hitch and soon I was at home, with my mattress on the living room floor in my own little healing haven. The first week or so went by in a medicated haze. I slept, watched TV, had food brought to me, and spent time writing and drawing in comfort. At the time we had two little kittens who never left my side.

When I returned to work with a ten-pound weight restriction, they refused to honor it. My normal job never required me to lift anywhere near ten pounds, so I figured I’d be okay. For some reason, they chose the day I returned (note in hand) to move me to a job lifting 30 pound boxes. When I complained, I was told that I had to choose between my health and my job. Guess which one I chose?

To this day, I don’t bring up my bout with cancer. When it comes up in my medical history and someone calls me a “survivor” I feel like a fraud. It doesn’t feel “real”. I didn’t have to go through chemo. I didn’t have to go through radiation. They simply cut it out and I moved on. In fact, my thyroid levels evened themselves out and I haven’t even needed medication, although I do still have to have my blood drawn regularly to make sure it stays that way. I was indeed very lucky.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, bring them up to your doctor right away. You don’t want to let a thyroid disorder go untreated and cause damage to your body.

I encourage all of you to do regular checks of your neck to ensure the health of this vital gland. A great tutorial for self-examination can be found here. Please, take care of yourself!

I also want to remind you to be understanding of people in your life who are dealing with this or other “invisible” illnesses. It’s not easy living with any illness and no one needs the extra stress of Judgey McJudgertons or feeling the need to constantly explain themselves. Be gentle with yourselves and each other. Remember, we’re all in this together.

 

Celebrating Every Milestone

You guys, this is the 100th post I’ve written for this blog!

Ok, that’s a little bit of a lie. Because of the way I had things scheduled, this is actually post number 101. Tomato, tomahto.

I have to say, I was astounded when I realized how many posts I have written for this site, mainly because I’m always worried about running out of ideas. I mean, there’s only so many topics out there. However, there seems to be an infinite amount of ways to look at those topics and enough facets to each of them that I can come up with enough material, which is pretty cool.

I originally had something else planned for this spot, but I couldn’t bring myself to let this milestone pass without a little fan-fare.

 

celebrate small victories, milestones

 

I am a firm believer that we have to take a moment to celebrate each milestone we pass, even if it seems insignificant. It doesn’t have to be a big blow-out. Even a moment of quiet appreciation and recognition will do. What matters is recognizing our achievements so that we are motivated to keep working towards the larger goal. After all, success isn’t really about achieving one big moment; it’s a parade of small moments that add up to something great at the end.

This doesn’t apply only to our biggest goals and dreams, either. Anything we set out to do deserves the same amount of respect and acknowledgement. We absolutely have to be our own cheerleaders, especially for accomplishments that really only matter to us.

It’s so easy to let the small victories pass us by without a second thought. What’s one pound lost or one drawer decluttered? What’s one day of getting enough water? Heck, for those of us suffering from anxiety or depression, just getting out of bed in the morning can be a huge win, even though it seems like a given to others. Keeping your cool while your kids are acting like drunken monkeys? That’s definitely a win.

Think about all the small victories you achieve every day. I can guarantee you that you totally rocked it at something in the last 24 hours. Go ahead and congratulate yourself, you magnificent being!

 

celebrate milestone small victories quote

 

I recommend adding these mini-celebrations to your daily self-care routine. Not sure what you can do to mark these occasions? Here’s 15 ideas to get you started:

  1. Simply tell yourself, “good job!”
  2. Do a little happy dance.
  3. Have a piece of chocolate (or whatever your favorite treat is).
  4. Enjoy an adult beverage.
  5. Treat yourself to an at-home spa day with a long bath, facemask, and whatever else makes you feel pampered.
  6. Make your favorite meal.
  7. Reach over your shoulder and give yourself a pat on the back.
  8. Give yourself permission to do nothing for an hour.
  9. Rewatch a favorite movie.
  10. Allow yourself to take a nap. (Seriously, is napping not the ultimate reward?)
  11. Write about it in your journal..
  12. Call your mom or your best friend and brag a little.
  13. Buy yourself a small gift.
  14. Burn a candle and reflect on your progress.
  15. Say a prayer of gratitude that everything aligned just right and allowed you to do the thing.

