My Thyroid Cancer Diagnosis and Treatment Timeline

I am a healthy woman who was diagnosed with thyroid cancer at 29. I do not smoke, drink alcohol rarely, avoid fast food, and exercise frequently.

Cancer is scary. While thyroid cancer is treatable it leaves us with completely new bodies. Nothing works like it used to, and trust me…that is frustrating.

I am writing about my experiences in a series of posts because I hope it can help somebody else who develops this condition.

One question I am always asked is “how did you discover you had  cancer?”  Well, that’s an interesting story.

People want to know how I found out I had a problem, so here’s my diagnosis and treatment timeline.

 

Late December 2012:

I went to the emergency room from work because I suddenly had pain with breathing. I called the nurse line and was told that because of my birth control I could be having a pulmonary embolism.

David was on the flight line, so I drove myself to the ER.

After several hours and many tests they discovered the real problem.

I had thyroid nodules/cysts that had gotten so large on the left side of my throat that that they had nowhere to swell too on my small frame, pushing the swelling into my lungs and throat.

Other symptoms that developed prior to this ER visit was a very pungent body odor. It wasn’t regular BO. It was worse than that. I actually blogged about it here.

Thyroid nodules are prevalent in my family, so I wasn’t too concerned.

I was released from the ER and told to schedule a referral to an endocrinologist.

February 2013:

More ultrasounds and tests in January.

By February I had the needle biopsy, but it was only done on the largest nodule. It came back clear and this doctor said he did some sort of DNA analysis on me and I am very low risk for cancer.

The swelling was controlled  over the months with an as-needed steroid medication.

We moved to Japan in November 2013.

January 2014:

The doctors here in Japan noticed that I had not had a followup since last year and made me go through the tests again.

I really wasn’t trilled about it, but went ahead with it.

The ultrasound showed the left nodule had grown quite a bit, and had visible black spots.

I had another needle biopsy, and it came back clear.

However, I was urged to consider tissue biopsy, so I did.

My nose was broken when I was 5 years old. During the consultation for my thyroid the doctor noted that he could also fix my nose.

The same doctor would perform a septoplasty, but he got military orders to move later this summer. This meant he would not be able to do my nose work unless we acted fast.

I asked him to do both the thyroid lobectomy and the septoplasty at the same time because I really felt he was the best surgeon for the work.

May 2014:

He agreed, and I had both procedures done May 28, 2014.

Strangely I had no symptoms (other than the swelling in my throat) until about 2 weeks before my surgery date.

I started having trouble waking up and getting moving. I started feeling the need to take naps, and I started feeling very unusual- not like myself.

The tumor that was removed was a little over an inch long and had big black spots.

The tissue biopsy results revealed stage i thyroid cancer- papillary with a follicular variant. The tumor was t2 in size.

June 2014:

I had the second surgery to remove my other thyroid on June 30th. The masses on the right side that were removed also had possible spots.

July 2014:

Despite the spots, the right side had no cancer.

August/September 2014:

Received a small dose of radioactive iodine at an Army hospital in Hawaii. This should have destroyed any remaining thyroid cells that were left in my body.

I will have regular blood work and yearly body scans to check for cancer. The radioactive iodine treatment does increase my risk of getting other types of cancer, but at the moment I am all clear.

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5 thoughts on “My Thyroid Cancer Diagnosis and Treatment Timeline

  1. Pingback: My Time on NHK World’s Cool Japan | angela schnabel

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  3. Thanks for sharing your timeline. My son was just diagnosed with thyroid cancer and it’s comforting to get an idea of what he may go through. He was just admitted to the hospital yesterday. Thank goodness for good doctors and hospitals! I’m glad you made it out okay!

    • Hi, Arthur. Thank you very much for reading and for sharing what’s going on with your son. I’m going to be honest with you…he has a difficult road ahead, but it is manageable.

      I will be 4 years post cancer this June and I have only just now started to feel “normal” again starting around Nov 2017.

      His whole life is about to change forever, and that can be difficult to deal with… so I wanted to prepare you for that, as well, as a a caregiver/supporter.

      My best advice is to arm yourselves with information. One great resource is Reddit. I recommend the cancer subreddit https://www.reddit.com/r/cancer/ and the hypothryoidism subreddit.

      If he has both thyroid lobes removed he’ll be “hyperthyroid” by medication for the first year or so to suppress any remaining thyroid cells but “hypothyroid” by nature due to physically having no thyroid. That subreddit is here: https://www.reddit.com/r/Hypothyroidism/

      Both of those sites have been really helpful to me as I’ve navigated this experience.

      Wishing him all the best!

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