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It could be better but it certainlty could be worse


 
September is Thyroid Cancer Awareness month so I thought I would write a little about it for those who don’t know about the thyroid.
 
For thirty four years, I had no clue what a thyroid was, where it was located, and what its purpose was.  I heard of people having weight issues saying that they needed to get their thyroid checked.   My husband even said to me “do men even have thyroids?”  That is how clueless we were. Dumb and dumber!
 
When I was nine weeks pregnant with Charlotte, I told my obgyn that I had a sore throat.  My nose was running and I thought I had a cold.  He looked inside my throat and felt my glands by my ears.  He then told me to swallow.  He had a weird look on his face and then brought me over to stand in front of a mirror and told me to swallow again.  “Can you see that lump on your throat?”  I suddenly could see a large lump on my throat.  It was very weird because once he pointed it out, I could see it clearly and it was huge.  He immediately had his ultrasound tech do an ultrasound on it.   When my doctor met with me a little while later, he informed me that I had a big mass on my thyroid.  “What is a thyroid?” I said.  He said it is the thing that controls your hormones. It is the shape of a butterfly on your neck.   “Do I have cancer?”  I started to panic.  “No”, he said, “you do not have cancer.”  Whew!  He gave me an envelope with the ultrasound pictures and told me to make an appointment with an ENT he recommended.  I immediately made an appointment and they had me on their schedule the next day for a biopsy of the lump on my thyroid. 
 
My ENT, Dr. Moorhead was awesome.  “Do I have cancer?”  He was very kind and said “90 percent of the thyroid biopsy nodules come back as non cancerous.”  You have a much greater chance of it not being cancer than it being cancer.”  “If it is cancer, am I going to die?”  Panic filled my mind.  “No, most people with thyroid cancer end up dying from a million other things.”  I set up an appointment for the following Wednesday to get the results and did it at a time where my husband could be with me…just in case.

 

I went home with a positive feeling that I was for sure the 90 percent of people whose biopsies came back clear.  I had no clue why I had a huge growth on my thyroid but I had several huge cysts on my head so maybe I was just a weird person that had extra growths.  My mom had a big tumor one time in her stomach that was the size of a grapefruit.  She was in her 40’s and thought she was pregnant.  It was the biggest tumor that her doctor had seen in his patient.  My grandmother had a huge cyst that was on her back.  Our family obviously has a problem with funky “extra” things growing in or on us. 

 
On Monday, I was taking a break when I checked my phone.  I had a message from Dr. Moorhead saying that my results were back and that he wanted to talk to me.  I called back and left a message.  He called me right back and said “the results came back positive for thyroid cancer.”  “WHAT!”  My entire world came crashing down.  I told him that I wanted it out of my body as soon as possible.  “Is surgery safe since I am pregnant?”  He assured me it was safe and he would be in contact with my obgyn.  I immediately called Brad and he had just landed in Calgaryon a business trip.  I broke the news and couldn’t stop crying.  He said that he was in a cab but was heading back to the airport.  I told him it was ok and that he could just stay and I would be ok.  He said no way and got on the next flight back to Houston.  The next call was to my mom who couldn’t stop crying.  I called my twin sister who was giving a make up test after school.  She immediately started crying and probably scared the poor boy for life.  He was nice and agreed to come back at a better time.

 

Corrin immediately came over to my house.  She brought a huge bottle of wine and had a drink.  I of course was pregnant so I was drinking water.  Corrin couldn’t stop crying and I spent the next two hours reassuring her that everything was going to be fine. She ended up crying the entire night and finishing off the bottle. Poor Dave had to come pick her up.

Brad got home around 2 AM.  The doctor called the next day and said he had an opening for surgery on Wednesday.  The surgery was ok.  They had to insert a tube in my neck for 24 hours.  Brad helped me take a shower and he accidently tugged on my neck tube.  Ouch!!  Michelle was super sweet and surprised me to come and be there for me for my surgery. 




Corrin had a miscarriage a few months prior and had just been given the green light the pervious month to start trying again.  Michelle and Corrin were trying to “lighetn the mood” so Michelle for the kicks and giggles of it bought Corrin a pregnancy test to take in the hospital room.  How weird is that.  But, it didn’t seem weird, because everything else seemed so serious.  Corrin being pregnant would be comical and a blessing.  A few minutes later Corrin came out and said it was positive (only this would happen in the Skelly family). My little peanut would have a cousin!  Corrin immediately regretted the entire bottle of wine she drank a few days before, but Finley is perfect!!!!

