Stage of Cancer and Radiation Treatment

Today I learned more specifically the staging of the cancer and how radiation will progress in a couple weeks. I also had a nice conversation with my radiologist about cycling, too :). Anyway, this is what I learned today:

Stage of Cancer:

There are three categories they use to stage in thyroid cancer: (1) thyroid tumors, (2) lymph nodes and (3) metastasis (the spread of the cancer).

They were able to tell me the stage of (1) and (2), but since I only had scans and surgery on my neck, they don’t know how far it has spread to be able to mark a stage of metastasis.

(1) My tumors were papillary carcinoma–> Stage 2
(2) The expanse of the lymph nodes that were affected–> Stage 3
(3) Metastasis–> ?

Therefore, my condition is at least Stage 2 or 3, without the information of the metastasis. Because of this, my radiologist said that I will be receiving two-three times the dose of the average person receiving the same treatment.

Radiation and how it will work:

One function of the thyroid gland is to produce thyroid hormones that meet the body’s needs. In order to do this, the thyroid uses iodine. Essentially, fully functioning, the thyroid is the iodine center for the body. Now that I do not have a thyroid, the goal is to find all remaining thyroid tissue in my body that could have metastasized from the cancer. How? By killing any tissue containing iodine.

I will be doing “radioactive iodine ablation” treatment (RIA)–also called I-131 treatment. As many of you have read, I have been on a strict low-iodine diet for almost a week and will be until radiation. This is to starve my body of iodine so that the treatment is more successful and targets the potential cancerous tissue. I will be taking a pill of radioactive iodine, and the hope is to kill all remaining cancer.

What treatment looks like:

  • October 11: I will get my blood drawn to see if my levels are where they need to be to start treatment.
  • October 17: I will start the radiation. I will go to the hospital, they’ll give me a pill, and I’ll stay there for an hour or so to make sure I don’t have any serious reaction.
  • Then, I will be quarantined for 8 days. During this time I will be confined to a bedroom and bathroom that no one else can use. I have to use separate plates and utensils and wash them separate from other household items.
  • October 21: On the fifth day of being quarantined, I get to start my new thyroid medication and EAT NORMAL FOOD AGAIN! 😀

Follow up:

When I’m out of quarantine, I will get a full body scan to see what thyroid tissue activity is left in my body. Then, in six months, I will have another scan to see if I need a second treatment.

“The house of religious cards ‘that glory built’ collapses when we inevitably encounter unforeseen pain and suffering. When the economy tanks and you lose your job…When the waters rise and the levee breaks…[when you’re diagnosed with cancer]… Suddenly, the mask comes off, and the glory road reaches a dead end. We come to the end of ourselves, in other words, to our ruin, to our knees, to the place where if we are to find any help or comfort, it must come from somewhere outside of us. Much to our surprise, this is the precise place where the good news of the gospel–that God did for you what you couldn’t do for yourself–finally makes sense. It finally sounds good!”

Tullian Tchividjian, Glorious Ruin.

Memorable Weekend, Pre-Radiation

I’m several days into the pre-radiation routine–strict low-iodine diet (see previous post) and no thyroid medication. I meet with my radiologist this Thursday to hopefully get more information on my dosage of treatment, length of being quarantined and likelihood of multiple treatments. Prayers would be appreciated!

This past weekend was such a blessing. I started all of the pre-radiation methods Friday morning, and made my first 3.5 hour drive to Grand Rapids, Michigan to visit my cousin Melissa at her school. The drive was stunning, the fall colors are in full swing, and I thoroughly enjoyed listening to some great music and taking it all in.

Friday night, Melis, her friends and I walked to downtown Grand Rapids to watch the release of hundreds of lanterns over the river. If you have seen the movie Tangled, you have a good idea of what I’m talking about. In any event, it was one of the most stunning sights I have ever seen. Would have been a great date 😉

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The next day, Melissa and I spent the whole day doing fall-festivities that I truly missed the four years I lived in California, and one of the main goals for the day was to make a bunch of food that would follow my low-iodine diet. We went to a local orchard and bought apple cider, apples and pumpkins to carve.

We spent the day cooking–we made pumpkin bread muffins, spicy pumpkin seeds (from out freshly carved pumpkins 🙂 ) and for dinner we made chicken with cinnamon apples. Everything we made turned out very well, and it definitely lifted my spirits. Not to mention we watched The Hunger Games during dinner, which of course was awesome. I was beginning to think I was going to be eating oatmeal, fruits and vegetables every meal for the next several weeks :). Now, however, I have great motivation to make so many things, hopefully in large quantities so that I have left-overs.

