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MY CANCER STORY

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Here it goes. This is going to be a seriously long post…..

In 2011, I met that dude I call my husband and I weighed a whopping 325lbs. This is probably going to sound all cheesy and crap, but it happened, soooooo. My world changed so much after meeting him that I became a new person. I had no choice. He changed me.

That was also the year that I found out I had thyroid cancer. I had no indicators or symptoms that I was aware of. I was completely happy. I was working on losing weight and, I was seriously in love with this seriously hot guy. I didn’t think I deserved him at the time because I was HUUUUGGE and had zero self-confidence, but that’s a story for another day. At this point, we were four or five months into our relationship and he had helped me lose a good 40 pounds. We started walking at the park where I lived and I loved being with him, so I literally wanted to get my walk on every single hour of the day! He eventually added me to his gym membership and I discovered a whole new way to spend time with him…….I got to watch him lift weights. Need I say more? Anywhoooo, I had blood work done numerous times in the past and my thyroid levels were always within the normal ranges, but I always worried because thyroid issues are something that run in my family. My mom had thyroid issues and whatever happens to that woman, medically, seems to happen to me times ten (thanks mom *wink*).

I had gone to my doctor for a reason I can’t remember right now and I mentioned that I had this lump in my neck that moved when I swallowed. I was beginning to think I was secretly a guy and my Adam’s apple was coming out lol. He sent me for an ultrasound a few days later and the results of the ultrasound showed that my thyroid gland  had grown enlarged. Enlargement of the thyroid is also called a “goiter”.  The results also showed that it had calcification, cysts, and nodules. None of these things are good and frankly, I had no idea what any of that meant. That’s when I started to get a little nervous because no one was telling me what was really going on and I just kept getting sent to different doctors.

At the time, my daughter was two and I was technically a single mom. I was also in trade school trying to get my Accounting certification. I had Medicaid at the time and couldn’t afford to go to a specialist, so I got sent to a teaching hospital where they went over my results and told me that I would more than likely need to have surgery to remove the left  lobe of my thyroid gland (that was the side with all of the growths). Biopsy wasn’t an option for me because there was too large an area that had growths on it and that would require many biopsies, which I was told could be pretty painful. So, they scheduled me for surgery about a month later. I had never been so nervous in my life, except maybe on hubby and I’s first date. I thought I might puke!

Surgery morning rolled around quicker than I really wanted it to and I spent a lot of time filling out paper work telling me about the risks associated with the surgery……like how I might DIE or lose my voice forever, which sounded a little too like I needed to be living under the sea as a frickin mermaid. No thanks, dude! They explained how everything would go and what would happen when I woke up, and then……..good drugs happened. Good, good drugs. I also had a space helmet on that they supplied me with. It was a shiny silver shower cap-looking thingy. I really dug it at the time. After that, I was rolled into what I remember as being a stupid-cold operating room with an operating table that didn’t even look like it was capable of holding all this junk…..all this junk inside my trunk. My hum……oh, where was I? lol. Seriously though, it was a very narrow table that looked like a “T”. I was strapped down and put under in what seemed like record time. It was like the pit stop at Nascar or something! That quickly.

When I woke up, I cried like I normally do when I come out of anesthesia, and I was told that they sent a sample off to pathology during operation and that it came back cancerous. They removed the whole thing. I was now thyroidless (Duh-duh-duh!). I lost my little butterfly (your thyroid gland is shaped like a butterfly, in case you didn’t know). The kind of cancer that I had was called  “papillary thyroid cancer” and it is the most common kind of thyroid cancer as well. A little known fact is that thyroid cancer is one of the most curable and treatable types of cancers.However, that doesn’t mean that it is any less of a pain in the ass. There is still a whole process that you need to go though and it requires life-long medication. Every cell in your body requires thyroid hormone to function properly. When that hormone is out of whack, so are you. It’s a big deal!

