One of the most fascinating things about the human body is that there is a connection between the mind, the body, and the Spirit. Even King David, the Psalmist knew this. He wrote, "I will give thanks to you because I have been so amazingly and miraculously made. Your works are miraculous, and my soul is fully aware of this."
These three things work together to make us whole. When we think about it...I mean seriously think about it... we know our bodies were made to heal themselves.
When we get hurt, what happens? The systems work together to make healing happen. If you fall and get a cut, the body heals the wound. Remember that time you got a black eye? Your body healed it. We all know deep down inside that our bodies were created to be well. This is fact. Over the past few weeks, I have heard several people say that they do not have control over their health. Some have said that their health is "just the hand that was dealt" or "I can't do anything to fix my (fill in the blank with the aliment.)". I am telling you; this is not true. You are amazingly and miraculously made. However, it is your responsibility to maintain the wellness of your mind, body, and spirit. You can help yourself heal from whatever disease or problem you are enduring.
If my car is broken and the mechanic tells me I've been using the wrong kind of gasoline, what do I do? I would start putting the correct fuel inside my car. If I am told I am told that my washing machine is taking too long to wash my clothes because I am using the wrong kind of detergent, what do I do? I go get the right kind of detergent and put it inside my washing machine. We do this with everything but our bodies. When we are told that eating fried food causes clogged arteries or that sugar causes heart attacks, obesity, type 2 diabetes, cancer and dementia, and is the leading cause of liver failure in America, what do we do? NOTHING. Most of us do nothing. We keep drinking the sodas. We keep eating the processed sugar. Why? If you want your body to heal itself, you must put into it what is whole and natural.
You see, there is a harmonious interaction of mind, body and spirit. There exists a rhythm, a tempo to life, some secret harmony between thought, feeling, spirit, and action that produces what we call health.
This balance requires us to do several things.
This MIND ~ BODY ~ SPIRIT connection is fascinating and can lead to health and wellbeing.
When you have chronic illness, you learn to overcome stress for many different reasons. In the last three years, I have had to
I have researched the heart, the lungs, cancer, gallbladder and so much more in order to understand what is happing to me. The most important thing I have done is made the decision to change habits. Eating habits. Exercise habits. Theatre Director habits. Teaching habits. Mothering habits….and so much more. I have taken stress management classes, too. And I’m able now to step back and say…”Whoa! Slow down. Back up. It doesn’t matter.” Or “It’s not that important.”
These are some of the things I’ve learned to cope with health stresses.
1. “ Asking for help does not mean that we are weak or incompetent. It usually indicates an advanced level of honesty and intelligence.”– Anne Wilson Schaef
The most important thing I’ve learned is to recognize when I need help and to ask for help. I used to think it made me weak to seek help, but I see now that it is essential. It shows that I’m not so full of myself that I think I can do it all on my own. Involving others (my husband, children, co-workers) in my life and letting them know when I need help gives my body and brain a respite. The respite in turn allows me to reduce stress levels.
2. “In times of stress, the best thing we can do for each other is to listen with our ears and our hearts and to be assured that our questions are just as important as our answers.”– Fred Rogers
I’ve learned to talk to others. Vocalizing my fears, concerns, and needs is a way to put my stress in perspective. Having a friend, family member, therapist, or clergy listen is like cutting the stress in half.
3. “One of the symptoms of an approaching nervous breakdown is the belief that one’s work is terribly important.” – Bertrand Russell
Laughing helps tremendously. I used to take myself too seriously, and now I realize, uh…I’m not all that. If I can learn to laugh at myself, I won’t allow stress to take over my life.
4. "Give yourself a gift of five minutes of contemplation in awe of everything you see around you. Go outside and turn your attention to the many miracles around you. This five-minute-a-day regimen of appreciation and gratitude will help you to focus your life in awe.” - Wayne Dyer
Sometimes just sitting in a quiet room with my thoughts and prayers quiets my spirit. Connecting to Spirit is vitally important to coping with stress. Our bodies were not created to be stressed. We were created to love, to serve, and to connect with others. Meditation & prayer helps us focus our attention away from the stress.
5. “Rule number one is, don’t sweat the small stuff. Rule number two is, it’s all small stuff.” – Robert Eliot
Letting go of small stuff by learning to say “no” has helped me, too. I never realized how important this word is. It’s okay if I’m not homeroom mother a member of the Campus Advisory Council. It’s okay if I don’t stay late to grade papers or dust my living room regularly. Saying “no” gives me freedom for all of the other things I need to do to manage/cope with stress.
