After being brushed off by doctors 6 months prior, the lump in my neck was becoming way too large to continue to ignore. The fact that my dad was diagnosed with papillary thyroid cancer a year earlier definitely played into my decision to pursue the matter further. I asked a physician that I work with to take a look at my neck, and thank goodness I did. The next few days were a whirlwind that consisted of labs, an ultrasound, a biopsy, an unhealthy amount of Google searches, and then the doctor called. Hearing the word “cancer” out loud was honestly just more weird than anything. I’m 26, I feel perfectly healthy, and you’re telling me that I have cancer? So strange.
I was told I needed surgery to remove my entire thyroid and the “baseball sized tumor,” but here’s the kicker. This was right when COVID had shut everything down and hospitals were not performing elective procedures, and for whatever reason, my surgery fell into that category. The operation to remove this cancerous gland from my body was not considered essential at the time. So I got to twiddle my thumbs and let my brain run wild for a few weeks until my state went into the next phase of re-opening. My surgeon scheduled me for 8 AM on the first day that elective procedures resumed.
What was supposed to be a one- to two-hour operation took four and a half hours, which put my fiancé on edge, but it went extremely well. I’ve had some weird symptoms of hypothyroidism as we try to find the right dose of levothyroxine to get my TSH in a normal range, but we’re getting there. I had radioactive iodine treatment about a month ago, and there is still some residual disease hanging around my thyroid bed. We’re going to let the radioactive iodine continue to do its thing for a couple months, and we’ll recheck and regroup and then see what we’re dealing with. I’m good and getting better. That’s all I can ask for.
My two pieces of advice?
First, advocate for yourself. I have spoken to so many other people who were originally not taken seriously by a doctor. But I am SO thankful for the healthcare team I currently have. My entire care team—my primary care physician, surgeon, endocrinologist and others—have all been absolutely amazing and I’m beyond grateful.
Second, even though this is one of the “better” cancers to have and the prognosis is great, it’s not easy. It’s a tough and sometimes draining mental and physical battle to endure, so don’t do it alone. Be strong, but lean on your family and friends. It will make a world of difference.
Stay well, friends! And remember to check your neck!
30 Stories in 30 Days
September is Thyroid Cancer Awareness Month. As part of that theme, we will post stories written by thyroid cancer survivors, caregivers and medical professionals for our 30 Stories in 30 Days campaign. We hope their perspectives and insight will help others along their journey.