My Thyroid Cancer Story

As a newly diagnosed, and recently cured, twenty five year old cancer survivor; I hope my story will help those fighting a similar battle.

THE RESULTS ARE IN!

Wow, I can’t believe I have left you all hanging for three months for the results of my tests in December. I’m sure you were just waiting on the edge of your seat for my post. ūüėČ

As you already know, in December, I had a scan following my diagnostic dose of I-131, in addition to some blood tests to check my levels. I am very excited to announce my scan came back COMPLETELY clear. This means, there was absolutely no detectable thyroid tissue or thyroid cancer cells anywhere in my body. (Probably the best Christmas gift I could have ever asked for)

So, after I got those results from my radiologist, I went to my oncologist to discuss my scan results, blood test results, and my prognosis. Of course after talking to my¬†radiologist¬†about my CLEAR scan, I expected my oncologist to come in the room hugging me saying “You are cancer free!” Well, I should have known from past experiences that Oncologists are not that warm and fuzzy. Instead she delivered my blood test results which showed my thyroglobulin anti-bodies were like 2 points from being in the “cancer-free” range, which is MINIMAL compared to how much it has gone down from my initial treatment. My Oncologist had absolutely no reason to believe it would not be in the cancer-free range by the time of my next blood test.

Basically, it’s safe to say I am cancer-free at this point assuming those levels have now dropped. I have more blood tests done this month, and will continue to have them every three months to ensure my levels stay where they should be.

My scar has healed tremendously. I just dab a bit of concealer on it every morning, and it’s hardly noticeable. Vitamin E is a wonderful thing. You know what else is awesome for healing scars? Coconut Oil. I never would have guessed that, but I am obsessed.

Image

So, yay! I can finally start feeling like a normal 24 year old law student. Once again, I could not have done this without my wonderful family and friends who have been through my side this entire journey. I am so blessed.

In other news, this winter has definitely outstayed it’s welcome. HURRY SPRING! I just want to put my winter coat and uggs away for good. Who’s with me?

Advertisements
2 Comments »

LID and Upcoming Scan

Low Iodine Diet, we meet again. 

I have a scan coming on Friday. December 20th. This is called an I-123 scan, which is basically a check up to see if there is any thyroid cancer left over from my initial radiation treatment 16 months ago. In order to get the most accurate results, I have to go on the low-iodine diet (LID) for 10 days prior to the scan. Unfortunately, this happens to coincide with law school exams week, so only being able to eat very limited foods will be rough.

Knowing this would be taking place during finals week, I decided to plan ahead. I found some decent looking LID recipes and went shopping for organic, salt-free foods for the 10 day period. My boyfriend helped me make all of the recipes last night… I am so lucky. ūüôā Anyway, I made chili mac, spaghetti sauce, pasta sauce, roasted nuts seasoned with cayenne and rosemary, homemade guacamole, and salsa. I’m hoping planning ahed will make the diet less miserable than last time.¬†

I am also getting Thyrogen injections in lieu of being off my synthroid and cytomel which is AWESOME. I wouldn’t be able to get through exams if I were exhausted.¬†

So, we shall see how everything goes. Please pray for good news. I will keep you all posted!

3 Comments »

My Advice…

It seems like every couple weeks lately, I learn of someone around my age facing a debilitating illness. For example, the other day I found out someone in my school has non-hongkins lymphoma and now has to undergo chemo and take at least a semester off law school. Another acquaintance of mine was just diagnosed with cervical and uterine cancer and also has to undergo at least 6 months of chemotherapy. Those are just to name a few people suffering who I have more recently became aware of. There are many others amongst us who prefer to not make their ailments known, whether they are embarrassed, scared, or maybe just a private person. 

My initial reaction when hearing about these people was to think about how unfair it was to face something so terrible at such a young age. How could they be handed such misfortunes? But then I realized through my own battle with thyroid cancer, that mentality doesn’t get you anywhere. Dwelling on things you will probably never understand just wears you down and makes you angry. instead of focusing on how unfair the situations handed to us can be, it is important to try and be positive. I’m not saying it’s not okay to be angry, I definitely think we all have a right to be angry about things like these. But, at some point you have to learn to channel the anger into positive thoughts or you will only start hurting yourself more.

Here are some ways that I have really learned to channel my anger into more constructive thoughts during my battle with cancer. Hopefully they will help you like they’ve helped me:

1. Be there for your friends. I can’t tell you how much my friends helped me get through my situation. Just a call or text goes a long way to show someone you care. This is also a really great way to tell who your true friends are. My best friend sat in my hospital room post-surgery for like 5 hours while I slept. I didn’t even know she was there until I woke up, and that didn’t even matter to her. This is a true friend guys. Don’t let them go.

