Summer is almost over. (frown) The back to school bug is in the air.  September is just around the corner.  You know what that means? Yep. You got it.  Thyroid Cancer Awareness month is almost here.  So I’m taking a moment to be proactive and get this virtual pep rally going!

Let me start by giving you some of the history behind Thyroid Cancer Awareness month.  According to the Thyroid Cancer Survivors’ Association (ThyCa), “Thyroid Cancer Awareness Month is a worldwide observance, sponsored and initiated by ThyCa: Thyroid Cancer Survivors’ Association. It began in 2000, as a week in September. In 2003, it expanded to the whole month of September…Thyroid Cancer Awareness Month promotes thyroid cancer awareness for early detection, as well as care based on expert standards, and increased research to achieve cures for all thyroid cancer. People and organizations in 55 countries around the world take part.

As a thyroid cancer survivor, I am on a mission to spread awareness and do my part to help others.  This blog gets the word out about thyroid cancer, cancer survivorship and more.   Are you playing a part to spread awareness?  If you need some tips, take a look at ThyCa’s 10 Tips on How to Help.

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1/29/10

One of my goals the past few months has been to write a “Dear Thyroid” letter and submit it to the Dear Thyroid site.  I finally wrote the letter!! Yay!! I’m so excited for you to read it.  I found it quite therapeutic to write.

I posted my Dear Thyroid letter called “RIP my Thyroid, August 1973 – January 2009” on my blog this week, but I had to take it down. Why? Well after posting it on my blog,  I found out that Dear Thyroid will only publish original content.  (Ok, I get it. Rules are rules!)  I do admit, I did not read all the requirements set by Dear Thyroid before submitting my letter. So I have learned my lesson 🙂

I will post the link to my letter on the Dear Thyroid site as soon as they post it. Stay tuned for details…

3/10/10 UPDATE :  Dear Thyroid still has not posted my Dear Thyroid post so I might post the letter on my blog after all. Stay tuned!

3/22/10 UPDATE TO UPDATE: Dear Thyroid posted my Dear Thyroid letter today!!! WooHoo!! Please take a looksy at http://dearthyroid.org/rip-my-thyroid/and share your comments.  Thank you in advance 🙂

Thanks!

 

Dear Thyroid posted my letter to my thyroid on their site at http://dearthyroid.org/rip-my-thyroid/ and I encourage you to take a visit over to see it.  Below is the beginning of my Dear Thyroid letter…

Dear Thyroid,

It’s hard to believe that a year has gone by without you regulating my metabolism, hormones, body temperature and energy level.  You were a good gland and did the best that you could do with the hand you were dealt.  We spent over 35 years together, yet I never knew you until …(To read the rest, go to http://dearthyroid.org/rip-my-thyroid/)

Since my papillary thyroid cancer diagnosis over a year ago, I have been on a mission to learn as much as I can about it.  It has also become important to me to spread awareness and help others that have been diagnosed or survived cancer.  I’ve noticed that the mainstream media often covers the “popular” cancers, but I haven’t heard anything about thyroid cancer.  So I was very happy to hear that NBC Nightly News was going to do a segment on the increase of thyroid cancer in women.

I watched the segment and thought it was interesting to hear some of the statistics.  This year more than 27,000 women will be diagnosed with thyroid cancer and 10,000 men.  The incidences in women have been increasing by an astounding 6.3% per year.

They made mention that the cause of thyroid cancer is still a major medical mystery and why women are more susceptible than men is still unknown. Scientists have long known that radiation can be a cause of thyroid cancer.  Studies last week found that CT Scans can give off more radiation than doctors are even aware of. (Well that’s extremely upsetting to learn.)

Before I go on and on, here is the actual NBC Nightly News segment on thyroid cancer in women http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/3032619/#34516179.  I welcome you to review it and leave a comment.

The good news is that the increase in thyroid cancer is getting noticed and in turn the public is hearing about it more and more.  So awareness is spreading and that is hopefully going to cause someone who found a nodule in their neck go to the doctor sooner than later to get it checked.

