In July of 1998 I had my first daughter, Faith. I was a single mom but very determined that she and I were going to have the best of everything. I would work hard to give her everything I never got as a child. After her birth, I was well on my way until I hit a big, brick wall.
At my 6 week post partum visit the OB/Gyn informed me that my thyroid felt enlarged and referred me to a Endocrinologist. Rather than hesitate, I made an appointment quickly. My first appointment was the regular, blood work, ultrasound, etc. The physician told me that there were multiple goiters and he wanted to monitor my TSH level and do a needle biopsy. A few weeks went by and I went in for the biopsy. It felt like a hundred years waiting on the results. Good news, it was negative. So, the plan was to continue monitoring my TSH and do ultrasounds every six months.
We continued that plan until 2002. Late 2002 I had my normal follow up. I told the physician that it was starting to feel like I had something caught in my throat. We knew the largest goiter (golf ball size) had been growing, very slowly. So, we made the decision to go in and remove the entire thyroid. We scheduled surgery and in December 2002 I had my entire thyroid removed. I went in for my regular post-op visit on December 17, 2002 and my life was forever changed. My physician walked into the room as white as a ghost. Here, on my 29th birthday, he had to tell me that the pathology came back showing cancer. I sat in complete shock almost thinking he was joking. I kept waiting for him to say “just kidding”. Instead, he took his time explaining what our course of action was going to be. I was sitting in this room all alone thinking about my daughter. It felt like everything was closing in and I was on the verge of collapse. Then, something changed, my fight instinct took over and I decided this was not going to get the best of me. I had a daughter to raise and I was going to be around for her.
So, we scheduled internal radiation in January of 2003. I had to go off of my medications and begin a low iodine diet. Radiation for the thyroid is very different than any other. You take a radioactive pill as an in-patient. This pill make you, the patient, radioactive. You are put in a room that looks like quarantine and the nurses and doctors are only allowed limited contact. I was in the hospital for 2 days. Upon being released, I was not allowed around my daughter for almost 14 days. It is imperative that the radiation not be passed to pregnant women or children. Being away from my girl was harder than the actual diagnosis and treatment. I had never felt so alone in my life.
The next few years included blood tests every few weeks and Nuclear Thyroid Uptake Scans every six months. Each time, everything looked okay so we stayed on the regular course of treatment. Synthroid 200 mcg.
In March 2007 I had my second daughter, Grace. Throughout my pregnancy we carefully monitored my TSH and I never had to change my dose. We did have to put off my scan for 2006 due to the pregnancy.
In September 2007 I had to see a new doctor because we moved to Colorado. During my first new patient appointment we went through all of my history. I also had new blood work drawn. The bloods work came back showing elevated levels of thyroglubin. The doctor ordered and ultrasound. This was the first ultrasound I had since removing my thyroid. A few days later I received a call that the doctor wanted me to come in and discuss the results. At that appointment I was told that there was a mass in my throat and it was in an area that can’t be biopsied. We scheduled a Nuclear Thyroid Scan to see if this mass would uptake any radiation. We did the scan, got the results and thankfully there was no uptake. So, the advice of the physician was to get another ultrasound in six months.
We moved to west Virginia in May 2008. I immediately scheduled an appointment with an Endocrinologist. At my first appointment we did an ultrasound. I have to tell you, I was not pleased with this physician at all. He took literally one minute to do the ultrasound and then said, “I’ll see you in a year”. I left his office distressed. If the physicians in Colorado could see this mass, how is it gone? So, I have spent the last year contemplating what to do and hoping that this WV physician is right.
Rather than put my life on the line I have scheduled this years appointment at UVA in Virginia. I am taking all of the films from Colorado and all of my past medical records. I am certain we will do an ultrasound. I just have to pray that there hasn’t been any growth. If there has and I waited a year for this second opinion, I will be devastated. The appointment is June 3rd and I am praying that the mass is merely scar tissue and no a recurrence.
I thought I was living life before the cancer. But, in hind sight I see I wasn’t living, I was just breathing. Although cancer is not a mere medical condition, I feel blessed that it opened my eyes to see the wonder that is in front of me. I live each day now as if it were my last. I love deeper, harder and more unconditional. I appreciate things that I used to disregard. Most importantly, my relationship with my girls is key to my continued growth and strength. Now I just want to be able to open up and share my story so others can see that the “C” word doesn’t have to be a death sentence, it can be an awakening.