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 Five
In the spring of 2010, I focused on recovering from two surgeries I had undergone to remove my cancerous thyroid. During that time, I was taking small bike rides and learning to balance my new Specialized Ruby. I was somewhat nervous to ride it for a combination of reasons: the Ruby had much more responsive handling than the hybrid; the narrower tires made it seem more wobbly; and the loss of my thyroid had resulted in reduction of my balance. I felt unstable when riding the new bike. I was frightened and frustrated, but determined to ride this bike. The Tour de Cure ride was fast approaching and I was nervous about riding. There was no possibility of me riding the 50 mile route I had ridden only one year ago. I wouldn’t make it on the 30 mile route I had ridden two years ago. I discussed my riding plans with my husband, my mom, and my doctor. My support team both encouraged and cautioned me in my efforts. We decided I should try the 16 mile route and my mom would ride it with me. It was a plan, but I had doubts and questions. Did I really have enough time to train? I wasn’t yet being given a full dose of thyroid hormones. Would I have enough energy to ride? Would I be able to balance on the skinny tires of the Ruby? Would I fall? Would I succeed in riding 16 miles or would I fail? These were the questions plaguing my mind. The only way to answer these nagging questions was to journey forward, keep healing, and keep riding.
I kept healing. I kept riding. Each ride was becoming longer and I was growing stronger. Still, I felt tired and sluggish. Even though I didn’t feel in top shape, I prepared for the Tour de Cure ride. On the first weekend in June, my little team traveled to Grafton, Illinois. We spent the night in an apartment over the town ice cream shop. The next morning, we made our way to the start line. Three of our team members rode the 5o mile route: Richard (my brother), Jeff (my husband), and Steve (our friend). Two of our team members rode the 30 mile route: Tony and Tina (our married friends). Mom and I rode the 16 mile route.
Mom and I rode the 16 mile route stopping often. We stopped at the rest stops. We stopped between the rest stops. We stopped because I was tired. We stopped for large farm equipment on the road. We stopped to take photos. It was the longest 16 mile ride of my life. We finally finished the route having ridden 16.94 miles in 1 hour, 55 minutes and 54 seconds. Our average riding pace was 8.77 miles per hour. We were the last people off the 16 mile route. Most of the 50 mile riders had already finished. Many of the century riders were back and eating lunch. We finished slowly, but we finished! It was a personal victory. I celebrated my personal victory by eating lunch with my team. We ate and talked and laughed. It was a good day.
After the celebration ended, we loaded our bikes on the cars and headed home. At home, I continued to heal, shuffle around the track, and ride my bike. June 23, we rode the Tour de Corn bike ride. The Tour de Corn ride had over 1,100 riders, which is amazing considering the host town, East Prairie, Missouri, has a population of 3,176 people. Jeff and I rode the 30 mile route and I was happy with my progress. We had a great deal of fun and I was feeling pretty good.
I was feeling so good in fact, I decided to run (read shuffle) a 5K: the Firecracker 5K in McLeansboro, Il. Jeff went for a bicycle ride with some of the guys that morning while I drove to McLeansboro and entered the 5K. I had no delusions of winning; however, I didn’t dream I would do as poorly as I did.
I started out well, but then slowed my pace on the first and only hill on the course. Still, I kept putting one foot in front of the other and made forward progress through the course, still shuffling. The sun was up early and he was strong. He was thumping me on the head. He was my enemy that day. The thermometer was over 90 degrees and it wasn’t even 10 a.m. I kept getting hotter and slower. Just past the halfway point, I blew up. I had nothing left. I continued moving forward at a walk. Soon, I was passed by the fast walkers, then by the average walkers and finally by the slow walkers. I was the last one on the course. I was alone. I kept walking forward, but I was in trouble. I did not feel well, and was looking for an official vehicle to give me a ride back to the start. There were no race officials in sight. I kept walking. Somewhere in the last ⅓ of the race course, I found my legs and wind again. I began a shuffling jog until I rounded a corner and saw the finishing shoot. I managed to sprint to the end. I was the very last person finished. It was not a huge boost to my confidence. I left the 5K with my tail between my legs trying to buoy my spirits by telling myself at least I finished. It wasn’t working. I went home to continue my recovery.
The next step in my recovery would involve radioactive iodine therapy. I was not thrilled about undergoing this treatment because I had believed it would not be necessary. My team had changed their collective mind. I needed to have the scan which used radioactive iodine; therefore, I might as well do the therapy and be certain all the thyroid cells both malignant and benign were gone. I agreed. The next step in my treatment would be killing out any remaining thyroid cells. Jeff could not join me on this part of the journey. Radioactive treatment is a treatment you face alone.
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