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The Diabetes Blogger’s Dilemma

Eric Lagergren

January 22, 2010

I have a confession and an apology to make. The apology is this: I’m sorry if I’ve let down any of you who read my blog expecting some snippet or anecdote or (maybe) insight into what it is I was contracted to do, which is to talk about what it is for me to live with diabetes. I’m sorry as well to those of you who may have clicked your way to one of my entries in the hopes of finding something related to diabetes and instead ended up with a several-thousand-word entry on some guy’s thyroidectomy.

You probably won’t find anything in this week’s entry to help you if you seek those things.

I won’t say that I can’t help it. I can. It hasn’t been impossible for me to write about my Type 1 diabetes. In fact, a few weeks ago I wrote a two-part entry in which I don’t recall mentioning my thyroid cancer. (That should earn me a few points.) However, each week since my cancer diagnosis I’ve tried to find diabetes-related material to incorporate into the blog, and each week I found doing so burdensome. My confession: for the most part I shifted my focus for this blog away from the diabetes to talk about my cancer because it helped me cope with what I was going through. The diabetes is under control; my thyroid — now gone thanks to the surgery — has been paramount in my thoughts. A little self-serving? Sure. Again, I’m sorry.

While I no longer have a thyroid, and while the tests showed the cancer hadn’t spread, I’m not out of the thyroid medical woods yet. So do you want to know a bit about what’s happened in the past week for me?

I still have to undergo radioactive iodine uptake (RAIU). This will take place the first full week in April. I’ll probably miss work that entire week. RAIU consists of three or four different half-day outpatient trips to the hospital, during which I’ll ingest or have injected a small amount of radioactive iodine to target any thyroid tissue that may not have been completely removed by the thyroidectomy. They’ll then do full-body scans to see if there is any cancerous thyroid tissue elsewhere in my body. If you want the full details on RAIU, you can read about it here.

But wait, there’s more.

As I mentioned last week, the anesthesiologist chipped one of my teeth (my left front tooth, actually) during intubation. Sometime in the next three months or so I will decide whether or not to have that small chip repaired. It’s very tiny, almost unnoticable, and the hospital will pay for the reconstruction. I would be fine with not repairing it, but I’m concerned with whether leaving it as-is could lead to problems down the road. Why leave it? Right now I’m about doctored out, and I’d like to avoid the dentist for a while if possible.

I also mentioned difficulty speaking. I still don’t have much voice, and while it’s not atypical for a patient to have voice difficulty following a thyroidectomy, the level at which I’m experiencing problems is greater than the norm. To be brief, I had three different appointments at the hospital on Tuesday. My laryngeal nerve, while not permanently damaged — they monitored the nerves during the procedure — was stretched during surgery; therefore it isn’t really communicating with my body in such a way that allows the left side of my vocal cord to close.

My voice will return, but when that will happen is something they can’t predict. Could be next week, three weeks from now, or months from now. I’m finding it tough to navigate through the world without the ability to speak above a whisper.

I’m scheduled to meet with an otolaryngologist in two weeks, after which, if I’m still having voice problems, I’ll work with a speech pathologist so that I don’t develop bad speech habits while my cords aren’t working correctly.

So there you go. Another entry pretty much sans diabetes. I suppose I could force my way into diabetes writing, but for two and a half years now as a blogger for Diabetes Self-Management — after nearly 130 blog entries and probably close to 100,000 words — I’ve had little to no difficulty coming up with something diabetes-related to write about on a weekly basis. For most of those entries, I’ve cared about the topic I wrote about on any given week. Lately, though, apart from the few times my blood glucose went out of whack due to an oversight on the part of the nursing staff while I was in the hospital, I’ve had very few diabetes topics that interest me. I rack my brain trying to think of something, but it always comes back around to, “Yeah, but that thyroid thing…that voice thing…the swallowing difficulty…oh, and that tooth thing…”

I know this isn’t Thyroid Cancer Survivor’s Self-Management, so believe me, I’ll return with diabetes stuff soon. In fact, next week I see my endocrinologist for the first time since my cancer diagnosis. I will talk about how that goes, about my diabetes (with a touch of thyroid news peppered in), the next time I see you.

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