My doctor said that my cancer was the best type of thyroid cancer, papillary.  It had spread into a few lymph nodes but he thought he had gotten them.  I remember just being worried about my baby who was nine weeks old.  When I went to get an ultrasound, the woman at first wouldn’t tell me if my baby was ok.  I started crying because I just needed to know the baby was ok.  She finally said “ok, I’m not supposed to tell you anything but your baby is ok.”  I was so relieved and thankful. 

 
For thyroid cancer, most people do a radioactive treatment.  Based on how bad your cancer is, you take a radioactive pill.  You have to be in seclusion based on your dosage.  Some people have to be in seclusion for a few days, others a few weeks.  You are emitting radiation during this time so you really can’t be around people.  You have to eat off of disposable stuff and everything has to be thrown away.    I am very lucky that my doctor at MD Anderson said that the trend is going away from the radiation.  It used to be where everyone had radiation.  Now the idea is that if the surgeon was able to successfully remove the cancer, why put your body through radiation if it isn’t necessary.
 

                                          
 - Frederick M. Brown / Getty Images EntertainmentSex and the City's Kim Cattrall has Hashimoto's disease, a thyroid condition - Lawrence Lucier / Getty Images

I am now on a very high dosage of thyroid medicine.  The idea is to make my body believe that I have a thyroid so that my thyroid does not start to grow back.  The surgeon is not able to get every cell of your thyroid because you have cells surrounding your vocal cords.  I don’t want the cells to get together and start growing a new thyroid because my thyroid was cancerous. 
 
My new reality:  I try to be a positive person.  Having no thyroid is not the most ideal situation but it is certainly not the worst.  It took a while for my doctors to get my dosage correct and when they did, I felt a million times better.  Your thyroid controls so much of how you feel.  It is a little scary knowing that I have to have a pill to survive.  If the world runs out of thyroid medicine, my body will slowly shut down and die.  I think my doctor said it would take probably a couple of months for my body to shut down and die.  Sometimes I fantasize about stockpiling some emergency thyroid medicine in case a crazy dictator takes over and there is a shortage of medicine.  I think I watch too many crazy shows. 

 

How did I get thyroid cancer?  I have no idea how I got it but I have a few guesses.  I most certainly think is was environmental.  There is a link between high levels of radiation exposer but I have never been exposed to a high amount of radiation (that I know of.)

1)     My old dorm at USL.  My friend Olivia who lived in the same dorm as me also got thyroid cancer a few years ago.  She also lives in the Houston area and I go to her doctor at MD Anderson.  Someone told me about another girl from our dorm that also got thyroid cancer.  Corrin lived in our dorm and ended up having half of her thyroid removed last year.  Her growth on her thyroid was not cancerous but how do all of these young healthy women who know each other have these issues? Corrin met a nurse who had a daughter who ended up getting breast cancer, and two of her roommates from a college in Pennsylvania also ended up getting cancer (different kinds).  How do three healthy women that are 28 get cancer at the same time?
2)     Hormones injected in all of the food:  It is completely unnatural to inject animals with hormones.  Maybe me eating all of this meat from animals injected by hormones caused chaos in my own body’s hormonal system.

            

 
A few tips:

·       Go and have your thyroid scanned.  My thyroid levels and Corrin’s thyroid levels were normal when we had blood work done.   It is very easy for women to ask their obgyn to scan their necks at their yearly well women exams. 
 
·       Even if your blood work comes back normal, you may still have thyroid issues that need to be resolved.  Corrin got half of her thyroid removed.  A few months later she felt horrible (tired and just felt bad).  Her doctor said that if her levels came back normal, he would refer her to an endocrinologist that could do further tests to find the problem.  If you are always tired but your thyroid levels are normal, make an appointment with an endocrinologist to figure out what is wrong with you.  It is not normal to always feel bad and tired. 

·       Women ages 30-40 are the number one group of people with thyroid cancer.   
·       If you end of getting thyroid cancer, do no panic.  Some people do die from thyroid cancer (Roger Ebert) and they made a recent movie “The Fault in Our Stars” but most people don’t. 
·       Thyroid cancer does tend to come back in many cases so even if they tell you it is gone, it can come back a few years later.  If mine comes back, I will have the radiation. 

From the Mayo Clinic:
Thyroid cancer occurs in the cells of the thyroid — a butterfly-shaped gland located at the base of your neck, just below your Adam’s apple. Your thyroid produces hormones that regulate your heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature and weight.
Although thyroid cancer isn’t common in the United States, rates seem to be increasing. Doctors think this is because new technology is allowing them to find small thyroid cancers that may not have been found in the past.

From medicine.net
The cause of thyroid cancer is unknown, but certain risk factors have been identified and include a family history of goiter, exposure to high levels of radiation, and certain hereditary syndromes.


Bottom line- men and women- be proactive, get checked.  You have nothing to lose.  You have everything to gain by staying on top of your health!

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