I was diagnosed with Papillary thyroid cancer on October 26, 2016 after a routine examination of my thyroid by a new endocrinologist, Dr. Malik, whom I sought out for further treatment of my Hashimoto's disease. I underwent surgery for a complete thyroidectomy as well as removal of one parathyroid gland on November 8, 2016. The pathology report from the surgeon Dr. Wasco indicated that the cancer was not only in the right lobe as originally detected but was also found to be in the left lobe and in one of the parathyroid glands. Dr. Wasco referred me to a radiology oncologist, Dr. Krueger, who I along with my husband and mother met with on Nov 16th to discuss the need for further treatment. She recommended that I undergo a moderate dose of a radioactive iodine treatment (RAI) based on the size of the tumor and the involvement of the parathyroid gland. Before being able to do the RAI treatment, I would have to be on a low iodine diet for 2 weeks which I started that evening. Your thyroid gland absorbs nearly all of the iodine in your body. When radioactive iodine, also known as I-131 (it reminds me of something from Star Wars), is taken into the body in capsule form, it concentrates on the thyroid cells. The radiation can destroy any remaining cancer cells that take up iodine as well as the lymph nodes that might be affected. I am so grateful for the website LID Community for Life which has done extensive research on finding foods that are prepared with non-iodized salt vs iodized salt. It has been quite a learning experience for me! I'm hoping that I will be able to do the treatment on Nov 30th or Dec 1st; however, my TSH levels have to be high enough for the treatment to work which I will find out after my blood test on Monday. Once I receive the treatment, I will be in isolation/quarantine for 5 days due to my body giving off radiation during that time period. My parents have graciously offered me the lower level of their home during that time (don't worry...it's fully finished and a beautiful living space complete with my own bathroom, bedroom, and living room) so that I am away from my 11 year old son Brodie and our dog who are both at the greatest risk of being affected by the radiation. Hopefully I can take some cool pictures of me glowing in the dark...LOL...just kidding! Dr. Krueger told me that it will take about 2 weeks to feel functional again after treatment ends. I'm hoping to be put back on my thyroid medication after the treatment is over so that I can start to re-gain my energy level, memory, metabolism, etc. I know that it will be months to a year before I'm back to feeling 100% better, but I'm so grateful that I am able to see a light at the end of the tunnel. Thank you all for your continued prayers, messages, cards, flowers, and well wishes. I am so very much appreciative of it all! I will continue to do journal entries over these next few weeks and months.
A bit more information....ok maybe more like a quite a bit of information:
In early August, 2016 at a follow-up appointment with my diabetes nurse practitioner I received a diagnosis of Hashimoto's disease. Hashi-what? I knew that it was an autoimmune condition where my body was producing antibodies that fight off the thyroid making cells. This was similar to my diabetes diagnosis back in 2006 in which my body produces antibodies that fight off the insulin making cells. So, at my appointment I was prescribed a low dose of levothyroxine and sent on my way. As the weeks went on, I started reading books about Hashimoto's disease and realizing that I had no clue what I was dealing with. I thought about seeing an endocrinologist but I had no clue of who to go to in the Fox Valley area. My husband Brian got the name of a doctor from one of his co-workers who ironically has also battled thyroid cancer. It was mid-September and I kept having this strange feeling come over me and a voice telling me to call and schedule an appointment with this endocrinologist. I finally gave in and found out that the doctor was booked out for at least 6 weeks, so I went ahead and made the appointment for October 24th. I now know that the voice was God watching over me and telling me that something wasn't right with my body.
I went to the appointment and basically thought I would be consulting with the dr about the Hashimoto's. The appt started that way and he decided that he would run some further tests to check into my cortisol levels and further blood work on my thyroid levels. He had my hop up on the examining table to do a quick run through of my vitals and I thought I would be on my way. He checked my thyroid and made the comment that he felt some lumps. I really didn't think anything of it until I heard him call for his nurse to get the ultrasound machine. He said that 5-10% of thyroid nodules are cancerous so he wasn't too concerned. He did a quick check and then told me didn't like what he was seeing so he wanted to do more in depth imaging with the ultrasound machine. My heart started racing as I started to wonder what on earth was going on. He finally showed me a picture of the nodule he was concerned about which was located on the right side of my thyroid. He stated that he saw several nodules throughout my thyroid but was concerned about this one the most due to the size (2.6 cm), irregular borders, significant blood flow, and calcifications. At the time, none of that made sense to me, but as I later researched I found out that all of these were indications of a cancerous nodule. After he completed the ultrasound, he stated that he wanted to do a biopsy of the nodule and offered to do it right that day. He stated that otherwise he would not be able to get me back in until Dec. I didn't even have to think about it and immediately said "yes, do it today"! I am so grateful for Dr. Malik and his nurse taking time out of their lunch hour and spend the extra 30 mins to complete the biopsy, which was not very pleasant to go through. When he was done with the biopsy, he told me that he had raised my percentage of it possibly being cancerous to 30% after what he saw on the ultrasound. He told me that the results would be back in a week and that his office would contact me as soon as they receive it. He reassured me that if it was cancerous that it would be very treatable and that "if you are to get cancer that thyroid cancer is the best one to get", which as you will learn later is a statement that I cringe at every time I hear it. I left the appointment with my head spinning. I went in for a simple consultation and left with a possible cancer diagnosis. I tried calling my mom and couldn't reach her because she was at her cardiac rehab. My husband Brian was at work and I didn't want to lay all of this on him while he was at work. So I called my dad and I am so grateful that he was available to take my call. I remember the words spilling out of my mouth, "Dad, I might have thyroid cancer" and his response being "What?". I proceeded to fill him in on all of the details of the appointment and needing to wait a week for the results. He reminded me of God's presence and the power of prayers.
Here is what I posted on Facebook two nights before my surgery: "It is with a heavy heart, but hope-filled spirit that I write this post. On Oct 26th my life forever changed when I heard the words "you have cancer" when I received a phone call from my endocrinologist in regards to the biopsy he took of my thyroid just 2 days prior. I remembered being completely stunned yet overcome with emotion as I sat in the hallway at the Kalahari Resort in Wisconsin Dells where I was attending a 2 day substance abuse/mental health conference. I had ...so many questions for my dr yet at the same time tried to process the news he had just delivered to me. I have cancer....words I never thought I would ever hear. My husband and I met with the surgeon 2 days later on a Friday morning. The surgeon seemed so matter of fact when he explained that I would have to undergo a complete thyroidectomy and more than likely he would remove the lymph nodes in that area. It seemed so simple yet the word cancer spins around in my brain. I keep hearing that if you are going to get cancer that thyroid cancer is the best one to get, however, this gives me no peace of mind. It's still cancer and it's still in my body. I am hopeful in knowing that it is very treatable and has a very high cure rate. I feel very blessed to have such an amazing support system in my life. My family, friends, and co-workers have been extremely supportive, caring, and understanding. The amount of prayers being said for me is amazing and I know that God has a plan for me and will get me through this new journey in my life.