Today is the first anniversary of my Total Thyroidectomy and I am still using it as a catalyst for positive change. I like to say that I didn’t know how sick I really was until after I got my Thyroid removed because the quality of life was really sucked out of me during the final years leading up to the surgery.
When I first came out of the anesthesia, I swore that I was seeing the world in sharper colors than I did previously. Even some of my memories of life before the surgery seem different somehow. However, this past year has all about getting my personal and professional lives back on track while learning how to deal with the medical establishment.
Here are some things I learned during the highs and lows of this past year.
- Stay on top of medical documents. From the first word that I needed to get surgery, I made up my mind to stay on top of the medical papers. Through billing mistakes, insurance foul ups, and other dysfunction, I am doing my best to stay on top of my medical documents. They all are scanned into PDFs and then tagged and filed into Evernote where I can access them from my iPad or iPhone. This has proven quite handy on a number of occasions already.
- Document. Document. Document. Working in IT has made me always look for the patterns. Moreover, I always forget things when I am into see the Doctor. Therefore, I keep a running log of how I am feeling in Evernote (using FastEver).
- Information is a feel good thing for me. From the moment I got the official diagnosis of my Thyroid problem, I began to treat managing the issue just like a I do a billable project or an article I am writing.
- Keep a good task list (with reminders). I had to step back and take stock of how I was managing my personal and especially professional tasks. Thanks to Omnifocus, my calendar, and NotifyMe synced between my iPad and iPhone I stayed on top of things.
- Look forward. I never realized how much my Thyroid issues affected me until after the surgery. This year has been all about looking forward and recapturing life for me.
- Learn the productivity ebbs and flows of the week. I’ve gotten my weekly schedule down so it works even if I am not feeling well. Getting back to writing is very important to me right now and I make time every day to write and just began Introduction to Screenwriting at Georgetown University School of Continuing Studies.
- Exercise of the mind and creativity is important as well. I am doing a lot more writing for myself right now and taking better stock of the ideas that come to me during the course of the week.
- There are reasons why patients dislike endocrinologists and reasons why endocrinologists don’t listen to their patients. Dealing with endocrinologists can be tough. They were described to me once as chemists and I find that out to be true. Even with all my mojo from years of dealing with engineers and programmers couldn’t help at times. After some changes, I am now with a Doctor at Washington Hospital Center and happy with my endocrinologist.
- There are times when I cannot help. My years as a contract technical writer placed me on some troubled projects and I got through them. I am now a lot better at taking stock of things like projects and personal situations and being able to say, “No, there is nothing I can do to help.” rather than diving in as I once did. I hope that this new attitude will help me choose better projects and keep me out of other life issues in the future where I am not going to win. This lesson has already taken some drama and stress out of my life.
- I can be a patient person. Prior to my surgery, I would have classed myself as an impatient person. In fact, when I came home from surgery I had a three-month Gantt Chart of how I wanted things to go. Well, here it is a year later and it really didn’t work out that way. I’ve had to be patient with the medical establishment as it took me a while to get access to the right endocrinologist
- It’s OK not to be confrontational (at least some of the time). I was once told by a programmer that I was the first technical writer to ever tell him No (It was sort of a backhanded compliment) and can be a confrontational person at times on the personal front. Since my surgery, I wait a few beats before I come out swinging if it is even justified in the first place.
- I need to relish humanity more. I like to say that after my thyroidectomy, I saw the world in a brighter shade of colors. People lie. Managers waffle. People waffle. People hide behind office politics. Coworkers need constant affirmation and attention. People cut you off driving. People try to BS you. People try to play you. People suck nearly all the air out of the room. In the end, it’s just people. Now I try to find the humor in it all. I am even trying to relish my own humanity more especially when I make mistakes. Now I just think of the other mistakes I see during the day and mine don’t feel as bad. Going through the whole road of surgery taught me that I got bent out of shape for the wrong things in the past.
- Living a healthy life is possible. I quit drinking alcohol prior to my surgery and the past year has seen me eat a lot healthier and stick to a diet. Feeling better means I can again enjoy my workouts at the gym. When I am not feeling so hot, I still push myself to go to the gym.
- I can step back from my work. 2011 is a rebuilding year in many ways. I stepped back from a lot of the freelance work that usually burns up my off hours. This has been an OK exercise but the current economy means I need to get back into the game which I’ve steadily been doing since the summer
There are many horror stories online about Thyroid surgery and treatment and I vowed to never become one of those horror stories despite the frustrations I felt this past year.