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I cannot express how much the changing seasons does my soul well. It brings me so much joy. When I start to feel the weight of what I’m walking through right now, it often only takes looking out the window and breathing in the crisp air to revitalize. There is so much beauty in the world–even in the most unlikely places.

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After returning from such a memorable weekend in Michigan, I was blessed to end Sunday watching football with great company. I mean how much better could the weekend have been?? Well, my roommate’s dad and sister visited last night and we watched Here Comes Honey Boo Boo–that’s how! Weekend complete. 🙂

I’m definitely starting to feel the weight of not being able to take any thyroid medication. I’m uncomfortably tired all-day, everyday. However, I am still keeping active, laughing the usual uncontrollable amount and even exercising when I feel my heart won’t explode ;). It is very clear to me that my strength is not of my own.

Timeline of Treatment, September-April

It has been 3.5 weeks since surgery, and yesterday I met with my endocrinologist to get a timeline of what my treatment is going to look like. While he was not able to give me more information about the treatment itself, he did give me a timeline for the next several months.  I thought the next step was going to be another CT scan, before heading straight into radiation, but he said the cancer was extensive so a scan is pointless–we’re just diving right in on the process. Here is my timeline for the next several months:

Now until after radiation: Adhere to a low-iodine diet

Food to avoid:

  • Iodized salt and sea salt and any foods containing iodized salt or sea salt.
  • Seafood and sea products
  • Foods or products that contain these sea-based additives: carrageenan, agar-agar, algin, alginate, nori
  • Dairy products (milk, cheese, cream, yogurt, butter, ice cream, powdered dairy creamers, whey, casein, other dairy products).
  • Egg yolks or whole eggs or foods containing whole eggs. Egg whites are ok.
  • Commercial bakery products. Avoid bread products that contain iodine/iodate dough conditioners.
  • Red Dye #3. However, Red Dye #40 is OK. We suggest that you avoid red, orange, or brown processed food, pills, and capsules.
  • Most Chocolate (for its milk content). Cocoa powder and some dark chocolates are permitted.
  • Some Molasses.
  • Soybeans and most soy products (soy sauce, soy milk, tofu).
  • Some beans besides soybeans.The National Institutes of Health diet says to avoid these beans: red kidney beans, lima beans, navy beans, pinto beans and cowpeas.
  • Rhubarb and potato skins. The inside of the potato is fine.
  • Iodine-Containing Vitamins and Food Supplements.

Foods to limit:

  • Fresh meats. Up to 5 ounces per day of fresh meats such as chicken, beef, pork, lamb and veal
  • Grains, cereals. Up to 4 servings per day
  • Rices.

September 28: Stop taking thyroid medication

This will likely be the start of the hardest part of the process. I have been taking replacement thyroid medication since I had my thyroidectomy and feel pretty exhausted in any event. Taking no thyroid medication will essentially leave me without a metabolism. I will struggle with being even more tired than I am now–all day. I will be completely off of any thyroid medication until after radiation (~3 weeks).

I am allowed to exercise during this time (of course this was my first question to the doctor, hoping this will give me a fake sense of metabolism and jump-start my days 🙂 ). However, my doctor was frank with me and said that he is certain I will not want to–even though physically it is not harmful. He doesn’t know me too well 😉 Challenge accepted.

October 4: Meet with my radiologist

I will meet with yet another doctor–my radiologist–to learn more specifically what radiation will look like. The treatment I will be doing is called radioactive iodine ablation (RIA). I will take a pill and the goal is to kill all of the remaining cancer cells in my body.

I know having the RAI treatment will make me radioactive, and I know that I have to be quarantined for a certain amount of time, depending on the dose. I know I have to avoid children and pregnant women for a certain amount of time, as well. However, I have no clue just how long for anything, because they are hoping to do a high dosage of RAI because of the extent of the spread. We’ll see!

October 11: Get blood drawn

After being off of my thyroid medication for 13 days and on the low-iodine diet, I will get my blood drawn to see if my levels are where they should be to start RIA.

October 17: Begin RIA

Depending on my blood results, I will start RIA this day. I’m hoping being radioactive means I glow. How cool would that be?

October 21: Begin new thyroid medication

On the fifth day of RIA treatment, I will start a new thyroid medication that I will take once in the morning and begin to regulate. I will be on this medication the rest of my life. I have heard stories from people who have had difficulty regulating this medication, so I’m hoping for an unusually fast regulation period. This will be when I begin to feel closer to “normal” again!

