“I want to stand as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all the kinds of things you can't see from the center.” Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Bad timing but good luck

When I found out I had thyroid cancer, I was upset. Thyroid cancer is referred to as "the good cancer", but it's no walk in the park. As I said, I found out about it just 10 days before I was to leave for Auckland and begin my job. I had left my San Diego job the end of June, and was unemployed. Fortunately, I still had health insurance through my husband's job.
I had to make an appointment with the ear, nose, and throat doctor. I was conflicted, because I was still thinking I was going to get this treated within 10 days. Ha! Then I learned the first appointment was just a consultation. They didn't have an appointment available for like 5 weeks. I freaked out, crying to the nurse on the phone, because I was afraid I'd lose my job in NZ. She kindly fit me in for a consultation within a few days, after I told her I am trying to leave the country and go to a new job. With the help of the ThyCa website and email group on Yahoo, I learned the treatment is partial or total thyroid removal followed by radioactive iodine (131I). Luckily my doctor turned out to be experienced and talented and a nice guy. Although very busy and overscheduled, he fit me in for surgery on July 14th. And so it happened that instead of flying to Auckland on that date, I was in a hospital recovery room, on IV fluids because it hurt to swallow, getting morphine every 4 hrs. I couldn't sleep on account of the woman in the bed next to me moaning in agony. Whatever they were giving her wasn't working. I felt lucky, again.
My entire thyroid was removed. Fortunately it was encapsulated within the thyroid, and was about 1 cm- we caught it early. They released me the next day, since my parathyroids were all identified and saved during surgery, so my calcium levels were good. I had the giant bandage removed after a few days, and the stitches came out in about another week. Then I developed an allergic reaction to the internal stitches, which was pretty uncomfortable but treated with topical steroid cream.
My job in Auckland was informed of my delay prior to the surgery, and they kindly held the position for me. 6 weeks post-surgery, I had to swallow 100 mCi of 131I and stay away from my pets and sleep separately from my husband for 5 days. It was like being in jail. I had to become hypothyroid AND follow a low iodine diet for 2 weeks before the treatment, and that was a real drag! Once I was able to start the synthetic thyroid hormone medication, I started to feel better. I ended up having just a 2 month delay in departure due to the thyroid cancer.