If your spiny senses have been working, you may have noticed through my shares on Facebook and Instagram that things have been a little “off” for me lately. You can’t quite pinpoint it, but you’re certain there is something going on with me. You’ve noticed me talk about “feeling like death” you’ve seen me talk about some “health challenges” and some “hiccups” and “bumps in the road”. I mention them in relatively unrelated posts, so maybe you haven’t been picking up what I’ve been laying down either and that ok too. That was me being honest and letting you know everything hasn’t been perfect in my world, but I haven’t given you the whole truth until now.
I’ve had my reservations about being completely transparent and vulnerable publically with what’s going on because I needed to protect my own energy and health. I really didn’t want people projecting “poor Michelle” or “she’s sick” energy on me. Energy is a powerful thing and I’ve learned more about it than I ever thought I would dealing with these challenges. Now that I know exactly what’s going on, I feel like I can protect myself better and tell you what I need from you.
The short of it is that I have had thyroid cancer. I had surgery on November 10th and it has been removed. I am now getting stronger and filled with more energy every day.
The long of it is that my thyroid cancer has been unique in that it had symptoms. Most people just get a big neck or lump and feel relatively fine. With mine, I had no lump, but I had symptoms of hyperthyroidism and my bloodwork showed that too. There were nodules going rogue producing an excess amount of thyroid hormone.
My symptoms included being very tired. The closest I can compare is how deathly tired a woman feels when they’re 2 to 3 months pregnant. I went from being able to exercise regularly to not being able to do 1 push up or any burpees without feeling like I might faint. This happened over a couple of weeks after I returned from Australia and I had attributed it to jetlag that was kind of delayed. I had been a bit tired and was addressing a few things earlier in the year, but it wasn’t enough to stop me from traveling and hiking.
It hit me hard for several months after I was home.
So much that I had to take a break after going up my stairs I was so winded. If I did morning chores it would mean I was going to need a nap. At one point I couldn’t fall asleep until after 1 in the morning, I was anxious and restless. This went on over a month until I found some herbs that helped greatly with that. Usually, I fall asleep when my head hits the pillow. My periods got really light and I lost interest in a lot of things including riding. I just didn’t have the energy in me. My nails started to peel and break and I was losing more hair than normal. I was tired and emotional, anxious and irritable. I had to make choices in my day as to what I could handle and I had to pace myself or I would be just too tired and winded. My concentration and ability to focus is a struggle at the best of times and through this, I’ve even fallen asleep at my desk. The one symptom I didn’t get that alot of people with hyperthyroidism get is weight loss. Darn!
I had blood work done in July, then again in August followed by an ultrasound about 6 weeks later. After the ultrasound showed nodules I waited for a needle biopsy. I received the news of my “suspicious” cells the day after my first biopsy. Within 3 weeks of having the biopsy I had my thyroid removed on November 10th. Things moved fast after the biopsy showed “suspicious” for papillary carcinoma. They don’t make an official diagnosis until the thyroid is out and an extensive biopsy is performed. They can’t put your thyroid back if it ends up being benign. Once it’s out, a person has to take synthetic thyroid medication for the rest of their life to replace the hormones the thyroid was making.
I had a lot of anxiety about whether taking it out was the right thing. I wanted to heal it, I didn’t want to believe that I could have cancer. I’m really healthy, I just have been having a hard time. But when I went to my heart, it knew taking the thyroid was the right thing to do and I would feel much better after. And that’s been true. I’m getting better every day.
As it turns out when I received the official biopsy results on December 6th, I had papillary carcinoma is both sides of my thyroid and it was also found in 1 of the 5 lymph nodes they removed from the area. From here I wait to hear from a nuclear medicine Dr. and we will discuss what scans need to happen to see if I have thyroid cells anywhere else and what we will do about them. If any other treatment is required, my research says that it would be a radioactive iodine treatment. The thyroid and any of its stray cells (even not near the thyroid) take up iodine like no other cells do and the high dose kills these cells. In most cases, this would be all the treatment I would need.
Fortunately, thyroid cancer has a very high survival rate. Some literature will even say “it’s the best cancer to get”. Well lucky me (insert sarcasm). It’s still cancer and it still sucks. It’s been a royal pain and not something I really wanted to be scheduling in my life right now. When I’ve been at CancerCare in Winnipeg and seeing the other families affected I really have felt “lucky”, but then felt guilty at the same time for feeling crappy and low when I have the “good cancer”. They wish they had what I have. Lots of mind games you see?
So far the mind game has been the most challenging aspect of all of this. Being weak and tired has been hard too, but it’s very easy for the mind to run with the worst case scenario and the what ifs and the 1% stuff. Thyroid cancer isn’t a cancer you typically die from (99% survival) – but people have died from it. I’m not interested in going down that road, but I’d been lying if I said I didn’t have fears and have to shut down a few pitty parties.
The emotional aspect of this cancer and having been hyperthyroid and then hypothyroid (since I didn’t have a thyroid anymore) has been a roller coaster. It’s hormones we’re dealing with here (cancer aside) so there have been some pretty pathetic moments. I know that’s kind of judging myself there saying pathetic – maybe annoying is a better word. There have been many highs and lows and crazy times in between.
Then there’s the “charge” around the word cancer. It’s a bad word, worse than fuck. Different, but there’s a low, sad, horrible scary, energy around the word. The Dr. tells you, you have cancer and hands you a pamphlet in her “pass the butter” voice, the same as if she was diagnosing a planters wart. Good for her, I appreciate that it’s better than freaking a person out. It’s just still weird to me. The second Dr., my surgeon gave me to biopsy results without making any eye contact and then told me to “consider this all done and to keep that smile and have a nice day”. One thing that they did not do, and I appreciate is they did not add any charge to the word, they did not make a mountain out of a mole hill. I can do that in my head on my own, so it makes sense they don’t. It’s just interesting is all.
It’s also been interesting feeling how others respond to my news. Some people have completely brushed it off (perhaps their way of dealing with awkward news) and others I have been able to feel their fears and their pain attached to their own experiences and loss with cancer. Being an empath, I get all kinds of feels. I’m not sure what the right way to respond to cancer news is, but overall “my people” have been awesome and very supportive. Through my experience of all this, I have a new appreciation for the saying “be kind because you never know what kind of battle someone is fighting”. There have been a few occasions I wondered if the person knew what was going on, would I would be treated with the same demand.
I’m grateful my body gave me symptoms I could act on and I’m grateful for the prompt care after the needle biopsy. I’m thankful this will just be a middle chapter in my book and not the final chapter like many who get the “big C”. Mine was just a “little C” and a bump in the road. I’m grateful for a caring husband that was there to feed me ice chips and hold my water when I was too drugged to do it myself. He has been extremely tolerant of my lack of go “gettemness” through all this.
I’m thankful for my understanding clients who have been very patient with me while my turnaround time hasn’t been that snappy. Even though not many actually know what has been going on. I’m thankful for my supportive friends and family I know I can count on if I need help. And, I’m thankful for you, if you’ve read this far. Thank you for seeing me as healthy and restored with energy and sending thoughts of my continued health (rather than poor sick Michelle). It’s those positive visions and healthy statements that you can make for me, that will support me in continued health.
*Edited to say that the nuclear medicine Dr. felt that I was low risk for thyroid cells being elsewhere. My blood work was good and the tumor size was very small so we aren’t doing any radioactive iodine treatment. We will continue to do blood work for several years just to keep an eye on things. Thank you for your continued good vibes and prayers they helped.