The first week of April 2014 I went into my doctor for a physical exam, thinking I was as healthy as could be. I was 23 years old, how could I possibly be unhealthy? I left the doctors office with tears streaming down my face and the words “Don’t worry, only 5% end up being cancerous” replaying over and over in my head. During the physical exam, he started feeling my thyroid for anything unusual, and sure enough he found a pretty large goiter. I had felt this about a month or two before my appointment but never really thought anything of it. My doctor told me he wanted me to have it checked just to be safe. I immediately started to panic but tried my best to play it cool. He could tell I wasn’t dealing well with what he had just found, and thats when he said “Don’t worry, only 5% end up being cancerous” CANCEROUS?! Up until this day I’d always thought that cancer was something I’d never have to deal with, especially at 23 years old. I was told that the next step would be to draw some blood, as well as have an ultrasound done to see if there were any signs of cancer in the goiter. I went straight to the lab to have my blood drawn. Ive never been one to even come close to passing out during a blood draw, but because of how panicked I was at the time I just about did. The girls drawing my blood told me they would have the results within a couple of days and they would have the doctor give me a call. I left the doctors office and called to tell my mom the news. She told me that she too has a goiter on her thyroid but it isn’t cancerous. Hearing her say that calmed me down… for about 7.5 seconds.
My blood results came back normal, and I was ecstatic not realizing that a lot of the time thyroid levels are normal even when you have thyroid cancer. The next step was an ultrasound which I had done and was once again told they would have the results in a couple of days and let me know as soon as they got them. I was at work when the nurse called to let me know that from what they could see on the ultrasound, things looked really suspicious and they suggested having it removed. I asked her if she meant they thought it was cancerous and she said yes. How could this be? I might possibly have cancer? Theres no way! I left work and immediately called my mom to let her know. The doctor who originally found the goiter unfortunately didn’t specialize in thyroids so I had to find a new doctor to take on the job of determining whether or not I really had cancer. I went to multiple doctors who were all telling me different things, and we just didn’t feel right about any of them. Once we found a doctor we felt 100% confident in, he sent me to have a biopsy done. The biopsy results once again came back “suspicious.” I was so frustrated that after spending more than half of a month going to different doctors and having different tests done no one could tell me whether or not I had cancer. My doctor had me get another ultrasound done because he didn’t feel like they got very good answers from the first ultrasound. The results from the second ultrasound showed that not only were things strongly pointing towards me having thyroid cancer, but that the lymph nodes up my neck were looking cancerous as well. I was constantly being told “thyroid cancer is the best cancer to have” or “if i had to choose a cancer it would be thyroid cancer” because of its high cure rate. While that is probably true, and it was definitely comforting to know, cancer is cancer and it SUCKS!
After finding out it had most likely spread into my lymph nodes, my doctor suggested that I go to an endocrinologist who would be able to do another ultra sound specifically to figure out which lymph nodes looked cancerous and should be removed. This way he wouldn’t have to go in and just start removing lymph nodes, trying to guess which ones were cancerous and possibly leaving cancerous lymph nodes in my neck. My endocrinologist did a really good job and was able to find just about every cancerous lymph node in my neck. The thing about thyroid cancer is that it almost always takes being inside your neck during surgery to know for sure whether or not its cancer. Doctors can get a pretty good idea and say they’re 99% sure its cancer, but they aren’t always 100% sure until they get inside. Since Thyroid cancer can also spread into other places in the body, and since it had more than likely already spread up my neck, I had a full body scan done to make sure it hadn’t spread anywhere else. Thankfully it hadn’t. At this point we had all the answers we needed and I was more than ready to have all the cancer removed.
In the middle of May 2014 I had a total thyroidectomy (I was told what we pretty much already knew, I had cancer), a lymphadenectomy removing 25 cancerous lymph nodes, and 2 parathyroid glands removed because the cancer had spread to them as well.
In July 2014 I spent a few days in isolation at home and was given a high dose of Radioactive Iodine to get rid of any lingering cancer cells that might have been in my body. I have to say this was the worst part. I was so nauseous and sick, but being home and in my own bed made things a lot better.
In November of 2014 I had a PET scan done and was told the absolute best news… I am cancer free!
Now, 5 months later, I am left with a pill to take every morning for the rest of my life, a damaged salivary gland from the radiation, a good size scar on my neck, but most importantly a life to live. While having cancer is draining for anyone physically, mentally, and emotionally, I wouldn’t trade my battle with cancer for anything in the world. It ended up being the most positive experience in my life. It opened my eyes to all the amazing people in my life. I have the most loving, caring, and supportive family, and the best friends who were constantly by my side. Im surrounded with the most amazing people who cared, supported, and most importantly LOVED me every single step of the way. LOVE BEATS CANCER!