I stayed overnight in the hospital and my boyfriend, of all of 6 months, was there with me the whole time. Remember me saying that on our first date, I was so nervous that I thought I might puke? Well, I saved that for this very occasion and bless him for holding the puke bucket for me lol. That was not the way I wanted him to see me; in the hospital with my neck slashed and a hose sticking out of (this was my drain) while puking my guts up. Not my finest moment.The drain that they put in my neck, was so odd because at the end of it, there was this bulb that was always suctioning fluids into it. I had to keep that bulb in between my boobs! I was not having that attached to the outside of my clothes for the next week. No thank you!

Once I got to go home, I felt a little better because I got to be in my own bed and that always makes me happy. I did a lot of sleeping because of the pain meds they prescribed and a week later, I was getting my drain pulled…….which hurt like a bitch! The nurse said she would count to three and she pulled on two (thanks Nurse Sneaky McSneakerson). I was so glad to have that out though, I felt a little more normal. She dosed me up with a little pain medication before I left and I convinced my boyfriend to take me to the mall so I could buy a purse….like this was a good idea? Poor thing followed me around a store for at least an hour while I wondered aimlessly looking at purse after purse, until I finally decided that I felt really bad and needed to go home. Mission not accomplished!

The next step was iodine radiation. This was where I had to go take a tiny, little, hazardous pill that would turn me into a radioactive popsicle for at least 5 days. The purpose of this was to burn away any residual tissue that may be left over from my thyroid removal. So that there was less of a chance of cancer recurrence in the future. So, I went in and the lady in the radiation department at the hospital put this pill in my hand (she used tweezers by the way) and told me to take it and leave. I was whisked away by my mom where I stayed in isolation at my boyfriends house, upstairs….forever alone. I had to stay at least 25 feet away from any living thing and was not to be around small animals or small children, which meant I was away from my little person for the first time long than a day. I had to flush three times after going to the bathroom, had my own disposable plates and utensils, and my very own air mattress in the corner of the room. I felt like a hunchback there in that corner, shunned by my people. LOL. His mom, who was so generous in letting my stay there, would put a plate of food at the top of the stairs and I’d stick just my hand out of the room far enough to grab it and pull it in…..like one of those cat videos haha! I did find a little humor in all of this.

After I was done being a popcicle, I was able to go home and I’ve never been so happy to be around PEOPLE! The only side effect I had from the radiation was a slightly sore throat and my hair was kind of sticky, like it would stand up if I raised it with my fingers (kinda like that scene from “There’s Something About Mary” except not as gross lol). I was super ready to get back to normal. Little did I know that this would take a lot longer than I expected it to. I was started out on 75mcg of Synthroid, which is the synthetic version of thyroid hormone, and from there a couple of weeks later I was switched to 125mcg of Synthroid. I did not feel normal. I was tired and my body hurt, but it wasn’t like the normal tired and hurt I always had……it was so much more and so hard to describe.

My weight loss pretty much halted during this time and that bummed me out a lot. If it hadn’t been for the super awesome dude I was dating at the time, I would have very easily slid into depression. Once my body adjusted to the medication, I felt a little better each day and eventually I forgot what feeling “normal” was like. This was my new “normal”. I’m currently on 175 mcg of Synthroid and feeling pretty decent lately.  I have tried natural desiccated thyroid hormone, which is made from crushed up pigs thyroid, and also cytomel which is the T3 version of thyroid hormone.  I didn’t feel any different on either of them. 

I stress so much to people to get their thyroid levels checked, just as you check for breast cancer, or cervical cancer each year. Recently, I’ve had a few friends diagnosed with these same issues and they found out pretty much the same way I did. Maybe I wouldn’t have had to go through it at all if I would have been a little more proactive in getting my damn neck checked! But hey, it was an experience and I learned from it. I am a different and stronger person because of it. Don’t think that it can’t ever happen to you. I never imagined that the word CANCER would ever come out of my mouth, but it did and I crushed it!

I just want to say that just because you have a thyroid condition, no matter what kind it might be, it is still possible to lose weight. YOU just have to put in the work. It is NOT impossible. Don’t give up. I know there’s a badass inside of you somewhere!

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