Did you know that September is Thyroid Cancer awareness month? No? Well neither did I and I am a survivor of it! It is not one of the more “popular” cancers to talk about but it affects a startling number of people.
So I want to do my little part to raise awareness about thyroid cancer by sharing my story. If you are interested in learning more about the types of thyroid cancer, signs and symptoms, treatment, support groups, etc, you can visit http://www.thyca.org/.
I have an unusual cancer story because I only found out that I actually had cancer after it was already gone. I realize just how lucky I am that I had a type of cancer that is usually pretty curable and we caught it relatively early, but the truth is- it still sucks.
When I was getting ready to have my colon removal surgery they did a body scan as part of my pre-op. Nobody mentioned anything strange to me but then I went to see my endocrinologist (for my osteoporosis- yes, I am 34 and have old people bones) and she said, “Hey, did anyone talk to you about this nodule on your thyroid?”
Um, nope. I’m just here discuss my bone density because of all the prednisone I was on for my Ulcerative Colitis. (By the way, if at any point you get confused about my host of bizarre medical problems, see A Brief Timeline of Crazy) So she felt my neck and said there was definitely a lump there and decided to do an ultrasound. The ultrasound was “suspicious” (was my thyroid nodule wearing a dark hoodie or something?) so she said it was potentially cancer and we needed to do a biopsy.
This is the point where I should tell you that this happened on a Friday and on Monday I was scheduled to go in to have my entire colon removed, knowing that I would be in the hospital for at least a week and would have to go back in to get a second surgery 3 months later! She said I could wait until after I was recovered from the surgery for the biopsy, and not to worry too much because even if it was cancer, thyroid cancer is one of the “best” kinds you can have.
I’m sorry what? There is a good kind of cancer? Look I understand that if you know you have cancer and are spinning a wheel to find out what kind it is you are probably hoping for something like thyroid that has a high cure rate rather than say pancreatic or ovarian. But cancer is still cancer and it is really f-ing scary, there is no best kind. I was lucky that my Wheel of Cancer landed on thyroid and it was caught in Stage 2 (before it spread), but I would much rather have been on a different game show all together… like American Super Ninja, I wish I were that cool!
But I digress, I managed to keep it together in her office and make it to my car before I had a complete mental breakdown. I was crying and shaking so much that I could not drive. I mean WTF, wasn’t I going through enough right now? No, the universe decided to go ahead and pile on some more to worry about.
So I let myself freak out for a few hours but then I had to put on my big girl yoga pants and suck it up, I was going into the hospital in a few days for major surgery and had to make sure everything was set up and ready for my kids and myself during my hospital stay and intense first few weeks of recovery.
When I was recovered enough I went in for that biopsy, waited an excrutiating 10 days for my results only to find out that they were “indeterminate.” So basically there was a 50/50 chance it was cancer but no more tests that could help narrow that down. Awesome! All the doctors agreed that it was too risky not to operate and remove the lump but I got to make the choice of removing my entire thyroid (which if it turned out not to be cancer would be taking out a perfectly good organ that I really kind of need) or just removing the half with the lump in it (but if it was cancer, I would have to have a second surgery to take out the rest.) Knowing that I would be having a minimum of 3 surgeries in 4 months at this point I made the choice to take the damn thing out and be done with it. I could not face the prospect of a fourth surgery.
In part 2 (soon to be blogged) I will talk about my recovery from the surgery, the discovery that I did in fact have cancer, and the complications I came across. But I just want to pause a moment and say here that thyroid cancer is a real cancer, that it can be serious and even deadly (the girl from The Fault in Our Stars had thyroid cancer) and that if you are having any issues that could be thyroid related (one of the biggest of which is fatigue,) please get them checked out.
I am praying for each of you that you never have to spin the Wheel of Cancer, but if you do, please know that it is ok to be angry and freaked, but that there is a ton of support out there for you. I hope this blog becomes just that. A place for inspiration, laughter, and comfort when things get rough. Don’t worry, I’ve got plenty more crazy where this comes from!