November 26: Meet with my endocrinologist sometime this week

Six weeks after starting my medication, I will meet with my endocrinologist to see exactly how the medication is affecting me and to make adjustments accordingly. After this meeting

December: Meet with my ENT

I get to meet with my favorite doctor again! He was my surgeon and ENT through this whole process and he wants to check on the healing of my neck again.

April: CT scan

I thought that all of this would be done by the end of the year, but because of its extent, my endocrinologist seems to think that a second round of RIA is a definite possibility. Six months after the first treatment, I will get a CT scan done again, and if there is anything remaining, I will start the process of no medication/low-iodine diet again and start a second round of RIA.

In any event, I’m doing well. I’m blessed by those around me who continually fill me with joy. Your cards, Facebook messages, tweets, texts and phone calls mean the world to me. While I never really know how to express thanks enough, please know that I deeply appreciate every act of kindness from each of you.

The song below is a song that has been a favorite for a long time. I want to encourage you that God is making beautiful things out of us. He is taking this situation I’m in and turning it into something remarkable. I’ve already begun to see the picture he’s painting, and it’s the beginning of something beautiful. I pray this song brings you a little hope today.

“Beautiful Things” – Gungor

All this pain
I wonder if I’ll ever find my way
I wonder if my life could really change at all
All this earth
Could all that is lost ever be found
Could a garden come up from this ground at all

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

All around
Hope is springing up from this old ground
Out of chaos life is being found in You

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

You make me new, You are making me new

Pushing Through Recovery and Seeking a Meaningful Story.

Two and a half weeks have past since my full thyroidectomy and lymph node removal surgery, and I am reluctant to admit that it has become difficult. The first couple weeks I was pushing through the pain of the surgery and the little inconveniences of recovery, but the process of healing in that regard was relatively simple for me to push through mentally. It was surgery after all, it made sense that pain would come, and it made sense that I would be down for the count for a week or so with all of the antibiotics and anesthesia in my system.

Now, however, since my wound is healing very nicely, and I’m gaining more mobility in my neck, I desperately desire to be able to go about life normally, but my body will not allow it. I feel very tired all day and while I can go out for a chunk of time–even the majority of the day or the majority of an evening–I cannot make it through a full day of walking around or even talking without getting exhausted. I really do not want this to be a woe-is-me blog, so please bare with my transparency and honesty.

It is definitely a mental battle. I have never been forced to rest for this long. I am used to being able to get up early, exercise, accomplish an extensive “to-do” list each day and feel pretty energized even at the end of the day. Deferring law school a year because of being diagnosed with cancer four days before starting was difficult, but not as difficult as dealing with the frequent thoughts I have these days:

“What are you doing with your life now?”
“Why are you just sitting there?”
“Why are you wasting time?”
“How are you helping others by laying on a couch?”

I have committed myself to a daily devotional each morning and have learned that if I read immediately when I wake up, I can read what I planned to before my nausea and exhaustion settles in. It has certainly helped start my day off on the right foot and kept my spirits high. I look forward to being able to read more throughout the day and growing more in knowledge and understanding. For now, it is hit or miss each day if I will be feeling well enough to read and comprehend. It’ll come though, I know that.

I want to make a difference in this world, and it is hard for me to be confined to my apartment for much of the day. I want to go out and talk to people. I want to love strangers, seek justice for the oppressed and pursue opportunities that place me in optimal position to impact people for good.

Right now, I need to seek more silence and prayer. There is nothing else I can do at this point, and I am finding peace in that. From living in California, working four jobs while going to school full-time and being part of a world-class percussion group to—-> moving to Chicago, being diagnosed with thyroid cancer, having no school and work only two nights a week for a couple hours…I do not think it is an accident that I’m being forced to slow down. It is time to truly evaluate what I want the rest of my life to look like when I complete radiation and get back to full health in the next few months.

I am so thankful that my favorite author, Donald Miller, just released a new book called “Storyline: Finding Your Subplot in God’s Story.” It looks like it is going to be an excellent resource for planning a life that has a meaningful story. I hope that while I’m quarantined for radiation treatment, I can spend time working my way through this book. I meet with my endocrinologist on Monday to talk about the treatment.

In everything though, I continue to be reminded of how blessed I am and how beautiful the people in my life are. Thank you for your encouragement and steadfast love through this journey. While I like to pretend I can do this all on my own, I am willing to admit that I am wrong. I would not be where I am today without all of your love and support. If you have made it through the end of this post, you are one of those people, and I just have to say from the bottom of my heart–Thank you.

“My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever.” Ps. 73:26

Two Weeks Post-Surgery.

