Have you ever had your neck checked?
September is Thyroid Cancer Awareness Month, and I am here to tell you about my journey. It all started back in November 2019. I felt sooooooo tired yet couldn’t sleep. Here I was, working in care management at the time but did not have my own primary care physician. So, I decided to pay out of pocket to have a plethora of blood tests run and decided I would take the results with me to urgent care. The doctor I saw unfortunately did not really listen to me, but she did check my neck and ordered an ultrasound, which sent a referral to an endocrinologist. The urgent care physician did voice she felt like my thyroid was enlarged and my TSH at the time was slightly elevated. She chalked my symptoms up to being stressed and kind of brushed me off.
It took about a month for me to get in to initially see an endocrinologist (who is still my endo today and I will probably cry if she ever quits/retires). I was still feeling awful – I couldn’t sleep because it felt like my heart was beating out of my chest, I could hardly form sentences as the brain fog was something fierce, I was losing weight without trying, and my hair was falling out in chunks. I knew this was more than stress!
My endo started me on levothyroxine, and it maybe helped a little bit, but it felt like I had a softball in my throat. I could feel my thyroid pushing up against the back of my neck. My thyroid was so enlarged it was difficult for her to read the ultrasound, so I was scheduled for another one in March of 2020. Right before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, she received my second ultrasound and stated she noticed some concerning imaging in my lymph nodes next to my thyroid. She scheduled me to have a biopsy in the beginning of April 2020. Well, long story short, I went to try to have a biopsy, however, was turned away as the doctor who was performing the biopsy said, “I don’t see anything concerning with this imaging.” I was mad to say the least – for my concerns being dismissed and for wasting my time.
Luckily, my endo sent a referral to a thyroid surgeon (my previous referral was to someone who was just down the road from me). This surgeon called me within a week stating “yes, there are some concerning lymph nodes and they do need to be biopsied.” So, I went to her office the end of April and received the news that yes, these lymph nodes are cancerous, and surgery needs to be scheduled. Within a week I was having surgery to have my thyroid and a couple dozen lymph nodes removed.
I also completed radioactive iodine treatment that summer to kill off the rest of any thyroid remains. Nothing like quarantining during a quarantine – ha! Today, I feel pretty good for the most part. I have a pretty badass scar that I now wear with pride. Luckily, thyroid cancer is the “best cancer to have.” Although – is any type of cancer good to have?!?
So, I will ask again! Have you had your neck checked lately? That silly little organ sure is an important one, so don’t neglect the neck!