In June, while on my Moab vacation, I was diagnosed with a disease called primary hyperparathiroidism. I’ve been struggling with how to compile this post about this health issue and the ensuing surgery which happened this past week. I finally decided to share the email explanation I sent to my 21 year-old son, who is serving an LDS mission in Cambodia right now. He is nearing the end of his two-year service and this time is bittersweet for all of us. I’ve missed him since he’s been gone and a lot has happened over the past two years, but I am so happy for his service and the love he has for the people of Cambodia. So. This post isn’t just about my surgery, although that was the original purpose. It’s also a little peek into the life and heart of a mother who has missed her son in ways she never expected.
ALSO: Hyperparathiroidism is a serious disease that WILL shorten your life and destroy its quality if left untreated. If you have blood tests that show high blood calcium levels, please do some research (start here: http://www.parathyroid.com) and have a serious talk with your doctor. Don’t let him put you off or tell you they’ll just watch it for a while. This doesn’t heal itself. It requires the help of a very skilled surgeon. I recommend the Norman Parathyroid Center in Tampa, Florida.
Dear Elder Arctic Boy,
Dad and I flew to Florida on Tuesday and I had parathyroid surgery on Wednesday. I’m not sure how much to explain about it, but I suppose the short explanation is that humans have 4 parathyroid glands located behind the thyroid. The parathyroid’s job is to keep a healthy calcium level in the blood. One of my parathyroid glands had a tumor that made it put out way too much parathyroid hormone, causing my bones to lose more calcium than they should, and creating a bunch of other symptoms – chronic fatigue, brain fog, mood swings, crazy blood pressure, stress on the kidneys, and a bunch of other stuff. Anyway, the expert surgeons here in Florida removed the tumorous gland and determined that my other 3 glands were perfectly healthy. The surgeon also removed a nodule that was on my thyroid, because “We were already in there, so we might as well take care of it for you.”
The first 24 hours after surgery was a bear. Ibuprofen does not do anything for my pain or inflammation, so I was just trying to get by with Tylenol (acetaminophen) and some herbal stuff. In actuality, the herbal stuff (boswellia and frankincense) worked best of all, but still, that was a hard time. I had forgotten how beastly the aftereffects of general anesthesia are for me (Oy, the headache!!). I felt much better the second day, but still very tender. Every breeze that crossed the wound just aggravated it. I have also rediscovered that I’m sensitive to the adhesive on bandages (especially on my neck) and that was aggravating things also. The steri-strip fell off today (two days early) and I can’t get over how much better it feels to have that gone!
Mostly I’ve just done a lot of sleeping this week, which seems like kind of a waste of perfectly good Florida vacation time, but oh well, you do what you have to. I do think it’s been good for me to be away from all home responsibilities and just rest. I’m pretty sure Meg is sick of us being gone so much this summer, though. She’s been a huge help to us with Grandma and Grandpa Bullough and I don’t think I can ever thank her adequately for it.
My neck muscles and voice feel like they have taken a real beating, but that’s to be expected, and should get better steadily, I hope. I never realized how much you use the muscles in your neck to control your voice until I tried to sing in church today and they all cramped up. Ow!
I have to take supplemental calcium right now until my remaining parathyroid glands wake up and get with the program, as well as I need supplements to heal my bones. It’s kind of crazy how many of those big pills I have to take throughout the day. I always know though, if I need to take more, because my hands go all tingly and also my face does too around my mouth and cheeks. It’s a strange feeling, but very important for me not to ignore. Low blood calcium can be dangerous, and I’m not supposed to drive if I’m having symptoms.
We head home early tomorrow morning (Monday) and my biggest worry is not having access to water when I get symptoms of low calcium. I don’t really want to collapse or something at the airport. Fortunately, this should only last for a couple of weeks before the remaining glands step up and get to work.
We have found someone to build on a sunroom/expanded dining room area for the kitchen so we can have some hope of fitting everyone in on family dinner days, but it might not be done until almost Christmas (yikes).
We are also working out a solution to have a room for you to sleep in when you return. As you may realize, our house is a little crowded with family, which we love, but we need to make a place for you. Some of the solution will involve building a shed of sorts, for an exercise room or office, including a loft area, with heating, cooling, electricity, and wifi. One way or another, we will work it out in time for you to arrive. At any rate, you will NOT be sleeping in a hammock in the laundry room, regardless of how some family members may joke about it.
We are about to the end of August now and I was wondering if we will get your return flight itinerary soon? I know that’s not a thing you want to think about right now, but it would help me to know. Your cousin is also returning home the same day you are.
Sorry to pester you with so many home distractions, but it seems like you should probably know something about what’s coming down the pike.
I love you and I’m so glad you are able to serve with all your heart. Finish strong.