This is my cancer story. I am not even sure where to begin…like when does cancer begin?
Why does cancer happen?
How does cancer attack a seemingly healthy person?
Conventional medicine will tell you it is genetics. Perhaps exposure to a chemical/toxin/radiation increased your risk for getting cancer. There is still little understanding on how cancer actually starts, and the truth is, conventional medicine is still waging that “war on cancer” with no actual cure insight.
I am still trying to answer these questions. And my healing journey is still in progress.
This is my own cancer story, my personal experience and personal epiphanies I had after being diagnosed with thyroid cancer and going through cancer treatment. I am sharing my story with hopes to inspire, awaken and educate.
It was the end of 2013, we had just come home from a trip to Hawaii. I was young and healthy, 33 years old and mostly feeling good…other than constantly feeling tired. I worked full time night shift since 2004 so feeling overly tired all the time was just sort of normal for me. A few weeks after our trip to Hawaii, I got a really bad sore throat. At first I thought it was a head cold, but after about a week, I realized it was the outside of my throat that hurt. It felt like it was on fire.
I saw my primary care doctor and she assumed it was strep throat, even though my tonsils were not swollen and my oral cavity was not red. The strep test came back negative. I pushed to have her test my thyroid levels, the pain was right over my thyroid and it literally felt like there was a slow burning coal on it. My thyroid antibody levels came back sky high. I can’t remember the exact number, but it was around 13,000 (normally it should be zero). She diagnosed me with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis and told me there was nothing I could do…eventually my thyroid would “burn out.”
My understanding at that time was that I had a new onset auto-immune disease of unknown etiology. My body was attacking my thyroid and there was nothing I could do to stop it, eventually it would stop working and I would need to take medication. Even as a nurse, I didn’t fully understand this process and I didn’t remember learning very much about auto-immune disease in nursing school. I made an appointment with an endocrinologist, for a second opinion. He said the same thing. I had just finished my Healing Touch training and told him I was going to utilize energy medicine, acupuncture and Chinese herbs to treat my dis-ease, he nodded and approved and said to follow up if I had any issues.
About a week later, my sore throat cleared up and I just sort of went on living life like before. I didn’t even really research Hashimoto’s. I sought energy work for healing and my acupuncturist worked at healing the auto-immune disease and gave me herbs to take. I felt like I had before, young, healthy and yet still so tired. I would have my thyroid hormones checked every year or two and the numbers always remained normal. Four years later, I got pregnant with Julian. My OB said it would be important to monitor my thyroid function during pregnancy because there was a chance the Hashimoto’s would flare up and I would need to take thyroid hormone to support my pregnancy and growing baby. But my thyroid function remained normal throughout my entire pregnancy.
To be honest, I sort of just forgot about having Hashimoto’s over the last 7 years. Feeling tired had been a part of my life since becoming a nurse and then as a new mom, feeling even more tired just seemed par for the course. And no one told me that having Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis puts you at an increased risk for developing thyroid cancer.
Flash forward to 2020. Oh 2020, the year that changed everything.
Julian turned 3 in March 2020, which of course marked the third year in my motherhood journey. I could finally say I was getting the hang of motherhood and my cycle returned for the first time since getting pregnant. Shortly after Julian’s birthday, the pandemic started. The most important first lesson of the pandemic was to slow down and take inventory of my health status. I was so tired, like constantly tired. And I felt sluggish, like there was a lot of stagnation in my body. When I am honest with myself and look over the last 3 years, I see that I lost a part of myself in motherhood. Self care things like yoga, breath work or energy work and meditation had taken a backseat to mothering. I barely even got manicures or pedicures anymore. I wasn’t moving my body (exercise) as much as I used to and I was often hurried when eating. I had shallow breathing. I seemed to be in a constant state of fight or flight. With the quietness that followed the “two weeks to flatten the curve” I was really able to see all this. I also noticed that I was puffy, achy and extremely run down.
I created plans in my head of what I wanted to do to reconnect with myself and find my new healthy rhythm, but life got busy and I am so good at procrastinating. When my birthday rolled around in August, I decided to treat myself to an energy work session. During the session, the practitioner asked me if I had “anything going on” in my neck. I quickly said no, thinking that it must be an energetic pattern stuck on me from Julian. He had been sick a couple weeks earlier with a swollen lymph node and I spent a lot of time worrying about it, so naturally I just jumped to the conclusion that it was my worried energy stuck in my field. He did some distance energy work on Julian and we dismissed it. But a couple weeks after the session I began to wonder if something was wrong with my throat or neck. I suddenly remembered that I had Hashimoto’s. I began feeling around my neck and sure enough, I felt a nodule on my thyroid. Convinced it was a swollen lymph node, like maybe I caught Julian’s virus, I dismissed it…again.