On Tuesday, October 4, I arrived at the hospital to have my thyroid removed in order to get rid of the papillary cancerT. The surgeon said that the surgery went well and that everything looked good with regard to removing the thyroid cancer. He removed two lymph nodes in addition to the thyroid. When thyroid cancer metastasizes, lymph nodes in the neck may be affected, but these lymph-node tumors can be tiny and may not be detected by ultrasounds done before surgery to remove the diseased thyroid — or even during the procedure itself. There's a 50% chance of reoccurrence in the lymph nodes. I see my surgeon in one week to get the results and see if I need the radioactive iodine. I will also see an endocrinologist next week to get thyroid meds.
Once again, I have appreciated the prayers and encouragement from my friends, family, and even strangers.
On October 10, I return to my classroom and by the end of the day, I was totally exhausted, dizzy, dehydrated, and set home. I did see the endocrinologist. She told me that I was at the end of my tank and needed to get started on my Synthroid medication.
Then on October 12, during the follow up appointment, my surgeon told me that the lymph nodes did not have cancer. This means that the cancer was isolated to my thyroid. My endocrinologist told me that after removing the thyroid, microscopic pieces of the thyroid could be left I side my body. The Synthetoid medicine gives my body the hormone that I need and it suppresses the growth/regeneration of thyroid cells. So, in six weeks, I will have blood work to determine if the med is 1. Giving me enough hormone and 2. Suppressing the growth of thyroid cells so the cancer
won't spread. If both are good, I will be cancer free. If not, I will need to take radioactive iodine to kill those cells. Either way, I feel good. Five days in isolation might be very relaxing.
Some days I wonder why I have had to endure such health issues. However, lately, I've had this passion rising up inside me. I think the next step is to share my experiences with others, focusing on Mind, Body, & Spirit. This is where I’m being led. How exciting to look ahead now, knowing there is a plan and purpose!
Last weekend, I did accomplished a year-long goal. Some of my friends joined me, and we completed the Heart Walk, raising $519 for the American Heart Association. Team Dragoo!
A miracle is, "an effect or extraordinary event in the physical world that surpasses all know human and natural powers and is ascribed to a super natural cause."
Statistics say that the “average survival rate is 10.6% and survival with good neurologic function is 8.3%.” For those adults who are placed on an ECMO machine, the “survival rate of patients with ECMO varies from 30% to 50%. I was told it was about 40%.
I beat both of those odds and daily consider my life after the cardiac arrest a miracle. I truly believe that the doctors and nurses at Bryan East made the environment right for healing to occur. They welcomed my family, friends, and prayers. They facilitated the healing while my husband directed everyone involved, to allowing a miracle to happen.
In 2014, I truly believe I experienced another miracle. Not only did my family and friends pray for my survival, but my doctor told Billy and that he stayed up all night praying. Before surgery, he told my mother to begin praying for me and for him. I believe God directed his hands.
Since the cardiac arrest, I have dealt with neuropathy, congestive heart failure, lymphedema, three open heart surgeries, a by-pass surgery. I have had two thoracenteses, C-Diff, vertigo, Lymphatic treatment, Right leg vein ablation, numerous hospital stays, and gall bladder removal. Something is up. Why is it as if my body is falling apart? It seems as though each time something happens, I come through it as a survivor. This is what I mean by journey of miracles. Each time something happens to me, I survive. My journey leads to miracles every minute.
Now, I have papillary cancer of the thyroid. I understand that this is the easiest kind of cancer to cure, but that does not keep me from being concerned. As Billy and I were researching Papillary Cancer, we found 95% - 98% of nodules found on thyroids are begin. I am that 2-5% of the population that experiences the malignant cancer. We also found that this cancer accounts for 85% of thyroid cancers due to radiation exposure.
In the last three years, I have undergone so many different procedures that use radiation. There is a probability that this cancer is a result of surviving the cardiac arrest, just as neuropathy and lymphedema. In more than 50% of papillary thyroid cancer cases, it spreads to lymph nodes of the neck. Not good odds. So, this makes me think, “Am I going to overcome the crazy odds, again?”
Now, I don’t understand what I have done to deserve such miracles in my life, but it seems that miracles happen around me every day. The fact that I am alive is a miracle, and I am so glad to live in this time of history so that science and faith can work together to facilitate healing. I am very blessed to experience, these extraordinary events that surpass all know human and natural powers. The thing that keeps coming to my mind is a scripture I learned as a child. “Be confident that He who began a good work in your will be faithful to complete it.” This is from Paul’s letter to the Philippians.
I just wonder how He will complete the story. When will the health trials end? How can I help others to avoid these crises?
