I am my father’s daughter

When we first moved here, our son was six months old and our daughter had just turned three. We had the house unpacked, cleaned and organized within a week. That included the time we stayed in a hotel (four days) waiting for our moving truck to arrive, during which we’d take trips to the new house and paint, while our daughter “helped” (or just sat there and played with her brother, since our son couldn’t crawl or sit up very well yet).

I attributed a great deal of the speed to the fact that I had just had my thyroid removed, and was taking a replacement hormone. I felt… fast. Don’t know how else to describe it. Was still nursing our son, too, so I ate and ate and ate… I had so much energy.

I was wrong–it wasn’t the medication. It was me. I wanted our house to be settled. I wanted the state of transition to be over. I do not like states of transition. I need to move out of them as quickly as possible. I was motivated. Highly, freakishly motivated.

I say this, because for quite some time now, I’ve been… on fire.

In a good way: I’m planning and writing, cooking three square meals a day and cleaning even more, sharing and helping, working and playing, and laughing… I’m finding humor in things, things that, at another point in my life, wouldn’t have struck me as the least bit funny. I’m finding a bright side even in dark, deep places.

I’m in another state of transition. It’s been a long one, this particular state. I want things smooth and settled, easy and clear. And I can’t think of one thing that is particularly smooth, or settled, or easy or clear. Unless I touch it. Then, I’ve convinced myself, I can tame the chaos, make it all make sense.

Make it all happy and bright. Make it all hopeful and light.


It’s obnoxious, right? Especially today. You know. Today. A year ago, I recalled it. A new friend of mine is exhausted by all the reminding of that terrible day. There’s a threshold each of us reaches, a pain threshold that some of us reach faster than others because of individual life experiences and individual constitutions. Some losses are so great, reminding is utterly unnecessary. Sometimes, we’re already motivated.


My dad sent an email to the family today, indicating that he’d finished his book, and was looking for insight on a title. Let me state that again, for my own benefit: My dad wrote and finished his book, and asked a group of his family and closest friends, ‘what title do you think it needs?’ My dad is nearly 72. I am not surprised at his accomplishment (he’s a scientist, a philosophical one), but I am profoundly impressed. The book is on a topic that he is absolutely passionate about–so passionate that I’ve known his thoughts on this topic for the past 25 years or so, as he’ll share them with you if you’re sitting still in his presence for more than five minutes.

He started writing the book last year, when my mother was back home and recovering from her bone marrow transplant, the one that nearly killed her. My dad, he does not like states of transition… of uncertainty. He manages those near constant states by looking up, and over, to the brighter side of anything, by doing. Doing, and doing, and doing some more.

He is a motivated man.

The title of his book? I emailed him my suggestion. He responded: my suggestion mirrored his initial thought.

I am… on fire.

Pay attention, take care

Please read this if you can; it’s lovely and heart-wrenching.

“Over time, the worry I felt when she first told me about the disease began to fade. We knew the statistics, but statistics… get you only so far. Besides, my mother had never been ordinary.”

My mother’s immune system is just over a year old now, after her autologous stem cell transplant, performed in response to multiple myeloma. Her kidneys were casualties of this cancer, but not her, remission remains.

It is very hard for me to think about her overall prognosis. Very, very hard. So I write about my boring little life. My corporate wifery. The PTA. My friends and their myriad issues. My political and social concerns. And our kids, of course. I find myself raising them and thinking “my mom did this,” and feeling… Better.

But mostly, I find myself impatient, impatient with everyone who wastes their time making foolish decisions or being thoughtless or careless or haphazard or messy or nonsensical.

I’m trying to find patience. Not sure I’ve ever really had much patience to lose, but wherever it is, it feels like it’s light years away.

We should live in our moments, we should. But we should be careful with them. We should make the most of them, for ourselves, but more so, for others. For others who have fewer.

I need to do more and do better and I just don’t know how. Hmmm.

trust, fear, and being right

I learned today that somebody I know contracted pertussis, or whooping cough, from a coworker, and then passed it on to her unvaccinated children. She and her children have been ill for weeks, and the bacterial infection was diagnosed and treatment was begun three days ago. Her children will return to school and daycare on Monday. She, however, is not well enough to return to work. (Pertussis, if not treated early, will hit an adult hard.)

