Lessons My Thyroid Taught Me
I was not aware of you until you began to be scanned, examined, and photographed by doctors. Then, I got a crash course in what you are and the role you play in my body. You are so small yet have had such a big impact on my life. So, I have some things to say to you.
I miss you. Ever since you were removed from my body, things haven’t been the same. Before you were gone, I could get up early and go to the gym before work. I could work late into the night when it was our busy season and report fresh the next morning. I wasn’t depressed. I wasn’t cold in the summer! Now, my local hospital feels like my second home. My hair sheds everywhere. It’s sometimes a struggle to summon energy just for the little things. I miss you when the alarm goes off and I awake feeling exhausted. I miss you when I step on the scale. I miss you when I drive by my favorite restaurants, knowing I can’t frequent them anymore.
I forgive you. I wish you hadn’t developed a large tumor. I wish your cancer hadn’t spread to 21 of my lymph nodes. I wish I didn’t have to undergo a six-hour surgery to remove you. I wish none of this happened to me. But it did, and I accept that now. This is my new normal. I forgive you for causing the hypothyroid symptoms that I have to work so hard at to manage. I forgive you for the unspoken, ever-present fear of recurrence. I forgive you for the risks and potential complications you present for pregnancy, the pregnancy I hope to be able to have as soon as I’m well. Miscarriage, infertility, placental abruption, premature birth, pre-eclampsia, postpartum hemorrhage. I could go on, but since my tears are starting to form, I’ll stop. The point is, you messed with me, and now you’re messing with one of the deepest desires in my heart – the desire to become a mother. I want you to know I forgive you, but I won’t go down without a fight.
I appreciate you. You have caused me to make important changes with food and exercise, changes that, if I’m honest, I needed to make even before you became an issue. So, thank you. Thank you for helping me become more educated, proactive, and consistent when it comes to my health. Thank you for opening my eyes to the effects food has on our bodies. Thank you for bringing out the fighter in me. Thank you for reminding me not to take things for granted. Having faced cancer, I have a renewed sense of purpose and a deeper gratitude for each new day.
You’ve probably guessed by now that this letter isn’t really for you. It’s for me. It’s my way of processing all that’s happened since my diagnosis and surgery. It’s my way of coming to terms with how you affect my daily life, my overall health, and most importantly, the baby I have waited so long for – my first and only pregnancy. At the age of 37 and with no thyroid, pregnancy seems complicated. High-risk. More than a little scary. But not impossible. I’m going to be okay. I’m not going to let fear take over. I’m good now, and I just wanted you to know.
BIO: Joy was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in the summer of 2013, just as she was celebrating her one-year wedding anniversary. She had a total thyroidectomy and a radical neck dissection and has since received two rounds of radioactive iodine. The journey continues. She lives in Valdosta, Georgia with her very supportive husband and step-son. Facebook link.