Receiving the News That I Likely Have Papillary Thyroid Cancer
A little over a month ago, I turned 30. It was a quiet, simple birthday, and I told myself I was going to have a great year. I have a new job I love, I’m a member of several groups working to make a positive change in the community, and I’m relatively healthy, or so I thought.
Less than a week ago, I received the news that I likely have papillary thyroid cancer (PTC). In two months, I’m having surgery to remove the left lobe of my thyroid as well as the connective tissue, called the isthmus. Hopefully nothing has spread to any lymph nodes, which would complicate things a bit.
Really, all of this began a year ago during a routine checkup by an endocrinologist, recommended to me by my former boss. She decided to perform an ultrasound on my thyroid because I have Hashimoto’s and I’d never had one.
The doctor found a small nodule with some calcification, and sent me to get a biopsy at a clinic I wasn’t fond of, and whose reputation was poor. I fought with her to get my records because she refused to refer me to a world-renowned cancer clinic right down the street from me. So, I referred myself and an appointment was scheduled for two months later, in April. Another ultrasound was performed along with a biopsy, and the results came back as non-diagnostic without anything alarming present. The clinic scheduled me to come back in a year for a follow-up.
Several months ago I noticed my voice was becoming a bit hoarse. I’m a docent at a local museum; when I would end my tours after an hour or so, I could barely speak. I very rarely had trouble swallowing my medication or food. I didn’t think anything of it until my checkup in June. Since the last ultrasound, the nodule grew and developed some “worrisome characteristics.” Another biopsy last Tuesday yielded results suggestive of PTC. By Friday, I was scheduled for a pre-op appointment and surgery.
I didn’t cry until yesterday evening. For a week, I’ve been on a vicious rollercoaster of emotions. First, shock and disbelief, followed by anger, sadness, and fear. Sometimes, they hit me all at once without warning. Despite the fact that statistically at my age, this is a highly treatable form of cancer with an excellent prognosis, it doesn’t come without risks. The chances of recurrence aren’t non-existent, and all surgery comes with potential complications.
Acquaintances and friends have said things like it’s the “good type of cancer,” “at least you don’t have to get chemo,” or even “you’ll be fine.” Not only did comments like that anger me, they made me feel guilty for even being upset in the first place — almost as if I don’t really have cancer because it isn’t as deadly. Thankfully, my husband, close friends, and family are extremely supportive.
I hope if you’re reading this and you’ve recently been diagnosed with PTC or are awaiting results that you know you’re not alone, and whatever you’re feeling, whether it’s anger or sadness or fear — it’s perfectly OK.
There’s a great online support community at www.thyca.org. There, you can find information on thyroid cancer types, stages, and treatments.
The next two months are going to be nerve-wracking, and I’ll probably have several more bad days. But I’m determined to make 30 an amazing year, cancer diagnosis or not.
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