2. Realize you’re not alone. Yea, it really sucks being in this position and feeling like not a single other person on the planet can relate. But, there is. And, in a way.. it makes you feel better knowing it’s not just you. So find these people, do some blog searches. Reach out to them! Connecting with other people with thyroid cancer has truly put me at ease. They totally get that my hands and feet are always cold, and that it takes me 100x longer than your average person who still has their thyroid to adjust to new temps.

3. Doctor’s are incredibly smart, but I think med school forgot to tell them how to be sympathetic. Most doctors deliver bad news in the worst way and leave gaps when explaining things to you. Ask questions! Don’t be afraid to ask them what the hell is going on with you, it is their job after all. You’re in this together, and no matter how apathetic your doctor may come off as, they still worry about you at night. The day I found out I had cancer, my doctor walked in the room and said “I have good news! …well I guess it’s not really good news, you have thyroid cancer” I’m not joking.

4. Whatever you do, get off of google. Google searches are where hopes go to die. If google could truly diagnose your problems and give you correct insight, doctors wouldn’t exist. And honestly, if I believed everything I read on google… I would have a new kind of life-threatening illnesses every day. STOP YOURSELF.

5. Don’t be afraid to cry. Come on, we have all watched those sappy love movies where you find yourself crying and it feels¬†surprisingly¬†good. We’ve also all experienced those times when we hold a much needed cry in for so long, that it eventually comes at the most inopportune time. So just get it out, a good cry can really make you feel a lot better. No one will judge you.¬†

6. Your parents are bigger babies than you are. Don’t let their fear control your emotions. I know, no matter how much they try to hide how scared they are… you can always see it. But, you are their baby and they want you to be okay. My mom still calls me every day when I have a cold to ask if I’m okay. I’ve also woken up on countless occasions to her staring at me while I sleep, and then letting me know she is glad everything is okay… creepy. So, let them be scared and don’t let it get to you.¬†

7. Don’t “live every day like it is your last.” I mean, yes you should embrace every day, and make sure everyone important to you knows how much you love them. But, for goodness sakes, do NOT think of it as your last day. Whoever decided “carpe diem” was a cool thing, it’s not.¬†

8. Listen to some Bob Marley, because everything is going to be alright. You may not think so, and it may not seem that way.. but at the end the day you are stronger than you were the day before. No matter what the future holds for us, right now.. everything will be alright.

I hope everyone has a good holiday, don’t forget to be thankful for everything you have been given. As always, thinking of you all! ūüôā

 

 

Leave a comment »

How Health Insurance Saved my Life

In light of the current government shutdown, and nationwide debate over Obamacare… I thought I would share my thoughts on healthcare.

I have a long laundry list of medical problems ranging from poor eyesight to thyroid cancer. I have had more x-rays and other forms of medical imaging done in my lifetime than I could ever even begin to count. I rely on daily medications to deal with my medical issues, currently averaging 7 pills a day. I wear contacts. I’ve had braces. And last, but not least, I’ve had 5 surgical procedures done.

So you do the math. Have you ever had a CT scan and seen the cost of a freaking scan that takes less than 5 mins? OUTRAGEOUS. What about a surgery that takes less than an hour to perform? Even more outrageous. The hospital bill alone is shocking enough to your¬†conscious, just IMAGINE the doctor’s bill. Braces cost the same amount as a whole semester or so of college.¬†

Chances are, if you are fortunate enough to have health insurance like me, you haven’t actually been billed for the obscene amount these medical services and supplies actually cost. But, what about all those people who aren’t as fortunate and don’t have medical insurance either because their job doesn’t offer it, or they can’t afford it, etc? What about those people who have had relatively good health their whole life and decide it’s a better deal to take their chances and not get it? Then what happens to these same people when they discover a lump on the side of their neck one day and go the emergency room only to be diagnosed with cancer which they have to begin treating immediately?

Well, if it were me in that case… I would have over $100,000 in medical expenses that I have no way of paying for. I didn’t ask for my medical problems, they just happened to me. They just happen to all of us when we least expect it, but is it fair that just because we didn’t expect it or we couldn’t afford health insurance that we should be in debt to treat our ailments? No, it’s not.¬†

I think a lot of people don’t realize how important health insurance truly is. Thanks to Obamacare, I can be on my parent’s health insurance until I am 26 so I can finish law school and get a job so I can afford my own healthcare. I can’t be denied coverage based on pre-existing conditions. Now that people are mandated to buy health insurance, they can do so at an affordable rate, and they won’t have to be in debt for unexpected medical problems… or even just regular check-ups for preventative care.¬†

So before you bash Obamacare, why don’t you at least take a moment to read the facts and understand the ways it helps you. And if you for some reason can’t figure out a way it directly helps you, put yourself in someone else’s shoes just for a moment and see how it changes their lives.

