To Thyroid Cancer and the Inevitable, Wonderful Misconceptions
Dear Non-Thyroid Patients, Doctors, and Common-Senseless Individuals,
I’m going to jump right to the point: Thyroid cancer is NOT “the cancer to have” or “the best cancer” or “[senseless babble ensues]”
See my point?
When I was 17, naive, and quite oblivious to the world, I was told by my fabulous and phenomenal surgeon that papillary thyroid cancer was the “best cancer to have” and that I’m “lucky.” Me being 17, naive, and quite oblivious, I grasped at the straws of words that he offered. While I do love and adore this man with all my heart, I have to disagree, almost five years after living the “high life” with this cancer.
I cannot tell you how many people I have encountered with the same cancer or another type of thyroid cancer who have been told the same things. What I can tell you, however, is how disgusted we all are by these fallacies.
To give you an idea of what happens when you have thyroid cancer, here’s a mini list of what I went through during my first year and a half with thyroid cancer:
* 2 surgeries (1 – complete thyroid removal and ten lymph nodes, and 2 – removal of 29 lymph nodes)
* 2 Radioactive Iodine (RAI) treatments of 149 millicuries each
* Hospital isolation for 2 days for each RAI treatment (If you know how outgoing and personable I am, you know this was torture)
* 3 days of remaining 6 feet away from family and friends while being home (Again, major torture) for each treatment
* 4 nuclear scans
* 1 PET/CT scan
* 3 low-iodine diets (Yeah. Do you know how much effin’ food has iodine in it?!) without medication (Um, hypothyroid, anyone?)
* Countless ultrasounds of my neck
* 5 biopsies total
* Unknown amount of follow up visits with surgeon, endocrinologist, and internist
…Do you get it now?
Oh, and did I already mention this was during my first year and a half?
To make this even more interesting for you, I will let you in on my family thydrama. We have found out, much to our family’s misfortune, that papillary thyroid cancer is genetic. Yeah, like breast cancer. Only, to make this a little more of a pain-in-the-butt, the genetic code for papillary thyroid cancer has not been discovered. So, unlike families who suffer from genetic breast cancer, we lack the ability to blood test for our cancer. Solution? Numerous ultrasounds and biopsies of nodules until cancer is found, if it is found (God forbid).
The total? Six women without thyroids. Yes, one more has joined the batch. Now, whether or not she has cancer like the rest of us five is another story. We won’t find out until her surgery in November. Oh, and unfortunately, as soon as following generations hit puberty, they are strongly advised by our endocrinologists to start getting ultrasounds of their necks each year or so to check for nodules. My little cousins range from the ages of 4 and 15. My godson/nephew is going to be 7 in November. They will all have to be checked as soon as they hit puberty. Two of them already have, which means they are due for ultrasounds. Get the picture?
As you can (hopefully) see, ladies and gentlemen, thyroid cancer is not exactly “best.” After surgeries and treatments are over, there are longer lasting problems that could and often do occur. Ultrasounds, scans, follow up appointments. All of these still happen long after the cancer is “gone.” And, to add just a little tidbit here, thyroid cancer often is never truly “gone.”
After being diagnosed with thyroid cancer, I developed anxiety and panic disorder. I have it under control now, but it was horrendous during my first two years. I also forget things quite often (a bit too often for someone as young as me), and I find it more difficult than normal to retain information. My weight fluctuates more than the economy, and my mood swings literally, well, swing. I take medication every morning at 6AM, and still have little to no feeling in my upper left chest, the left side of my neck, my left jawbone, part of my left cheek, and my left ear from my second surgery.
Still think thyroid cancer is a walk in the park?
Ever So Sincerely,
Tags: countless neck ultrasounds, Dear Thyroid Letters, exorbitent medical costs, genetic thyroid cancer, low iodine diets, medical community endorsing what a great cancer thyroid cancer is, misconceptions about thyroid cancer, multiple biopsies, multiple nuclear scans, multiple surgeries resulting from thyroid cancer, PET/CT scans, RAI treatment for thyroid cancer, Thyroid Cancer in Young Adults, thyroid cancer issues, thyroid cancer patient letters, To Thyroid Cancer and the Inevitable, Wonderful Misconceptions written by Dorienne Plait