Oh, Right, I Have A Chronic Illness, Don’t I?

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For almost five months now, the health-related aspects of my life (and these I have a few) have more or less faded into the background while the laser focus, not intentionally but inevitably, pointed at papillary thyroid carcinoma: my thyroidectomy, the complications following surgery, and my subsequent hypothyroidism and radiation therapy.

It’s been, at times, a long winter because of this, but conversely — and now that it’s pretty much behind me — I look back and realize how quickly it all happened.

Fortunately my self-management remained pretty steady-state for the duration of my cancer treatment. I’m quite satisfied, in retrospect (albeit still somewhat confused, though not wishing otherwise!), that my blood glucose control almost (almost) seemed to autopilot itself into healthy numbers during a time in my life when I had to have my health attention elsewhere focused. I know that my experience with the cancer could have easily been different; it could have been that my blood glucose control bounced dangerously all over the place, and that hyper- and hypoglycemia could have added exponentially to the hell that was surgery recovery and, later on, hypothyroidism and the radioactive iodine therapy.

Thankfully, as far as diabetes was concerned: smooth sailing.

Last Monday I had my six-month visit with my primary-care physician. I realized during my talk with her (because sometimes certain things hit you when you least expect them), that there are woods beyond woods, some of which I’ll never be completely out of.

Type 1 diabetes isn’t behind me. I’ll never have a total “phew, that’s over” moment with diabetes. It’s there, always.

Over this past weekend I began to emerge from the sloth and pain that is hypothyroidism. Oh, sure, I’d felt so badly that I didn’t realize I’d developed a sinus infection and would need to be prescribed amoxicillin and get back on Allegra (fexofenadine). But apart from that little hiccup, I’d forgotten about the ongoing medical scrutiny that I, a patient with diabetes, continue to and always will receive from my health-care team.

Smack me back into a diabetes reality pretty quickly, why don’t you? Monday, during the examination (which was actually more like a thirty-minute discussion, rather than a poke-and-prod visit), I was brought back to remembering just how often I get to see doctors, hospitals, waiting rooms, clinics. She (my PCP) went over other medical appointments I need to have in the next five or six months alone to keep tabs on issues that are either related to my diabetes or that because I have diabetes the doctors want to keep a close watch on. I’ll spare you the litany of appointments and blood draws (I look out for you guys!), but looking over my calendar, I count five different appointments in the next six months, which doesn’t include the three times I’ll need to stop into a blood lab a few days before some of those appointments to get my blood drawn for various tests, and which also doesn’t include the cancer follow-ups.

Driving home from my doctor’s was bittersweet. I felt great because I was feeling so much better (and through the miracle of antibiotics would soon be rid of a painful cough and sore throat), but I was saddened somewhat to think that the drive I was making was a drive I’ll continue to make, way more often than I’d prefer.

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