What was most surprising for you about the thyroid cancer experience?
The most surprising thing I found was at how common it is in the general population. Every third or fourth person I would speak to about this would know someone that was affected by this condition. The other surprising thing I found was unfortunately how little there is that can be done for this type of cancer outside of surgery.
What was most confusing and/or frustrating for you?
The most confusing part for me was trying to figure out what exactly this disease was and how did I have the best chance at fighting it. I am a very scientific person and I like facts and unfortunately there wasn’t a lot of statistics that I could apply to myself because I was very unique in that sense. That was also a very frustrating thing trying to apply myself to the information I was reading but because of the age gap between myself and the data it really was hard to apply it.
What kinds of things did you worry about?
I was worried about how my family was dealing with all of this, it couldn’t have been easy for my parents and I have two younger sisters who I can only imagine how difficult it was watching me go through the surgery and the complications and the radiation. I also worried about how this was going to affect my school I was in my second year university just starting the semester was I going to have to drop out? I was very fortunate my surgery date was far enough into the semester that the university allowed me to complete class work early and exams at a later date.
What was the most helpful and supportive?
The most helpful thing for me was the accessibility and knowledge of all my doctors. My surgeon was absolutely fabulous and I owe everything to him. At my consultation he sat down and explained everything to me he made me understand let me ask my questions and answered every single one very honestly. He also made sure I knew I could call his office at any point in time and be able to speak with him. Also my family from away flew down to help take care of my sisters and to be there for me during my surgery which meant the world to me. Also my uncle came down for my 6 weeks of radiation and drove 1.5 hours each direction for a 20-30 minute treatment session almost every day for the entire 6 weeks (what an amazing man).
How did you talk to your family about your cancer?
To be honest initially I didn’t. I was young, scared and had no idea what to say to them. Everyone kept saying “you are going to be fine you are a fighter” and the more I heard it the more I realized you know what this is just a bump in the road (after a bit of a major break down). Now I talk openly and freely I voice my concerns to them and have their utmost support.
How did you talk to your employer?
Telling my co-workers/employer was one of the hardest things I ever had to do. I had become good friends with them all and they were there when we first found the lump. I just went in and said it straight out, that I had cancer I was going for surgery and was unsure how much I could work over Christmas and that I would have to start summer working later due to radiation (as we were working around my school schedule as best as possible). I found being perfectly honest with them was the best policy people are very understanding.
What do you wish you had known earlier in your cancer journey?
I wish I had known that even when everything seems like it’s crashing down there is a light at the end of the tunnel and it will get better. Also that asking questions is important that is why the doctors and the information booklets are there. Always ask no matter how silly you think the question is.
What recommendations do you have for patients to help them feel more empowered/active in their care, and/or more in control?
I would say to take an active role in your care, be involved in deciding what to do. Ask for the doctors opinions but also look into the options yourself see if maybe there is alternative you can try and don’t feel pressured into doing something you don’t want to do. YOU are the patient and it’s your body you decide what happens they can only make a suggestion.
What kinds of things do your friends, co-workers, or loved ones say or do to make you feel most supported?
My entire support system has been absolutely fabulous from coming to visit me in hospitals, asking me about my check ups and taking a general interest in what is going on my life. By asking the simple question such as “how are you feeling” or “when is your next appointment” that honestly makes me feel like they are interested in what is going on.
“When something bad happens you have three choices; You can either let it define you, destroy you or strengthen you” - Unknown
“You have three choices in life: give up, give in or give it all you’ve got” - Unknown
“If you're feeling frightened about what comes next... don't. Embrace the uncertainty. Allow it to lead you places. Be brave as it challenges you to exercise both your heart and your mind as you create your own path towards happiness. Don't waste time with regret. Spin wildly into your next action. Enjoy the present - each moment as it comes - because you'll never get another one quite like it. And if you should ever look up and find yourself lost, simply take a breath and start over. Retrace your steps and go back to the purest place in your heart, where your hope lives. You'll find your way again...” - Unknown
"Believe in yourself because that makes all the difference in the world." – Shana Keay