It was 8 years ago today that I got out of bed from a sleepless night and made my to the hospital for a hemithyroidectomy. That is a fancy term for having half of my thyroid removed. I had been to my doctor’s office a year before then as I wasn’t feeling well. My doctor wasn’t around so the on-call saw me and it turns out all I had was a stomach bug. But she decided to do a quick check of everything, including a gland check to see if they were enlarged. They were a bit from the bug, but she noticed a lump on the left side of my thyroid and sent me to get some tests done.
It took a battery of tests over the next year for a specialist to recommend surgery. All of my tests came back inconclusive. The specialist told me the odds of it being cancer (given my young age of 22 and having had no family history of cancer) were between 1-3%. He said I didn’t need to have the surgery yet as it was most likely a cyst, but that in future it could become a problem and would probably need to be removed at some point anyway. So I opted for surgery just in case.
Not even two months before my surgery, I very suddenly lost my father to cancer and I became a little more worried that maybe what I had could be cancerous after all. But I dismissed the thought as my dad had a brain tumour, which is completely different.
During my surgery, the left half of my thyroid was removed and the lump was indeed a cyst. My specialist noticed something odd on the right side of my thyroid and decided it would be best to take that half out as well.
I remember sitting in his office listening to him. He used words like microscopic and papillary carcinoma. Most of it didn’t make sense to me, but the word carcinoma set off some alarm bells… and sure enough, it was cancer. I’m very fortunate that it was caught so early that I didn’t need any further treatments aside from taking Hormone Replacement Therapy for life.
At first, it was a very scary thing to experience. But I didn’t really think much of it, how to make sure it didn’t happen again. I sort of thought of it as something to avoid. I felt like I was always looking over my shoulder, waiting for it to come back.
Slowly over time though, I realised I wasn’t a victim of cancer, and I thought of it more as an experience and that I could take something away from it, grow from it. I became more and more interested in my health and started eating better and exercising. It was a very slow & gradual process, but it has come to the point where I try and do everything I can to keep healthy.
Here is me in 2007 when I started my journey to a healthier & happier me:
Having cancer was probably the best thing that could have happened to me. It made me care more about myself and it has made me a much stronger person. Over the past few years, I have come to appreciate the small things in life more, I have become a passionate person, a more positive person and am grateful.
Here is me on my 5-year cancer free anniversary:
Here is me today:
In case you can’t read it – my t-shirt says Thyroid Cancer Survivor*
*thyroid not included
I am so much happier since I’ve taken steps to be healthy. I feel lighter =)