All thyroid cancer survivors become fighters during their journey. But my thyroid cancer story starts with a long fight to be diagnosed. I have always been a healthy, active person. I never even get the flu. If I put on a few pounds, I could easily sweat it off at the gym. In February 2010, that all changed. I had just finished nursing my six month old daughter, and I was all excited to finally lose the baby weight and get back into my skinny clothes. But instead, I started putting on weight. I was tired, my hair was falling out, my legs hurt all the time … I just wasn't myself. My nanny told me about her postpartum thyroid issues, and I made a doctor’s appointment to check it out.
Over the next 16 months, I saw five different doctors. I was diagnosed with depression, Vitamin D deficiency, Vitamin B12 deficiency, weight obsession, body image issues, chronic fatigue syndrome, sleep apnea and outright hypochondria. Each time I pressed the issue of my enlarged thyroid, and each time I was brushed off. Sure, I had thyroid nodules, but so do 25 percent of the people in the United States. I worked as a pharmaceutical sales representative for seven years, so I am an excellent researcher and can interpret clinical data with one hand tied behind my back. I refused to accept that I was just crazy. All of my symptoms lined up perfectly with hypothyroidism. But doctors would not listen because my TSH was “normal.”
Finally, I saw a holistic doctor. She recommended I take an iodine supplement, as well as a supplement that contained a small amount of porcine thyroid gland powder. I felt instantly better. I lost 11 pounds effortlessly. I felt normal.
In May 2011, I had my regular bloodwork with my primary care doctor. My iodine and thyroid supplements skewed the bloodwork into hyperthyroidism. Finally, my doctor believed I had a thyroid problem, but she was very wrong about what the problem was. Nonetheless, the skewed bloodwork prompted a radioactive iodine uptake scan, which I had been begging for all along. The scan showed a cold nodule in my lower right lobe … 9 mm in size. A week later, I had a fine needle aspiration biopsy. And it HURT. BAD.
A few days later, I received my diagnosis along with this condescending gem: “You have papillary thyroid cancer. If you had to get cancer, this is the best one to get.” I've heard that one at least 50 times since. My doctor recommended a general surgeon for my thyroidectomy, and she mentioned radiation. Since I had spent one and a half years researching, I knew that was a terrible recommendation. As soon as I got off the phone, I got an appointment with an endocrine surgeon at the best university hospital in my state, and I began actively searching for a good endocrinologist within that same hospital system.
My total thyroidectomy was virtually painless. I was home within 24 hours, and only had a small piece of tape covering my 2 inch incision. My cancer was contained to the 9 mm nodule, so my endocrinologist concurred with the latest American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists Guidelines that I could forego radiation therapy. I fought and waited a full year before I had my full body scan to ensure that I could get Thyrogen injections as opposed to getting off of my thyroid medication and dealing with the awful hypothyroid