Thursday, July 24, 2008

On My Way...

It's official - Dr. R cleared me to leave the country today at my 3 week/post surgery appointment today.  (Whew and woo hoo simultaneously!!!) I'm on day 24 of my nomadic travels, but hopefully by August 16th, I'll be traveling in Africa instead of the U.S.  Until then, here's an overview of my hopefully non-tentative schedule:

San Jose, CA. July 24-August 3
  While I have been enjoying staying in a variety of places the past couple of weeks, I'm really looking forward to staying put in one place for more than a few days.  Asante sana (thank you very much, in swahili) to those of you who have given me a bed, hot meal and a roof over my head!!!

Grand Rapids, MI.  August 3-7
  I was originally supposed to be back in GR for training with CRWRC in May but had my biopsy scheduled for the same week so I missed out on the first training session.  Luckily, they're having another the first week of August, so I'll be traveling east for a few days for some final training before really heading east to Africa.  

Petaluma, CA.  August 7-9  
  Before heading north to Whidbey Island, I'm coming back to CA spend a few days with my dad's family.  On the 7th, we'll go out to the coast and spread the ashes of my grandpa who passed away this last January.  One of my last memories of my grandpa was showing him my Africa photos, telling him about my travels this last fall and hearing how proud he was of me, so it's nice to get to remember him before going back to Africa.  

Oak Harbor, WA.  August 9-16
  Instead of driving up to WA like I had originally planned, I've decided to leave my car in Petaluma and fly home.  I'll spend about a week up north, and then leave from Seattle for Uganda. When I return in the fall (mid-late October) I'll stay with my parents for a week or so and then head back to San Jose.  

Uganda, Africa.  August 16-mid/late October
  Here's a picture of me crossing the Nile in Uganda last fall...just a little preview of the adventures that are soon to come! Thanks as always for reading.  Hopefully, soon my "Africa" blog will be being written from Africa instead of San Jose:)

- Kristen

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

No Cancer!

This morning I got the phone call I've been praying for for the past two cancer!!!
It was the best news I've had in a long time.  Really, there aren't words to describe how I'm feeling today - all the challenges of the past few months are out of the way, and now there is nothing standing in my way in getting to Africa!  

I am still having a little trouble getting my meds regulated, but it's slowly getting close to where I need to be.  For the past couple of days, I haven't been able to feel a couple of my toes which has been strange, so this morning I went back to the lab to have more blood taken to see what's going on with my calcium level.  Dr. R told me today that one of my parathyroids accidentally got taken out during surgery which might be causing some of my current problems. I guess my thyroid had grown so big and out of control, it had engulfed one of the four parathyroids, so when the thyroid came out, so did one parathyroid.  The good news is that you only need one parathyroid to survive, so I still have two on reserve.  The whole thing made me laugh and made me think of bad classic movie titles, "Night of the Living Thyroid"  "The Thyroid that Ate New York"  "Thyroidzilla"  etc.  

So now I'm getting ready for Africa, most likely leaving August 16 and will be based either in Kenya or Uganda.  Tomorrow, I'm going to Cache Creek Casino with some family members and am feeling lucky so watch out penny slot machines!  


Monday, July 7, 2008

Attack of the Killer Thyroid

As of 4:00p.m. Thursday, I was officially free of my monstrous thyroid.  My surgeon was AMAZING.  My thyroid had actually grown around my esophagus and pushed it out of place.  One of my main nerves had also become trapped in between two growths that had grown around it.  The surgeon was surprised at the size of it and what damage it had been doing when he got in to take it out, but 6 1/2 hours later, Dr. R had freed me from the attack of my killer thyroid.   The surgery was only supposed to be 3 hours, but because of the size and complexity of how it had grown, and also because Dr. R. knows I'm a singer and wanted to save my voice, he took the greatest care and the good news is that my voice should be just fine - hooray Dr. R!!!!  

So now, I'm on the journey of a slow recovery.  It's been harder than I anticipated.  I only spent one night in the hospital, because I was determined to get out of there as quickly as possible.  I have the world's tiniest veins, so getting stuck over and over every two hours for blood was getting old really fast.  Unfortunately, I was back in the ER yesterday because my calcium level is too low.  It's complicated, but basically you need a lot of calcium after this surgery to keep from having a heart attack.  I didn't have a heart attack, but a lot of other really scary stuff happened, but after a couple of hours, they released me with more medicine.  So I'm up to 6000 mg a day, which is really hard on my stomach (no details needed for that) so please just be praying that my body can adjust to no thyroid and these large amounts of calcium I have to take.  I had to go back and have more blood drawn today, but if everything goes well, I won't be back at the doctor until Wednesday.  

Thank you thank you thank you for your thoughts and prayers.  I'll write another update in a few days:)