Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Throat Monster (aka I Have Thyroid Cancer)

The last month and a half has been extremely stressful and emotional for me.  I want to share what I have been going through, thinking, and feeling, and want to continue sharing these things with you as I embark on a rather unexpected journey.  Kind of like a hobbit, but with less dragons and hot elves.

(This is a bit long, but I didn't want to leave anything out.)

DivineMrsDiva.com - I Have Thyroid Cancer
Me, working on not being a basket case


At the beginning of October, I just happened to run my hand down my neck.  I think I was laughing and it was just a random action that caused me to pause.  The right side of my neck felt a bit larger than the left side.  I knew it could be a major issue, because my friend Sami has mentioned checking your neck and is always talking about thyroid issues because she has Hashimoto's thyroid disease.  Hashimoto's is an auto-immune disease that attacks the thyroid and can cause a lot of other symptoms, as well as increasing your risk of developing thryoid nodules or thyroid cancer.

I didn't know much about the thyroid before I met Sami.  I probably never even really thought about it, like, ever.  So here I was with this swollen side of my neck.  I tried not to think about it until the next morning when I Googled about a swollen thyroid.  Never do that; It is just too stressful. The first and only thing the Internet told was that I had thyroid cancer.  I cried for two days straight, on the DL mind you, until I told my husband.  I just started crying and told him I didn't want to die.  He had no idea what was going on.

We made an appointment with a local doctor clinic since I really didn't have a regular doctor.  I just wanted to get in to see someone right away.  I wanted them to tell me the internet was crazy and that I was mental and things would be fine. The doctor at the clinic didn't say much to alleviate my worries.  She had a total poker face about the whole thing.  She ordered some blood tests and an ultrasound of my thyroid to check into things further.  The next day, I had an ultrasound scan of my neck and the following day I stopped back into the clinic to get the results.

My blood tests for my thyroid were all "normal", but other numbers indicated that I have iron-deficiency anemia.  The previous day, I learned that my brother has low thyroid function and takes medication for it.  I asked the doctor to run an additional blood test to check and see if I have Hashimoto's.  (Anemia and Hashi are "pals".)  She refused to run the blood test because the two thyroid tests she already ran were "normal".

The ultrasound was inconclusive as far as the nodule being something bad or not, but it was rather large in nodule terms.  The doctor said that I needed to get a biopsy of the nodule to check into it further, so I needed to see an endocrinologist right away.  She said I couldn't wait a week.  It had to be ASAP.  Naturally, this scared the crap out of me and made me cry even more and spend the majority of my time obsessing and worrying about all of it.

The next week, I received a call from another doctor at the clinic who told me I would get a call from an endocrinologist's office about scheduling an appointment.  He told me if I couldn't get in this week, I should call him back and he would find someone who could see me right away.  The endo's office did call and couldn't get me in for another month.  I told them "Thanks, but no thanks" and called the doctor back with the news.  Eventually, he returned my call and said he would just try to get me into a surgeon's office because I "would probably need to get it removed anyway".  This freaked me out even more and left me in a puddle on the floor until my husband came home.

I didn't hear from the doctor for another couple of days and emailed him, also asking him to run the additional blood test to check for Hashimoto's.  He okayed the test, so I stopped in to give my blood, but never heard from either doctor again.  They went from panic-inducing "YOU MUST BE SEEN TODAY" to complete silence.  I was an emotional mess.

During this time, my friend Sami was giving me advice about what to do and what doctors would be good to call.  I called at least seven doctors to try to find someone that could see me in a timely manner.  Some were not taking new patients.  Most had at least a month-long waiting period.  The blood test results came back indicating I have Hashimoto's, so I wasn't quite as worried about the nodule after that.  Only 5% to 15% of nodules are cancerous anyway.  Don't get me wrong, I was still freaking out ALL THE DAMN TIME, but it was a little better.

Finally, I made an appointment with a highly recommended naturopath who could see me in a couple weeks.  My appointment with her was rather uneventful, talking about various symptoms I was experiencing and that sort of new patient stuff.  She felt my neck and the nodule, put me on iron pills for my anemia, and was able to order the biopsy and another round of blood tests.

Flash forward to Halloween, my biopsy date.  I was a blubbering mess going into it.  I am terrified of doctors and hospitals and needles, and here was all three.  The doctor performing the biopsy told me I should be fine, only 5% of nodules are cancerous, and mine really didn't have any characteristics that made them think it was cancer.  He said my nodule was just larger and that was the main reason they wanted to do the biopsy on it.  He walked me through the procedure, while a kind nurse held my hand.

The actual procedure didn't hurt too bad.  The initial needle with the numbing medicine hurt the most.  As the medicine spread through my neck, it stung very bad.  I squeezed the nurses hand as I cried and tried to think of other things.  Not too long after that, the doctor asked if I could feel something.  I saw his arm move out of the corner of my eye and realized the fine needle was in my neck already.  They seriously have to move that needle up and down and up an down to get a good amount of cells.  Thankfully, I couldn't feel a thing.  He went into my neck with the needle three different times to gather the cells.  It was over in about twenty minutes.

After the numbing meds wore off, my neck definitely hurt.  The next two or three days, it hurt to strain my neck muscles or move my head a certain way.  However, the swelling went down after a day or so.

