Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Thyroid Disease Awareness Month

I was 25 when I found out I had thyroid cancer.  Prior to this, I didn’t know what a thyroid was.  I noticed a swelling on my neck just above the collar bone.  Having had cancer in my neck 4 years earlier, I knew I needed to take this seriously.   

My specialist was quick to provide me with the provisional diagnosis (all tests were inconclusive) and booked me for a thyroidectomy, a simple two hour surgery.  Waiting for the surgery was the hardest part, a full 6 weeks of emotional turmoil.    
At the age I was, I should have been carefree, busy planning my future, dating the wrong kind of guy, having fun and making mistakes.  I should not have been plagued with thoughts of illness and a life destined to be short lived.  This preoccupation with my own mortality continued for many years after my health issues were resolved and I still bear the emotional scars.  

The surgery was more complicated than expected, taking a full 6 hours.  The cancer more advanced than anticipated.  The doctor had to remove my thyroid, half of my parathyroids, as well as my thymus, lymph nodes and other tissue.  The pathology report concluded that it was indeed cancer, too different types, both unrelated to my original cancer, leaving me questioning, ‘why me again’.  
I remember asking the medical professionals if this was related to the therapeutic radiation I had received with my first cancer.  I was assured at that time that this was not the case.  I have since been told that the therapeutic radiation was likely the cause of my thyroid cancer and knowing what the medical establishment knows today about the risk of thyroid cancer from neck radiation, they would never have given it to me.   My recovery  was long, or at least it seemed that way.   

After the surgery, it took me about a month to hold my head up (to this day, I hold my head at an angle).   After the surgery, I had radioactive iodine therapy for good measure.  I have to take my thyroid medication daily.  Thyroid tissue is nebulous and it is difficult if not impossible to remove all of it.  It also likes to regenerate.   

Taking my medication regularly, helps to keep what cells are left,  dormant.  I also have regular check ups to make sure things are fine.  Fortunately, follow up treatment for thyroid cancer, should it return, is minimally invasive, consisting of the ingestion of radioactive iodine capsules and diagnostic imaging.   

Now, 20 years later, I am still here and thyroid cancer free.  

Guest Blogger and thyroid cancer survivor Vicki L.

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Grandma Snyder
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