Valentine’s Day 2013, I was diagnosed with Papillary Thyroid Cancer.
The peculiar part of my initial reaction to being diagnosed with Stage II Papillary Thyroid Cancer, and even through the first set of treatments I received, is that I treated it all as fairly inconsequential. I had been told by medical professionals, and believed, that this was the “good cancer” to get. I had convinced myself that this would be easy to resolve and move on from, and I was focused on doing just that.
As with a lot of Papillary Thyroid Cancer diagnoses, I was given a very positive prognosis of survival – nearly 98%. I was told a simple removal of my thyroid, a possible low dose of radioactive iodine, and a small daily pill would rid me of this nuisance and I could go back to normal.
About a month prior to receiving my diagnosis, I went to see an ENT about a recurring sinus infection. During this appointment, the doctor palpitated my neck and discovered a large, visible nodule on my left thyroid lobe. Shortly thereafter, I underwent a few tests of the nodule, and I was so confident that this was much ado about nothing, I convinced my husband that it was entirely unreasonable to accompany me to my appointment to review the results on Valentine’s Day in 2013. The cancer had not only infected my left thyroid lobe, but also my right thyroid lobe and many of the surrounding lymph nodes in my neck.
Since my diagnosis I have undergone a total thyroidectomy, two separate neck dissections to remove infected lymph nodes, radioactive iodine treatment resulting in seven days of quarantine, eight debilitating months of trial and error hormone replacement, neck and muscle numbness, and daily medication to replace the critical functions of my thyroid. I am feeling substantially better these days, but remain in a “wait and see” mode with regular monitoring of lymph nodes in my neck and a several lesions on my lungs.
It wasn’t until after I finished my second round of treatments that I finally had time to process what I had just gone through. I was all of a sudden dealing with a lot of uncomfortable emotions that I originally dodged and avoided during my treatments because I was so focused on surviving persistent metastatic thyroid cancer.
Creating the Love Your Thyroid Foundation, initially, was almost a way of coping and assigning a purpose to this unsettling event in my life. I have always been passionate about fundraising for various causes, and this was a cause very personal to me.
In the first year of managing my non-profit, I have learned that my story is not unique, in fact, the instance of diagnosis of thyroid cancer is rapidly increasing, yet it remains a massively misunderstood disease and egregiously underfunded in research. Now my purpose has become keenly fixated on creating a disruptive change in our perception and management of thyroid cancer.
Receiving a cancer diagnosis, and enduring the resulting treatments, emotions, and acceptance that this is a chronic disease I have to manage, grounded me in a very essential way. I am honored to have the opportunity to share my experience, bring light to this disease, and help raise funds for thyroid cancer research.