“I got your pathology report back today, and unfortunately, it’s cancer.”
What my endocrinologist said in the minutes immediately following that statement, I couldn’t tell you. I’m pretty sure whatever it was, he repeated it later in the phone call if it was important. I got the sense during that call that he knew I wasn’t ready for any details or anything important–well, anything else important–and we both knew I had an appointment with him in two days to follow up on my thyroidectomy.
The first thing I did when I hung up was call Steve to let him know–follicular thyroid cancer, which, fortunately, is one of the two most common and most curable. Then I let my family know. Then I got on Ravelry. My friends in both the go fast. knit left. and the Three Irish Girls groups were waiting on this update too. As I had with my family (Steve knew this already), I told them that about 6 weeks after my surgery I was going to have to go back in the hospital to receive radioactive iodine treatment. The reason FTC is so curable is because it can be targeted so precisely. Only the thyroid–and the cancer cells, in the case of FTC, even if the cancer has spread–absorbs iodine, so by giving me radioactive iodine, only those cells will be affected. It’s a fairly quick treatment, a one-time dose (although repeated if needed down the road), and I won’t get sick from it the way I would from chemotherapy or standard radiation treatment.
However, I was going to have to stay in the hospital for at least 2 days, in isolation, because I’ll be giving off radioactive isotopes that could damage someone else’s thyroid. I have to admit–that caused a few jokes. I’d promised my mom to take my camera to the hospital with me in case I glowed in the dark. But as I talked with my knitting friends, we all ended up focusing on a very important point. I was going to be spending at least 2 days in isolation with nothing to do. I needed to plan my knitting now.
So, I spent the 2 days before my appointment planning my projects. Steve wants socks, which I’ve started on, and there’s a lot of things I have planned for my new nephew (have I mentioned him yet? I don’t think I have. More on him later!). It was very helpful, because it kept my mind off the appointment and the what ifs and the who knows. I’d done enough reading online to freak myself out a bit, but I at least had a good list of questions for my endocrinologist, Dr. A.
Both Steve and I went to the appointment, and Dr. A was great as always, especially with answering my questions. He has the gift of being completely honest with a patient and being able to impart bad news in a way that it’s just a fact, rather than something to panic about–reassuring without being condescending or minimizing the truth. So I learned that there’s a chance my cancer has already progressed to Stage II and spread to my lungs and bones, because the tumor in my thyroid did invade some blood vessels…but that was just a fact to accept and move on with.
After we discussed the pathology report and my prognosis, we moved on to the treatment. Dr. A told us a lot about how the treatment was done at Walter Reed–lab work one day to make sure my body’s ready for the treatment, then a dose of slightly radioactive iodine the next day (non-toxic) in preparation for a full body scan the third day (to see where there are thyroid/cancer cells as a baseline). Finally, the next Monday, I’d go in for the actual radioactive iodine treatment and be placed in isolation.
“And don’t bring anything with you that you want to keep,” he added.
Turns out I can’t take anything into isolation that I want take back out (with the sole exception of my glasses). Well, that’s something none of the websites had mentioned. Naturally, all my knitting plans were out the window. Now what?
Steve (and some others) suggested I take some yarn I don’t care about and some cheap spare needles in with me and just knit to keep my hands busy. Now, I do knit in part to keep my hands busy…but only in part. I’m a product knitter as much as a process knitter, and knitting a bunch of garter stitch I’ll be throwing away wouldn’t keep me content–it would drive me so far up a wall they’d have to pad my isolation room. I’d just feel like I was wasting my time if I didn’t gain something from the knitting.
I moped for several days…and then I had an epiphany. Someone had mentioned practicing knitting patterns I liked, but then I’d have to take the patterns somehow, and I’d rather practice on a scarf or washcloth I could keep and use. But there is something I’ve been wanting to learn, for which everything I took could be disposable: crochet!
I have a lot of dishcloth cotton, purchased back before I knew of the existence of LYSs. I have several crochet hooks that have become spares now that I have a nice pack of several sizes complete with carrying case. And I have The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Knitting and Crocheting that, while handy when I first started knitting, is no longer a reference I use. So, I can take all of these items into isolation with me, and cheerfully leave them behind to be disposed of…or, if they keep these things for others who go through isolation, maybe even for another future crocheter.
Lemons, meet lemonade.