All I can think right now is that God must have some very important task for me to do, because I feel attacked at every milestone of my recovery. I found out today that I do indeed have Papillary Thyroid Cancer. Of all the cancers, it is the most easiest to overcome. Although I know this and my brain understands this, it is really hard to digest. I've been doing so well. I eat really well...to the point of totally transforming my diet. I exercise and I've cut back on so much at school. It is hard to understand why. Why can't I just have a break.
However, the doctor will remove my thyroid in the upcoming weeks, and I am confident that all will eventually be well. It is just another cog in the wheel of stress that I do not need. For me, the surgery will be more difficult than the "normal person" as I have heart issues that must be addressed, especially with anesthesia. My cardiologist will have to be on board, too. The doctor did say that he tries to cut at a winkle, but it will be hard for him since he doesn't see any in my neck. LOL! There is a positive. He also said that had I not had an emergency trip with my gallbladder, we would not know I had the cancer.
Some possible risks include damage to my parathyroid which would mean I have to take calcium for the rest of my life. He also said that I could loose my voice to the point where I can no longer talk, much less sing (my joy). So there it is.
My training as a Holistic Health Practitioner is coming along, and I'm glad to be learning more about the body and body systems. It's reassuring to know what the doctor is talking about.
Billy encouraged me to share something that I've not shared with many people. He and I believe in the power of prayer, positive thinking, and positive energy. So this is why I am writing. When I was last in the hospital, the doctor found some nodules on my thyroid. I had an ultrasound performed, and my surgeon said that there was something suspicious. I need a biopsy. Our family has a history of thyroid cancer, and he is concerned. Well, needless to say, I'm concerned. I understand the statistics. Thyroid nodules are common in women my age. I understand all the stats, but I need your prayer. Can I just have a break? The very fact that I have to even think about cancer, in any form, is overwhelming. I've been working so hard to be healthy and now I have one more thing to have to consider.
This journey continues to challenge me. I am expecting a miracle.
I have been recovering at home, but I am having some kind of reaction. I cry at the drop of a hat.
I did receive a call from the doctor who admitted me to the hospital. She called to see how I was feeling and to tell me that the CT that was done in the ER showed that I had nodules on my thyroid. I was encouraged to tell my surgeon about them at my follow up.
Needless to say, this was not encouraging so I researched nodules and decided not to tell the kids or my family.
The term thyroid nodule refers to an abnormal growth of thyroid cells that forms alump within the thyroid gland. Although the vast majority of thyroid nodules are benign (noncancerous), a small proportion of thyroid nodules do contain thyroidcancer. Thyroid nodules are very common; up to half of all people have at least one thyroid nodule, although most do not know about it. Thyroid nodules can be caused by many different conditions. Reassuringly, about 95 percent of all thyroid nodules are caused by benign (non-cancerous) conditions.
This was encouraging so I decided not to worry and just try to get stronger. I can't exercise for three-four weeks after the surgery. This journey continues to be hard and I don't understand why I am going through it.
One thing I have done lately, is question God. Why? What is it that I am doing wrong? I eat really good, I've been exercising this summer. What is this curse that I have seem to inherited? The only thing I know is that there must be something really big planned for me to do because I keep getting attack by the enemy.
I've really had time to sit down and get my studies going for the Holistic Health Practitioner certification. I am not looking forward to going back to school with another deficit in my health.
I'm very glad to have Billy home from TAL'S Camp. He's been home for 4 days now and this is what happened. I awoke with terrible pain in my chest and upper abdomen on Thursday, July 28 and was taken by ambulance to St. Davids Hospital, South Austin. After immediately ruling out heart for the cause of chest pain, they admitted me to the hospital. I was put on very strong pain killers and began waiting for test results. A CT was done that extended from my neck to my pelvis, and they found that my gallbladder might be sluggish.
Three days into the hospital stay, they determined that I did not have an ulcer. I did not have indigestion. Nothing was broken and all my kidney and liver functions were normal. One doctors said he thought it was my gall bladder but with my history, he didn't know if I could have surgery. So he waited. After another extensive test (where I had to forgo pain meds for a day), they determined that my gallbladder did indeed have sludge.
Billy went to Facebook again to ask for prayers... I've always liked rollercoasters. Fitting, since that's a metaphor for the past three years regarding Annie's health. About two weeks ago, she said her goal for the school year was to stay out of the hospital. And then last Thursday I had to call for an ambulance!
This is our 9th day in the hospital. I'm bored out of my mind, sitting here 10 hours a day, but my lovely wife has it much worse. She is in severe pain and nauseous, and has to endure endless probing, as well as injections in her belly (blood thinners, since she's been mostly bed-ridden). FINALLY we have a surgery time: at 5:00 p.m. they're going to remove that diseased gall bladder that's causing all these problems.
