So, that was the good. The rest of 2020 has obviously not come without issue. The world is upside down in a pandemic, and I was also diagnosed with thyroid cancer this past December. It's been a whirlwind the last 6 months with all of that-- both the pandemic, and then having cancer in the pandemic. I have been having issues the last few years with generally not feeling well. Super low energy, major depression and anxiety, and lots of other issues like weight gain, severe hair loss, skin changes, etc. I knew I had a tumor that was in my thyroid, but specialists assured me 95% of these things end up being benign, but they wanted an ultrasound once a year to monitor. Well, this year it grew in size and looked to be expanding into the thyroid wall and then other parts of my neck showed possible metastasis. After a little mis-diagnosis on the extent of the neck and lymph node invasion, and several work ups with major medical institutions here in the Bay Area, we finally got a consensus that there was no neck invasion. Phew. So, countless scans, blood work, different kinds of biopsies, genetic testing, and a ton of time in various hospitals and doctors offices all over the Bay Area, and learned that, yes, I have cancer, but we got it early and I was in a very very good position and a good candidate to just have half of my thyroid taken out for now, and then we'll just closely monitor the other half and surrounding neck and lymph nodes. I know some people think that sounds crazy, but for thyroid cancer this is doable. It's the slowest growing cancer you can get. I do have two masses on the right side of the thyroid, but all of the specialists I have seen at UCSF, John Muir, and Stanford all agree they appear to be benign cysts on ultrasounds. So, I get to have blood work every 6 - 12 weeks for the next few years and ultrasounds every 6 months. If anything looks wonky, then we start all over again and biopsy with a full work up, and they'll go in and take the rest of my thyroid out and any involved neck tissue or lymph nodes. I lucked out and don't need radiation right now, but if there is a recurrence, then there will be radiation for sure. I'll take what I can get right now, and feel very lucky to be basically in as good shape as I can for this kind of cancer. Now I just need to figure out meds and thyroid levels. I have been feeling pretty up and down the last month. Some days I feel OK, and other days it's just exhausting to lift my head up and use my arms. Hopefully this too shall pass.
Why the long update on mostly unrelated jaw stuff? Well, I want to let you know why I have been out of touch. The last year and even two years have been pretty rough on me. I took some time to step back from jaw groups (not all the way back, but more of a passive role for sure), have done less outreach and advocate work, and I have taken time to take care of myself and spend time with my husband and see my family more. If you have reached out to me through this website and I never responded, I am incredibly sorry. I am usually REALLY great with messaging, but especially over the last year, I have let messages and personal emails drop off big time. Some of that was because of the depression and anxiety I was struggling with, and some because I have been running around like a chicken with my head cut off working a ton of hours in a full time high stress environment (I'm back in meteorology work in the public safety area again!), leading a project that is getting state and national attention, and dealing with never ending ongoing health issues, including the recent cancer diagnosis. It's just been a lot, and some things had to give. That was one of them. If you didn't get a reply back from me, I am terribly sorry. I keep looking at my emails and thinking I need to go back through the web forms and reply to all of you, but it's going to be tough to do at this point.
Anyway, here's to 4 years post op revision where I am still in pretty damn decent shape. My jaw is still stiff from the thyroid surgery last month, but otherwise just the normal aches and pains still, EG: right disc still pops and goes out for a second here and there, and I am still needing to wear a splint during times of high stress when I clench and make my joints sore. My front teeth are still hanging in there (actually, just had a cleaning this morning and all checked out), and the implant is still doing well too. For those of you interested in seeing Dr. Karas, I want to update that he is no longer in network with any medical insurance. So, check your out-of-network benefits if you would like to visit him.
Good luck to everybody in or considering jaw surgery treatment! Stay well in this crazy world!