Tomorrow marks two weeks post-surgery. While the time has past relatively slowly, it is actually pretty hard to believe it’s already been two weeks. Each day there have been small victories in recovery. From removing the dressing, removing the stitches, removing to tape, to being able to lay on my back again, to sleeping in a bed, to being able to shower, to being able to run errands without wanting to fall asleep, to returning to teaching high school percussion.

I’ve been really trying to learn how to rest, which is something I’m not used to. I am so used to being borderline unhealthfully busy and now I am forced to take not just a breather…but to stop. I am also used to exercising daily. Yesterday I “ran” for the first time since surgery (12 days after surgery), and while I was only doing a light jog, my heart rate was between 170-180 bpm the whole time. When I finished, I realized just how much my body still needs to recoup. Don’t worry, I’m not going to try that again for a while…I realize now that there can be severe ramifications to that.

My heart rate is still very elevated from what it normally is. I’ve begun to wear my heart monitor when I’m sitting down, to get an idea of my resting pulse right now. I’m used to my resting pulse being around 60 bpm, because of how active I am. Now, it’s not uncommon for my resting pulse to be around 85 and as soon as I walk from one place to the next, it jumps up to 110-120 at least. I have really been trying to learn how to be physically still. It’s so hard. However, today my resting pulse has been in the upper 70’s, so hopefully in a couple days, I’ll feel safer about running or riding my bike!

This week I starting teaching high school percussion again and it was SO wonderful being back in that element. I truly hope I can inspire these kids and give back to them all that has been given to me over the years.

I meet with my ENT again next Friday for follow up and then meet with my endocrinologist the following Monday to talk about radiation treatment. I’ll be starting radiation in the next few weeks. I’m SO glad my favorite author, Donald Miller just released a new book, so I have good material for the days I’m quarantined for radiation :)!

Thank you ALL for your amazing encouragement and support! I am doing very well, and I am excited to see where this unexpected season of life takes me. I am comforted by Christ daily, and the changing seasons in Chicago–pumpkin spice and crisp air, can’t wait for the leaves to start changing!

Fact of the day: “Thyroid cancer will set a new record in 2012, with 56,460 people newly diagnosed in the United States and more than 200,000 worldwide. Unlike many cancers, thyroid cancer is increasing in incidence, and it’s the fastest increasing cancer in both men and women.” (article)

 

Photos from my recovery:

 

Day 4, second day out of the hospital

Day 4, First time going for a short walk in public. Threw on the scarf as to not scare children 😉

Day 5, Mom helping me wash my hair when I wasn’t allowed to get the incision wet.

Day 6, last day of stitches

Day 7, stitches out, tape on, waiting to get blood drawn to see where my calcium levels are.

Day 7, Came home to my apartment for a night and was overwhelmed by love of my roommate and packages in the mail. As a Colts fan, it was pretty bittersweet to receive a new Peyton jersey in orange 🙂

Day 8, driving for the first time since surgery. FIRST DAY that I did not feel nauseous since surgery!

Day 9, first time heading out to meet a friend to hang out–to watch kickoff Sunday football!!

Day 10, Stitches AND tape off. Complete healing commences. You can see fluid still sitting in the center where my thyroid used to be. Still waiting for that and the swelling to go down.

Day 10, I decided it was pretty cool that I now have two “smiles” 😉

Day 11, I can really see that this is healing beautifully now!

Day 12, Redness is really minimal now!

Day 13, It’s still healing very nicely, though I’m starting to get some serious stiffness in the back of my neck from the lack of use of the front muscles of my neck.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finding Peace in Change–Surgery Week.

Well, many of you know that after sitting down with the Dean of Admissions, and speaking once again with my surgeon, I was encouraged to defer a year of school. This has been pretty difficult to grasp. I just moved across the country again, to start school. I was excited to begin working toward a degree that I believe will help me most readily in my dream of helping those in modern-day slavery.

It’s hard to not feel like a failure or that I wimped out or that I gave up. I have never backed out of anything in my life…once I commit to something, I see it through. It was extremely hard to make the final call. I talked to several of my professors and they articulated how incredibly difficult it is to miss even one day of law school–and I was looking toward missing at least 5 days upfront. Also, while the surgery recovery is supposed to take 10 days, the ENT was clear that it could take some time to regulate my “fake thyroid” medication after surgery (I’ll be on this medication the rest of my life), and it is likely that I will be tired frequently. I will have radiation treatment about 6-8 weeks later, and that also looks like there will be a few days I’ll have to be down for the count. The Dean of Admin thought it was a wise choice to defer for medical reasons, which means that I have an automatic spot secured for next year.