Of course, you can always send yourself flowers, order a cake, or throw a huge party if you want, that’s on you. The idea is to keep the rewards proportional to the size of the achievement.

I’m sure you can come up with even more awesome ideas that aren’t on this list and I would love to hear them. Drop me a line in the comments below and let us know what your favorite rewards are or tell us about a recent win!

 

 

 

Happy New Year! Welcoming 2018

I remember the excitement I felt when I first decided to start a blog. I spent weeks researching everything that went into it and coming up with a name, agonizing over getting my image just right. I tasked my brother with designing a logo and helping me set up a self-hosted site. I distinctly remember feeling like I was doing something monumentally important, and having him by my side was awesome. Every bit of time that wasn’t spent taking care of my daughter was spent creating the first bits of content. The exhilaration of crossing each item off my to-do list was intoxicating.

After three years, I shut down that blog and started this one. I launched this site on New Year’s Day 2016 with many of the same feelings.

I can’t help but smile as the memories play out in my mind. Both of these moments marked huge changes in my life and have made deep impacts on my psyche. I can’t believe I have been at this for so long, and as I look back on my journey I am astounded by the progress I’ve made.

I look forward to the coming year with much the same anticipation as I felt when I started both my blogs. So much has happened in the last year, and the promise of a clean slate is uniquely satisfying.

There are so many things I hope to accomplish this year, but the truth is, I’m not in any rush. I’ve come to respect the fact that things unfold in their own time. All any of us can do is keep putting one foot in front of the other and have faith that we will wind up where we’re meant to be. After all, life is perfectly imperfect: it’s never going to conform to our timelines. Goals are a wonderful thing to have, rigid deadlines are not.

 

new years goals, 2018, positive quote

 

That said, I’d like to take a moment to look at last year’s goals and share my progress with you, as well as take a look at the things I would love to see happen in 2018.

Let’s start with the goals I outlined at the beginning of 2017 (and followed up on in my half-year review in June.)

1. Post more often and with less fear; get better at social media.

I’d say I more or less hit the mark on this one! I haven’t always hit my goal of having two blog posts per week, but I posted way more often than the previous year! I’ve also opened up a lot more and shared more of my personal thoughts and experiences, which isn’t always easy to do. I still have a ways to go on the social media side, but I have made a point to have at least one post per day on all of my accounts, even if it’s something prescheduled. I’d say I definitely gotten better with this, so I’ll call it a win and make a plan to get even better at it in the coming year…

2. Release 2 more books in my “Instruments of Life” series.

This one obviously didn’t get completely met. I did get halfway there with the release of “Snared”, but a case of writer’s block, plus general life happenings pushed back the next book quite a bit. Still, I’m proud that I got at least one book out in the last 12 months and am looking forward to finishing the next one.

3. Work on being more mindful and present.

This is obviously something that one works on for a lifetime, but I feel like I made a lot of progress in this area over the last year. That’s not to say there haven’t been a few set-backs, but I have definitely made a point of really experiencing life. I must say, ditching the cell-phone helped immensely!

4. Create a better routine for my family, and carve out more one on one time with each member. 

Another win! Our routine has evolved quite a bit, and it has definitely been for the better. I have also been more proactive about making sure I get one on one time with my daughter, as well as one on one time with my husband, everyday, even if it’s only a few minutes before bed.

5. Take better care of my mind and body.

I’m not going to lie, there were a couple months there where this goal completely fell away. However, I managed to get right back up and refocus on some serious self-care. Of course, the pregnancy has helped me make my physical health a priority as well. This has definitely been a win for me!

