Evidently, My Thyroid Is My Biggest Fremenie
Why were you just not that into me?
I always knew you were an overactive nuisance, but what did I do to deserve all of this? Here I am, a healthy 27 year old woman with the most positive outlook on life, a winning attitude, high spirited energy and a contagious smile. I dream of the day I graduate cosmetology school and live my dream of becoming a hairstylist. Who would have thought I would have something so evil growing in my tiny neck.
Hell, I was well aware of the goiter and a few nodules I had, it’s been there since I was 12. I have monitored it since I could even remember. Throughout my early 20’s more nodules started popping up, 6 total. 2 of them were much larger than the others. February 2009, my neck was extremely sore and stiff, I could feel the swollenness. I looked in the mirror and it appeared as if I had a golf ball sticking out of my neck. UGH! I made an appointment with my physician (I no longer had an endocrinologist after I turned 18, but kept it closely monitored throughout the years with my physician), She FINALLY advised me to a specialist. She strongly recommended an endocrinologist who also is a surgeon.
That day, I went in for an “ultrasound”, met her, had my ultrasound, then she told my mother and I that she needed to do an FNAB (Fine Needle Aspiration Biopsy), as well because they looked odd to her. Of course, I am not very excited about this request. She said she needed 6 samples. Of course, my mom is trying to make me feel better and tells me that they will just take 6 samples from one stick. I wish that was the truth.
I laid on that cold metal bed and sit up to see 6 little needles looking right up at me. I was not happy at all. If you have never experienced a biopsy, be thankful. It is EXTREMELY PAINFUL and uncomfortable. They use an ultrasound machine to guide a teeny tiny needle to the location of where they need a sample from, then SHAKE that teeny needle to SCRAPE the needed tissue. I laid there cringing and crying the whole time. They ask you not to breathe or move while the needle is inside your neck.
Try that for a slice of pie!
Even my mother was cringing for me, no mother wants to see their child in that much pain. After, my neck was so stiff and sore, I couldn’t bear to turn it without whining about it. That doctor/surgeon was SO EAGER just to cut my throat open, she was trying to book my surgery. BEFORE we even had the results. BEFORE I could even have time to get over what just happened to my tiny little neck. BEFORE I could even think of any questions to ask her. It rubbed me the wrong way.
I waited about a week for my results, one came back benign and the other came back atypia of undetermined significance, which means it may or may not be a precancerous indication associated with later malignancy (meaning a tumor). She, of course, STILL wanted to slice and dice my throat. I didn’t feel comfortable with her, so I asked my regular doctor for a second opinion.
In June 2010, she recommended me to an endocrinologist at a very well known and reputable hospital all over the world. He, of course, requested a copy of my last ultrasound and the biopsy results, as well to review. I got a letter in the mail to make an appointment for another biopsy because he wanted to see if there was any change from the last one. Of course, I ignored the letter. I was scared! I knew how painful the biopsy was, so I put it off. I got another letter reminding me to make an appointment for the biopsy and then a reminder phone call.
Early January 2011, I found the letter and finally called back and made the appointment. I was dreading it, knowing what I would have to go through again. He promised he would numb me, since the last doctor did not, so I was somewhat comfortable. The numbing was much worse, than doing it without it.
I waited a few days for the results and then I got the call with the same results as the last doctor, only the undetermined one had grown a quarter of a centimeter. I conferenced my mom in, so that we could all discuss what the next step was. SURGERY. I, of course did not want to have it done. But he really thought it would be a good idea, especially since it had grown since my first biopsy the previous year.
My mom had found the absolute BEST surgeon out there. He is known all over the world and has phenomenal reviews. The consultation appointment was February 14, 2011, the day of love…not for me. It was a day I had to make a tough life changing decision “to remove or not to be removed?” that was the question. In my consultation, he explained all of the risks of the thyroidectomy. He never pushed the surgery, like the first doctor/surgeon I had met. He was up front and honest with me. He was concerned about removing the thyroid. I felt like he was caring compassionate surgeon and person. He examined my throat and neck and described where the incision would go and what it would look like. Typically, they find a crease in the neck and make the incision there. In my case, I had no lines or folds in my neck. I would just have an UGLY reminder (aka scar) on my neck for the rest of my life, not to mention the risks of laryngeal nerve injuries. He told me something fairly NEW that would eliminate that. It is a robotic surgical procedure, called the “Davinci Robot”, which was a less invasive procedure. It would go through my underarm and pull out my thyroid. SOLD! I agreed much faster to that procedure. Anything to save me from that heinous scar and risking my vocal chords being snipped. I also decided just a partial thyroidectomy, to remove my overactive right thyroid, as well as the goiter and nodules since that was the only side bothering me.
