The C Word – Hearing I Have Cancer

“Wahhh!!! I wanna go home Mama. Home Now!” – Kat

“We will, just a moment, I’m talking with the doctor. I’m listening.” – Me

“We got the biopsy results back and it’s cancer.” – ENT Doctor

“Mhm, OK.” – Me

“Ma-ooommmm!! Home NOW!!! I wanna be hommmeee…!” – Kat

“Yes, in a minute. OK…” – Me

“It’s Papillary Thyroid Carcinoma.” – ENT Doctor

“Right…” ::holds in emotion because my kids are in the room with us, which means it spills out of my eyes:: – Me

And that is how I received my Thyroid Cancer diagnosis. I will always remember the moment my youngest was being a whiny pain in the tush while I found out I had cancer.

I already had guessed before I heard the the words while driving to the doctors because, why would they have me drive in for test results? Before that, I suspected after reading the ultrasound results, but didn’t want to WebMD myself.  Chances of it being anything worrisome were small so best to not work myself up… Except… That ultrasound reading didn’t read like a typical cyst from my understanding of the findings. Fuck.

My husband, Rich, arrived shortly after the diagnosis and toddler tantrums.

Nodes on the thyroid are very common, 30% of women and 10% of men have nodes.  Of those people, only about 5% of the time it’s anything to worry about. But, if there’s a suspected nodule it NEEDS to be checked out.

My ENT let us know this was very treatable and the prognosis was good. His office scheduled an appointment with a surgeon he highly recommended. A mom I know had thyroid cancer and had relaid all the details of her treatment. My recollection of her radioactive iodine (RAI) experience, which I heard over two years ago, had me even more panicked.

We dropped the kids off at a friends for dinner so I could just ::process:: a little bit. I walked into my front door and didn’t even know what to do. Sit on the couch, walk into the kitchen, clean up some dirty dishes. Instead I sort of walked in a small circle then stood there. Rich walked in a minute behind me and we hugged. I cried for a few minutes. Then I stood there, again, not knowing what to do, again.

Rich looked up survival rates and let me know it’s 98% treatable. I would never look this up on my own out of fear what the numbers were. This was great to hear, but having cancer is scary as hell no matter what the prognosis. My babies are still so little, and of all places to have cancer, my throat!!! I’ve had issues with swallowing since I was 22, not related to my diagnosis. WTF.

Now I had to fight this damn battle that I didn’t want to be a part of, that no one wants to be a part of. People talk about how strong and brave cancer fighters/survivors are. I don’t feel brave. The first few days were just a haze of sadness and fear. I did not fit the cancer fighter criteria at all. Obviously a mistake had been made. Only no mistake had been made.

I was also kind of angry about the situation. I was just getting better after two years of chronic migraines, now I have to fight cancer? Are you kidding me? I never felt like “Everything bad happens to me, why ME?”, but this is shitty.

I stared into nothing several times a day. I plastered a super fake smile on my face for the kids. I thought about my diagnosis all the time. I wondered if I should only tell my family, tell everyone, tell this person, not tell so and so. I settled on telling my family, my three closest friends. I had a play date the day after diagnosis and unexpectedly blurt out my news to her when she was asking me about my plans for the fall now that I would have three full days kid free. Then waited until after my surgeon appointment, when I would know more info, before telling other moms in my community and clients.

Along with fear, anger, sadness, I felt worry. Would I pass this down to my children? How do I tell my children about this? (I found a very helpful resource here.) Are my siblings at an increased risk of getting thyroid cancer? Who will know that my daughter needs an apple in the car when out on errands and that my son needs the 8th music selection on his projector with the 2nd projector light setting on along with the crickets sound on the sound machine while he sleeps?! How will these things happen while I’m recovering from surgery and possibly RAI?

thyroid cancer diagnosis
I was pretty tired leading up to my surgery, Kat took some pictures to document it. #mysteryphotographer

The answer is, you can write lists for when you’re in surgery and the rest will have to be figured out without you. It won’t be the same, and it won’t be done “right” but, everyone will make it through and then I’ll be back at home in the thick of it again.

I can’t tell you the stats or a specific prognosis if you have been recently been diagnosed. But do know, I had so many crazy thoughts between when I got my diagnosis and when I got more answers about my prognosis, trust me. I don’t really think there’s a right way to have cancer. Thankfully, because I would have gotten a C in my best moments. But we can’t give up, and have to try and stay off forums where all the extreme cases end up. Let’s face it, no one who is doing awesome is going to go to a forum for support on how they are back to normal and doing amazing. I guess people could do that, but they would probably be considered an asshole.

This plus more crazy thoughts is what made up the week of my cancer diagnosis to right before the surgeon appointment. I’ll be following up with a post that I’m planning to publish this week about my experience the week between my surgeon appointment and my surgery. If you have questions or want to share your story please do so in the comments or connect with me on Instagram or Facebook.


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