On January 29, 2009, I had my thyroidectomy.  Before I went in for surgery, the doctor was not able to tell me if he was going to do a partial or total thyroidectomy because they were not sure if it had spread.  So the plan was to send part of my thyroid over for testing while I was still under.  If the results came back that it was cancer, they would remove the rest.  I knew in my gut that they would end up taking out my entire thyroid. 

Most of my fear was not because of the surgery or even the cancer.  I felt alright about both because I knew that it was what needed to be done and that I would be alright.  My fear went deeper into thoughts about having to take pain medicine after the surgery.  I am a recovering addict and at that time had a little over 4 years and 9 months clean.  I had heard so many people share in meetings about how they had lost years of clean time because they had a surgery and started to abuse the pain medicine.  This was one of my greatest fears.  But I got through it.  I had a great support system of friends and family that knew about my concern.  The doctor was aware that I was a recovering addict as well.  So when I stayed at the hospital the night after my surgery, they offered me pain medicine.  I wasn’t in too much pain and didn’t take it.  The next day my doctor wrote me a prescription for pain meds and I tore it up.  I paid the price the following couple of nights when the pain woke me up over and over.  I managed to get through those times without the pain medicine.  Looking back now, I needed to take it at night.  If I have surgery again and am in a lot of pain, I will take the pain medicine.  I will not put myself through that pain again. 

Here I am 8 months later and my scar is barely noticable on my neck from the thyroidectomy.  My speaking voice is back to normal, but my singing and cheering voice is still damaged.  But the cancer is gone and I am still clean with almost five and a half years.  Miracles do happen!

1 day at a time

 

Growing up, going to the doctor for our annual physical exam was taken seriously in my family.  Besides having high cholesterol, I was a healthy kid.  As I got older, I remember my doctor making comments about how my neck looked a little thick.  It seemed to change a bit in size and looked puffy in the front at times.  Dr. Malinow always checked my thyroid levels as part of the lab work during my physicals and it always came back normal.  But every year when I went back, Dr. Malinow made sure my thyroid levels were added to the lab work.  He used to say that he would rather be safe than sorry. 

In 1999, Even though the lab work came back normal, Dr. Malinow went with his intuition once again.  But this time he sent me for a thyroid sonogram.  When the results came back, there was a very small nodule on my thyroid.  Thyroid Nodule 1999 It is very common to have nodules in the thyroid and based on the shape and what he could see there was no need to do anything more than watch it.  So every few years, Dr. Malinow sent me back for a thyroid sonogram “just to be safe.”  Each time it came back and the nodule was the same size and shape.  

In 2007 after the thyroid sonogram results came back Dr. Malinow noticed a change in the shape of the nodule.  It was probably nothing, but he wanted to be “safe instead of sorry” and recommended that I go see an Endocrinologist.  I took his advice and didn’t think anything of it. 

It took about three months before the Endrocrinologist has an appointment available.  So I went on living my life and totally forgot about the nodule.  It wasn’t until a few months later when I was in the office of my new Endocrinologist, Dr. Madoff that I gave it any thought. 

Dr. Madoff looked over the thyroid sonogram and compared the notes to the notes from the previous years.  Then he said that he wanted me to go have a fine needle aspiration biopsy.  I thought, “What? Did he just say BIOPSY?!!”  I must have looked like a deer frozen by headlights.  Time slowed down.  He continued talking but I couldn’t hear anything.  I just saw his lips moving.  I kept thinking, “Biopsy goes with CANCER!!!  Do I have cancer?!!! What is going on here? Did he say biopsy?”  Then I took a deep breath.

I calmed down enough to ask him for more information about the nodule and the biopsy procedure.  He assured me that 95% of all nodules are non-malignant. That made me feel better.  But deep down in my gut, I knew that I was going to be in the 5% category.  Call it thyroid intuition, but I knew that it was cancer.  This was one thing that I did not want to be right about at all.