When you were first diagnosed with cancer, did you have many symptoms and how long did it take you to go see a doctor?
I was originally diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease while trying to become pregnant and going through fertility treatments. My doctor at the time had tested my thyroid and pointed out my condition. After finishing with fertility treatment, I realized I needed to see an Endocrinologist for continued care. It was at that time that my first doctor wanted to perform a routine baseline ultrasound of my thyroid. They had found some nodules that were then biopsied. It was concluded at that point that they were cancer.
As for having any symptoms, looking back I really didn’t have any that were significant. Besides weight gain and loss, dry skin and hair, I do know now that one tell tale sign of having a thyroid condition is the loss of your outer eyebrows believe it or not. One day my mom took a look at me and asked me, “What happened to your eyebrows? They used to be nice and full and shaped and now they were thin and half gone.”
I told her I didn’t know why but they had just stopped growing and thinned out so much. I know now after a lot of research and education that this is a symptom of thyroid issues. Had I had known I would have seen a doctor much sooner.
Can you offer any words of encouragement for patients who have been recently diagnosed with cancer?
Well, I will never forget the day I was diagnosed. My husband Frank and I were waiting in the doctors office for results, he assumed everything would be fine, but in my gut I knew it wasn’t. My first reaction, which I suppose for many people is to be expected, was complete shock, followed by a meltdown of crying and assuming the worst.
The word cancer only brings one thing to mind. However, once I collected myself emotionally I knew I had to start researching and asking a lot of questions. I wanted to know ALL of my options and make my decisions from that point. I am very fortunate that thyroid cancer is very treatable, and with good doctors and the love and support of family and friends I conquered it.
From my surgery to my treatment that followed there were days that were difficult and overwhelming, but overall I looked at it as a job that had to be done. This cancer was only an obstacle in the way of my life and so I treated it that way …just an obstacle.
Had you tried alternative treatments, other than what was initially prescribed to you?
The treatment I chose was conventional. I had a complete thyroidectomy followed by a radioactive iodine treatment ( RAI). However, At the time this was all going on there was a web series that came out called the truth about cancer. This series focused on a lot of non-conventional treatments for cancer and all of the benefits it had to offer. It was a hard decision after seeing that and being a big believer in alternative medicine, to continue on a conventional path. But I will say that when you know you have a cancer in your body at 46 years old and you have two children and a family, all you want is to have it removed as quickly as possible.
I don’t know if I could have let it stay inside of me and treat it holistically although I do believe those treatments can and do work. Following all of my treatments however I continued my research on how to live a new life style dealing with an autoimmune disease that ultimately caused my cancer.
There are many things to learn about thyroid conditions that are not discussed or addressed by conventional medical doctors. I wanted to understand why I had an autoimmune disease. The thyroid was just a symptom of some underlying cause, for me it routed back to leaky gut, inflammation, and gluten sensitivity. I began seeing an integrative medicine doctor in addition to my regular Endocrinologist, which I think gave me another perspective on living a healthy lifestyle. Another great web series that applied to Thyroid specifically was calked The Thyroid Secret. It’s a must see if you suffer with thyroid issues.
Was your treatment beneficial to you?
I can’t say whether my treatment was beneficial or not to be honest. I’ve seen other doctors since my radiation treatment that told me in their opinion they wouldn’t have done it, others told me it had to be done because my cancer was multifocal.
I don’t think I will ever know, but there is something to be said about peace of mind of having no cancer remain in your body. My concern is the long term effects on my body from having radiation I already have inflammation of my salivary glands as a side effect of the RAI, which is very painful.
Were you able to turn your cancer fight into something positive and if so what did you do?
I appreciate so much more in life after dealing with cancer including the love of my family and friends. My faith is that much stronger too. I want to help as many people as I can to understand Hashimoto’s disease by sharing my experience with them or people who know someone with the disease. I might not have opportunities to preach to crowds but I will tell my tale to people one by one in the hopes of raising awareness of Thyroid disease and Thyroid cancer.