There is No Good Cancer – Tara’s Story
“Doesn’t everyone?” was my response to the nurse practitioner after she ran her three fingers down the front of my throat, asked me to swallow and said, “I feel something.” To be 100% accurate, my response was, “Oh, my Adam’s Apple? Doesn’t everyone have one?” To which she replied, “Not women.”¹
In an instant, I went from the busy “self-centered” (“self-absorbed” is probably more accurate) carefree life of a 26-year-old MBA student who just applied to law school to a completely confused and frightened kid calling to make an appointment with a surgeon so I could get this “neck lump” checked out.
My mother and I sat in the surgeon’s office as the doctor explained that I potentially had a thyroid issue and he would need to take a needle – a long thin needle and remove fluid from the lump in my neck in order to truly assess the situation. What resulted from that fine-needle aspiration biopsy as the discovery that the one side of my thyroid gland was enlarged and definitely needed to be removed.
Oh but there was more…
There was also the possibility that my thyroid gland was cancerous and would need to be removed in its entirety; however, we wouldn’t and couldn’t know for certain until I was on the operating table. I sat there dazed as my mother asked, “Will she still be able to have children?” and other questions that if my brain was working maybe I could have asked but the words, “thyroid cancer” was the only thing I could hear.
My mother and I left the doctor’s appointment separately as she had met me there and she asked me if I was okay as I got into my car. Of course, I told her yes but “HELL NO” was what was really going on in my head. Is there cancer in my body? Will I need chemotherapy? Radiation? Will my hair fall out? Will I be able to finish graduate school? Go to law school? I had lost my father to lung cancer five years earlier so his experience, my devastation due to losing him was my only point of reference at this point. I thought of my family. I couldn’t imagine what my mother was thinking and feeling. I had no idea how I was going to tell my brother and sister.
And then my main questions hit me, “What in the hell is a THYROID and how in the hell did mine get CANCER?”
What resulted from that doctor’s appointment was a surgery, a cancer diagnosis, the complete removal of my thyroid gland, a 25+ lb. weight gain, over 2 years of constant doctor’s appointments, body scans, radioactive iodine treatments and a lifetime of management and I’ll be honest “worry”….never-ending concern and worry about reoccurrence, the effectiveness of drug regime and my future.
But I was blessed. I was diagnosed with papillary thyroid cancer, which accounts for 90% of the diagnoses and the cancerous cells tend to grow very slowly. I also consider it a blessing that I learned how precious life is at such a young age.
But like so many others, at one time in my life, I considered and actually told people that thyroid cancer was “the good cancer” to have. I shake my head now as I type this thinking how crazy I must have sounded. No cancer is good cancer. That is why they call it “cancer.”
That’s one of the reasons why I and Words, Wine and Women are so honored to be working with
ThyCa: Thyroid Cancer Survivors’ Association. Even though I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer many years ago (how many is not important – a true lady never reveals her age), ThyCa has helped me so learn so much about living as a thyroid cancer survivor and the latest research regarding thyroid cancer.
Now I’m dedicated to is helping spread the word about thyroid cancer awareness, encouraging people to “get your neck check” and if you have been recently diagnosed with thyroid cancer or are living as a survivor, know that you are not in this fight alone.
In order to show your support for ThyCa and dispel the myths about Thyroid Cancer, use the hashtag #TruthAboutTC today! For more information about thyroid cancer and early detection, visit www.thyca.org.
¹Women actually do have Adam’s Apples; however, due to the normal higher percentage of body fat of women, a female’s Adam’s Apple is normally unseen.