She had an advanced stage of thyroid cancer, which had spread to lymph nodes in her neck, and she underwent surgery and radioactive iodine treatment. Luckily, we found an amazing surgeon and team of doctors, and our daughter is now doing great.
After she completed treatment, her doctors suggested that everyone in the family get regular thyroid screens, and sure enough, they found a small nodule in my thyroid. We monitored the nodule for a few months, but it started to grow and show suspicious features, so we decided it was time to get a biopsy. The results came back as papillary thyroid cancer, and I immediately made an appointment with my daughter’s surgeon.
The decision between surgery and active surveillance is a personal one, and at the end of the day, you need to know your own emotional tolerance and what will work best for you
He reassured me that my cancer had a very good prognosis and that I would be fine. He even told me that since my cancer was so small, I could postpone surgery and undergo “active surveillance,” in which doctors would monitor the nodule over time. As long as it did not begin to grow quickly or change in appearance, I could avoid surgery altogether. While I knew that I could most likely live a normal and healthy life without removing the nodule, I also knew that I would not be able to live comfortably knowing that there was cancer in my body. I wanted to get the cancer out as soon as possible, so I chose to have surgery. The procedure was simple, everything went well, and I left the hospital on the same day. Now, months later, I feel great and am being monitored by an endocrinologist.
The decision between surgery and active surveillance is a personal one, and at the end of the day, you need to know your own emotional tolerance and what will work best for you. For me, I knew that I would not be able to handle the uncertainty of having untreated cancer, and I wanted to solve the problem as soon as possible. Other people might be more accepting of the unknown and might prefer to avoid surgery, and that is ok too. I just needed to do what was best for me.
During my treatment, my daughter was the most emotional about my diagnosis… she was the only one who truly understood what it meant and how it felt
Throughout the whole process, I found that the most difficult part was realizing that all of the emotions I was feeling were the same ones my daughter had experienced when she was just 17 years old. In fact, her cancer had been even more aggressive, and therefore more frightening, so I imagine her emotions were even more intense than mine. I was put into her shoes, saw her perspective, and understood how scary it must have been for her. At the time of her treatment, my wife and I had tried to be so upbeat and positive, and I think we might have gone overboard. We just couldn’t even go to that place- to truly thinking about the fact that our child had cancer- so we tried to mask it with positivity.
During my treatment, my daughter was the most emotional about my diagnosis. She was the only one who truly understood what it meant and how it felt. We spent a lot of time together, talking about the experience and sharing our own feelings and emotions.
Now, I think I am in a unique position, having been both a patient and a parent of a patient. I have seen both sides of cancer treatment, and I understand how challenging both positions can be. Looking back on the way that I handled my daughter’s diagnosis as a parent, I wish I had known how important it is to acknowledge the diagnosis and let it have some weight. If I were to give advice to families currently undergoing treatment, I would say to approach thyroid cancer from a perspective that acknowledges that while it’s certainly not a good thing, it’s also not the worst thing. Know that it is manageable and treatable, but don’t minimize it. It is ok to be worried and afraid- don’t shy away from that. But remember that it will all be ok.
30 Stories in 30 Days
September is Thyroid Cancer Awareness Month. For the next 4 weeks, we will post stories written by thyroid cancer survivors, caregivers and friends for our 30 Stories in 30 Days campaign. We hope their perspectives and insight will help others along their journey.