And so it began….
…with butterflies. I know that sounds crazy but it is true. By the end of the story it will all make sense. I have always believed that life, G-d, the universe, whatever you want to call it, sends you signs. When you first receive the signs, you likely don’t know they are signs. When you look back, you may realize they were signs but you must start your journey before you get to that point. When I first received my signs of what was to come, I, of course, didn’t realize what was coming down the road for me.
My first sign came to me in December 2006. My husband and I bought a business that had a butterfly logo. I was never really a butterfly girl…I mean, I like them enough but they just were not my “thing”. My husband and I actually never really cared for our butterfly logo and even had talked about eventually changing it but never did. To this day our business logo remains the butterfly and I am fairly confident we will not be getting rid of it 😉
I didn’t receive another sign, at least I don’t remember any, until October 2008. My family and I were on vacation on Maui and we were strolling along a beach when my son pointed out a butterfly on the sand. This butterfly was so beautiful and I could tell it was taking its last breaths. It didn’t try to fly away and I was able to get some pictures of it. Again, I didn’t realize how significant it would be to me until about a month later. A few days later, on that same vacation, we found a quaint little boutique in the middle of nowhere called Wings. The shop had one of a kind merchandise all handmade by the owners. I found a necklace in the shape of a butterfly wing that for some reason really called to me. I felt the need to own it and while it was expensive, I knew I would never see anything like it again. Needless to say, I bought the necklace again not seeing the significance in the necklace or the name of the store from which it came.
About 3 weeks later, my kids were in the backyard and they pointed out to me another butterfly sitting on our fence. It looked just like the butterfly we had seen on the beach in Hawaii and we were surprised to see it sitting there so calmly. The kids got close and it never tried to fly away; fully content to let us study it. I now was close to realizing what the butterflies were trying to tell me.
A few days later I went to my doctor for a routine checkup. My doctor suggested that I have my yearly physical which required a blood draw. At this point I asked her to check me for Valley Fever (an infection that many people who live in Arizona get) as I was having some small symptoms…a small cough, a hint of a sore throat that occurred in the mornings, and a hoarse voice. She listened to my lungs and felt my neck at which point she looked concerned. She told me that she felt a mass in my neck and thought I should go for an ultra sound. She told me not to worry and sent me on my way. I was able to get in for my ultra sound quickly and a few days later my results came back saying I had three nodules on my thyroid and called it a Multi-nodular Goiter. Of course, I looked up all the information on the internet and everything I read led me to believe this was going to be nothing and that the chances of it being cancer were very small. My doctor still thought I should see an Endocrinologist and that is promptly what I did.
On November 4, 2008 I had my first round of biopsies. I will never forget that day as it was Election Day. I had 9 needles stuck into my neck and I must say, that was the worst part of it for me. About a week later, my endo called me on my cell phone to tell me I was positive for Papillary Carcinoma. I couldn’t believe it. That wasn’t supposed to happen…the chances were so small. I barely heard what he said other than he wanted me back for another round of biopsies to see if it had spread…SPREAD????? Where??
The next round of biopsies were on my lymph nodes. They came back negative which I would find out later were wrong. I had my Thyroid removed along with 25+ lymph nodes on November 19, 2008. I had a wonderful surgeon who after surgery advised me that my cancer was more advanced than they originally thought. He estimated I have had my cancer for 10-15 years. He said he thought he got most of it…most of it, but not all of it. One of my tumors grew onto my vocal nerve and he said he scraped it the best he could but had put clips on the nerve so that they could monitor it for cell growth and possibly do target beam radiation. My surgeon and my endocrinologist both thought going to MD Anderson in Houston, Texas would be a good idea for me. It is one of the best places in the world for more complex cases of Thyroid Cancer and again, I was one of the “lucky” ones!
I went to MD Anderson in December a week before christmas. My new surgeon there is wonderful and has a great reputation. He also works closely with my Endo here in Phoenix so that is definitely a plus. He had me go through a full days worth of tests and advised me that I would need to wait about six months before I would be able to have my next surgery to remove the rest of the cancerous lymph nodes. That puts me at mid June. In the meantime, I have had one round of RAI (Radioactive Isotope-my cancer’s form of radiation) and one body scan that was clean except for my neck. So far, no spread to any other part of my body and I hope it stays that way!
As for the butterfly signs…I now see why they were so significant for me. The Thyroid is known as the butterfly gland. I put one of those signs on my neck…a butterfly tattoo with a Thyroid cancer ribbon as the body. I will never forget what the butterflies mean to me and will always have my butterfly with me forever more.