So when I was 15 years old (I’m turning 25 this year), I woke up with a huge lump in my neck. I approach my mother and ask her what is wrong with me. She immediately proceeds to freak out and tells me that she is taking me to the doctor asap. I’m like, sweet, I get to miss school. I missed school for two days, saw three doctors, and had enough needles poke my veins to look like a drug addict. That was not fun. I ended up having an issue with my thyroid. There are two types of thyroid, hypothyroid (underactive) and hyperthyroid (overactive). You can learn more on http://www.medicinenet.com/thyroid/focus.htm.
I was prescribed Synthroid and have been on it ever since. Now there is a whole downside to having a problem with your thyroid. Weight Gain, dry skin, depression, cold intolerance, fatigue, and the list goes on.
I graduated college in December 2009 and my insurance kicked me off. So until I got married in August 2010, I had no medical insurance. In late spring 2011, I noticed that after a couple minutes of talking, my throat got very dry and it hurt. It was like having a sore throat during a cold. So I did what any Russian will do, I drank hot tea with lemon. It seemed to do the job for the first couple of days, then not so much. I made an appointment with my doctor. Went through the ritual, blood test, sonogram of the neck, and waited a few days for the results. My doctor, in his most concerned and stern like voice said, your test results are not good, you need to go see a specialist, you might have cancer. Well crap. I made an appointment for a biopsy. Turns out, getting a biopsy kinda, sorta hurts. See, the doctor kept sticking me in the neck with a little need and then he would poke and prod the needle around in my neck withdrawing bits of the growths in my neck. This was done in six different locations in my neck. I was then told to wait a week for the results. Since I know that shit rolls downhill, and I am always at the bottom of that god foresaken hill, I expected the worst. All this was done at the Beth Israel Medical Center @ Union Square in NYC.
I am not a negative person. I am just positive that bad things happen.
I got a call from a secretary and was advised to make an appointment to come in and speak with the doctor. Of course, I already know what that means. I meet with the doctor, the next day, to be told that I do, in fact, have cancer. The good news was that I had the most common and curable type of thyroid cancer, Papillary Thyroid Cancer. This was sometime in med May 2011. According to the biopsy, not only was my whole thyroid to be removed, but because the cancer spread to my lymph nodes, 22 Lymph Nodes are to be removed as well. The doctor went throught the whole procedure, explaining what he was going to do during the surgery and what was to be expected (possible loss of feeling, numbness, etc). I said okay, let’s schedule the surgery. The doctor, or my future sureon, looked at me, perplexed, and said, “you seem very calm about this.” I told him that I really didn’t see a reason to cry over it. That it didn’t seem like a big deal. He must have thought I didn’t understand the conversation that just took place because he looked as if he was still waiting for some type of “oh my god, I have cancer” repsonse. That response never happened. I wonder if I burst his bubble.
My surgery was scheduled for June 17, 2011 at Beth Israel Hospital in NYC. My parents, sister, Husband and in-laws were there to support me. I had to change into scrubs, a johnny, and put on a robe. I was led into the surgery room. It was ICE COLD in there. I immediately started to shake uncontrollably from the freezing temperatures. I was laid down on a table, that I felt like it remebled a cross and I was to be nailed to it. Very Jesus Christ Moment. The staff strapped me down to the table, very loony bin/mental patient type of moment, and put on of those electric heated covers over me to keep me warm.
The anesthesiologist said that he was going to inject me with a “calming” drug to relax me and ready me for the anesthesia. As soon as it hit my veins, my veins exploded and I thought that my hand was on fire. The last words to leave my mouth were “my hand is on fire.” I opened my eyes to my husband and my mother by my side. I was very groggy, but I do remember sternly instructing my husband to take a picture. I started to have an issue with breathing. I felt as though I had something stuck in my throat. I started to hear the machines beep very fast. Then the nurse said I was getting too excited and told my husband and mom to leave. I wanted to protest and tell her that I have something in my stuck in throat, but I passed out. I was in and out of consciousness while I was being wheeled into my room.
