“Thyroid cancer, isn’t that the good cancer?”
The good cancer?
Who wouldn’t want there to be a good cancer? It’s human, and often very well-meaning, to want to put a positive spin on the undeniable bad news that is a cancer diagnosis; however, the stark reality is that there is no good cancer and just hearing the term “good cancer” creates a frustrating dissonance in those of us who live with the realities of thyroid cancer.
How thyroid cancer became known as “the cancer you want if you have to get cancer” is beyond me and beyond all of us in the thyroid cancer support network. There is not one kind of thyroid cancer with one kind of treatment and one likely treatment outcome. Thyroid cancer is like every other cancer in that it has a wide range of cell types, stages, risk levels, potential or already embedded metastases, lymph spread and cell variants. A thyroid cancer diagnosis will not place you in a cookie cutter treatment protocol. There is no single template by which a person is treated for thyroid cancer; treatment is based upon a complex assessment of all of the above.
Types of thyroid cancer include:
Papillary (with or without variants)
Follicular (with or without cell variants)
While it is true that some thyroid cancers caught early, staged low and with no metastases can be treated surgically and leave a person with good chance of having no reoccurrance or metastases for the first 5 years post treatment; many thyroid cancers do not fall into this category. Most people with thyroid cancer endure a type of radiation therapy called RAI (radioactive iodine in which millicuries of radiation are swallowed in a pill) and many go on to face multiple surgeries, more radiation, and chemotherapy. A good number of people who are diagnosed with thyroid cancer are dealing with aggressive variants. I know many people from the thyroid cancer support networks who are valiantly trying to educate and advocate while in the midst of exhausting and aggressive treatment.
We are fortunate to have thyroid replacement drugs to keep our endocrine system going, and, quite frankly, to keep us alive; however, despite our dedicated physicians best efforts to titrate our biochemistry we are missing something vital. A pill is a poor substitute for the real deal. The importance of the thyroid gland to the whole of the human body is not to be underestimated. What is missing from our bodies may not be visible from the outside but we feel it’s absence and we live with the consequences.
We are altered. We live with losses.
Here is some of what we live with:
We have what I have come to call the “dubious honor” of feeling both hyper and hypo simultaneously. Exhausted yet unable to sleep. Suddenly cold and unable to warm our bodies or conversely hot and unable to cool down. While we are in the phase of post surgical (thyroidectomy- often with lymph removal) treatment called suppressive therapy, we may feel like we’ve pillaged the Starbucks inventory only to be overwhelmed by sudden and profound drops in our energy levels. In this suppression therapy period of treatment we are placed on a therapeutic high does of medication to suppress the spread of remaining cancerous cells. Often our voices can remain permanently altered and strained due to our surgeries and scar tissue. Many of us live with mild to sometimes severe choking sensations because the internal architecture of our necks is altered. We often have limitations in how we can move our necks. Pain in our neck, jaw and throat. Damage to our salivary glands. Possible heart damage. Joint and bone pain which can be quite severe. Brain fog when are levels are off. Chronic insomnia. A lifetime of medical tests, possible invasive procedures and the anxieties that are associated with any cancer. There are numerous side effects from the RAI (radioactive iodine) that we swallow. Swallowing radiation is awful. (Worst nausea of my life after the anti –nausea pill wore off.) Preparing one’s body for RAI by stopping your thyroid medications and becoming extremely hypothyroid, or taking injections all while on a very strict low iodine diet is to experience a level of fatigue that is downright scary. To put it bluntly: The body starts to shut down. And, if that isn’t bad enough, there is the literal isolation one has to adhere to after swallowing RAI. You are toxic, emitting radiation and can’t hug, be hugged or simply touch another for several days. At a time when you are under extreme duress, you must vigilantly keep yourself apart from your loved ones so you don’t infect them with radiation. We learn to live with a lifetime of tests, scans, blood work and medication adjustments. People who are being treated for late stage and pervasive metastatic thyroid cancers are enduring multiples surgeries, multiple radiation treatments and rounds of chemotherapy.
The good cancer?
All cancers need our attention and thyroid cancer patients should never get the message that they are dealing with a puppy when their reality is more akin to staving off an attack dog.
I’m not a victim of cancer. I live with the results of a cancer that strengthened my spirit more than it kicked my butt- and it most certainly kicked my butt. The above is a list of some of the difficulties that those of us with thyroid cancer live with, it is not a list of complaints- it’s bare truth.
I’ve always been a relatively optimistic person. My love and extreme gratitude for this life has spiked to become deeper, sharper and more immediate; however, being grateful, and fiercely in love with life doesn’t mitigate the losses and challenges that thyroid cancer has placed into my daily life.
September is Thyroid Cancer Awareness Month and since ALL cancers need research, funds and attention, I am asking you to consider donating your time, energy or however many dollars you can spare, towards this cause that is both dear to my heart and woven into my life. ~~ Donna Sherman
Please visit the first post on this home page titled: YOGA FUNDRAISER FOR THYROID CANCER scheduled for March 14th, 2015. It’s going to be a lot of fun, good for you and every penny goes directly to a non-profit organization that helps survivors of thyroid cancers. Contact me and I’ll walk you through getting signed up. Tax deductible donation for event 25.00.
Thank you for taking the time to read this. Feel free to share it. If you want to comment please do. ~~ Donna
Here’s how you can help:
ThyCa: Thyroid Caner Survivors Association, Inc. http://www.thyca.org
Light of Light Foundation: http://lightoflifefoundation.org