Lori Rubin

I was at an event in the summer of 2015 when I felt like I had mosquito bites on my head and back. I had someone take a look, and I thought I had shingles. I sent a few pictures to my dermatologist who thought I had a bad case of shingles, and prescribed medication for it. He recommended I go for a physical because shingles can show stress in the body. I went to a local doctor for my physical. Despite having several previous surgeries and physicals before, this was the first doctor who had ever had me drink water and examine my neck. I can’t stress enough how important this was. My doctor felt something on my neck and wanted me to go have it checked out.

My doctor felt something on my neck and wanted me to go have it checked out

I made an appointment to go see a doctor in New York City, but I never made it. A week after I scheduled the appointment, I was awake all night with horrible pain. I thought I had appendicitis or a kidney stone. I called my primary care doctor who told me to come in. By 8 am, I had a sonogram and learned there was an 8 mm tumor on my ovary that was pressing on my body and cutting off my blood supply. I was immediately sent to the hospital for an operation. I was lucky; if my ovarian tumor hadn’t twisted itself, I wouldn’t have even known it was there.

While I was recuperating at home, I had to cancel my appointment with my ENT doctor in New York City. A month later, I was able to come in and have a needle biopsy taken. The results were inconclusive, so I had to come back for a second biopsy. It was cancer.

I had my surgery soon after. Now you can look at my neck and no one would ever know I had surgery. After the operation, my surgeon sent me to an endocrinologist in New York City. I had to have radioactive iodine treatment. Before my radiation, I talked to two other people who had undergone treatment and said they had no reaction or some reaction to it. I was glad I went through with it – I had no bad reaction to the treatment. My whole body scan looked good. This was probably the only time throughout my cancer journey that I really broke down, realizing everything I had just been through in the past 4-5 months.

This made me realize how important it is to listen to your body

The summer after my surgeries, I had a bad cold and fever. I called my doctor and was told to go to the ED or take some Tylenol and come in on Monday. When I came into the office, I put on my robe, opened the door, and immediately grabbed my heart. My cardiologist put me on a heart monitor for a few days. I had SVT, where the top of my heart beats faster than the bottom. Every so often, I would feel a flutter in my neck and mostly ignored it. This made me realize how important it is to listen to your body. For 3 years, I didn’t get on a plane because I couldn’t know when this could happen again. Ultimately my doctors concluded that the combination of my Synthroid 125 with the Sudafed I had taken had caused the episode. Coupled with my pneumonia at the time, it was the perfect storm.

Since then, I’ve been fine. I go back to my surgeon and endocrinologist for regular checkups. My doctors monitor me and regulate my Synthroid dose. Cancer does make you reevaluate your life; I slowed my life down a little and got rid of toxic people. I started exercising. I had great family support during my cancer treatment. My husband, who is a doctor, was incredibly supportive. One of my daughters is just about to apply to medical school. My other daughter is studying to be a dietician; at the time she was living at home and was great at getting me into a habit of waking up at 5 am, taking my Synthroid, exercising, and eating better. We got through it all together. When it happened, I told myself I was going to go back to work in 2 weeks. I maintained a sense of normalcy. Part of it was attitude; I told myself I had to deal with this and I would get through it. A lot of it happened so quickly that I didn’t have time to fully process it. When I think about it, it was a lot to go through dealing with two unrelated cancers in just a few months, but it was a chapter in my life. I did it, it’s no one’s fault, there was nothing I could do about it, but I got through it.

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.