Fight or Flight: Surviving Cancer

Honestly, I have not spent a great deal of time contemplating my evolutionary proclivities. Until recently that is. Certain events have revealed to me that I am a flyer. In precarious situations, my first instinct is to run away, even when it doesn't make sense. For instance, today, when a strong wind blew a painting onto my head and I was struck by the wooden frame, I didn't even bother to figure out what it was that hit me. I just ran in the opposite direction from the source of the wind and pain until I found myself huddled in a gymnasium. Obviously, a painting would be a stupid thing to fight, but it's not exactly something you try to escape either.

And I keep coming back to that shark encounter, where I unwittingly ended up 135 feet below the surface in a cold shark-infested cave, instead of diving through a lovely coral reef like I had anticipated. When I saw a shark come towards me, fighting did not enter my head. Instead, backed against a wall, I screamed bloody murder (difficult to do under water) until another member of the dive group came over, and then I gratefully hid behind her, hoping the shark wouldn't be hungry enough to go for seconds (again, not my finest moment). And this is after having read all those terribly useful articles about how to punch a shark in the nose/gills/eyes.

The thing is, everyone wants to be the fighter. You watch the movies where the hero goes down still shooting arrows into the beast that is killing him, or the woman executes some nifty karate moves on the would-be burglars and you think "Yeah! That would be me! I would totally kick that monster's ass!" Well, that is not me. I would be cowering in a corner, praying for the zombies, or aliens, or ghost children on tricycles to go away and leave me be. My husband has been trying to get me to carry a gun since the day I met him, but I can't stand the idea of shooting another person. I'd much rather punch up my treadmill speed a few more notches. The only sense in which I am a fighter is with words, often in the form of long pious speeches on the social injustices and atrocities of this world. Maybe I could bore my would-be killers into submission.

You may be thinking, "Yeah, you could totally do that. Now how on earth is this relevant to having cancer, you dope?" To which I reply, "Good question, you nincompoop." Jk. When you get cancer, you do not have the option of flight. Fighting is the ONLY option. Other than giving up completely, which, in certain circumstances can also be brave (see virtually every movie about cancer). So yes, there is bravery in fighting cancer. But it is not the kind of bravery one derives a lot of pride from. When people go around telling about being a cancer survivor, they aren't (hopefully) bragging about it, or rubbing it in the faces of those who don't share their good fortune. They are spreading the word so that others with cancer have hope.

My current research into scholarly articles on fight or flight instinct (Wikipedia) shows that isolation and television watching (and I suppose other forms of electronics that help you shut out the world) are considered contemporary flight responses. So I guess I have done my share of trying to run away from cancer, simply by ignoring it and putting off my scan (which I am regretting more with each ulcer). But shutting out the world and its demons does not make them go away.

Yesterday, the anniversary of my biopsy, I found out that my mother tested positive for nodules on her thyroid. They are going to do a biopsy soon. They said there was a tiny chance of finding nodules. But they were there. They say there is a tiny chance of the nodules being malignant. But they said that to me too. I can't help this sickening feeling crawling through my intestines. The idea of my MOM going through this absolutely horrifies me. I think it would be even worse than when I was diagnosed. At least I am young and caught it early. Not being the strong, silent type, I cried a bit when my mom told me her results. She rolled her eyes and said, "Well don't put me in the grave yet!" Hehe. She always knows what to say.

Tomorrow is the anniversary of my diagnosis. I will have survived at least one year with cancer. Probably a lot longer. And even though I wasn't fighting by choice (or even by consciousness), I did fight. I did the surgery and the radiation and the medicine. I will continue to do the medicine and the scans. I have been eating healthier and exercising more. I have been spending more time with my family and friends.

I will pray every second of every day that my mother does not have cancer, but if she does, we will not give up. We'll fight it together.


How to Dine Without Iodine (Tips on the Low Iodine or Iodine Free Diet)

Well, it's that time again. I think. I've started my low-iodine diet even though I have yet to schedule an RAI scan. In the hopes that this whole process will be over with all the sooner. I hope none of you fellow THYCA champs are going through the hassle I can't seem to avoid. I was supposed to have my scan SIX MONTHS ago. SIX. Ugh. Let me sidetrack a bit to complain about the moldy-pile-of-laundry-forgotten-in-the-washer that has been the preparations for my second RAI scan.

I wanted to wait to get insurance and that took forever. And may have been pointless due to deductibles. Now I'm on PCIP (the only insurance possibility for us self-employed pre-existing condition freaks), BUT it doesn't cover the thyrogen because it's a non-formulaic drug. Try getting someone to explain THAT to you (fun stuff). So after deciding that six weeks of my life WERE worth the $850 for thyrogen (and I still feel it's an exorbitant amount), I ordered it from Bioscript. Two weeks later and still nothing. So I call about the status of my order only to find out they cancelled it! Without telling me! Because Bioscript has been taken over by Walgreens.So they tell me to wait another week while they transfer my order. And now it will be another couple of weeks for the thyrogen to come in and THEN it's only a week until my scan.

So the end is in sight. It's just a bit blurry. And I haven't gotten any less anxious about it. It's like that friend you forget to call on their birthday and then you feel so guilty for being a crap friend that you avoid calling to apologize until it's five years later and she's married with two kids that you don't know because you couldn't suck it up and get it over with already! Yes, like that. So I'm ready to face up to my cancer and once and for all KNOW if it is still there or if I can relax for a year until my next scan.

