Thursday, March 29, 2012

My Journey With Thyroid Cancer :: Treatment, Isolation, & Unexpected Blessings

I am nearing the end of my "isolation" period, after receiving treatment for my thyroid cancer. Soon I will be able to hug my husband, children, family, and smother them in kisses. This isolation period has really given me time to think about life and realize how precious it is.

Let me back up a little though, to the day of treatment, March 23rd to be exact. I was not prepared for just how difficult that day would be. I guess it would be normal to be very emotional on a day like this, but I just had not thought it through. It started when each of my children, in turn, gave me a hug and kiss when they went off to school and said "Good bye mommy".

The second that they left my bedroom, I completely lost it!!  I cried like a baby. Part of my emotions came from the fact that I would be away from my children for awhile. I treasure their hugs, kisses and snuggles so much and knew it would be hard to be without them for a few days. I believe that the bigger part of these emotions came from the realization of how long and hard this process has been for me and my family, and that I was FINALLY ready to begin the final step that would kill this cancer and allow me to move on to a healthy new future.

Thyroid cancer has provided me with an exercise in patience. I think it would have been easier if there had been no waiting, and if I could have just had surgery, moved right into treatment, and had been able to get it done and over. That is not how thyroid cancer works, especially when you end up with two surgeries, as I did. There were weeks of waiting in between each step of the process and that took a toll both mentally and physically.  I have always been pretty mentally tough and competitive by nature, so during all this time, I held it together pretty well. Sure, I had little moments of crying and feeling sorry for myself, but on March 23rd, the reservoir of emotions all came tumbling out. It was a good cry, and it was needed. I realize now, how important it was to let my emotions out, as it helped release everything that had built up inside of me over the last couple of months, and also validated what a tough journey this has been.

The first step on treatment day was a full body scan.

The scan was a little unnerving because I would finally find out if the cancer had spread anywhere beyond my thyroid gland.

My particular cancer, follicular carcinoma, has a tendency to spread to lymph nodes, lungs and bones. Had my cancer spread? I had anxiously waited two months to hear the answer to that question. In the afternoon, when I went back for the actual treatment, I received the wonderful news that the only place where they could see any residual thyroid tissue was in my neck, which was expected. There was no evidence of spread.  Now, the job of the Radio Active Iodine Treatment, which followed, would be to seek out and destroy all the remaining thyroid cells.

The treatment itself was simple. A Nuclear Medicine doctor brought in a special lead cylinder which contained a small radioactive capsule, tiny but powerful.

The doctor placed the pill in my mouth, gave me a few last minute instructions and soon I was out the door........I was officially radioactive!

My husband was instructed to stay as far away as he could. How far away can you get in an elevator? On the quicker than usual ride home, I sat in the farthest back seat, on the opposite side from Joe. He drove me to my parents home because I needed to keep my radioactive body away from my small children who would not understand the strict isolation.

I needed my own room, my own bed, my own bathroom and so I returned to my childhood bedroom.

Most of the radioactivity passes out of the body though body fluids in the first three days. I was required to drink lots of water to speed up this process and this meant frequent trips to the bathroom where I had to flush the toilet twice after each use.

The isolation itself, was not so bad because I soon became pretty nauseated, and that, combined with being achy and tired, made it easy to want to be by myself in a quiet room. During the good moments, I enjoyed having "facetime" with my boys and receiving "virtual" hugs and kisses.

Starting on the fourth day of isolation, I began to take short walks with my loves, with them walking a few feet behind me. I won't take a nice walk for granted anymore.

On that same day, I took my first dose of thyroid medication. I have never been so happy to take any drug before. This little pill will be responsible for making me feel a whole lot better in three to four weeks.