Two months went by and I could still feel that nodule on my thyroid, but I always dismissed it, I was in denial. I remember specifically on October 13, 2020 I had a big fall and busted up my face, knee and ankle. Nothing that required medical attention but I was hurt, bleeding and feeling defeated. I sort of laughed at myself and blamed it on Mercury Retrograde which had begun that day. But then I fell down multiple times that week, it was very odd. I fell so often that Julian began to tell me to “be careful” when I walked down the stairs or walked with him to the park. I realized that perhaps, God or my angels or my guides were trying to send me a message.
When I took time to pause and look inward, the message was clear: Slow Down! Pay Attention.
It was time to pay attention to the nodule. The following week at work, I asked one of our favorite ENT (ear, nose, throat) surgeons to look at/feel my neck and thyroid. He immediately confirmed that there was not only one nodule, but multiple. He suggested I get an ultrasound as soon as possible. He was the first person to tell me, right then and there, that having Hashimoto’s puts me at a 25% increased risk for getting cancer.
I told my primary care doctor what our ENT surgeon said and she ordered a thyroid ultrasound for me. Another week went by and I still didn’t schedule that ultrasound. I was very aware how much denial I was in but there just seemed to always be something else to do than call to schedule an ultrasound (hello procrastination!). Later that week, while at work, my next post-operative patient rolled into my recovery room spot. She was a 39 year old female with thyroid cancer, status post thyroidectomy. Our ENT surgeon walked right up to me, asked me if I scheduled that ultrasound yet and then looked over at the patient, with the expression in his eyes that this could be me.
I scheduled the ultrasound later that day.
It’s now mid-November 2020 when I finally got the ultrasound. November 13, Friday the 13th, one month exactly after my first fall. The ultrasound was quick and painless and I left there feeling apathetic. The following day I received the result in my patient portal, before my doctor did. Being a nurse, I was able to quickly scan through the results looking for keywords. Nodules. Vascularized. Microcalcifications. Suspicious for Malignancy. Those words jumped out immediately. My heart sank.
It was a Saturday, so I simply emailed my primary care doctor and asked her to order a fine needle aspiration (FNA) biopsy. Monday morning my doctor called me to tell me she was surprised by those results and would order the biopsy. I was able to schedule the biopsy sooner than later at the hospital where I work. I had the biopsy done on November 19. I was awake and alert during the procedure. The PA took 3 samples from the nodule and immediately handed them to the pathologist to view under the microscope. After the third sample, the pathologist said there was enough sample to analyze and the procedure finished. Before I walked out of the procedure room, I saw the PA look under the microscope herself, and then, the energy in the room shifted. It’s then that I knew.
They do not give you the results then and there. There has to be an official pathology reading of the samples. My doctor called me from her home on a Sunday. I was driving home from being on call at work when I answered the call. The moment I heard her voice, I knew what she was going to say. Everything slowed down and it felt like I was in slow motion as I heard the words, “the biopsy shows papillary thyroid carcinoma. You have thyroid cancer.” I pulled over into a Trader Joe’s parking lot and started crying. I didn’t even know how to process what I just heard. Even though I had an inner knowing, it was still shocking. But just like any strong mother would do, I hung up with my doctor, wiped my tears away, took a deep breath and went into the market to get groceries for my family. I was in shock while I was shopping for groceries, my mind was consumed with questions and denial. I drove home in silence, unloaded the groceries and looked at my husband. My voice was shaky as I told him that my doctor called me on the drive home. I could feel his heart sink. I couldn’t get the rest of the words out and just burst into tears as he held me. The rest of the day was a blur, I was in shock and didn’t even try to understand what was next.
Monday morning, MD Anderson Cancer Center called me and a nurse explained to me what the next steps were, as far as conventional treatment goes. The first thing would be to have a consultation with an ENT surgeon, so naturally I picked the one who had helped me get to this diagnosis. And then I frantically made appointments with my acupuncturist and naturopathic doctor. I needed to get ALL my treatment options laid out and in process.
They say, “having thyroid cancer is the best cancer to have.” Like having cancer is just another life event to check off the list? I am still processing that statement. There is no best cancer.
I spent the next few weeks going through the phases of grief. I was grieving the upcoming loss of my thyroid, an endocrine gland responsible for more than I realized. I had already experienced denial leading up to the moment I received the diagnosis. Anger followed the diagnosis, then bargaining and I felt depressed. I took a couple breath work sessions and did an energetic angel reading to gain insight into my journey and help to release some energetic patterns that perhaps created this cancer. (I will get more into this phase of my journey in separate posts).
After careful consideration, prayer, meditation and intuitive guidance, I decided to go through with a total thyroidectomy (have my entire thyroid removed). I gave myself 2 months to prepare for surgery. I wanted to be calm and focused. I wanted to be as healthy – mentally, emotionally, spiritually, physically – as I could possibly be going into surgery.
My total thyroidectomy was scheduled for January 27, 2021. I have posted the details of my surgery on Instagram. Join me there to follow my story as it is evolves.