Chris Prestano, Thyroid Cancer Survivor & Fighter Is Racing For A Cure
As a community, we support and elevate each other because that’s how we roll, yo. When it comes to being there for each other — regardless of incident, every single person is there with unwavering love, laughter and support.
Chris Prestano is one of us, part of our Thyamily. She’s a thyroid cancer survivor racing for a cure. Of course, we all want to help her and support this great cause. The more funds we have for research, the quicker we can find a cure. Our thyroid cancer patients need us to rally!
After reading Chris’s note, I hope that we can all do as much as we can to help. We believe in Chris and we believe in each other as a community.
I had only been 28 for a few days when my life completely changed. As I sat in the ER discussing the three herniated discs in my neck with the doctor, I heard a knock at the door. That was when the doctors told me I had bigger problems ahead of me: the MRI showed a large growth on my thyroid.
I immediately knew it was cancer, but was dismissed by several doctors. I even had one endocrinologist laugh in my face and tell me that I was a hypochondriac. The next few months were a strange combination of life in slow motion and life in fast forward as I delved into researching the best hospitals, the best surgeons and the wonderful world of insurance policies.
Early one morning in September 2008, I made the 200-mile trip down to Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, MD to meet with my potential surgeon. Even he suppressed a smirk when I told him it was cancer and to get the damn thing out, but he agreed to do a partial thyroidectomy to ease my mind. Two weeks later, I was in the cancer building preparing for surgery. I was supposed to have the pathology results in three days, but after weeks of constantly calling his office, I finally got a response. I needed to journey back to Baltimore to meet with the surgeon in person.
As he sat there and held my hand, tears welled up in his eyes. Yes, it was cancer. There was actually an additional tumor and the right half contained papillary carcinoma and papillary microcarcinoma. The left half needed to come out as soon as possible. So I spent last Thanksgiving scheduling my second surgery Ã¢â‚¬” two weeks before Christmas. My completion thyroidectomy found a third tumor and follicular thyroid cancer.
Then I was told that radioactive iodine treatment was absolutely necessary, which to me was the worst news I could hear. I had done enough research to know that high doses of RAI-131 can cause fertility problems. My New Year was spent discussing options with doctors and specialists and fighting for my rights to have a family of my own someday. In January 2009, I traveled back to Baltimore to go through with the RAI. I cried when the nuclear medicine specialist held my hand and told me they were giving me the maximum dose that was proven to not effect fertility. Well, I knew what that meant: it might also not be enough to kill the remaining cancer.
Next, my marriage of less than a year started to fall apart. And then the thyroid hormones started to complicate my diabetes. And I spent nine months praying every day that I had made the right decision and that this Thanksgiving, I would be told I was in remission Ã¢â‚¬” one year to the day after they diagnosed me.
So just a few weeks ago, I traveled to Baltimore yet again for a third surgery and a RAI-123 body scan. I am sad to say that I am NOT in remission this holiday season and there is nothing else conventional medicine can do for me. I was told to sit and wait six months and we’ll test again. There is still cancer hiding somewhere in my body but they don’t know where, so I will keep repeating these tests until the cancer reappears into something treatable. Yes, this may never happen, but I was never supposed to have cancer in the first place.
Now I am exploring alternative and holistic methods to cure cancer. I refuse to be a sitting duck, waiting for cancer to rear it’s ugly head again.
But my journey hasn’t been all bad. Yes, I’m a 29 year-old diabetic cancer patient going through a divorce. However, I have met some amazing people during this time: other thyroid cancer survivors, breast cancer survivors, pancreatic cancer patients, and the loved ones left behind by this devastatingly evil disease. With the power of the internet, I have formed a network of supporters, experts, and humor (thank you dearthyroid.com). This network gets me through each day, calms me when I’m upset, and picks me up when I’m feeling blue.
With the help of two other thyroid cancer survivors, we have formed the Wings of Hope team to participate in the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life at (you guessed it) Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore on April 16, 2010 Ã¢â‚¬” one month before my next round of testing. This is a 24-hour event including a walking relay and camp out for anyone whose life has been effected by cancer.
But we can’t do this alone. We need more team members and donations to meet our fundraising goals. We need to borrow sleeping bags and tents. We need butterfly decorations donated for our camp site.
So please help us anyway you can, even if it is just passing this information on to others.