I have found another unexpected blessing in all of this. I have been fortunate enough to spend this isolation time with my parents and it has been such a treat to be their little girl again in my childhood home. The only thing missing in my room, is a rope down the middle with my dear sister on the other side, a favorite memory of when we shared this room and had territorial wars:)  I have had many long talks with my mom as she stood the required distance away in the doorway and she has taken care of me as any loving mother would. With modern technology, I have even had special texting sessions with my dad, while in the same house, from our own bedrooms, like the ones that follows:

 Still finding things to's to unexpected blessings!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

From Life Threatening Injuries To An Inspiring Story of Love & Journey Towards Recovery ~ Feel Better Campaign Recipient

We are so happy to introduce Julie McClure, our latest recipient of a Feel Better Campaign nomination. She was nominated by Pat, a family friend, after she survived a major car accident on December 17th. Julie has an amazing story of survival that we'd like to share and want everyone to join us as her cheerleaders as she undergoes her seventh surgery today! 

Julie Anna Robson and Michael McClure were married on August 6th, 2011. They both work for Pensacola Christian College in Florida. Julie is a registered nurse, a nursing instructor, and is working on her nurse practitioner degree. Julie is a compassionate and selfless people lover. She has taken several medical mission trips to South America and Africa to use her skills to help those in need. Her dream is to one day travel to many different lands to share her faith with people in need through the use of her medical skills.

On December 17th, 2011 at 9:47pm, while driving down US 231 outside of Troy Alabama, they were struck by another vehicle which was out of control and traveling at high speed. Michael survived with injuries to his left arm, back, and ribs. He was treated and released within a few days. Julie sustained multiple life threatening injuries as the other vehicle struck her side of the car. She was resuscitated twice on the scene and was life flighted to two different hospitals. Since then, she has survived 6 major surgeries on her left arm and both of her legs. She still has one major surgery to go today, March 22nd. 

The doctors and nurses have been amazed at Julie's joyful spirit and her will to recover. The next four months of her life will be spent in a hospital bed at home while recovering through intense therapy. Julie is thankful to God to be alive and believes that through the prayers and support of her family and friends all around the world, she will walk and use her left arm again! 

We are honored to welcome Julie as our latest Feel Better Campaign recipient and would like to encourage all of our amazing readers to follow along with Julie as she climbs this hill and goes on to do the great things she is clearly destined to accomplish. She is a warrior. She is a survivor. She is amazingly beautiful inside and out. Follow her Facebook page HERE and send her a message of encouragement as she undergoes surgery today.

Besides the invaluable thoughts, prayers, and words of encouragement you can send Julie's way... there is one more thing...

Julie's family informed us that she will be bed bound and in a hospital gown for the next 4 months! We sent Julie her first gown as our gift, and are establishing a "gown fund" for Julie. If you would like to purchase or contribute to Julie's gown fund - you can donate any amount of money in $5 increments to  purchase Julie Annie & Isabel gowns. Just put Julie's name in the "recipient name" field and our email address in the "recipients email" field {as shown below} and we will tally up Julie's donations and send her additional gowns. She has the swatches of all of our hospital gowns, so she can pick her next gown! We are going to contribute 15% of the cost of any additional gowns we are able to send to her through this special program. As you can see below, there is also an area to leave a message. If you would like us to include your own personal message with any gowns we send her, type it in the message area and we will send that with the gown. Anyone who joins us in donating to Julie's gown fund will receive a discount code for a future gown purchase for their own needs.

Julie has a long and difficult road of ahead of her in her recovery and we hope that you will feel inclined to "Pay It Forward" to an amazing woman who we can guarantee will also "Pay It Forward" to many others in her lifetime.  

  Click HERE to donate to Julie's hospital gown fund.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

More Blessings of Cancer and On to Treatment

As many of you know, I had surgery on February 29th to remove the remainder of my thyroid  due to my thyroid cancer. I got to show off our newest Annie & Isabel "Elizabeth" designer hospital gown which was really fun and made me feel good at a time that was kind of scary. (Speaking of our new Elizabeth gown....if anyone wants to purchase one, please email us at  We don't have them on our website yet but we are fully stocked with them!)

