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KEEPING IT TOGETHER WITH A FULL PLATE By: Christa Palmeri

“I know God will not give me anything I can’t handle. I just wish He didn’t trust me so much.”
-Mother Teresa

For me, the year 2006 was when God decided to trust me a whole lot. Within a six month span of time, I split from my husband, graduated with a Master’s degree, finalized a divorce, had half of my thyroid gland removed, only to find out that I had CANCER and had to have the other half removed. Wow, I get tired just thinking about it all over again.

My story begins back with a routine visit to my family doctor. I was in high school, 18 years old, going to the doctor to get a physical for college. My doctor feels my throat and proceeds to tell me that he feels a bump. He orders me to have an ultra sound. The ultra sound determines that I have multiple goiters (tumors) growing on my thyroid gland. Next, I must have a needle put into my neck and into the goiters to determine if there are cancer cells present. Thank goodness there were none. Life goes on, but thyroid symptoms rear their ugly head. All through college, I struggled with EXTREME tiredness, as well as weight issues. I know college kids typically party a lot, so therefore they suffer from tiredness. This is not what I am talking about. I was so tired that I would come home from class in the morning and sleep for four hours, go to class in the afternoon, sleep four more hours, do some work and so on. It was difficult for me to stay awake for more than five hours at a time.

My senior year in college is when I met my future husband, Erin. I graduated college in 2002, and begun my career as a special education teacher that September. Erin and I were married in August, 2004. My thyroid condition was out of control by now. I struggled each day to get through work. I even brought an alarm clock to work so I could sleep in the faculty room during my lunch and prep time. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, I decided I wanted to pursue a Master Degree. I was a walking zombie, and was gaining weight left and right. I was so unhappy. I was unhappy because I was tired, I was fat and I married the WRONG MAN.

I decided to try and fix my health first. I went to the doctor. I explained to him that I could not sleep at night. I told him that when I lie down at night it felt like something was in my throat and my body was racing. I told him about my crazy weight gain. At first the doctor sent me to a sleep center. The test results showed nothing. Then he sent me to an ear, nose, and throat specialist. No answers from him either. Then I politely reminded him that my family has a MAJOR history and SO DO I of thyroid problems. He checked my thyroid level. They were ok. I was so frustrated. Then he looked back at my chart. I had those goiters six years ago. Let’s look at them again.

YUP!! They are there!! Ok let’s treat them with medication and send you to an endocrinologist. Before I got to see the endocrinologist, my marriage took a turn for the worst. Erin and I divorced on our two-year anniversary. Happy Anniversary! UGGH! I wanted Erin to be my husband; someone I could trust, someone who was supportive, loving, and caring. He wasn’t ready to be any of those things.

“The key is to get to know people and trust them to be who they are. Instead, we trust people to be who we want them to be and when they’re not, we cry.” -Unknown

A few weeks before my divorce was final, I see the endocrinologist and she tells me the medication I was given is actually making my system go crazy. No wonder I have been hearing my heart beat in my ears for the past few weeks. Over the next few months she sends me for more blood work and ultra sounds. She also sends me for more blood work and ultra sounds. She also sends me to get that needle thing AGAIN, which AGAIN showed that I was CANCER FREE. She also wanted me to see an endocrinologist surgeon. She wanted to remove the goiter, which was now growing to an abnormal size. The goiter needed to go.

My surgery was set. I was going to have half of my thyroid gland removed. I was petrified. Being a woman, I was really concerned about having a scar across my neck. Call me vain, but we live in a very vain world. The surgery went fine, and I felt great afterwards. I was back to work in a few days. I couldn’t believe it.

Then my phone rang…….I remember sitting with my mom in a little office and hearing the endocrinologist surgeon speak the word CANCER. I felt like time had just frozen. I was 26 years old. This could not possibly be happening to me. I can’t handle this right now. I can’t handle ONE MORE THING!!!! I remember being completely silent, yet on the inside I felt like I was screaming so loudly the whole world could hear. I don’t remember much about the drive home. I don’t know how my mother held it together. I was just a mess of tears.

When they removed the first half of my thyroid gland, they found cancer hiding. So a week later, I was scheduled to repeat the same surgery to remove the rest of my thyroid gland. The second surgery was not as easy. Te recovery was much harder, and much longer.

