I can’t believe it is almost 7 years since my diagnosis and surgery. Because of the relatively easy treatment for thyroid cancer it is sometimes easy to forget I had it at all. I’m still checked every 3-6 months. I don’t think about it much, until my doctor tells me I need to have additional tests…. that’s happened twice in 6.75 years. I’m currently in a holding pattern because I don’t want to do any additional testing and everything is staying stable.
Here is my Thyroid Cancer Journey:
April 2006: see first endocrinologist because I was recently diagnosed with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and before that had been on thyroid medicine for low thyroid for years and my doctor friend suggested I svee a “Thyroid Doc” at least once. The doctor seems nice and competent. I get my first ever neck ultrasound. He says I have a few nodules on my thyroid, one is bigger than the rest, but nothing to be concerned about and sends me on my way. (In hind sight, I really wish he would have been more concerned about it.)
October 2006: we just moved to Colorado (which if I would have known it was a possibility that I had cancer, would have NEVER happened!). After moving into our new house I notice that I feel a weird pressure on my throat when I’m laying down. It feels just slightly heavy and makes me feel like I need to clear my throat. To this day I do not know why I took this so seriously, but I just knew this was a different feeling for me. After 3 nights of feeling this, I pick a random primary care doctor out of my HMO booklet and hope I get a good one. The weirs pressure feeling either goes away or I got too used to it to notice after another week. I still decide I should see a doctor.
November 2006: I see my new doctor this one and only time. She was fantastic. She listened to me and said that my thyroid felt slightly enlarged, but nothing she would have normally been concerned about. However, since it felt different to me, she ordered an ultrasound. She told me how important it is for women to listen to their bodies and I am a prime example of that. (A couple months later I got a letter that she left the practice to start her own rural practice. I hope she did well.)
December 2006: have my second neck ultrasound.
January 2007: my doctor called to tell me the results came back abnormal and she referred me to an endocrinologist.
I pick an endocrinologist out of my HMO book and hope I get lucky again. There are none near me and it is a 45 minute drive to his office.
February 2007: I meet the endocrinologist and find him competent and trust worthy. He schedules a fine needle biopsy for the next week.
The fine needle biopsy hurt way more than he told me it would. It felt like the needle would go through my throat. He also failed to tell me till he was doing it that he needed to jiggle the needle (while in my neck!) to ensure he got a good sample and that he needed to do it in multiple spots, multiple times.
Late February 2007: the results of the biopsy come back as positive for papillary thyroid cancer. I need to have my entire thyroid removed as soon as possible. He refers me to his friend, a general surgeon. (The first doctor I don’t have to pick out of a book!)
March 7, 2007: surgery day. Everything went well. He took out my thyroid and about 20 surrounding lymph nodes. The surgery wasn’t too bad. The most unexpected problem I had was that the breathing tube triggered my latent asthma, so I had some trouble breathing in recovery.
Pathology came back later that month as papillary thyroid cancer tumors on both sides of the thyroid and in 7 of the 20 lymph nodes that were taken out. It was staged at Stage 2.
Up Next: my experience with radioactive iodine treatments!