Nobody wants to hear the words “you have cancer” but that is exactly what I heard on February 14, 2019.
I was not sure if I should share this. Then I thought it was probably good because perhaps others, who are going through similar situations, might find it helpful.
When I was 40 years old (11 years ago) I was diagnosed with an underactive thyroid. I was put on thyroid hormone therapy and followed up with blood work on a yearly basis to monitor my TSH levels, among other things.
In 2017, I complained to my primary care doctor that I had difficulty swallowing and was having some discomfort in my neck; so she ordered an ultrasound. The results showed nodules on both sides of my thyroid. Because they were not very big, she advised a repeat ultrasound in a year. (I remember being told of these earlier but I can’t remember when and no one at that time seemed concerned.)
In 2018, I received a call from the imaging location to schedule another ultrasound of my thyroid. I almost didn’t keep the appointment because I had not recently seen my doctor and felt like I was too busy to go. I reconsidered as I felt a nudge to make sure everything was okay.
After getting the results from the second ultrasound I was told that my nodules had grown and I would need to have an ultrasound-guided FNA (fine needle aspiration) to determine if there were any cancerous cells. Well after enduring 6 needles in my neck the results came back “indeterminate but suspicious with atypia of undetermined significance” on my left side, and “non-diagnostic” on my right. Not good results.
I was referred to a surgeon in Orlando (an hour south of where I live). My husband and I met with her and we decided my thyroid would need to be removed. I could have had only the left side removed but I didn’t want to have the risk of going through this again. Besides, I was already on medication for my thyroid. So I decided to have all the thyroid removed.
After surgery, they sent it to be assessed and the results came back as a “follicular variant of papillary carcinoma”. So thankfully, I had chosen to have the whole thyroid removed! They also said the two sites of malignancy were very small and they felt they had removed all of the cancer.
I am now scheduled to have blood work in March to see if I will need the radioactive iodine scan to look for possible metastatic thyroid cancer. They said they used to do the scan routinely, but due to possible side effects (like the risk of leukemia later) they want to be sure I need it before putting me through this test. (Because I had all my thyroid removed, there should not be any thyroglobulin detected on my blood test. If there is, it could mean there are still functioning thyroid cells which would be suspicious of remaining cancer somewhere.)
I am feeling pretty good, considering surgery was only 11 days ago. I was told to massage the front of my neck as many times a day as possible to help keep the scar tissue from attaching to the muscles and to help dissipate the swelling and improve the long-term cosmetic results. (I have to protect the incision from sun exposure as well.) It’s uncomfortable, and mentally difficult, to think I have to touch and massage the area. It’s the opposite of any other operation I’ve had in the past. But I want the best results so I will follow the instructions and muddle through the discomfort to hopefully get my neck back to its old self again.
I will be returning to work on Monday and look forward to taking better care of myself through diet and exercise because going from doctor to doctor is not my kind of fun at all. Plus I am a big baby and I hate pain.
If you are going through something like this, please know there’s a lot of support out there and you do not have to endure it alone.
Please feel free to ask any questions you may have. I would be glad to answer them if I can.