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It's a little difficult to accurately say when my journey started. One morning in May or June, I woke up with a crick in my neck and in a great deal of pain. I used home remedies for a few weeks with no relief. My doctor suggested I start physical therapy. About a week later, treatment began and my pain was relieved for several hours afterward, but the pain never went away. I continued physical therapy during the summer, but realized I needed additional evaluation.
In August, I requested that my doctor schedule me for an MRI. The MRI showed two bulged discs in the lower discs on the back left side of my neck. At this time, the insurance company declined to pay for any more physical therapy.
In the meantime, I noticed a lump on the front left side of my neck. I had PT that day so I asked Dan, my Physical Therapist, if he had ever noticed the spot. Dan's eyes got real big and he said, “No, and you should go see your doctor immediately.” I saw my doctor, who said it could be a goiter over my thyroid. He doubted it was cancer and said the bulged disc and the lump were not related. Still, he scheduled me for a sonogram. The bulged disc was still painful, so I continued the neck exercises I learned from PT as well as heat, ice, ibuprofen, etc.
I began to lose my voice, but I could still talk even though it was very high pitched and was quite a strain. Pastor Dan said I sounded like Mickey Mouse…and I did! I returned to my doctor, who did not think that the loss of my voice was related to the lump, but perhaps it was a virus. He gave me a prescription for some steroids which did nothing for my voice, but did give me energy. I had been struggling with lack of energy for the past year.
The results of the sonogram were inconclusive, so I was scheduled for a fine needle biopsy. After the technologist finished the biopsy, he told Rodney he was 98.9% sure that it was not cancer. He explained that he would provide a detailed written report to my doctor which would contain a more accurate conclusion and my doctor would call me with the outcome of the biopsy.
The biopsy was done on Tuesday, and on Friday I received a call from one the doctor’s office staff. She told me the results showed no cancer and the doctor wanted to do a follow-up in six months. On Monday, my doctor called. He said I needed to see an endocrinologist because he was concerned the lump just might be cancer after all. The endocrinologist could not evaluate me until December 27, which was a three month wait.
The best I can discern as to when this cancer started was sometime mid-summer to early September. On September 8, 2016, I took a picture of my throat to document how the lump looked. I also had no idea it was a tumor, a cancerous tumor - at that.
By this time, I was beginning to get quite discouraged. I really needed to have something done much sooner, but did not know what to do. I remember crying out to the Lord, asking Him, "What should I do? Lord, am I really sick? Is this the worst of worst news?" I am scared Lord and I do not know what to do.
In addition to my voice issue, I was having a severe sore throat. I wondered, since my doctor thought I had a virus at one point, should I have a strep throat test done? I was at the office when I had this thought and was talking to Jason about. He said, "you know my father in law, Tony is in the medical field. Do you have a copy of the biopsy report with you? I will ask him to look at it and see what he thinks." I said that would be great! Jason emailed it over to him and Tony called him and suggested that I go see an ENT. That afternoon after work I headed over to CareNow and saw Dr. Sanjay and told her what was going on with my throat and voice. She ordered the strep test which came back negative, and she recommended that I see an ENT.
CareNow has their own referral service and they called me that evening with a referral to see an ENT in Fort Worth, Dr. Christopher Lee with Central Park ENT. My appointment time was set for the coming Thursday morning. When I first met Dr. Lee, I immediately felt at ease and that we had come to the right doctor. After he asked several different questions, he ran a scope through my nose and down into my throat. We could see it on the screen. The first thing he showed us was that the left vocal chord was paralyzed, most likely due to the tumor invading the nerves around the vocal chord. After Dr. Lee assessed the situation, he said he was sorry but, he does believe it is a cancerous growth.
Dr. Lee sprang into action. He wanted any and all lab work, scans, and biopsy reports I could get my hands on. Fortunately for me, I had gotten copies for myself of all the reports that I could. I did not have one lab work that was done the day before but the lab was right around the corner. So Rodney and I hopped in the car and went over there to retrieve them. We also went back to CareNow for some blood work that was done earlier that week. We rounded up all we could find and headed back over to Dr. Lee's office. His staff had sent paperwork to an imaging center STAT and I had a CT scan that afternoon! Dr. Lee did not mess around. Kim, Dr. Lee's nurse, called that afternoon and asked if we could come in on Tuesday for a report of the scan. Dr. Lee should have a treatment plan ready as well.
Up until this point, we had chosen not to tell family or friends what was going on. Well, close friends and my office peeps of course knew, 'cause we saw each other daily. But we had not told Robert yet, I did not want to alarm him since we did not really have any information yet. It was time to make the call. Robert did not know what to think of my voice. He had not heard it since it changed and most of our recent contact had been via text. We let him know what we knew so far and he wanted to know what was next. We told him about the Tuesday appointment and he said, "See you Monday. "
We met with Dr. Lee and he confirmed it is cancer and I need a thyroidectomy. The surgery was scheduled for November 10. We had high hopes this would begin a quick resolution to the cancer. In surgery, Dr. Lee realized the mass had attached itself to too many other tissues and it could not be removed at that time. He took as much of the mass as he could for biopsies so we could find out more about what type of cancer I have.
On Tuesday, we all three went to see Dr. Lee. The pathologist at MCA Hospital in Arlington could not identify the cancer. He had some speculation of what it could be, but he could not give it a name. However, he did say it was cancer - and a very rare one at that. Dr. Lee did not know how to treat it and sent the samples to another lab. We left his office feeling very disappointed because we had waited a few weeks for answers. At this point I was becoming a little anxious. I felt like time was going by so quickly and the longer we don't treat it, the bigger it would get. We went home.
God in His goodness sent a crew of 10 or so people to our home that morning. They had been hiding out around the corner waiting for us to leave. We left around eight that morning and returned home around lunchtime. While we were at the doctor's office, this crew mowed and edged our front and back yards, cleaned out two flower beds, and planted beautiful pansies and cabbages. They even rearranged our front porch and decorated it for Christmas!
When we got home, Rodney and Robert went in the house ahead of me while I sat in the car and finished up a text. At this time, I had a little meltdown. As I walked up to the house and saw Rodney and Robert watching me, I noticed the beautiful landscaping. Of course, I burst into tears. But isn't that just like the Lord? Here I had had an emotionally exhausting morning and the next thing I know I have an extreme amount of joy because He had laid it on a few people's hearts to come dress up our home for Christmas! Isn't He good, Isn't He kind!
The next Friday, I had a follow up appointment with Dr. Lee. My Aunt Lynn was with me. Dr. Lee came in the exam room and said, "I just got the pathology back." He said the cancer was Angio Sarcoma, a very rare Thyroid cancer. I'm not sure if it was at this appointment or another one that Dr. Lee referred me to Dr. Larry Myers. He is the Associate Professor in the Department of Otolaryngology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. This was Thanksgiving week and all the departments at UT were closed for the holiday - one whole week until the following Monday. So, we're back to the waiting game.
There is more to this story, however, I'm going to fast-forward to the present so everyone may get caught up on my status.