Pre-Op with my Husband

Pre-Op with Sister and Mom

The surgery itself went really well and the recovery in the hospital was surprisingly not too bad….or maybe that was the drugs:-)

Smiling fresh out of surgery..yes..I think it was drugs:-)

Really, though, the pain was much less this time around, and I was able to eat pretty normal food within a couple of days which was great. It also didn't hurt being surrounded by my beautiful boys!

I just got the pathology back for this surgery, and there was a very small amount of cancer on the left side of my thyroid too. I did not expect that, but it was so small that it won’t change the treatment plan.

So now I am without a thyroid and am also not on any replacement medications for my thyroid. This is because, in order to receive treatment, I need to be depleted of thyroid hormones and become very hypothyroid. About a week and a half ago, I started to feel the effects of this. I have become a lot more tired and am now requiring naps during the day. If you know me, I am not the napping type of gal, but I am totally welcoming them now. My legs ache constantly and I just have an overwhelming feeling of heaviness. Each day seems to be a little worse. I joked with a few of my friends that this is kind of like a weird science experiment.  Maybe my kids should have entered me in the Science Fair! My body has lost a very vital organ and now with each day I wait to see what new symptoms I’ll experience.

I am writing this post now because I’m not sure that I will have the energy to do this in the next weeks and I don’t think my brain will be functioning quite as well. They say you will get “brain fog” from being hypothyroid. I’m hoping to avoid that, but I am already finding that sometimes I have a hard time remembering things (although I think that problem might have started well before my cancer diagnosis, …but now I can blame it on this..ha!)

The whole point of me writing this post is that I could really feel sorry for myself right now, and I’m not saying that I don’t sometimes, or that I haven’t cried, but I am always trying to find the blessings and positive things in this whole experience. I have been pleasantly surprised by some of the wonderful things that have come out of this. I share this with you because I hope that maybe you, too, can realize how precious our lives are and how important it is to sometimes step back, take some extra time,  and enjoy life. I know, before my diagnosis, I was so extremely busy with driving my kids around, working my job as a nurse, being a wife, and working on Annie & Isabel, that I hardly ever stopped to smell the flowers. I mentioned in my previous post about a friend telling me that “Cancer is not a gift but it brings many gifts with it”….well here are some of the latest gifts I have received from this diagnosis and I hope it helps you to also look for the blessings in your lives.

I have been given the gift of connecting individually with each of my children every morning. In this last week, I have not gotten out of bed before 9am. My husband has thankfully been home to run the house. Every morning, on their own, each of my children has come in to talk to me and snuggle. It is so sweet that they do this, and it shows me how much they care and love me. It is such a wonderful thing to connect with each of them in the morning and share some love before they start their days. It's also fun to start the day with a few laughs, and an ipad that distorts photos does just the trick.

Here is a cute picture of my boys just so you don't think I am raising aliens!!

I never found that extra time before because, frankly, it was hard enough just running around to get out the door on time. I have already grown closer to each of my precious boys and I can tell they have grown even closer to me. I will ALWAYS cherish this part of my experience and plan to make more time for this when I am well. You CAN'T turn back time but you CAN make the most of each minute you have now.

Another gift I have received is the gift of napping with my Daniel. In the past, I only loved naps for my children so that I could have ME time. Don’t get me wrong…that “me” time is important, but napping is such a short period in a child's life,  so why not join them every once in awhile? Daniel used to fight me on taking naps, but now it is something we both look forward to. He has the cutest little smile as we jump in bed together and snuggle up. I can tell how much he is absorbing all my love for him. One afternoon after our nap he told me, “taking naps together is actually kind of fun!” My heart was so full at that moment and I’m pretty sure his was too. I hope he will always remember this time as I know I will never forget it!

