Over the course of a few years, I gradually noticed an enlargement in my neck, but didn’t worry too much because I was asymptomatic. However, in 2014 while I was vacationing in Italy, I suddenly started to feel extremely tired all the time and struggled to get out of bed. Something felt wrong. In September of that year, I received my official thyroid cancer diagnosis.
I began treatment at my doctor’s office, getting scans done and starting radioactive iodine therapy. Taking the radioactive iodine pills drained me physically and mentally, and it was the toughest experience of my life. I started feeling depressed and overwhelmed, as I had to simultaneously care for my husband who was also struggling with his mental health.
I was also unsatisfied with the standard of care I received. I felt my doctors could have provided me with more emotional support and clearer, more thorough explanations of my condition. In addition, they told me to return after a year for follow-up. I did not want to wait that long, and decided to get treated at a different hospital.
The turning point in my thyroid cancer journey occurred four months later, when I went from Staten Island to Manhattan for my initial appointment at the new hospital. I felt grateful for my new physician, who patiently listened to my story and empathized with my emotions. He calmly and clearly explained the next steps for treatment, while trying his best to make an accurate diagnosis by ordering additional scans.
Two weeks after my initial appointment, the nurse called and informed me that the doctor had confirmed my positive cancer diagnosis and recommended surgery. I really appreciated my doctor, who advocated for my treatment and saved my life. He informed me that it would be a big surgery. It would require extensive muscle tissue removal, and that I could potentially lose arm mobility or vocal cord function. Despite these frightening possibilities, I was comforted by his thorough, patient explanation of the risks. So, I decided to go through with the surgery and scheduled it for two months later.
While lying on the operating table waiting for my surgery to start, I felt uneasy. Before succumbing to the anesthesia, I only remember insisting on seeing my doctor. The surgery went well and since my operation, I have returned to the hospital periodically for check-ups.
My experience battling thyroid cancer has taught me how to cope with difficult situations by appreciating the simpler things in life. For example, I am grateful that I can still speak and exercise normally. While undergoing chemotherapy, I didn’t have enough strength to stay active. Hiking, swimming and practicing yoga regularly throughout my treatment helped me get through the difficult times.
I strongly recommend that anyone struggling with cancer try their best to stay active. It fosters mental and physical wellness. I also continued enjoying hobbies—like cooking—and kept my faith in God by reading the Bible. Being diagnosed with and undergoing thyroid cancer treatment is difficult, but you can overcome any obstacles. Find ways to stay calm, pursue things that make you happy and trust the guidance of your healthcare team.