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Melissa Sciortino

Posted on: September 23, 2018

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.

This is my truth. My story. My life. Every journey is different, and no cancer story is the same, but one thing remains constant among them: truth. This is our truth, and it’s ours to share to inspire others. My story starts in February 2014. I was eight months pregnant and excited to be giving birth soon! The 18th, a day that always signified my mother’s birthday, would become my cancer diagnosis day. This was the first of many situations that were more than coincidence in my journey. My cancer was meant to be.

The summer before my diagnosis, I learned I was pregnant. Around Christmas, I went to the Emergency Department for some odd symptoms. Initially I was told they were pregnancy-related, but as time passed, things worsened. Swallowing was hard. I had a large lump in my throat. At my 8-month pregnancy checkup, I removed my scarf and looked at my OBGYN. “I think something is wrong. Is this still a pregnancy symptom?” I was immediately sent for an ultrasound, and a biopsy soon after.

On February 18th, I learned my biopsy tested positive for papillary thyroid cancer. I couldn’t listen to half the things my doctor said after “You have cancer.” In my head, I thought, “How did this happen?” I was 31 and healthy. Before pregnancy, I never went to the doctor. Now, I was sitting in front of a doctor 1-3 times a month. I realized this baby was my angel and I couldn’t wait to kiss him/her to say thank you.

To move forward with my cancer operation quickly, my C-section was moved up a week. On March 10th, I woke up from the anesthesia and saw my angel lying next to me – a precious little girl. We were discharged on Saturday, and I was back at the hospital for my cancer surgery on Monday. I had a full thyroidectomy and lateral neck dissection. The cancer was more aggressive than anticipated – 57 of the 65 removed lymph nodes were malignant. I would have to come back for removal of more lymph nodes.

In April 2014 I was hospitalized for 3 days due to dangerously high calcium levels. The following month, I had my second neck dissection. 8 of the 11 lymph nodes removed were cancerous. I now have a scar from one ear across my neck to the other, almost like a smile beneath my smile; my warrior wound. In July, after recovery from my second operation, I spent 3 days in hospital isolation for radiation treatment. My 6-month post analysis showed cancer had spread to the chest/armpit lymph nodes. Disappointment would be an understatement. I spent the remainder of the year figuring out a new game plan.

In February 2015, 86 lymph nodes were removed from my collarbone, armpit, and chest cavity. In June, I was administered the highest level of radiation allowed. Sadly, the cancer remained. 2016 to 2017 was a lot of “wait and see” – I still had cancer and now severe hyperthyroidism. I did not feel like myself for a long time. Bloodwork still showed I had cancer, and it was likely resistant to the radiation.

Towards the end of 2017, I learned I had cancer in my lungs and nodes in my neck. The lung entry came as a shock. In March 2018, I was treated with radiation again, putting me close to the maximum exposure limit. My post-radiation bloodwork in July showed I still had cancer. I felt like a broken record.

My cancer has changed me mentally. I firmly believe everything has a purpose and we are given challenges for a reason. Mine was cancer. It allows me to live life with my angel, feel alive, and not sweat the small stuff. My cancer was meant to be. I am forever changed, positively. I am not defined by cancer – I am defined by how I choose to live with cancer. Time will tell if I can beat this thing for good. Until then, I live for my daughter. I will spend every day of my life protecting my sweet angel who saved mine.

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