Sometimes life throws you a large mass of cancer, plants it on your thyroid and says, “It’s a great day in the neighborhood.” That is my reality. A few weeks ago, I found out my thyroid was rather large and firm. Is that abnormal? I mean I do work in health care but I’m no doctor. I eat decently (I can’t help but love chocolate or anything involving bread and cheese), I exercise regularly and I stay pretty active. I’m active by choice and because I’m a new mom to a 7-month, my #goldenchild. Hashtag intentional.
Working alongside some of the best providers in our area, talking to survivors and other patients who inspired me with their own stories, and feeling compassion to some of my colleagues that have their own struggles, I could not believe that at this very moment I was the patient. Nope, not me. I’m just the girl behind the story, the one who puts spotlight on those who have survived hoping to inspire someone else to live a healthier life. Now I was being told it was my turn. The page had turned and it was time for me to see the other side of things.
This all seemed too unreal to me. I regularly test my blood for this fun thyroid condition I have and always thought I was in the safe zone; my labs had certainly said so. It wasn’t until my “work mom” insisted I go get checked for a cough I was fighting for roughly a week. No big deal right? And I obliged.
I walk in to the clinic to see my new provider. I’m always hesitant in these scenarios because I’m just like everyone else… I want to hear what Web MD told me, obviously! Ok, this part is a joke. I do know better than to use Google to diagnose myself but in all honesty I’ve had a thyroid condition for years and colds occasionally, I’m normal and healthy. Beyond the cough, I was prepared to talk about my thyroid because since #goldenchild’s birth I had not been a good patient. Shame on me.
Low and behold, one of the first things my new provider says was, “Do you know your thyroid is large and firm and it feels like it has some lumps on it.” WHAT? Of course I didn’t. How would I know this little butterfly, supposedly large and in charge, relaxing in my neck was now public enemy #1. She’s just supposed to sit there, look pretty and function with my daily cocktail of hormone therapy. After this brief moment of curiosity, my new provider highly recommended an ultrasound since I had never done one before and it was obvious the lumps needed investigating. Insert laughter since now I might have more than just lady lumps. Off to the land of scanned imaging I go.
Ultrasounds are no big deal; quite frankly I was looking forward to a few minutes of shut eye and quiet time. The ultrasound tech and I started talking about life. Isn’t that what you do to kill the time? Frankly, I had preferred napping but she was rather chatty which I didn’t really mind. Until a few minutes in to the appointment when Ms. Mass decided to rear her ugly self. Then the tech went silent…for the rest of the appointment. Gees, talk about paranoia. Well, I tried to relax the rest of the weekend but so many thoughts were running through my mind. I was already scheduled to see a surgeon to go over the ultrasound and discuss my options. Wait, I have options? Or more like, I need to consider my options?
Skip past the weekend and on to the surgeon. As I sat in the lobby my heart was racing, I was partially flushed, and I felt like my life was flashing before me…what in the hell was I going to be told during this appointment? I’ve never even been in a surgeon’s office as a patient. Let’s not forget, my most prevalent thought was, “I’m a new mom…to a 7-month old, this can’t happen to me and why now?” Plus I was stereotyping myself and reminding myself of how I did not fit into the demographic of a surgical patient. So comical. I’m a marketing person so I know all too well about categorizing people and I like to fit into a bucket, personally. Actually, I’m a control freak and this time I had no control over what I was about to be told.
On goes my meeting with the surgeon who begins to explain to me the different possibilities of thyroid cancer – the dirty word was finally said – as he shows me my ultrasound scans. He’s using words like “suspicious”, “twice the normal size” and showing me the exact measurements of Ms. Mass and public enemy #1. I received far more education than I expected and for someone like me, I had met my match. I’m a details kind of person. I want the strategy outlined and a timeline determined. And then I want to create my checklist that I can promptly check off. I walked out feeling better but the scariest part of all was the likelihood that I had CANCER was 100 percent but the likelihood it was malignant was unknown until more labs were done. Ok, I can breathe a little, right? My husband certainly had a pep to his step after hearing this, why shouldn’t I?
So skip forward another few days, which was another weekend of pure torture including mapping out a living will in my head. Enter stomach pains and emotional eating and let’s be honest, drinking (I’m a wine-o). Monday morning rolls around and I get a call from the surgeon to follow-up on my labs. The result, it is malignant. What the hell? Now the, “what did I do to deserve this?” conversation was in my mind the whole time. I mean, who deserves cancer? Absolutely no one, but you still ponder the thought. So Ms. Mass decides she wants to play hard ball and go and lollygag with my lymph nodes too, how dare she! Does she really know who she’s dealing with? I mean come on, all five feet of me can go rounds with this little Princess – because I’ve long ago upgraded to Queen.
