Translated from Spanish
When I tell my story, I can’t stop thinking about my sister. The word cancer marked our family forever. In January 2016, we lost her to colon cancer. I promised myself that I would never forget her light. The joy she emitted and the strength with which she fought to the end.
In January 2022, I contracted COVID. The discomfort in my throat forced me to touch my neck constantly. It was at that point that I noticed a small growth on my left side. Little by little I began to feel more tired. My energy was no longer the same, and I had dizziness frequently. My instincts told me that something was going on in my body.
After my isolation, the little growth had turned into a lump. Thinking that all this might be post COVID side effects, I decided to visit my good friend and doctor. She hugged me so tightly that my heart knew something was wrong.
She explained that it was my thyroid and that she had to refer me to a specialist with orders for an ECHO and fine needle aspiration (FNA) for a thyroid nodule. I had to prepare myself for the big news. A week later they confirmed my diagnosis “positive for malignancy.”
I received the results while at work. I remember that I just breathed, I clenched my hands. And while shaking with fear, I repeated between my teeth “history cannot repeat itself.” I still do not know how—at that moment, with a broken heart but with an unbreakable strength—I was able to call my husband and brothers to tell them about my diagnosis.
After a few minutes, I came to grips with what was happening. I cried thinking about my parents, because I did not want to be the reason to take away their happiness once again. That same night, I visited a surgeon with my husband at my side. He told me that he didn’t want to get my hopes up, but there was a glimmer of hope that the original diagnosis was a mistake. It was not.
I had stage 4 papillary thyroid cancer and we had to act fast. My surgeon explained to me over and over again that my prognosis was very favorable. Despite the risks because of the advanced stage, everything should be fine! That week, I went in for surgery. A total thyroidectomy and drainage of central, lateral and posterior lymph nodes on the left side was the result. After I recovered, my doctor said, “you will have to do RAI therapy.”
During my recovery, I was thinking that I had to get out of there soon. I wanted things to go back to how they were, I wanted to get back to my passion: dentistry. But the surgery for me would be the easiest thing that could happen. We had to wait 10 weeks for the radioactive iodine (RAI) therapy.
During this time I wanted to heal emotionally, I could not believe that in spite of being “the least aggressive cancer” it had limited my activities so much. It controlled my feelings at will. I would go from overflowing joy to a deep sea of tears and despair. Getting to know my new me and accepting that my body is perfect, just the way it is. That was my first step: acceptance. I looked at my scar, and said to myself, “a war footprint.” Now, I am proud to have it, because it is a symbol of my new lease on life.
Coming back home again was so comforting and the time flew by. The day of the RAI therapy arrived and I was so scared. But I was looking forward to the moment. I felt that it was “the beginning of the end” on the road of my recovery. And soon I would be better than I was a few months ago.
My experience was so lucky. I had no side effects or adverse reactions. I realized the strength of my body, I was so amazed and just loved my process. My isolation lasted three weeks and they were the most healing three weeks of my life.
I learned to recognize all that I had gone through. I learned to value physical contact. I missed with all my strength to hug and touch my mother’s hands, to kiss my husband and to play with my pets.
I never felt the time pass by, nor did I give myself the space to believe it! I just wanted to see my parents calm and proud of their “little girl.”
My journey has just begun. At each check-up, my prognosis has looked good. I have the hope of going into remission and I tell myself: “every day I am closer to achieving it and I am grateful for this wonderful opportunity.” I know that the time will come when I can say that I have beaten cancer. This disease has taught me more than once that family is everything.