Leave a comment »

Putting Life into Persepctive

Sometimes it’s easy to be so focused on the present and forget to put things into perspective, which I often times find myself struggling to do. Some days I feel really great, like nothing can bring me down. Other days, I feel exhausted, like I could literally go back to bed an hour after I wake up and sleep all day long. But, these ups and downs are things I’ve learned to expect without having a thyroid helping me regulate my metabolism. I never know what kind of day it will be, I just hope for the best.

But, what I need to start remembering to do is really cherish the days I do feel good and not dwell on those that I don’t. ¬†There are people out there that don’t get to have those days. And in fact, I could be one of them if I wasn’t blessed in the ways I was. There are people out there that would kill for the ability to walk outside and enjoy the beautiful day, even if it means feeling a little drowsy.

My doctor emailed me the other day to talk to me about my follow-up scan in December, which requires me to be on the low-iodine diet again which I loathe so much. I was confused and annoyed, what do you mean follow-up scan? What is there to follow up? Oh yeah, I must have been so distracted by how well things have been going for me that I forgot that there is a chance this type of cancer can reoccur and therefore must be watched closely. Once again, not putting things into perspective. You can feel good in a minute, and feel like everything’s fine but I have to remember that can all change in a moment’s notice. So, this means doing things you absolutely hate because when you look at the big picture… it’s important. There are people out there who wish they could be in a position to just have a “follow-up” scan instead of continuing with weekly chemo treatments.

As hard as it may be sometimes be, we all need to take some time to look at the big picture and appreciate what we have, instead of getting bogged down on all the small aspects of our lives that are inconvenient. 

‚ÄúWhat we see depends mainly on what we look for.‚Ä̬†

2 Comments »

Be Your Own Ally

Almost a year ago exactly, my life completely changed. I had my complete thyroidectomy after being diagnosed with thyroid cancer. I remember waking up after surgery crying and telling my nurses that was the worst day of my life.

Now looking back, that day was probably the best day of my life. I’ll probably never have the energy level I once had and I’ll always have a 10 inch scar on my neck serving as a daily reminder. But that day made it possible for me to live a healthy life and the ability to continue pursuing my life goals.

Most importantly, that day, and this entire experience taught me how to be strong. I realized that dwelling on my own misfortune while others seemed to go about their lives so effortlessly only brought me down. I’m a firm believer that everything happens for a reason, and we wouldn’t be given these obstacles if we weren’t capable of handling them. So be strong and keep fighting even on days you feel your lowest and just want to give up.

Remember that you are who you are, and to be your own ally, rather than enemy.

3 Comments »

I’ll study for exams later…

Wow, it’s been a long time since I’ve posted an update on here. Naturally, I would think to do this now instead of studying for my last exam of 1L year.¬†

So, my health. I am doing really well. I just had my neck ultrasound and chest x-ray a few weeks ago, which came back negative for any abnormalities. I also got my blood tests done, which came back equally as satisfactorily. My scar is still healing pretty nicely too. My only complaint is that my synthroid medicine makes me feel worn down most days. My doctor brought my dose down a bit to help with the tiredness, so hopefully that will help me.

I have really been thinking lately about how incredibly lucky I am to have gone through such a life altering experience and be doing this well in just under a year. I owe it all to my excellent doctors who have been there for me every step of the way. I also couldn’t be more thankful of how supportive my family and friends have been through this experience. For those of you who have been through this, or are still going through this, you should know it does get better. Any time I feel down about going through this, I find peace in knowing that there are so many people you face every single day who could never be as strong as you are.¬†

Enough about my health. Let’s talk about school. Do I love law school yet? Love is a strong word. Do I think it will all be worth it one day? Possibly, we’ll see if I get a job when I’m done. But in all seriousness, I really do enjoy law school despite all the work. It’s really a challenge, but challenges are easier to overcome when you like what you are doing. I can’t believe I’m almost through my first year, the end is in sight! I just recently accepted a summer clerkship in Dayton. It’s only 10-15hrs a week, but hey I’ll take what I can get right now. Plus, I’ll have summer classes too. I’m looking forward to the experience.

This semester, I actually met this guy that I’ve now been dating for almost four months. His name is Matt. He’s really smart and so sweet to me all the time. He is one of the very few people I’ve told about this ordeal. I was reluctant to tell anyone when I came here because I knew it was a¬†competitive¬†environment, and I didn’t want anyone to view me as being weak or to judge me. When I told Matt, he didn’t judge me at all and comes to my doctor appointments with me and stuff now. It’s really sweet. I don’t feel as alone dealing with it when I’m away from all my friends and family. I am more comfortable talking about it now, but I still haven’t told hardly any of my friends here because I sort of feel like it’d be awkward to just randomly say “hey, I know we’ve been friends for the past eight months, but you know that giant scar on my neck? Yea, I wasn’t attacked by a shark.. I actually used to have cancer.” So, I have just kind of left that alone for now.