I could go on for days about my feelings about the choice not to vaccinate oneself or one’s children. (Weeks, even.) It’s perhaps enough to say that I find that choice to be one that is not the most informed, and one that is based on a highly questionable risk assessment. But that’s just my opinion. As my husband said, “I can understand why somebody would come to the decision to vaccinate. I can understand why somebody would decide against it.”

I guess I can, too. It all depends on who and what you trust. One might not take much stock in what the medical community does, or recommends. One might not hold much faith in the pharmaceutical industry, or, especially now, the compounding pharmacy industry.

There are risks we face, every day. We weigh odds, we make decisions, and we have to deal with whatever that yields.

Six years ago, for example, I ignored a 5cm tumor in my neck–visible to anybody even five feet away. Inexplicably, I simply couldn’t see it. My husband could see it. My mother-in-law, who visited at the time, could see it. My former boss could see it. They told me what they saw. I thought, “Nah, I’m fine.” I weighed some sort of risk in my mind. I decided, for some reason, that they were incorrect to have concern. They tend to worry about a lot of things, anyway, I thought.

Why did I dismiss them? Looking back, I think I was scared. I did not want to have a problem. I do not like problems, as I rarely can control them. So, I convinced myself there was no problem, and if there was, it wasn’t the same one they were concerned about; my big old neck would return to its normal size at some point. Plus, how could they know more than me?

Over a year later, soon after the birth of our son, the obstetrician who ended up delivering him, who had never seen me during prenatal visits, examined my neck at my follow-up appointment post-delivery, and told me to get an ultrasound. I listened to the doctor. I didn’t listen to my husband, mother-in-law, or former boss. But I listened to the doctor. I had delivered a baby before (our daughter), and the obstetrician then did not examine my neck (no need to). This one, though, did. He broke a pattern in my mind. It woke me up.

I had an ultrasound. I remember reading the imaging report and the word “neoplasm” jumped out at me. I think it even had its own shocking “dunh dunh DUNH” sound–in my mind, at least (by the way, it’s a horrible word to google at any point, but especially after giving birth to a child). Due to its size and location (within the right half of my thyroid gland) a biopsy was done. The biopsy results were “benign.” Really? I thought. I had done a lot of reading on the subject. It didn’t seem possible.

I got a second opinion, from my former boss’ colleague (an endocrinologist): “I don’t care what the results say. That growth is too big and they only took three samples of tissue. They should have taken seven. If you were my daughter I’d recommend surgery.” He confirmed what I had read (quite literally, the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists Medical Guidelines for Clinical Practice).

So I did, now having fully converted from an “I’m fine” nonchalance to an “I’m going to die” doom spiral.

Still unconscious on the table, they conducted a freeze pathology of the half-thyroid they removed, and found cancer. They removed the other half of my thyroid. I was home the next day, nursing our six-month-old son, feeling irresponsible and stupid for not having had my neck checked out sooner.

There was a bright side during my season of denial. We brought our son into the world. Had I weighed risks differently, he would have never been born. (Surgery and subsequent radio-iodine treatment would have precluded pregnancy for six to 12 months. Perhaps another child would have been born at a later time, but not him.) It’s a very glorious, blindingly bright side.

Back to my friend and her children with whooping cough. A few weeks before that surgery I had, she had told me of a friend of hers who had a growth on his neck, but he simply changed his diet and engaged in some meditation and the growth went away. At the time–in my “I’m going to die” doom spiral–I had taken great offense, as if she were a) suggesting I brought the treatment on myself by eating something untoward,  and/or b) questioning my decision to seek surgical intervention.

But now, I wonder if perhaps she was just scared, on my behalf. And I wonder now, if after enduring a severe illness and unwittingly passing it on to her children, she will enjoy some kind of bright side. Not necessarily the kind where you end up with a new baby, but another kind that I have also enjoyed.

The kind where you are more discriminating in whom you trust, where you fear things in order of their priority, and where you are less sure of being right.

I hope she does.