Friday, June 14, 2013

Thyroid Cancer

A couple of years ago, I got sick with a head cold and sore throat. I was feeling my neck and lymph nodes at the time and felt one "really big" lymph node. The only problem was, it never went away after I got over the respiratory virus. When I went to the doctor a few months after that, he informed me that it wasn't a lymph node I was feeling, but my thyroid. He sent me for an ultrasound and to see an Ear, Nose, & Throat doctor. The ENT sent me for an ultrasound guided fine needle aspiration (biopsy). The results from the biopsy were inconclusive. Not malignant, but not normal. His recommendation was wait and see. I decided I didn't like that doctor and went elsewhere. I discovered the UPMC has a thyroid clinic! With world-renowned experts. I'm so happy I went for a second opinion.

My current doctor is one of those experts. He looked at the biopsy results and thought that I should have the tumor removed because the biopsy was inconclusive and that meant we couldn't tell if it was definitely not cancer. So we opted to have the tumor taken out. Within a couple days, we found out we were expecting Jackson. My doctor and his colleagues agreed it was best to wait out the pregnancy to do the surgery. Jackson was born in October. In February, we scheduled my first surgery.

I had the first surgery done in April, knowing in the back of my mind that there was a chance, albeit a very small chance, that it was going to come back as cancerous. I was feeling mostly recovered when my doctor called me and didn't mince any words: it was cancer. Follicular Carcinoma of the Thyroid.

The next step was to fully heal from my first surgery and turn around and have a second surgery to remove the rest of my thyroid.  That's what I had done this week. Step three is to have a radiation treatment.

There are a couple things I would like to say about Follicular Carcinoma:

1. Cancer sucks. Yes, I'm well aware that of all cancers, thyroid cancer is easily treated and highly curable. Don't try to sugar coat it. It's still cancer and that freaking sucks. I know it could be worse, way worse, but for me right now, this is the worst thing that has ever happened to me and I am absolutely allowed to feel like it is the worst thing that has ever happened to me. It definitely doesn't mean I don't see the good in this (yes, I have four amazing kids to live for and all of that), but please oh please, never tell anyone with cancer that it's not that bad. It is bad for them. And they are totally entitled to that.

2. Thyroid surgery is NOT "easy." I don't know what the hell people are talking about telling me childbirth is more painful and that this surgery is easy peasy. Um, no it isn't. I have had four babies and never felt like I did after these surgeries. The first 36-48 hours after thyroid surgery is horrible. And there is no beautiful newborn baby as a reward for this. Have you ever had to have blood drawn every four hours for 2 days? They run out of places to stick needles. And some blood-draw-ers suck at it and they make mistakes and it hurts almost worse than the actual surgery. I'm covered with bruises. And 15 needles sticks. Four in my feet. Not including my incision, which is inconveniently located in a place on my body that is rarely covered, so like my son Aaron with a bright blue cast on his arm (post about that coming...), people stare & constantly ask me what happened. Blah. I don't really want to talk about my scar. Let's just not talk about it, mmmkay?

3. I'm going to write a post specifically dedicated to the things one should know going into surgery.

4. Going through something like this reveals just how many amazing friends and family you have. It also requires you to swallow your pride, give up control, and accept stuff as it is. And hopefully your friends and family understand that you couldn't possibly thank them properly for all that they've done for you and even thinking about thanking them is daunting.

5. There. I said it.