I only had to wait a weekend to go back into the naturopath's office for the results.  By this time, I had finally talked myself into thinking things were fine.  Everything would be okay.  I could take medication and maybe the nodule would get smaller.  The first thing she told me when I sat down was, "So, the results from the biopsy came back and you have cancer."

The world stopped.  Everything was slow motion and then I just burst into tears and sobbed the rest of the day.  I know the doctor talked for a bit about that it was treatable and that I needed to see an endocrinologist.  She added sugar, grains, and red meat to gluten, iodine, salt, and fish as stuff I can no longer eat.  She suggested an herbal supplement I have to take every hour for my stress and anxiety.  She took my blood pressure after all this, then seemed surprised that it was elevated.  Um hello!  I remember her saying that all of my extra blood work looked pretty good and that my body has been doing a fantastic job at fighting this.  I sobbed and sobbed and sobbed.

And then we were sent on our way.  Just like that.  Walking down the hall and out of the building, I was in a daze.  How do you act normal?  How do you do normal things?  I have something horrible growing inside me and I have to go home and wash dishes??  What the fuck??

I was angry.  I was terrified.  I was dumbfounded.  I wondered why this had to happen to me.  Why did this have to happen to my husband?  We just lost his dad a little over a year ago to leukemia.  Wasn't that horrible event enough?  I was so angry and had all these things swirling in my head as I walked to the car.  I was so overwhelmed with emotions, I didn't even know how to react.  I was never one to physically harm myself as a depressed teen, but for the first time since my mid-teens I thought that maybe cutting myself (not killing myself) would help relieve some of the emotional pain.  It was a flash of an idea and something I would never act on, but the fact that the idea popped into my head really caught me off guard.

I was pretty numb the next few days, with the occasional outburst of endless tears.  My appointment with the endocrinologist was another couple weeks away, which gave me ample time to worry, fret, stress, cry, and everything else that seems to come with this.  I also spent a lot of time researching thyroid cancer online.  Sometimes it helps.

So here is where I stand right now.  I have papillary thyroid cancer, which is the more slow-growing version.  It has a high success rate when treated early on.  I don't know what stage I am because I don't know if it has spread anywhere, but my lymph nodes have been untainted thus far.  I don't have any of the typical "thyroid cancer symptoms", other than having a nodule. 

Prognosis is good, people.  I'm still terrified, but I am going to kick this thing's ass and send it packing.  I will continue to post about the goings on in Cancerland.  And, henceforth, I will refer to my thryoid cancer as my Throat Monster.

If you think you might have Hashimoto's, even if your thyroid tests are all "normal", ask your doctor for a TPO Antibody test.  It is the only way I found out I had it; and I had to demand the test.  Remember to check your neck!

14 comments :

  1. I think you should call it "Deep Throat." ;)


    My heart goes out to you. Even with as much medical bullshit as I've had to deal with lately, none of it's life threatening. I'm glad that the prognosis is good and that they can likely zap it in one shot. Definitely keep us posted.

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  2. Wow. I am so glad that you advocated for yourself and didn't just kowtow to a doctor saying you were fine. Also you should be really proud of your gut instincts and knowing that something wasn't right. I can't imagine what you are going through. I am always amazed that doctors will say things like, "well, if you have to get cancer, this is the best one to have"- I have a friend who was treated for thyroid cancer two summers ago, and never even told anyone except family until she was done with treatment, but still, damn it's cancer, not a paper cut. I know you will kick ass and take names- thank you for sharing with us. Love you!

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  3. Good luck! Stay strong and fight! I have a friend who has had this twice and she is doing great. You will too!

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  4. love love love. I am so proud of how strong you are! I love the picture!

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  5. So sorry to read all this. I always used to think that people who had cancer looked really sick, but that just isn't the case with so many people. You look amazing! And if your lymphs are free from it, I would say that there's a really good chance that it has been caught early on and will be in the early stages. xxx

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  6. So sorry you got such bad news, but I'm glad you pushed to find out what was really wrong, and did it sooner rather than later. Also LOL @ Loopy's name for it- Deep Throat does make for a good laugh. Stay positive. *hugs*

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  7. Thank you. I really appreciate it.

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  8. LOL Yes, that is a good name, but so naughty. lol I am working hard at staying positive and keeping busy around the house. I have had a decent amount of energy the last few days, so I have been cleaning a lot in preparation for being out of commission come surgery time. Thank you for your kind words.

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  9. Thank you. I know. My mind usually goes straight to really bad effects of cancer. We just lost my father-in-law to leukemia a little over a year ago, so that is the first thing that comes to my mind. But it does seem like this is being caught very early and the prognosis is very good.

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  10. hahaha Such a naughty name! Maybe once they slice into me, it will be time for a name change. lol


    I will definitely keep y'all informed. I am still waiting to hear from the dumb surgeon. I wanted my surgery to be this week damnit!

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  11. Thank you, lady. It is very frustrating to be told it is a "good" cancer and doctors seem like it isn't a big deal because it is so treatable. It is STILL CANCER and I AM FREAKING OUT and I don't think they understand that or even take the time to understand that. My main doctor, the naturopath that I started seeing recently, is the only one that really seemed to be mindful of my anxiety about it and acknowledge that it sucks. I don't know. I am glad it is so treatable, obviously, but it is very frustrating. When doctors say those things it just makes me feel like they are trying to invalidate my very real feelings.



    Having all this positive energy from family and friends near and far is extremely helpful in keeping me positive and upbeat. Thank you for your words. It means so much to me.

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