Monday, February 7, 2011

My DetermiNation

I've been pretty tight lipped about my recent experience going under the knife.  I sit and think about how inspired I am when I read or hear of how other people overcome obstacles in life, and I figure it's about time I share mine.

The Scoop...

A few months ago, I went in for my yearly physical where my nurse practitioner did a simple swallow test to feel my thyroid.  She casually mentioned that she felt like it might be enlarged and encouraged me to call my family doctor.  Like the good little patient I am, I called and made that appointment without hesitation.  During her exam she felt my neck, causing me to jump out of my seat...Ouch!   She sent me for an ultrasound to get a better look.  The report came back that I had a nodule on the right lobe measuring 2.5 centimeters.  This alone was enough to perform a biopsy.  I was referred to an Endocrinologist who performed the procedure. This consisted of laying on a towel that kinked my neck so that she can stick 8-10 needles, guided by an ultrasound machine, into the nodule to collect cells.  I'm not going to lie, I felt like I was going through some sort of alien invasion.  It still gives me the heeby geebies.  Days later the pathology report came back stating... "Cells Atyp with unknown significance."  You can imagine I was a bit stupefied at that time.  I'm no doctor, but to me that seems like a sophisticated way of saying "I don't know."  I took my ultrasound disk and those slides to U of M to have another set of eyes try to decipher what this thing was really made of.  I met with a surgeon who was amazing.  She sat down with me and went through the whole ultrasound, and explained what they were looking for.  Atypical cells are found in both a benign adenoma (tumor) and different thyroid cancers.  They needed to establish if there was any vascular invasion to the nodule as a determinate between the two.   You can imagine this is difficult with a needle biopsy.  My cells had characteristics of being cancerous, but the only way to definitely find out would result in removing that whole right side of the thyroid.  We discussed all of this on a Monday, and I scheduled the surgery for that Friday.  (My fellow runnerds would appreciate that if I had to miss out on any running it would be most beneficial to do that during the harshest conditions AND in time to start my planned training schedule for the half marathon on  Anyway, my surgeon was hoping to have the pathology completed during surgery, but this wasn't the case.  It was an out patient procedure and I was sent home not knowing if I would need more surgery or treatments.  I was told it would take 5-7 days for the full report.  Those days were a test of true patience and keeping myself busy.  I spent the first few days concentrating on recouping from the after affects of having a breathing tube during surgery.  The taste in my mouth and the dryness of my throat was absolutely awful!!!  As I started to feel better the worry and constant banter in my head fed my fear that perhaps I would be told that I have cancer.  I felt like a walking zombie, unable to think about anything else!  On the 5th day, I got the call from my surgeon that indeed my nodule was BENIGN.  What a gorgeous word.   No more surgery, no treatments, Done!   I looked at my phone after the call and we talked for 3+ minutes, but I can't tell you anything else about the conversation!  Since then I've had my post-op appointment and am back running...putting in 13 miles last week.  Not Bad!

What I learned...

I am completely humbled by the generosity of my family and friends for helping me during the week following my surgery.  My biggest restriction was that I couldn't lift more than 10 pounds for 7-10 days.  I have a 3 year old and an 18 month old....pretty sure having them around would have been IMPOSSIBLE.  One of my oldest and dearest friends took them overnight for a sleepover...and then they went straight to my parents for the next day and a half.   My girl Morgan spent a day with them and took them to a local childrens museum, and Jessie (who watches them three days a week) kept them for extended hours and helped get them in and out of the car.  My husband, after having to get up way before the sun rises for his own job, took over mine so that we wouldn't lose out on income.   He made meals, did all the laundry, got the kids ready for bed bt himself, and took such good care of me.  My co-workers at my other job all helped to find subs for me, and sent lots of prayers an positive e-mails.  I got deliveries of beautiful flowers from people I only see on occasion which really helped to lighten the mood.  I get choked up just thinking about ALL that everyone did for me.  I have a wonderful support system....I'm a really lucky girl!!  I can't say it enough....Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!

Paying it forward...

I can't tell you how relieved I am of the outcome!  I allowed myself the time to heal and regroup.  I've made peace with that journey of thinking maybe my thyroid was on the fritz hormonally, to waking up missing half of it.   I've hugged the necks of everyone in my life who showed me so much love and support.  And yet, I can't help but think of those countless other people, who's journey actually being diagnosed with cancer is just beginning.   How do people go through this kind of experience without the overwhelming support of family and friends?  In the grand scheme of things I know that this experience is small peanuts compared to what others are facing.   I know that it's time to take all of this emotion and turn it into something positive...I have to do something!!!

I've decided to join a new program being piloted by the American Cancer Society called DetermiNation.  It is a program to help people like me train for a longer distance race, this one being the Fifth Third Riverbank Run 25k in Grand Rapids on May 14th.  This race was tentatively on my schedule anyways as my husband runs the 10k each year, but my decision is to push myself and train for it has been made.  This experience will NOT limit me as a human being or a runner.  If anything it propels me to do more.  It's a pretty big race....15.5 miles worth...and will be my longest to date.  So  many of us runners help to support causes that are important to us by paying race entry fees and such.  By joining this team I am committing to raising AT LEAST $750 for the American Cancer Society before race day.  Really, the sky is the limit to me.  I am looking forward to the both challenges, as I've never done any major fund raising before.  Please consider making a donation to support my efforts, it would mean sooooo much to me!

When you make a donation …
  • More people in our community can stay well by getting the information and tools they need to help prevent cancer or find it early.
  • More people with cancer will have a place to turn around the clock to help them through every step of their cancer journey – whether it’s a free ride to treatment, a place to stay, or just talking to someone who has “been there.”
  • More of us have will have access to lifesaving cancer screenings and treatments we need.
My donation page is HERE

If you make a donation in honor of someone, please let me know.  I am going to incorporate this somehow on race stay tuned.  Also, if you are unable to give a cash donation at this time, perhaps you can  help in another way.  Contact me to find out more details.

Peace and Blessings,

Jen B.

P.S. I will run as a way to move forward! I will run for all of my generous donors! I will run for ALL who are affected by cancer!


  1. Great write up girl! I will be making my donation on Friday! So proud of you!

  2. Hi Jen

    Thanks for stopping by my blog. I really am excited to meet everybody at the Martian and hopefully we will have a little less show then now.
    I hope you are feeling better now and it is amazing how something like you experienced can make life just a little more precious.
    Take care and I will see you in a few wks.


  3. You are going to do awesome! Ill get my donation in tomorrow + Im going to work my bottom off to help you earn as much as possible! I love ya and am so glad that everything turn out ok! I was glad to help as little as I did!