Due to her heart history, she's a higher risk for surgery than most people. And although the surgery is relatively minor and she's been cleared by her cardiology team, I still can't help but "white knuckle" it through. I think I'd rather be out! (And would gladly trade places with her. She's been through so much and doesn't deserved such rotten luck!)
Anyway, friends, you know the routine. It got us through Lincoln in '13 and again at the Heart Hospital in '14. So whatever you got out there -- prayers, vibes, good thoughts, positive energy, karma, best wishes -- I'll take it.
The gall bladder surgery was removed successfully, and I was had new scars to add to my other battle wounds. Now I'm home and trying to figure out where and how recovery begins again.
I want to take a moment to say thank you all for your continued love, encouragement, and support over the last three years. As many of you know, the last school year, the third school year since first cardiac arrest, was just hard as the first year of recovery. However, this summer I have been focusing on rest, relaxation, and strength/endurance building. I have seen my cardiologist, my surgeon, my neurologist, and my primary care physician. The cardiologist wants to see me in four months to get an echo cardiogram, checking for improvement my ejection faction, and distended right ventricle. The surgeon says there has been no change in the nodule on my aorta and wants to see me in 2 years...unless the echocardiogram shows something. Finally, the neurologist has taken me off one of the meds because it caused me to gain 25 unwanted/unneeded pounds. After weaning me off of the med, I have very little pain, so I don't have to have a new med. YAY! My goal would be to TAKE NO MORE MEDICATION.
Earlier in the spring, Dr. Eckry told me that I had given teaching a valiant effort these last few years but that it might be time to look for something new (or disability). We seriously considered this. The reason I did not opt out of teaching this year is because I was given a schedule based on the American with Disabilities Act, allowing me some modifications to my job description. Billy and I are hoping that this will allow me to make it through the school year without being stressed, sick, and in the hospital. One of the biggest decisions that I'm making is to study to be a Holistic Health Practitioner. This training will be in Clinical Nutrition, Herbal Medicine, and Personal Training / Physical Fitness and will enable me to assess clients and tailor unique holistic care plans to meet clients' needs. Care plans can include dietary analysis and restructuring, fitness assessments and individual fitness plans and herbal recommendation. Most of all, I'm hoping that the study will help me be more holistic in my personal healthcare and that of my family. (Plus this goes hand in hand with my It Works business.)
I believe that I have a story to tell of physical, mental, and spiritual well being, and I feel like I am supposed to be sharing this with others, especially teachers. Stress management is key!
In April my neurologist said I needed to have An electroencephalogram (EEG). This is a test that detects electrical activity in your brain using small, flat metal discs (electrodes) attached to your scalp. Your brain cells communicate via electrical impulses and are active all the time, even when you're asleep. This activity shows up as wavy lines on an EEG recording.
Because my brain was without oxygen for at least six minutes when I had the cardiac arrest, my neurologist wanted to see what kind, if any, brain damage I have. We know I have some memory loss, but recently, I've been experiencing what Josh calls "brain farts." I can't remember words, phrases, names, and it just stops in the middle of sentences. Some say I'm just getting old.
An EEG is one of the main diagnostic tests for epilepsy. An EEG may also play a role in diagnosing other brain disorders. The results came by fairly normal, although I do have some brain bleeps. My memory is not the same as it was before, and i have trouble staying on task, staying focused.
In July, I was finally healthy enough to begin my cardiac rehab. So I took on three days week of exercise with a wonderful group of nurses who helped me gain strength. I was feeling really good and could tell a difference. However i did learn that you can pull a muscle that will cause you to have heart attack symptoms. Costochondritis, also known as chest wall pain, is an acute and often temporary inflammation of the costal cartilage, the structure which connects each rib to the sternum at the costosternal joint. I had pulled the muscle while working out my arms. I did finish cardiac rehab and was excited to begin phase three on my own.
After two years of not being able to go to the dentist, I desperately needed to have a exam. In November, I had a molar extracted, and it resulted in dry rot. The dentist put me on a second antibiotic to get rid of the infection. The infection however did not go away, and the antibiotic messed up my system, landing once again, at Austin Heart Hospital. I had Clostridium difficile colitis results from disruption of normal healthy bacteria in the colon, often from antibiotics. C. difficile can also be transmitted from person to person by spores. It can cause severe damage to the colon and even be fatal. I was in isolation for 7 days.
At this point, my cardiac rehab stopped. I didn't get to continue to phase three because I was sick until the end of the year.
My Journey from death's door to the miracle of life.
Annie Dragoo is a wife, mother, actor, singer, dancer, educator, and holistic health practitioner who lives in Austin, Texas.