Last summer, my voice started getting hoarse. I thought to myself, “no big deal!” I figured it might have been due to seasonal allergies, or maybe because I was shouting and cheering so loud at my grandson’s football games. Whatever the cause, I wasn’t terribly concerned. After all, I had worked for years as a nurse, both in pediatrics and geriatrics. I’d dealt with much worse than a raspy voice.
Nevertheless, after a couple months of hoarseness, I decided to see a doctor. I went to an excellent Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) physician near my home in Poughkeepsie. He used a scope to see what was going on around my vocal cords and discovered that one of them had become paralyzed. This opened up a new can of worms, so to speak. I proceeded to undergo several scans examining my head, neck and chest region. At this point a large cancerous tumor was revealed in my thyroid. We scheduled surgery soon after.
Then things started getting more complicated. During my operation, it became apparent that the tumor had attached and possibly invaded my trachea, or windpipe. My ENT doctor made the decision not to continue the procedure. Instead he referred me to an expert head and neck surgeon in New York City who would be able to better handle a complex case like mine.
I still can’t believe all the warning I got was a hoarse voice
I made my way to the big city and met with my new doctor, a wonderful man whose experience really showed. He explained the issues in great detail and reassured me leading up to surgery. In addition to removing my thyroid, I had to have my trachea reconstructed, as well as a tracheostomy installed due to post-operative swelling which negatively affected my breathing. Beyond that, it was recommended that I undergo radiation treatments to prevent the cancer from recurring. During this time, I took the train into the city every day and even learned how to navigate the subway system in order to get to my radiation appointments.
I will admit that I had a tough time and became a little depressed during the treatment process. However, thanks to my incredibly dedicated surgeon and other physicians at the THANC Foundation, not to mention the loving support of so many friends and family, I was able to defeat my illness and get back home safe.
Looking back on my thyroid cancer journey, one thing strikes me the most: my lack of symptoms before my diagnosis. No pain, no fatigue, no hormone imbalances, no feeling sick at all – I still can’t believe all the warning I got was a hoarse voice. While it is true that we must take things with a grain of salt, I recommend that people look after themselves and not hesitate to get checked when something is wrong. Better safe than sorry!
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.