6. Get finances under control.

We have definitely made some huge strides here! We finally paid off our car, made some headway in developing my husband’s business, and outlined some new goals for my career as we’ve continued to chip away at some debt. I’ve also implemented some strategies to cut down on household expenses, such as better meal planning and prepping, and making most of our cleaning products at home. I am insanely proud of how far we’ve come here and can’t wait to share some of the tips we’ve learned with you!

7. Take my music to the next level.

While I haven’t suddenly blossomed into some sort of virtuoso, I have definitely gained some new skills over the past year. Aside from developing some new skills, I’ve also increased my confidence in this area ten-fold.  Definitely another win!

 

new years goals, success quote

 

Overall, 2017 was a year of clearing away the things that were no longer serving me and finding new ways of being. There has been a lot of reflection as I have worked to refine my path.

I look forward to taking this new knowledge with me as we enter 2018. With the new baby coming, I know better than to push myself too hard in the next 12 months, so I am keeping my goals simple.

Things I would like to see happen this year:

  1. Release one more book from my series, as well as one non-fiction book.
  2. Enhance my painting and music skills.
  3. Laugh more.
  4. Grow my following on the blog and my social media accounts.
  5. Continue making progress in taking care of my mind and body.
  6. Adjust to life as a mom of 2.

I think that last one is probably the most important!

I am so excited for the next chapter of my life and I cannot wait to see what lessons and accomplishments are around the corner I look forward to sharing the next phase of my journey with you all, and I hope my story helps at least one person in some way as I continue to document it here.

Now, it’s your turn. What have you accomplished in the last year? What are your New Year’s goals? Let us know in the comments below!

 

 

The Time I Realized I Was No Longer Cool (A New Year’s Eve Story)

Can you believe we’re almost to New Year’s Eve already? It seems like not too long ago I was sharing my half year review, now I’m thinking about what to write in my year-end review this Sunday!

As my husband and I sit here making our yearly last minute plans for the occasion, I can’t help but think about one New Year’s Eve in particular. It was one of those moments when adulthood really snuck up on me and I realized that I wasn’t the care-free 20 year old I had been.

When I was running the other blog I had shared this particular story, hoping that there would be others who could relate to that crushing sensation that we are now adults. What I found was that we have all had those moments, and they just keep coming with more and more frequency as time goes on.

Today, I would like to share that story here exactly as it ran on December 31, 2014, and remind you all that just because we’re not “cool” anymore, doesn’t mean that we don’t still rock in our own ways. We’re just a different kind of cool now!

Without further ado, here’s the story of the time I realized I was no longer cool.

***

New Year’s Eve kind of snuck up on me this year. It seems like I have been busy from October on. It all started with my daughter’s birthday, which was then followed by Halloween, a few other get-togethers, the Motley Crue concert, Thanksgiving, and the about 8 million Christmas gatherings.

My house is still a wreck from all the holiday hoopla and now it’s time to break out the champagne and watch the clock. I have no idea where the time went, but I do know that it’s only 10 A.M. and I am already exhausted.
New Year's Eve clock, champagne, glasses, the time I realized I was no longer cool. Adulthood snuck up on me.
Is staying up ’til midnight mandatory?

With all the talk of plans and parties and resolutions, I find myself thinking back to previous New Year’s Eves. Of the 8 times Almost-Husband and I have rung in the New Year together, there is one celebration that really sticks out in my mind.

My daughter was about 2 months old for her first New Year’s Eve. We hadn’t made any plans as I was still getting used to this whole motherhood thing and wasn’t quite feeling up to par. Well, that and the fact that Almost-Husband and I are chronic procrastinators.

