It is safe to say that I got next to no sleep that Friday night. I literally had a million questions I needed answers to immediately. Why me? How did this happen? Could I have done something differently? Should I have gone to the doctors more often? What IS Thyroid Cancer? Should I get another opinion? What doctor should I see for treatment? Is one hospital better than another? What is going to happen to my body? Am I going to get fat? Am I going to be on medication forever? What does my insurance cover? What did the doctor say after “You have Thyroid Cancer…”?
I forced myself to sleep sometime after midnight. Mainly because my phone died and I could no longer google every thought that came to my head. But, at 3:30 am my eyes popped open. Wide awake. I reached for my phone again. Google was like my goodnight story. It helped me drift back to sleep sometime around 5:30 am for another few hours. Alas, 8:00 am appeared and as I was reaching for my phone to yet AGAIN open up google and continue to ask it every question I had, I stopped myself. Google did not have the answer to my every question and it was time for me to realize, I was in denial.
I took a longer then usual shower that morning. My mind was still racing but I had to try and live my normal everyday life of being a wife, step-mom, dog-mom, friend and business owner. Focus. Focus. Focus. Cambria (Step-Daughter) was getting dropped off in two hours. I had to be out of the house in four… To go tell my Nana, in person, of my diagnosis… Normal life? What a joke… In six hours I would have to make my first public appearance as an officially diagnosed Cancer patient. Now, I know what you are all thinking… “She didn’t have to tell anyone…” Well, if you know me at all, I am not good at keeping secrets and it just so happens that my first public appearance was at a Birthday Party for my husbands bosses, daughters’, daughter… (still following?) and if you read my first post, then you know, he had to leave early the previous day to rescue me and had to do a small amount of explaining as to why… Totally fine, they are like family to us anyway, which is why I KNEW I would be asked and I KNEW I wouldn’t be able to keep it from them. Anxiety set in just thinking about what was ahead for the day.
How do you explain to a six year old that shit just got real? Short answer is you don’t. Long answer is you have to tell them something, but start and end with, “I will be fine.” I would later use the same approach with everyone I talked to that day but with a little more detail. What I learned was, though their questions were similar to the ones that raced through my head, they did differ a bit…How did you find it? What made you go to the doctor? What were your symptoms? What are they going to do for you? How is Bobby (Husband) taking the news? By the end of the day, the support I had felt was over whelming to say the least, but also exhausting. I think I spoke to 25 people that day alone. In person, phone calls and messages of support started flowing in. How on earth was I going to be able to handle reliving my diagnosis person after person? But, something amazing happened. I heard stories from so many people with similar issues, maybe not cancer, but thyroid issues are more common then you would think. I was able to receive guidance and advice that I would have never received else wise. Basically the moral here is, never be afraid to share what is going on in your life. You are only as alone, as you let yourself be.
That night, I sat at my desk. I still had messages to answer, people to call back and by this point I wasn’t even sure who already knew. I was tired. A Facebook announcement seemed weird and I didn’t want to give the wrong impression. Thus, this blog was born to share my story and answer the million questions on everyones mind but, more importantly, to bring light to the Thyroid. Almost two thirds of the people I talked to didn’t even know what it did and to be honest I didn’t either until my night with google…
Thanks for reading. Below, I have answered some of the questions people had when finding out the news. If I can help just one person because of this, then I will find worth in the time it is taking out of my life.
Q: What made you go to the doctor?
A: In September I noticed a lymph node on the right side of my neck became swollen. I assumed I was coming down with something and brushed it off. After a month, or so, I realized it was still swollen but I had not yet become sick. I brushed it off as just being a pocket of fluid or a cyst as it didn’t hurt and wasn’t bothering me. By December I could feel it growing in size and I became aware something was wrong as it started to become painful. I was seen by my primary care who wanted to refer me to an ENT doctor, but I knew my insurance was going to run out before I could get an appointment, so he opted to try antibiotics instead while I figured things out. Then a legit miracle happened and Bobby’s boss (who is awesome and deserves so much credit for me being diagnosed but that will have to be a whole post of its own) gave his employees insurance. I was able to quickly get an appointment in February with an ENT, who was fantastic, and moved quickly with scheduling my biopsy. Exactly one week later I had my results and a plan.
Q: What were your symptoms?
A: This question was a little more difficult to answer because as it turns out every symptom to do with the Thyroid could easily be something else. This is part of the reason this blog became so important to me. My only symptom that got me to the doctors was the lymph node. Below are a list of symptoms associated with the thyroid (not specific to cancer), in bold are the symptoms I had that may have been misdiagnosed over time.
- A lump in the front of the neck, near the Adam’s apple
- Swollen glands in the neck
- Difficulty swallowing
- Difficulty breathing
- Pain in the throat or neck
- A cough that persists and is not caused by a cold
- Weight loss, despite increased appetite
- Increased heart rate, heart palpitations, higher blood pressure, nervousness, and excessive perspiration
- More frequent bowel movements, sometimes with diarrhea
- Muscle weakness, trembling hands
- Development of a goiter (an enlargement in your neck)
- Lighter or shorter menstrual periods
- Lethargy, slower mental processes or depression
- Reduced heart rate
- Increased sensitivity to cold
- Tingling or numbness in the hands
- Heavy menstrual periods
- Dry skin and hair
Q: How are you going to treat it?
A: I have discussed how it is typically treated with my doctor. He has suggested removing my entire thyroid as well as all my lymph nodes in my neck to prevent spreading or the possibility of it ever returning. I do not currently know the stage or how large the spot of cancer actually is. When the cancer was found we weren’t looking specifically for thyroid cancer (no one ever is) so more imaging and labs are required to determine size and stage. This week I will be getting blood work done as well as having an MRI of the area and will be following up with a few doctors this Friday.
Q: How is your husband and family handling it?
A: Bobby is staying positive and has even been extra helpful. He cleaned the entire house Saturday while I went out with Cambria and has even been doing laundry. This may be his way of coping, but I will not complain about the help… My parents are staying positive, too. I mean, I’m not giving anyone any real option to feel any different. Positivity is the only option.