So how did I get through it all? That is an easy answer for me. My friends and family helped me each and every day.

During the days before and after my divorce my sisters, parents, brother-in-law, family members, and friends were endless supporters. Many nights my sister Dana and brother-in-law, Justin, would just invite me to stay at their house just so I would not have to stay at home alone. My mom would listen to me and cry with me for endless hours. My youngest sister Katrina, who I never knew that at a mere nineteen years old, could be filled with such words of comfort and wisdom for her big sister.

And of course my Dad, he had the toughest job in my eyes. He negotiated my divorce so I would not have to talk to lawyers or my soon to be ex-husband. He brought me to the lawyer when I absolutely needed to go and he brought me to the courtroom for the final divorce proceeding. How ironic is it that my Dad gave me away on my wedding day and he was there to walk me out of the courtroom on my divorce day. I guess no matter how old you are some days you still need your Daddy to hold your hand.

The days after my surgery, I think EVERYONE came to visit me. Relatives, friends, and family, came to visit me, even though my surgery made it difficult to speak to any of them. Every time I would wake up from my “doped-up” state, another smiling face was there to greet me. I was really happy to see my girlfriend Lillian one night. She is a nurse and when my meds ran out, she went to get a nurse to help me. Thank God for good friends and pain medication. 🙂

When I returned home after my second surgery, my recovery still continued. I was out of work for almost a month. Friends from work came to visit. Relatives helped me to take care of my house and my pets. My family took care of me. My students sent me get well cards. I will be eternally grateful for the outpouring of sentiments that I received from friends and family during this time. Knowing that people truly care about you and miss you when you are not a part of THEIR lives is what helped me to get stronger each day. I wanted to be stronger for THEM. Why? Because getting stronger for THEM made ME feel better. I felt like I had a PURPOSE for getting better.

Where I am now…..
I am healthy!!! I will forever be on medication to replace my thyroid glands job, but hey I have to say. I got off easy. I am now with a wonderful man named Neil. I call him my “voice of reason.” He keeps me levelheaded and manages to make me laugh every single day. You just have to laugh every day. Laughter cures EVERYTHING. So all in all, life is good.

The last thing I want to share with you is something that my Mom shared with me while I was living through my “dark” days. One day while driving to work my Mom heard a song on the radio. Everyone in my family loves music but NOT quite like me. Music not only makes my feet move and my voice sing but it is the rhythm of my soul. Music touches me; it always has. My Mom decided to print the lyrics to the song put them in a “thinking of you” card and send them to me. To this day, the lyrics of this song hang on my refrigerator. These lyrics are my daily reminder that no matter what God decides to TRUST me with today, I know that I can handle it because there are people in my life who love and care for me. So, “May your dreams stay big and your worries stay small” and best wishes to all of you.

Here are the lyric. The song is called “My Wish” by the Rascal Flatts:

I hope that each days to come easy and the moments pass slow
And each road leads you where you want to go
And if you’re faced with a choice, and you have to choose
I hope you choose the one that means the most to you
And if one door opens to another door closed
I hope you keep walkin’ till you find the window
If it’s cold outside, show the world the warmth of your smile
But more than anything, more than anything
My wish, for you, is that life becomes all that you want it to
Your dreams stay big, and your worries stay small
You never need to carry more than you can hold
And while you’re out there getting where you’re getting to
I hope you know somebody loves you, and wants the same things too
Yeah, this, is my wish
I hope you never look back, but ya never forget
All the ones who love you, in the place you left
I hope you always forgive, and you never regret
And you help somebody every chance you get
Oh, you find God’s grace, in every mistake
And you always give more than you take
But more than anything, yeah, and more than anything
My wish, for you, is that this life becomes all that you want it to
Your dreams stay big, and your worries stay small
You never need to carry more than you can hold
And while you’re out there getting where you’re getting to
I hope you know somebody loves you, and wants the same things too
Yeah, this, is my wish
My wish, for you, is that this life becomes all that you want it to
Your dreams stay big, and your worries stay small
You never need to carry more than you can hold
And while you’re out there getting where you’re getting to
I hope you know somebody loves you, and wants the same things too
Yeah, this, is my wish
This is my wish
I hope you know somebody loves you
May all your dreams stay big

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