The Essentials of Low Iodine Cooking

Okay, sidetrack over. Back to the ever important low-iodine diet (LID in THYCA lingo). And since the THYCA cookbook puts so much emphasis on it being LOW-iodine (as opposed to NO-iodine), I guess I should too. So I guess if you grab a handful of raisins and it just happens to turn out to be a handful of chocolate chips, but you're too late and the deliciousness is already melting on your tongue, you don't have to reschedule your scan. Whew. (If you can't tell, I miss chocolate. I tried that 90% dark, which is about the only bar without milkfat, but it tasted like bark and I was only able to force it down by dipping it in sugar. Poor me.)

I've been on the diet a week now and these are the things I miss most: cereal, bread, and chocolate. But it could be worse. It WAS worse last time because I was not prepared and lived on raw fruit and veggies for a few days until I learned to cook from the THYCA cookbook. Don't let this happen to you! Unless you are one of those health nuts. I don't have to miss these things, I just haven't gotten around to fixing it. For instance, page 55 of the cookbook shows ways to make your own nut milk. My almond milk of last diet was not a tremendous success. Maybe it's my blender, but I could not get it to have less than a porridge consistency and I don't like my cereal that chewy. I prefer oatmeal anyway and you can have 4oz of that per day. I do plan on making my own bread. I made some low-iodine rosemary rolls, which I know would have turned out fabulously but for the fact that I forgot about them in the oven. Now they make great paperweights. Anyway, I will try again soon and if they are successful, bestow my recipe (ooh) which may or may not be mostly stolen (ahh). And I've already discussed chocolate.

There are certain essentials that you MUST have at home in order to ensure you do not cheat. And if you think you won't be tempted because of how much is at stake, you are WRONG.

Here is my low-iodine grocery list, fine-tuned and perfected over the many years I have been doing this(1):

Kosher Salt. Yes, you CAN have salt on this diet! And everything tastes better with salt. Try going completely without it if you don't believe me. My awesome in-laws bought Kosher salt when I was dieting last year and liked it so much they now use it all the time. It has more flavor and bigger granules. Just remember Kosher, NOT Sea Salt.
Active Dry Yeast. Found in the baking aisle.
No-salt Ketchup. I am not a big ketchup fan.  Somewhere around high school my taste buds rebelled and I became a mustard fan. BUT this is pretty much the only condiment available to you, and can be used in such delicious recipes as meatloaf and sloppy joes. I mix in Kosher salt and can't tell the difference.
Bananas. By far the most versatile fruit. I LOVE bananas. They are super filling and make a great milk substitute for a lot of things. You can make banana ice cream out of just the fruit. Healthy AND delicious. You can make smoothies out of just a banana and orange juice. Banana bread. Griddle cakes. Cookies. I could go on. 
Apples. Many many THYCA recipes call for apples. And they are also delicious and filling.
Pineapple. Fresh pineapple is possibly the only food that is comparable with chocolate in its deliciosity.
Onions, garlic and tomatoes. These are my big three for adding flavor to recipes.
Potatoes. I am actually not a big potato fan, but I love sweet potatoes, so I stock up on those. The key here is to not eat the skins.
Other Veggies. Whatever you like best, as long as it isn't in the kale/seaweed family. I love zucchini, green peppers, and asparagus so I add them to a lot of dishes. On this diet, you are mostly supposed to eat fruits and vegetables and since fruits have so much sugar in them, it's best to eat more veggies. This is probably what I struggle with most, but I make a lot of vegetarian pasta dishes.
Lemon juice.
Orange juice.
Old Fashioned Oatmeal. If you have never had this it is WAY better than the instant stuff. Add a little brown sugar and honey for sweetness. Or fruit. Yum.
Chicken. Tons of ways to prepare chicken in this book. But you have to limit the amount of meat you consume daily to only 6oz. Not a lot if you are used to eating meat 2-3 meals a day. About the size of your fist, no more.
Ground beef/ turkey.
Porkchops/ Steak. For a treat.
Raw pasta. Check the box for added salt.
Basmati Rice.
Mrs. Dash. Wonderful salt-free mixed spices to add flavor to tired recipes. My favorite is Fiesta Lime!
Other salt-free spices. No prepared mixes unless they say "salt-free."
Baking Powder.
Baking Soda.
Oil & vinegar.
Vegetable oil.
Olive Oil.
Egg whites. If you are yolk-separating challenged, you might want to get the prepared kind in the carton. 
Raw nuts.
Raisins. My favorite low-iodine snack (other than fruit) is a baggie of raw almonds and raisins.
Wine. For your sanity.

I know this seems like a long list, but I think variety is KEY to sticking to this diet. A lot of the recipe proportions are for families, so I will only make half. Otherwise I am eating the same kind of chicken for a week and hating it. Honestly, if we could add seafood and soy to the list, this is probably how we should be eating ALL the time. No processed foods. It may be harder than you think initially, especially if you are not used to cooking and/or hypothyroid while preparing recipes. I carry fruit in my purse all the time and bring baggies of muffins or Tupperware of pasta when going to social gatherings.

Try not to glare at your family and friends when they eat birthday cake in front of you. Your day will come. Possibly in as little as two weeks!

Happy Dieting!