I woke up again to a room of family and friends and saw a three foot stuffed kangaroo from F.A.O. Schwartz. I saw him three years before in the store and named him La Roo. He was almost $400, so he was unable to go home with me. I was very happy to see La Roo at the hospital. He was a nice wake up gift (special thanks to the people who got La Roo for me. You know who you are).
Anyways, the stay at the hospital was fairly short. I spent two nights there. The staff was nice and they made sure I was comfortable. It was very hard for me to eat. I was not able to move my neck. I had two drains hanging off my neck to collect excess fluid. My neck was swollen and bruised. My hands were swollen and bruised from the I.V.’s. I had a hard time sleeping because I was stuck in one position. So in return, I was loaded with some morphine. That knocked me out cold. The last day, the nurse removed the drains from my neck. It was the wierdest feeling. I felt something tingling in my neck as the drains were pulled out. They were about 2-3 inches in length. It was yucky. My neck was held together with surgical tape. I had stitches in the inside.
After I was released from the hospital, I came home. I got to stay home for two weeks. The wrost part of this experience was trying to sleep. I couldn’t. The most I got was about two hours of sleep a night. Since I could not move my neck at all, I was stuck in one position. It looked like I was in a coffin, the dead position. My arms and legs fell asleep and I would wake up from pain radiatiing from my neck to my toes. The pain wasn’t extreme, but it was annoying as hell considering I was so SLEEPY. If I were standing or sitting, I would have to turn my upper body in order to look in another direction.
About a week after coming home, I was able to start moving my neck a little. That made everything so much more tolerable.
About two months after the surgery, I had do a radiation treatment (radioactive iodine). More info can be found at: http://www.cancer.org/Cancer/ThyroidCancer/DetailedGuide/thyroid-cancer-treating-radioactive-iodine and http://www.cumc.columbia.edu/dept/thyroid/raiprep.html.
So before a person takes something that is radioactive, you are given a little informative session. You have to isolated yourself from the household. Ahhh, thoughts of seclusion do make me giddy. Drink lots of water to flush the radiation out of your system and make sure you wash all clothing worn and bedding used in a seprate wash. As the radioactive iodine pill dries out your mouth, get some candy to suck on to produce saliva. Also, If you are planning on traveling, make sure to come back and get a note from me. I asked the doc why I would need a note.
His response: “Well, because if you go into an airport, you’ll eventually go off and security will think you’re carrying a dirty bomb.” WTF?? Really? Another pile of crap to add to the never ending shit list.
Now the conversation that takes place next I found funny. Here it is:
The doctor: “How are you getting home?”
Me: “Public transportation, the train.”
The doctor: “This is very important. I need you to follow the instructions carefully. If you are taking the train home, you have to make sure to be in the corner at least six feet away from everyone.”
Me: “ok, I’ll do my best.” (Please note that this was said with some sarcasm. For anyone who has taken the subway in the five boroughs, it is impossible to sit six feet away from another passenger on the train unless you are riding at 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6 in the morning.)
I entered a little bio-hazard like room, popped the pill in my mouth and left. With the radiation coursing through my body, I made my way to the pharmacy across the street, bought some candy to suck on and hopped on the train home. I did not sit six feet away from people. It was impossible to do so. Sue me. After getting off my stop, I got hungry. Since I know I’m probably headed straight for hell on the express train, I walked into McDonalds. I giggled to myself. I’m radioactive and inside a McDonalds full of hungry adults and children. These people are bound to experience some side effects.
Later, I found out that the most they’ll experience, depending on the time exposed, is some case of diarrhea. Well, in this case, for those people, a combination of McDonald’s and exposure to Radiation is definite grounds for anal leakage. Oh well.
Now, almost a year later, all I have are memories, a nice looking scar around the base of my neck, and tingling sensations in my neck and parts of my jaw. I am still on synthroid.