Where Has Jen Been? Thyroid Cancer and Other Nonsense
So maybe you’ve noticed the lack of blog posts on My Beauty Bunny lately? Sorry about that! I have been MIA lately, and if you follow me on social media, you probably know why. I found out in mid-June that I have thyroid cancer. At first I was pretty devastated, but I poured myself into 24/7 research to learn everything I could about the disease.
It turns out that thyroid cancer is what they call “the best kind of cancer to get.” That was comforting to me in the beginning, but that seems to generally piss off most people with thyroid cancer, who say there is no GOOD cancer. While that may be true, there are definitely more aggressive forms of cancer that I am very happy not to have!
I’m going to tell you what I have learned by doing a crazy amount of research and talking to a surprising number of you guys who either have dealt with thyroid cancer or know someone who has. I am not a medical professional, and you should not take anything I say as medical advice (duh!). The BEST thing I can recommend to those who are diagnosed with this (or any disease) is to get a second, even third opinion, and do your research!
So I found out that I have thyroid cancer because I was noticing a lump in my throat. It’s not visible and I can’t even feel a lump, but I felt like something was stuck in there. It also felt inflamed and irritated in the general thyroid area. When I went for my monthly facial at Verabella Spa, I noticed that I was very uncomfortable when they (very) lightly massaged that area. I decided to go see my primary care doctor to see what was going on. I certainly didn’t expect her to say I had cancer!
My thyroid blood tests were (and still are) normal. There was nothing for my doctor to be worried about other than the fact that I was telling her I had neck pain. As a precaution, she had me go in for an ultrasound. I remember sitting and waiting for Dr. Herrmann (my dermatologist) to give me my melasma laser treatment when I read the test results in my Cedars Sinai hospital online portal. It said, “Small (9 x 10 mm) hypoechoic nodule with internal microcalcifications in the mid-upper pole of the right lobe which is highly suspicious. Ultrasound-guided aspiration is recommended.” Why would they say “highly suspicious”? Are you kidding me? I immediately started crying when Dr. Herrmann walked into the room. She assured me that things were going to be okay.
So then I got the Fine Needle Aspiration (AKA biopsy) done at Cedars Sinai Hospital, which I was terrified to do but it turned out to not be so bad – quick and very little pain – and helped with a little Ativan to calm me down. When I got the results from my doctor, she told me they said they believe it to be papillary thyroid carcinoma. Of course, I was VERY freaked out, and it was taking forever to make appointments. They were telling me I had to wait over a month to follow up with an Ear Nose Throat doctor and endocrinologist. So I did my research, and I called back repeatedly until they got me in for earlier appointments.
By the time I saw the ENT, I already knew several things about my cancer.
- Thyroid cancer is usually a very slow growing cancer (unless you have a rare aggressive form) – thyroid cancer is often found in autopsies of older people who had no idea they even had it!
- Thyroid cancer is usually very treatable with active surveillance, surgery (partial or total thyroidectomy), and/or RAI (radioactive iodine tablet therapy). Chemo is not usually needed.
- My nodule is pretty small (about 1 cm). In a follow-up ultrasound, they did not find cancer in my lymph nodes (so it hadn’t spread).
- Surgery may not be the only option. Surgery can be rough, and living without a thyroid is not always a walk in the park. Meds can be hard to get right, and they may change over time.
After following up with the ENT and endocrinologist, I decided to do what they call “active surveillance.” It’s part of a pilot study in LA, NY and Japan. Basically, if you’re a good candidate, you can decide to NOT have surgery, but to watch and see if the nodule grows over time. I’m going to have a follow-up ultrasound in October, and if it grows at any time, I can have the surgery to remove half or all of my thyroid. In the meantime, I’m doing holistic things to see if I can stop this sucker from growing (or maybe even shrink it – who knows?). I’m taking lots of well-researched supplements, consulting with my friends at Elements of Wellness, changing my diet, taking CBD/THC, and even trying to get out into nature by going to the park daily and visiting the beach and mountains more often (you don’t realize how little “nature” you get when you live in a big city).
The only thing that bugged me was that although the doctors believe it to be papillary carcinoma (the most common and slow-growing form of thyroid cancer), there’s a possibility it’s a more aggressive form. There’s even a slight possibility that it’s NOT cancer at all! They won’t know for sure unless they cut it out and send it to the lab. But, since I’m going for another ultrasound in October, I feel confident that we’ll catch it if it somehow turns out to be an aggressive cancer. If it somehow does spread to the lymph nodes (which I doubt), they can be removed during surgery as well.
The weird thing is that what brought me in to check my neck in the first place was pain and a feeling of something lodged in my throat (especially when I was lying down). My doctors all told me my thyroid cancer nodule was too small and couldn’t be causing this feeling. I believe my thyroid was inflamed (thyroiditis) even though they couldn’t confirm it. With the holistic treatments I’m doing, the inflammation has mostly gone away. It comes and goes from time to time, but I’d say it’s 90% gone.
I’m also having a lot of other ongoing symptoms (shortness of breath when I walk, fast heart rate and dizziness when I stand up, abnormal fatigue, etc.) that the doctors are saying are not related to the cancer. I’ve had so many tests lately and spent thousands of dollars (even with good PPO insurance). I’m really calm about this whole thing, but I’m also just tired – mentally and physically. I feel like all I’ve been doing is doctors and treatments, so I’m really happy that I’ll be able to take a quick vacation in Florida with my husband and extended family soon! Nature heals baby!