Getting Ready For Nap

Sweet Dreams

Another gift I have been given is to appreciate my health! I may never completely have the energy I had prior to my cancer diagnosis, but I will definitely value having a healthy body that allows me to get through everything I need to do in a day. I also want to mention that while cancer has temporarily taken my health and energy, it will never take away my spirit, and that is what is going to keep me going, to regain my strength and appreciate my health and life as I have never done before. I posted this picture on my personal facebook page a week ago but wanted to share it here too. For me, it is a visual of what I think about this whole cancer experience and I will proudly show off my scar because there is no reason to hide a badge of courage and strength.

Cancer May Scar My Skin But Not My Spirit

So the next phase for me is treatment. In 2-4 weeks I will have my whole body scanned to see if there is any spread of the cancer anywhere and then I will be given what is called a radioactive iodine treatment. The dose of the treatment depends on what the scan looks like and it is basically a pill that I will swallow. This isn’t any old pill though. Once I swallow this pill I become radioactive!! Doesn’t that sound super hero-ish? I think I will tell my kids that I will be turning into Superwoman!! The pill I will swallow is so radioactive that I will have to sit in the very back of the car to be driven home from my appointment. Also, if I were to go to the airport in the next few months or even up to the next year, there is a good chance I might set off alarms due to my radioactivity. Pretty cool huh….NOT!!

After I come home from this appointment, I will be isolated in a room by myself for one week because I cannot expose anyone to the radioactivity…especially my children. I’m not going to be feeling very good, so having to stay in a room for a week is probably not going to be such a big deal but emotionally it is going to be tough. When I am feeling down I plan to watch this.....God love my boys:

Thank goodness for technology because I don’t know what I would do if I couldn’t see or talk to my family and friends. I plan to utilize face time/skype, facebook, twitter and the good ole telephone to stay in touch!! So…if you live in the area and see a bright light glowing at night…it’s probably me:-) I am on the road to being CANCER FREE!!

Monday, March 12, 2012

A Husband's Gift of Love and Style For His Wife Who Struggles with Parkinson's

We always think it so special when a loving husband purchases one...two.. or several...of our Annie & Isabel designer hospital gowns for their wife. THEY GET IT! They understand that all women really do feel better when they look better! We first "met" Ronnie when he emailed us about his lovely wife, Suzanne, who is living in a care center due to complications from Parkinson's disease. He won over our hearts with the love he has for his Suzanne. We asked him if he would share how having the Annie & Isabel designer hospital gowns has made a difference for them and this is what he said:

"I am in receipt of the two hospital gowns I purchased for my wife.  They are great.  The care center she is in provides, (standard), gowns for nightly use. On bath mornings, for convenience, they use a fresh gown with a couple of small throws I have provided, as dress for breakfast. I was looking for something "more stylish" for these occasions, and indeed found it with your product. 

I had originally brought a "heavy" terry cloth robe from a nice hotel years ago. As her Parkinson's has progressed and caused her body to be rigid that she is no longer able to stand, sit (except in a wheel chair), making it very difficult for the aids to put the robe on with her arms in the sleeves. 

I must tell you, the aids compliment me on how nice the gowns are. They are very easy to care for, just wash/dry and put on a hanger. I have decided I am going to your site and ordering one of each size in various colors. Not for Suzanne, but for friends and family who I normally send flowers, I will now give them a gown for after a surgery or whatever. These will look much better up and down the hall.

The gowns are great and I will let all know of your product! A happy customer!!!"


Saturday, March 3, 2012

Country Music Star, Trace Adkins, Bares It All in the Standard Undignified Hospital Gown. Have No Fear Men...Annie & Isabel Will Have You Covered Soon!!

photo from
This past week, multi-platnum country music artist and The Apprentice Season 7 runner up, Trace Adkins tweeted out the picture below before he was treated for kidney stones.

We had to laugh because this is the exact reason we started Annie & Isabel designer hospital gowns! We have great news for all you men and especially you Trace...Our men's line of Annie & Isabel hospital gowns will be available very very soon! We have the samples in our hands and they look amazing! There really is no reason anyone should have to be exposed in any hospital gown ever EVER again.

Here is a sneak peek at one of our newest man gowns that will be available soon.  We got you covered guys!!!