Thyroid Cancer: A Life Sentence

*This blog post was originally published on September 18, 2014 on nadhahassen.com

Thyroid cancer is not a death sentence, but it is a life sentence.

The reason medical professionals and people who have googled thyroid cancer call it the "good" or "easy" cancer to have, is because thyroid cancer has a pretty good prognosis. It's a pretty great prognosis actually. The cancer grows slowly and if found at a young age, we can essentially "go for a cure" as my surgeon put it. The good news is that I'm young. People say that I look much younger than my age. I hope the same can be said of my cells.

We're going to try and "cure" my thyroid cancer next week by taking my thyroid out completely. I have three lumps on my thyroid, the largest of which was biopsied and found to be malignant. So please imagine a drum-roll as I announce the date of my total thyroidectomy.................. September 24th, 2014.

That is the date that I will have to say goodbye to my thyroid. That little butterfly-shaped gland that I never gave 5 seconds of thought to prior to this fiasco. That's a lie, I might have thought about it during biology and physiology courses, but that was all theoretical and detached from my actual person. My thyroid was in a book and on slides and in multiple choice questions. My thyroid wasn't a part of what makes me a human or a person. When I think of myself, I don't think of what's happening at the micro-level because, like many people, I take those processes for granted. I still find it hard to believe that everything the thyroid does will be replaced by a once-a-day pill. I had to ask the doctor, "How big is this pill exactly?"

My brother and I googled the thyroid together. We were in a morbid kind of mood so we also looked up videos of thyroidectomies (I would not recommend this to the faint of heart). As the thyroid was removed from the patient's neck, covered in blood, my brother remarked, "That looks important,"

I nodded silently. I was in total agreement.

Turns out that once you know that an organ or gland needs to be removed, you get overly attached to it. I haven't gone so far as naming my thyroid but I do look at the lump on my neck at least once a day. Some lumps aren't visible, but mine is. Especially if I look up.

Today, I met the anesthesiologist who will be in the operating room with me. He needed to assess my remaining cough from the bronchitis and ensure there wouldn't be any complications during surgery. He asked me why I was getting my thyroid removed. I cringed internally while I replied, "Thyroid cancer." I still can't get used to saying the words. Now, this doctor had an appropriate response. I could see genuine concern and surprise in his raised eyebrows. We looked at each other across the desk. I know, right? Who would've thought.

Thyroid Cancer AwarenessSo on September 24th, this thing is literally going to turn into a pain in my neck. Maybe the pain will make it feel real. The pain will symbolize that a part of my body was sick and needed to be taken out so the rest of me could be healthy. I've been trying to figure out ways to avoid a thyroidectomy. But, with any other option, I'll still have to live knowing that this malignancy is in me. So surgery is necessary so I can move on with my life. Although I'm coming to terms with the fact that surgery is necessary, I still don't want it. I really don't. I wish there was some way to keep my thyroid. I wish I didn't have to get my neck sliced open. I wish I didn't have to deal with this.

But, I don't have a magic lamp and I don't get any wishes. So instead, I'll just hope that next week, the surgeon will find that the cancer has not spread to my lymph nodes. I'll hope that I won't bronchospasm during the procedure. And I'll hope that this surgery really will be my cure.

 

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Nadha Hassen

Founder at Thyroid Transitions
Nadha is a health researcher, writer, consultant and thyroid wellness coach. A "thyroidless thriver", she supports women at all stages of their thyroid process. She is currently a PhD student and received her Master of Public Health (MPH) from the University of Toronto, specializing in Health Promotion.

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