I have had a predominately rough couple of years medically since 2011, one that forced me into an early retirement.
But nothing was more devastating then picking up a call one afternoon and hearing my Endocrinologist confirm what I already knew, Papillary Thyroid Cancer, Stage 2.
As she was speaking, all I could remember was the face of my Grandmother looking so scared and not being able to swallow because she had throat cancer. She looked so helpless and there was nothing they could do for her. She died in her 50’s when I was 17 years old.
My mind drifted off for a minute, but I was slapped back to reality and I could no longer continue the conversation. I passed the phone to my husband and bawled like a baby.
I’m not one to just sit back and say “Okay, I have cancer.” No I took it hard and I took it all in. All that it meant to me is that I may not be here to enjoy a long life with my husband, or see my grandchildren grow up and that my Mother would have to see one of her children being buried. And I knew that would hurt her dearly.
So after I calmed down, we listen to the doctor on what the steps would be? I was to have the entire thyroid removed to hopefully prevent the spread of this dreaded disease. Then doses of I-131 radiation to completely burn any any cells left. See your thyroid will be in a state of iodine deficiency when you have the iodine radiation treatment and therefore it will destroy all the iodine left in your cells. Like ablation almost.
Yes there are side effects. I had to stay away from everyone and eat off disposable forks and plates for 2 weeks. My clothing, bed sheets, etc., had to be washed separately. My bed was covered in plastic as was the inside of my car, all to prevent radiation exposure to anyone else. And I was ticking like a bomb according to the Geiger counter that was used to measure the amount of radiation I was exposed to. Additionally, I lost my salivary glands so I can no longer produce saliva. Without saliva, bacteria runs amonk and it can cause severe tooth decay in your mouth. This, produces another problem of its own.
Also, as with any treatment, you run the risk of exposing other parts of your body to radiation poisoning and possible contamination that could cause cancer in another organ or your bones. I was warned that with Thyroid Cancer, it always by a 70 percent chance reappears in the form of bone, lung, or lymph nodes. So I’m not considered cancer free until 10 years from now.
So I take my daily meds which include Levothyroxine, which is suppose to keep the cancer away and give me what is needed to keep my brain, heart and body functioning properly.
You see the thyroid is part of the endocrine system, which is made up of glands that produce, store, and release hormones into the bloodstream so the hormones can reach the body’s cells. The thyroid gland uses iodine from the foods you eat to make two main hormones, The Triiodothyronine (T3) and Thyroxine (T4).
Two glands in the brainthe hypothalamus and the pituitary communicate to maintain T3 and T4 balance. The T3 and T4 regulate your heart rate and how fast your intestines process food. So if T3 and T4 levels are low, your heart rate may be slower than normal, and you may have constipation/weight gain. If T3 and T4 levels are high, you may have a rapid heart rate and diarrhea/weight loss.
So your thyroid is very important in your body functioning.
So here I am 3 years out from my last treatment and I notice last week that the right side of my neck is swollen and I’m having some difficulty swallowing regular food items. Naturally, this alarmed me and I was on the phone pronto to my Endocrinologist and ENT Surgeon.
So here we go again into the Lion’s Den with the honorary neck sonogram and measurements, because as we discovered I have several lymph nodes in my neck area that need to be paid close attention to. They will be compared to my last scan and noted if there is a cause for alarm. Then I see the ENT Surgeon on Friday so that she can examine the area and scope it to see if there is any irritation or lumps that she may think there is something to be concerned about.
Am I concerned. Yes, no doubt. But I will not let my concern stop me from knowing the truth. It could be nothing or it could mean the difference between life and death. All I know is I have to take it one day at a time and not let it throw me into a spin. That’s the last thing I need.
If anything turns up, I will put it to the side for the holidays and enjoy them as I planned. And discuss what options after the holidays. I will not let this take away from me enjoying the life I have right now.
So for now it’s a wait and see game….
Will let you know how the saga that is my life turns out.
But for now, peace and goodwill to all!