Image

Here is a picture of us at the Law School’s Barristers Ball

I just celebrated my 24th birthday the other day, in the library. I had a contracts final the next day. I’m¬†starting¬†to realize, the best birthdays are probably behind me now. Life isn’t as fun when you’re an adult. But luckily, my mom, dad, and sister came here and took me to dinner. It was nice to see them. I also got an apple TV (which I plan to spend a lot of time with when finals are over in the next few days). Pretty excited about that.

I guess I should probably get back to (start) studying for my last exam now. SUMMER IS ALMOST HERE! ūüôā

Thinking about everyone, and as always… please email me if you ever want to talk about the whole thyroid cancer experience, or even just about life in general. I’m always happy to hear from people. You’re always in my thoughts.¬†

3 Comments »

More Good News!

I spoke with my doctor today about the results of my blood tests last week. She said that my TSH level is 0.4, which is right where it needs to be. Also, the number “antibodies” my doctor was talking about in my prior test, has gone down as well. These are all really positive signs. Our hope is that this will continue to be the case, and that I can finally close this chapter in my life and move forward to the next.

2 Comments »

A New Year, New Beginning

 

 

Happy New Year Everyone!

In 2012 I opened and closed many chapters in my life. While, it has been a rough year at times, it was also a very memorable one. I graduated from Indiana University and also began my first semester of law school at the University of Dayton. 

Six months ago, when I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, I had to make the difficult decision of whether or not to begin law school. I am happy to now announce that I have not only passed my first semester of law school, but have also received my CT/Neck Ultrasound results indicating no signs of cancer leftover in my body. I could not be happier about these two accomplishments. It was a great end to 2012. 

I am still feeling really great and my scar is healing very well.

Image

 

I hope that everyone else entered the new year on a positive note as well. A note to all of those who have gone through or are still fighting thyroid cancer- keep your head up. It’s an uphill battle, but it does eventually get better. You are all in my thoughts. Please feel free to email me if you ever have any questions, I am more than happy to share my experience with you.¬†

1 Comment »

Life “post” cancer

It’s hard to believe that is has already been six months since I was diagnosed with cancer. It seems like it was only a month ago I had my radiation treatment, which was actually three months ago.

Not much has happened since I last posted about my progress. I started my synthroid dose at 150mcg after radiation, and remained at that dose for about six weeks when I had my blood test to check my thyroglobulin and TSH levels. My TSH was still not where my doctor would like it to be (under 1). The high TSH level caused me to have hypothyroidism symtoms, so I was really tired and gained a considerable amount of weight. Once my doctor received the blood results, she increased by synthroid dose to 200mcg to get my TSH level down to where she would like it. The point of having it so low is to make sure that if I do happen to have any leftover thyroid tissue, it is not stimulated by the TSH. She also noted that my thyroglobulin level was great, however, my thyroglobulin “antibodies” were high, which means we cannot rely on my thyroglobulin levels. From what I understand, my thyroglobulin level works as a “cancer marker,” so if ¬†it is low, then ordinarily I would be able to say I am officially “cured.” However, since I have a high number of antibodies (most likely from when the cancer was still in my body), we cannot rely on the thyroglobulin levels because we don’t know for sure whether it’s only low because the¬†antibodies¬†are fighting it off or not. But not to worry, this only means I have to rely on other tests to determine if the cancer is definitely gone. My doctor seems very confident that it is. However, I will have another PET/CT scan during my christmas break to confirm. So am I officially cancer free? I don’t know… but the chances are high in my favor. I’m beginning to realize in the realm of cancer and dealings with medical professionals, you rarely ever get definite answers. I will try my best to keep you posted on that.¬†

The good news is, I feel great. I am not overly tired anymore and I am back to my normal weight. Everyone told me it would be a year until I felt “normal” again, but it’s only six months in and I already do. I wish I could say the same for my scar. It seems to be very¬†temperamental¬† some days it is red and others it blends in with my skin pretty well. I would say overall though, it’s healing very well.. nothing a good concealer won’t cover. I feel really lucky to have had such a positive experience with my treatment.¬†

Law school is going very well too. I was really concerned about succeeding in school while also dealing with all of this, but I have been able to manage well. I have met so many great people here, who have been very supportive and helpful. It’s been really nice to channel all of my time and energy into school, and not dwell on having cancer. I think I made the right choice going forward with law school and beginning a new chapter in my life.¬†

Have a great Thanksgiving, I know I will definitely enjoy the break from school.

“Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome.”

3 Comments »