As long as I can remember, Google told me I had cancer. Headache? Cancer! Sore throat? Cancer! Needless to say, I stopped googling my symptoms as much as my curiosity would allow since it seemed to never be that serious. Meanwhile, I’ve been battling auto immune issues for the past few years and consistently felt tired, among other things. Hoping that the exhaustion would go away after I finished my bachelors, I was disappointed to find out that wasn’t the case. On the weekends, I could, and still do, sleep 12-14 hours to just feel normal again.
Back in November, I flew to the east coast for a week. I felt fine, good even, as I walked around New York City with coworkers and went hiking with my boyfriend on the Appalachian Trail. Sure I slept when I could (boyfriend let me sleep for 15 hours one day) but I felt like my exhaustion had finally gone away.
The next week, I found myself knocked out with what seemed like a random cold. I’ve had problems with my ears my whole life so when I had ear pain, I made sure to make an appointment with my physician. Spending Thanksgiving in Texas with my boyfriend and in laws did not sound like a pleasant time when I had a busted ear drum from flying which has happened before. After being diagnosed with a sinus infection and not seeing anything in my ears, my doctor examined my lymph nodes in my throat and was alarmed when she found two huge masses. Actually, to be honest, she said, “OH MY GOD DO YOU FEEL THOSE?!?!” and I burst into tears.
I can’t explain how I knew, then, I had cancer but I did. I was just unsure what type I had. Perhaps it was her reaction which she later apologized for, my constant googling of symptoms or just feeling exhausted all of the time but I knew. Chalk it up to intuition.
The next four weeks were an insane blur, trying to find out what was wrong with me. An ultrasound led to a CT Scan, which led to an ENT, which led to a biopsy, which led to an official diagnosis ( although three people had already said it was probably cancer) and then I had my consult with a surgeon who referred me to his partner. I cried everyday to my boyfriend who got used to talking to me about dinner one second and then watching me have a breakdown the next. Although I have to give props to everyone in my life, the real MVP is him, moving in for a month and a half and taking care of me when I needed it the most.
Cancer is rough. Not only are you ever prepared for it mentally, you aren’t prepare for the logistics either. My papillary thyroid cancer had spread so significantly, I needed an open neck dissection instead of a thyroidectomy. DO NOT GOOGLE IT. Along with more recovery time, I had a longer surgery and one tumor needed to be chiseled out due to it’s size and location. Basically, I had a golf ball lodged in between my artery and jugular vein. I had an amazing surgeon but he was expensive and wouldn’t operate until he had $2,000 down. No payment plans here.
After surgery comes radiation. That is in two weeks and I am busy preparing now by not eating any salt, dairy, red dye 40 and basically anything fun because I already don’t eat gluten due to auto-immune issues. Radiation is confusing in itself because it’s administered in a pill form and then I’m radioactive at home for a few days, isolated with the BF leaving snacks at the door.
Between worrying about my diet, radiation, medical bills and adjusting to a new life without a thyroid, an organ that does SOOOOO much, I’m exhausted. Some days I cry and can’t get out of bed. And then some days, I feel lucky that I have thyroid cancer and not something else. I feel grateful for all the support I’ve received from so many, from a fundraiser a friend did online to people buying me scarfs and bringing me food. I feel blessed I have good doctors, my cat and a partner who has done so much for me.
It’s a long journey with many ups and downs but a journey nonetheless.