THE THYROID IS A GLAND IN THE HUMAN BODY WHICH CONTROLS MANY OF THE FUNCTIONS OF YOUR BODY INCLUDING YOUR BODY TEMPERATURE AND METABOLISM. IT IS LOCATED IN THE FRONT OF THE NECK BELOW THE “ADAM’S APPLE” WRAPPING AROUND THE FRONT OF THE WINDPIPE. IT HAS TWO LOBES CONNECTED BY A THIN PIECE OF TISSUE IN THE MIDDLE GIVING IT A SHAPE SIMILAR TO A BUTTERFLY. BECAUSE THE SHAPE OF THE THYROID IS SIMILAR TO THE SHAPE OF A BUTTERFLY, THE BUTTERFLY HAS BECOME THE SYMBOL OF THYROID DISEASES INCLUDING THYROID CANCER. THIS IS THE STORY OF HOW MY “BUTTERFLY” DIED, HOW I SURVIVED, AND HOW I CONTINUE TO THRIVE. I HOPE MY STORY INSPIRES YOU TO THRIVE.
Losing My Thyroid – Part 3
It was winter 2012, my husband, Jeff, and I were celebrating the reversal of my cancer diagnosis. We were happy. We celebrated and shared our good news with everyone we knew. A few more tests were scheduled, but in the meantime we continued our search for my new bike. We were also celebrating my birthday month by shopping for bicycles. We traveled around the St. Louis area and I tested many bikes. I fell for a light, little, lavender, Trek road bike priced under our budget because it was the previous year’s model. I was close to pulling the trigger, but had yet to try a Specialized. Before buying the Trek, my husband wanted me to look at some Specialized bikes.I was sure I was going back for the little purple Trek. Jeff told me to keep an open mind. We went to The Bike Surgeon of Shiloh and I found the bike that fit me better than anything else. I liked everything about it except the color. It wasn’t hideous, but it didn’t excite me. I wouldn’t buy a bike just for the paint job, but I find it hard to ride something that is ugly. I had an internal conflict between the practical side of my mind which told me to choose the bike that was the better fit, but the emotional side of me wanted the pretty bike.
In the midst of the bicycle search, I went back to the Siteman Center and had another ultrasound on my thyroid. It was much more thorough than the first ultrasound. I left the Center for Advanced Medicine without knowing the results of the test. I went home and continued the search for my next bike.
In the search for my next bike, Jeff and I wandered into the Bike Surgeon of Carbondale. There we met Pat and Tricia Work, the owners. We talked to them about what I wanted and they made some suggestions and arranged a time for me to test ride a bike.
We returned on Saturday, February 11. It was cold and it had snowed the night before, a rarity in our neck of the woods. My husband and Pat encouraged me to take the bike on a test ride. I was nervous. Traffic on the Carbondale strip is a little crazy. I was unaccustomed to riding in traffic, the cold, and the snow. I was also unaccustomed to riding on the skinny little tires on the sleek Ruby. I took the bike through the narrow door of the bike shop, passed some of the local characters and rode on the side streets of Carbondale. Once my nerves calmed, I realized I was having a blast and this was my bike. I found some small hills and was amazed at how much easier they were on this bike. Reluctantly, I headed back to the shop and entered through the narrow door with a smile on my face. This was the size and the brand of bike I wanted. Pat then told me he could get this bike in black and pink. I put down my money and placed my order for this bike in the black and pink paint job.
We left the Bike Surgeon and went home to more serious matters. Jeff went with me to my doctor’s appointment. We discussed my ultrasound results with Dr. Diaz and decided the lesion on my thyroid was too large to leave in my body. It wasn’t the news I wanted to hear, but I was very optimistic that all would be well. A surgery date was set for the end of March. Our trip home was not as happy as our last trip home, but we tried to remain positive.
The weeks between my doctor’s appointment and my surgery were eventful. I celebrated my 44th birthday. A few days later on leap day, my former hometown was hit by an EF4 tornado. My family was unharmed, but eight people were killed and many others suffered severe property damage. It was difficult to witness the devastation, but heartening to see the community band together. Early in March, we left southern Illinois and headed to Atlanta so I could attend continuing education classes. When we returned from Atlanta, my bike was waiting on me. We went to the Bike Surgeon and picked up my bike and then went to Rend Lake to try it out. We rode around the campgrounds and enjoyed a mild March day. I was happy with my choice. A few days later I shuffled through a St. Patrick’s Day 5K in Murphysboro.
It was an eventful few weeks between my doctor’s appointment and my surgery, but soon the day of my surgery arrived. I was nervous. Jeff was by my side as we entered the registration line at five a.m. I was taken to a bed and the preparation for surgery began. Soon, my mom was also by my bedside. Nurses buzzed in and out of my little cubicle. After some time, the anesthesiology resident was by my bedside attempting to find a vein. He managed to hit a vein and promised me he would give me something good once I had seen Dr. Diaz. As we waited for Dr. Diaz, young people in white coats gathered outside my cubicle. It was just one and then two and then there was a flock of them. I knew that there might be observers in my surgery since I was having the surgery at a teaching hospital; however, it had never occurred to me that these people would be present before the anesthesia was administered. Soon Dr. Diaz arrived and we were underway. My husband and my mom both kissed me goodbye, the anesthesiologist pushed the button for the good stuff, someone wheeled my bed out of the bay, the white coat kids surrounded my bed and we all traveled down the hall. My eyes closed and I drifted into slumber until KATHUNK! “Railroad tracks!” I thought. A voice above me explained there was a little bump getting into the elevator. That’s the last thing I remember.
“Shhhhh” was the next thing I said. Mom and Jeff were interrupting my slumber with their chatter. They would later say they were whispering quietly. I didn’t care. I just wanted to sleep. I would sleep as much as possible.
I did wake when Dr. Diaz arrived to tell us the results of my surgery. During surgery, the team removed the left side of my thyroid and then dissected the nodule looking for cancer cells. If the nodule was cancerous, the plan was then to remove the right side of the thyroid. If the nodule was not cancerous then they would leave the right side of my thyroid in my neck. Dr. Diaz came and told us that the nodule was not cancerous. They only needed to take the left side of my thyroid. Everyone was happy and celebrated the good news. I went back to sleep.
I awoke and went home with a drain tube hanging out of my neck. Jeff took me to Red Lobster. It’s easy to get a table when you have a drain tube hanging out of your neck.
Mom stayed with us and was a tremendous help. We decided to drive to a nearby town and walk. We exited the car and started to walk slowly down the sidewalk. It was harder than I imagined it would be. The day was warm. The sun was bright. I was sucking wind. I made it a quarter of the way around the block and had to stop. I caught my breath and continued my walk. When we made it back to the car, I was exhausted. It wasn’t much, but it was a start.
On April 5th, I returned to have the stitches removed from my neck. Dr. Diaz removed the stitches from my neck and was pleased with the way my incision was healing. Unfortunately, he would be reopening it in a few weeks. Pathology revealed the nodule was not cancerous; however, there were 3 small areas of cancer in the thyroid tissue outside the lesion. There were 3 different areas of cancer each less than 1 mm. Multi loci papillary thyroid microcarcinoma was the diagnosis.
Once again, we left the Siteman Center with more questions than answers. Once again, we were awaiting a surgery date. Once again we held onto each other and prayed for God’s blessing on our future.