Tuesday, April 5, 2011, as I called it, DOOMSDAY. The surgery went well from what I heard. My voice was fine, the only thing that had gone wrong was that my right arm (the one the robot entered from) was completely numb. Absolutely NO FEELING from my bicep down to my fingers. The only pain I felt was where the incision was. It was the scariest feeling ever. SO MUCH was going on in my head, what if I had permanent nerve damage? What if I could never do hair again, hair is MY LIFE, MY DREAM, MY CAREER, gone in a matter of hours. I couldn’t stop thinking about it, I cried every day. I am right handed as well, so teaching myself to write left handed and to do everything left and one handed, was not something I wanted to do. I wished all day and night to bring back feeling in my arm. I had a physical therapist visit me during my extended 4 day stay in the hospital (only supposed to be an overnight visit) teach me different exercises to get my hand back to normal. My recovery was very traumatic for me and I am almost sure everyone at the hospital felt bad for me, I was beyond pitiful. I finally was discharged early Friday evening, still no feeling. My arm and my middle, ring and pinky remained numb for 10 days leaving my forefinger, thumb and palm numb and tingly.
Thursday, April 14, 2011– a night I will NEVER forget. I got a very unexpected phone call around 8pm from my surgeon, he said he was calling to talk for a few minutes and to see how I was feeling. I could tell by his tone something was up, but I continued to tell him about how I was recovering. He started to tell me that he received results from my surgery, that they sent off after doing preliminary testing (to see if it was cancer)… I put him on speaker so my gibberish translator aka my mother could tell me what he was talking about. All I heard was tumor, cancer, possibly removing my other thyroid, blah blah blah, but the good news being I would still live a healthy life. It was Papillary Thyroid Cancer.
Regardless cancer is cancer, even if it is one people RARELY die from. I was devastated. Here I thought it was all said and done, nothing was wrong with me. I was stunned, and of course all I could do was cry. What else can you do? The tumor they found was the size of a centimeter, which means if it grew a quarter of a centimeter in a year, I probably had the cancer for at least 4 years. He mentioned possibly just continuing to monitoring the left thyroid lobe, so that we can see if any of the cancer spread to that side, but I would be getting that ultrasound every 3-6 months for the rest of my life. No, get that sucker out of here! I no longer wanted to worry about that thyroid, although nothing was wrong with it. He had mentioned possibly making an incision on my neck. NO SIR! I decided since I was still hurting and in pain on my right underarm that he should just open that arm back up and take out the left thyroid that way. He told me that as soon as he saw that it was cancer, he cried. I could tell he was upset just telling me. He had already felt so bad for me and my recovery from the first surgery. I had to go through it all over again. That made me cry harder, because he genuinely cared, he felt and shared my pain with me. I felt like no one I know could feel it or share it. Because I don’t know anyone with thyroid cancer or really any kind of cancer. Someone with that much compassion for what he does, definitely has a place in my heart. I am forever thankful for that. I had so much “What if’s” going on in my head, I gave myself a headache dwelling on it so much. If I hadn’t decided to do this, I wouldn’t have known that I was living with a tiny demon in my body, named cancer…
My surgeon had to fit me in as soon as possible to get the left thyroid out, so he told me to keep my schedule open for the next week. SELFISHLY (hell, I deserved the right to be selfish at a time like this!) I cried and cried because there was a BIG, BIG chance of me missing my FAVORITE music artist Lady Gaga in Nashville that week. Here I was being told I had cancer and had go through a second surgery and I was crying over Gaga!! Haha! I purchased the tickets before I had my biopsies and there was NO WAY I was going to miss seeing her. I was fortunate enough to see her in Chicago, but I would never want to miss an opportunity to see her again! I wished that the day of her concert, he would be busy… I got what I wished for!! I got to see the concert!
My surgery was the next day, Wednesday April 20th, 2011, and I might add, worth the fasting before a surgery too. Thankfully, this surgery went much better and more smoothly than the last. It did take a few days to get my calcium levels up, but all was well.
I now have a cool scar under my arm rather then a REMINDER on my neck. I will have to do the RAI (Radioactive Iodine) treatment, which I am still learning about. As I understand it, I will be placed on a STRICT Low iodine diet for 2 weeks depleting my body of all iodine. I think the cancer hangs out at the local bar with any remaining iodine, so when I take this special pill it will absorb, attack and kill that cancer. I will be quarantined and have very strict rules for 2 weeks. I will feel like Elliott in the movie E.T., crazy huh?!
Anyway, that is my brief journey from being hyper to hypo after 2 major surgeries. Thank you, cancer for taking over my thyroid and causing it to break up with me! I was over it anyway!
Tags: Dear Thyroid Letters written by cancer patients, finding out you have thyroid cancer, fine needle aspirations for thyroid, goiters and nodules, hyperthyroidism, overactive thyroid, thyroid cancer, thyroid cancer blog, thyroid cancer forum, thyroid cancer support, thyroid cancer's impact on families, thyroid cancer's impact on patients