I'll never forget the day my endocrinologist looked at me and said, "The cancer has spread to your lungs." That statement was soon followed by, "You'll need to go to either Johns Hopkins in Maryland or Sloan Kettering in New York to get treatment, I can't help you anymore." What? Are you talking to me? Are you the same doctor who acted like I was a hypochondriac for the last four years because I was overly concerned about the huge lump in my neck. Excuse me?
Here I was feeling like I had put all this thyroid cancer stuff behind me; I was just in for a brief re-check appointment, nothing to be concerned about. In my mind everything was OVER, all the cancer was long gone with the surgery I just had followed by a dose of RAI the month before. (And let me tell you, that was no picnic!) My doctor seemed to think thyroid cancer was so nothing, like it almost shouldn't even be allowed in the "cancer category". So that's exactly what I thought all along, that it was no big deal. I didn't even bother to tell many people that my thyroid was cancerous because I knew what kind of anxiety that word, cancer, created. I knew it was almost 100% curable so I just didn't mention it. This would be something I would later regret not having done. But now here I am sitting in the parking lot of the doctor's office. I am so shocked by what I've just been told that I can't even move. Mascara is running down my face and I can't even think of what to do. I'm all alone in my car. I am so mad, so angry! This was not supposed to happen to me. I'm just 31 years old and I was going to work on having a baby. Now I'm going to die, I'm just going to die. Everyone with lung cancer dies fast. I don't understand, this kind of cancer is not supposed to spread to your lungs.
As I sit here I am watching all these people go into the doctor's office. I know they have healthy lungs and longer life expectancies than I do and I can't help but hate them as they go by enjoying their happy little lives. What am I going to tell my mother, my husband, my father. How can I even begin to tell them this.
Well, that was a year ago and a lot has changed since then. I've learned so much I never knew about thyroid cancer. I quickly learned that I have thyroid cancer that has metastasized to my lungs and not lung cancer. I learned that I was not just going to die but that I would most likely live a long time and although my cancer will probably be around from now on, it shouldn't interfere that much with my life. I was thankful to find this website and to also talk with Joan Shey the founder of this site, who told me of her story and who gave me hope and great advice. I will soon be getting my official RAI treatment for my papillary cancer in October 2009 at Johns Hopkins. I am looking forward to getting my treatment started and knowing that most of the cancer cells in my lungs and lymph nodes will be destroyed. Also, I will feel much better during my treatment thanks the use of thyrogen injections that will allow me to continue on with my thyroid hormone.
It has been a hard year financially. My husband and I live in South Carolina and the travel back and forth and hotel expense has taken a toll on us. My husband also lost his job about four months ago. But, as long as I can get great treatment, it's all worth it! Having cancer has given new and wonderful meaning to my life. I work as a dental hygienist, and although I've always preformed oral cancer exams on my patients, now I now how important those exams really are, which can be a matter of life or death. I've learned how misinformed many of our physicians are who seem to think thyroid cancer is nothing to be concerned with. I just recently gave my new PCP an education on thyroid cancer when she was reviewing my medical history and said, "Well if your going to have cancer, this is the best one to have." I felt my spine tingle a bit then I politely gave her a new perspective on the seriousness of thyroid cancer.
Also my cousin, David who is 37 was also diagnosed with papillary thyroid cancer recently. David was very persistent with his doctors who were shocked when his biopsy came back positive. We are waiting to find out if he too has metastasis to his lungs. So, I've learned so much this year and I'm thankful to of had support from my family and friends and to be able to talk to other people fighting this disease. Oh, and my plans for next year: to work on having that baby!