Being a hormonal mess added to my reluctance to do anything to celebrate. I remember feeling lonely and left out as I read everyone’s Facebook updates, showing me everything I was missing out on. I felt trapped and unwanted. I also felt tired. Extremely tired. I wasn’t sure I’d even make it to midnight or that I’d be able to enjoy myself knowing that my precious baby was spending her first New Year’s without her mommy.
Some friends of ours friends from out of town called while I was sitting around trying to figure out whether or not I should leave my daughter with someone for the night. They invited us to join them for a party they were going to about 30 minutes away. I declined, using the excuse that I didn’t have the time to pump enough milk for The Princess. I told Almost-Husband to go without me. I didn’t want him to miss out just because I couldn’t go.
I immediately regretted that decision once he was gone. I sat around feeling sorry for myself, wishing I could go out and have a good time with my friends. I’m not going to lie, I cried a little bit. Soon, I was on the phone to Almost-Husband. We decided that I would call up his mother and see if she’d watch the little one and I’d drive up and meet him.
I remembered that the year before I had showed up to a party with this same group of friends only to find that I was completely under dressed and immediately ran upstairs to rummage through my closet. All my nicest clothes were still much too small.
I called Almost-Husband again in tears. I had nothing to wear. I was going to look ridiculous. I should probably just stay home.
He assured me that things would be okay and that I’d find something to wear. I can’t remember what he said verbatim, but he gave me a pep talk, reminding me that he thinks I’m beautiful and that people will understand that I just had a baby. I hung up the phone feeling much better and settled on a pair of beige maternity dress pants and a low cut red sweater. I went back downstairs with my little one and did my hair and makeup, calling Almost-Mother-In-Law in the process to let her know I would be on my way shortly.
After dropping off my daughter I drove the 30 minutes with the radio cranked up, enjoying some alone time. This was going to be a good night. About 5 minutes from my destination I started to worry about my daughter. I felt guilty. It was a holiday, she should be with her mommy.
As I pulled up to the building where the party was being held, I noticed all the people coming and going. Nobody was dressed up “nice”. Instead they looked more or less like this…

everyone was dressed like ravers for the new year's eve party and adulthood snuck up on me. I realized I was no longer cool.
Yes, short skirts in the dead of winter makes total sense.

The few people who were “dressed up” were showing way more skin than I would ever be comfortable with. Hair was perfect, makeup was fabulous. Here I was with my hair left in it’s naturally curly state, my usual neutral makeup, and a plain khaki and sweater combo.

I suddenly felt old and out of place. I parked the car and decided that I wouldn’t stay long. I’d just spend a few minutes catching up with my friends and then I’d go home. I caught up with Almost-Husband and he tried to put me at ease.

Once inside, we found ourselves standing off to the side alone. I couldn’t drink since I was breastfeeding as well as driving us home. Everyone seemed to be in such a different place in their lives than we were. It was strange, just a year ago this would have been right up our alley. However, we were parents now and our priorities had changed. The more we talked, the more we didn’t want to be there.
We stuck it out until midnight, did the countdown, shared a kiss and were out the door. We hopped in the car and drove back home, laughing at ourselves. A new era had indeed arrived.
When we got to his mother’s they were all still awake. Almost-Mother-In-Law was shocked to see us. “I can’t believe you guys are home already! Did you even drive up there?” She asked with a laugh.
I quickly grabbed my baby and comforted myself with her snuggles. “Everyone there was like 12,” we told her, explaining how strange it was to not fit into a place we would have been all about not so long ago. She laughed with us. Here she had given us a night to ourselves and all we wanted to do with it was love on our baby.
The next year we chose to ring in the new year with a few friends at home, while my mother watched The Princess at her house just a few blocks away. This year, we will be spending New Year’s Eve as a family with another couple and their child. A nice, low-key get-together that I am really looking forward to. It’s such a huge contrast to how we spent New Year’s Eve before we became parents.
So many things have changed in our lives since The Princess came along. Our life now barely resembles our pre-parenthood days and I’m not going to lie, I miss parts of it. However, I can’t imagine ever going back to the way things were. Things may not be perfect, but my life now is far more enjoyable then it was back then. We have a purpose. We have a sense of direction and stability that we had previously lacked. Life is good.
2014 had it’s share of challenges, but I feel we’ve learned a great deal from the tough times. We also had some amazingly wonderful times. The year has been full of love and laughter and growth. I can only hope that 2015 is just as good!
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