Earlier this year, my first year of college living in the dorms at CU Boulder with my roommate Hannah, we both got sick. We separately went to the doctor; mine found a lump on my throat that I had never noticed before. I was told that it was most likely as a result of a thyroid issue and nothing more, though she told me that it was a 5% chance of the filled nodule being cancerous.
I had an ultrasound done on my neck first, and they found some micro-calcifications that were a bit concerning. Then, I had a biopsy in order to see if the calcifications were anything to worry about. The biopsy came back positive that the calcifications were actually cancerous tumors.
I got the phone call on March 27th diagnosing me with papillary carcinoma (stage 2 thyroid cancer). I had no idea what to initially think, I was just shocked and speechless. As tears were streaming down my face at the news, I started calling people. My parents first, then my siblings, then my best friend. I was desperate to have any form of consolation from any of them in order to calm me down. I just could not believe how unlucky I was. I had to quit my job at Bed Bath and Beyond, had to leave Boulder and move back in with my parents, and on top of that COVID was shutting the entire world down.
Despite all this, I have gained tremendous support from my family and friends. My first surgery, a thyroidectomy, was about a week later. Initially, only the left side of my thyroid was going to be removed, however, upon laying on the surgical table, my surgeon found that my entire thyroid needed to be removed due to the amount of tumors. After this surgery, it took about 3 weeks to recover to be able to get somewhat back to normal. Throughout this entire time I was also finishing my spring semester classes which had been converted to fully online because of COVID.
After my thyroidectomy, I was put on synthroid medication to replace my thyroid functions. I did multiple blood tests every few days and we found out that my protein globulin levels were too high. This meant that I needed another ultrasound, which led to another biopsy, which led to me needing yet another surgery. During the second surgery, which was four days after my birthday, my surgeon actually removed 72 tumors, 4 of which were in my thyroid bed and the rest which were on the left side of my neck in my lymph nodes. I had a one month recovery time, including two weeks with a drain in my throat.
Now, I have finally gotten to the point where I am seeing a new endocrinologist due to health insurance issues. I have finally scheduled my radiation treatment which starts soon. I’m on a low-iodine diet and working with my doctors simultaneously to figure out the correct dosage of my thyroid medication. Unfortunately, thyroid medication often does not resolve many symptoms that thyroid patients have. I have many symptoms of hyperthyroidism that make it difficult for me to go about my day and try to get my life back to normal. I am starting to spiral downhill again in terms of mental health due to the stress of financial issues, needing to go back to school next semester, and not being healthy enough. Another issue is feeling self-conscious. My scar goes across my throat and up to my left ear, sort of like a hockey stick. I also have a star-shaped scar right below that from the drain. Little kids are scared to look at me, I’m talked about whenever I’m out in public, and staring at it reminds me of everything I’ve gone through thus far. I just felt like sharing my story might help me handle this and continue helping me push through towards being cancer free.
By Lindzy Earp