So what’s next? Surgery is scheduled – my cancer is slow growing fortunately – and who could forget the planned trip to Mexico the week before. You can guarantee I will be drinking every margarita flavor available and hopefully letting my mind go as I was #goldenchild explore sand, sunshine and the water. Not to mention I turn 30 a week before surgery, happy freaking birthday Queen Bee. I guess I can say this birthday will be one to remember. And what I can look forward to, well there’s a lot. I get to live – that’s important, right?
I have a type of thyroid cancer that has the potential to spread further but I’m confident my team of Saints (no pun intended for those that know me) will go in and get Ms. Mass and public enemy #1 no problem. They might even teach them both a lesson or two about trying to make my life any more uncomfortable in the future – and here I thought pushing out a 7-plus pounder was uncomfortable. Let’s not forget, my absolutely amazing husband specifically mentioned that I’m too sassy to let something like this take me down. I’m so proud that he’s finally bought in to the whole Queen Bee thing; it only took seven years of marriage to seal the deal.
On to what I can look forward to after surgery: a liquid diet, a second mock maternity leave, being waited on and sleep – all you new moms know what I mean. I’ll skip my fear factor with radiation for now. Ok, I’ll stop with the jokes – I can tend to be sarcastic and sometimes funny so I’ll make this part serious. What I look forward to: my life and living until I’m hopefully older than 100 because I’d love to nag my husband for that long (I love you), watching my #goldenchild grow up, enjoying my nieces and nephews and loving my family, living out a successful career, and hanging out with my closest friends.
What I pass along to you – moms and ladies of the world – is to never forget about yourself. Ms. Mass and the power of public enemy #1 were found by two people I happen to work with who are also health care providers, one is a cancer survivor. I realize I am dealing with a treatable type of cancer but it’s still scary and something I’ll have to monitor my whole life. Because of this, I have even more respect and love for those that are fighting for their lives – they are my reminder to embrace this “lump” in the road.
It’s cliché to say we forget about ourselves but in reality, we do. And it’s time to take our health seriously. So as you celebrate thyroid cancer awareness month and breast cancer awareness month by honoring those that have survived and remembering loved ones that have passed – GET SCREENED. You may not be at the age or risk-factor group to get some of the annual screenings but you can always get a physical. Trust your provider and ask questions. Or get a second opinion; it’s your body after all. Don’t feel silly, paranoid, uncomfortable, unsure, don’t want to bother anyone, it’s not a big deal, it’s just a minor thing, I can deal with it or any other reason. We matter. Whether you’re a mom, not a mom, daughter, sister, aunt, friend, simply an amazing person – you are someone to somebody.
And if you need a really good provider, I know where to find one. Of course I would never neglect my desire to be grateful to someone that was a complete stranger only a few weeks ago. I sent my new provider a gift – hell, whether he likes to admit it or not he saved my life.
Now that you’ve read my public service announcement I have to add in my rolling credits. This is technically my 15 minutes of fame, so here it goes. Kidding, but seriously this process has been the reality I needed to say sorry (still working on some of them), goodbye and – just because I’m me – eff off, mostly to Ms. Mass and public enemy #1. My husband has been the mac to my cheese, happily poured me more wine when I should have stopped, and taken care of our little person like a boss. Our parents recently found out and while I know you never want this kind of news as a parent, they are more than supportive and loving – and it’s a great excuse for me to savor my mom’s cooking. My sisters are using this to better their own lives and will perhaps finally start listening to me, one of the life goals I have J. My friends – wow, I could not have asked for better ones. They are the second branch to my sibling tree. And I cannot forget my co-workers, especially work mom and my boss. They are amazing and offered their unwavering support and ears for listening, even gave me full access to their tissue boxes. Even my dogs have been rock stars. I guess that’s to be expected when you drop the C word on everyone – but I know their concerns are genuine and they have me in their thoughts.
So I think that about sums up how I experienced life’s greatest joy, #goldenchild, and later got cold water splashed on my face and can now say I’ve had, hopefully brief, a relationship with the C word.
Until the next chapter,
Jamii Uboldi is a local health care marketing director who leads the organization’s brand campaigns and communication strategies. She is a mom to a 7-month old boy, two pooches Gus (Boston Terrier) and Ranger (Black Lab), happily married for 7-years to her husband and is the ultimate bookworm.