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.
“Yes, it is thyroid cancer,” my general surgeon said. “It’s a small tumor, but it’s definitely thyroid cancer.” I had prepared myself for the news because I have a hereditary disorder where the gene responsible for tumor suppression is essentially “broken.” My genetic disorder puts me at risk for cancer. I have already thwarted colon cancer (in 1996 at age 17) and with my other surgery this year, I have thwarted endometrial cancer. Now I can count thyroid cancer amongst those I will beat. I had a saying when I was diagnosed: “thyroid cancer messed with the wrong chick!” I even had this printed on a tumbler just to pump myself up.
I’m just over four weeks post op from a total thyroidectomy. I am still tired, but, overall, things are going well. My incision has healed nicely. I did not need stitches or staples, and I did not need a drain. Dermabond glue held my incision together. Things are still tight, as far as muscles go, but left to right lateral movement is great. I have to do bloodwork in the coming weeks and go back to see my surgeon at the end of August to see how well the medications are working for me. But so far, while I’m still in the “Holy cow I just fought cancer…again!” mindset, I am glad to have chosen surgery.
Right now, I don’t know how my life has changed other than the knowledge gained through this journey. I know I will need to be monitored for life. Although, another medication added to the list is a definite change. It really is amazing how much a thyroid gland controls. I can say however that I met two new amazing friends through some ThyCa groups. It is great to have friends who are going through the same journey. That alone is a huge help!
A few pieces of advice for anyone opting for thyroid surgery:
- Straws are a must! There are things we take for granted, being able to drink from a cup or bottle of water is one. Straws helped me so much.
- Tuck your chin, especially when sneezing or yawning. I’m so glad I had heard about that before my surgery. While it is still uncomfortable, it really does take the edge off.
- Ice, Tylenol and—later on when doctor approved—heat are very helpful. Things will be sore, so these things were a huge help. Some stores even have smaller hot/cold packs that fit perfectly on the neck to provide comfort.
- And lastly, you CAN get through this!!! Be positive! I’ve run across so many people who have had thyroid surgery and thyroid cancer. There are many groups and forums online to help make the journey a little easier. Join up and learn, vent, etc. Also lean on your friends and family if you need. We are in this together. Seeing that others are going through similar things is so helpful—you’re not alone.
What gives me some hope with all of this going on is working in healthcare and going to school for my RN degree. This experience will help me to better relate to my patients and residents. For all I have been through, I want to help those in similar situations. This makes me feel strong, as I have a goal for myself down the road. I also have hope that someday, a cure for cancer will be found.
The cancer journey is a hard one, but with positive thinking and good friends to help us through, anyone with thyroid cancer can give cancer one heck of a fight.