With all of this in mind, it seemed unnecessary to struggle to hang on the first year of law school–a lot hinges on the first year and there were several other external factors that confirmed my decision:

  • Scholarships for your remaining years in school are determined by your grades your first year. I want to work toward being the top of my class.
  • The bar is mostly based on first year material.
  • I don’t want to just make it through the year–it’s essential to me that I truly understand the material. I want to know what I’m learning and not just frantically catching up.
  • I’ve been told several times that students develop study groups at the beginning of their first year that often carry out through all three years. I would be in surgery the end of the first week into the second and realize it is likely I will miss out on opportunities to connect with classmates from the beginning.
  • I’m really not on any time frame. Taking one year off at 22-years-old is not going to drastically change the outcome of my career. I’ve just never wanted to take any time off, because I have goals and I know what I hope to accomplish in the future.
  • If the doctor is trying to regulate my “fake thyroid” medication, I imagine it will be much more difficult if my stress level is through the roof with school.
  • I have been going non-stop for a very long time, and it could be very good for me to take a step back (I wouldn’t have made that decision on my own, without something health-related to stop me 😉 )

I know that this year is going to end up being something very special. I am going to make the best of it, and I am already extremely excited at all of the places I plan to go, people I plan to see, things I plan to do once all of this passes–whether it’s 6 months, 8 months, 10 months, etc. Whenever this passes, I’ll be ready to continue pursuing life at full force 🙂 :

  • Looking into an internship at International Justice Mission
  • Teaching percussion at the two high schools I’ve already started to help this year.
  • Riding my bike, just because!
  • Training for a mini marathon and/or decathlon
  • Writing more, taking pictures again, art projects with my roommate
  • Seeking a conversation partner to finally become fluent in Spanish
  • Spending more time with my family north of the city
  • Driving to Indy and spending time with my brother and sister-in-law and baby nephew (due in January!)!
  • Going to The Justice Conference in February! I have always wanted to go to this. It’s in Philly this year, assuming I can pull the money together for the ticket and travel, I can’t wait! I’ve always wanted to go.
  • Continuing to write articles from Halftime and freelance elsewhere
  • Jazz events in the city
  • WGI Finals 🙂
  • Participating in another Venture Expeditions trip!

I am also making sure over the next several months that I spend significant time alone, in reflection and prayer. I am opening my mind to what the Lord has in store for me, even if it may not be what I have been convinced of for so long. I am letting go of all of my expectations and remembering the journey and finding peace in the process. I pray that I am sensitive to my conscience and not stubborn in my goal-set ways. I’m already growing and learning.

My surgery is this Friday, August 31, and I’m really hope time passes fast between now and then. The anticipation and waiting is pretty rough. I’m SO thankful that my parents are able to fly in this week from northern California to be here during the process. I am so blessed to have them. I love them dearly.

My parents and I at Biola graduation– May 2012

My lovely parents

Joy in Suffering

Nearly three years a go, I was here for Francis Chan’s talk about finding joy in suffering. I stumbled upon it today, and it resonated much more boldly. As the reality of facing cancer begins to weigh on my heart, I found great encouragement in sitting back and watching this 50 minute video.

In an era of a church that has hurt so many people, a church that has often strayed away from the simple command to love God and love others, a church that has brought so much pain to those I love dearly– I wish I could apologize face-to-face to each of you, as a Christian, for the pain Christians may have brought you at some point in your life. I struggle with the lack of sensitivity and focus on the Gospel and the person of Jesus in many of our churches today. If each of us truly focused our eyes on Jesus Christ, his words and his actions–how he loves so desperately every person, even those who persecute him–how much different would the church look? Now, many churches articulate this kind of action, but when it comes to actually living out a life that resembles Christ, that’s where you lose people. (At the same time, I am not discounting so many people who are faithfully seeking to follow Christ’s example and are making disciples to do the same…unfortunately, I think the former overrides the latter most of the time.)

When you spend time with Jesus, alone with Jesus, in prayer with Jesus, it is impossible to approach others with anything less than love and compassion. He molds your heart to be more like his. However, even the Scriptures show that those closest to Jesus–those who sought him most genuinely–suffered like him, as well. Still, in every case, it was throughout that suffering that these individuals felt Christ most closely. It was during these moments that the reality of the Holy Spirit became much more apparent.

Jesus is the ultimate comforter, and if life is always comfortable and moving smoothly, why would we ever seek Him? Why would we seek His comfort if we are fine on our own?

In this video, Francis Chan puts it simply:

“I’m not one who wants pain, but I’m one who wants Jesus.”

I resonated with that statement so strongly. I do not want to be going through cancer right now, especially at the start of my law school career, but I do want Jesus. I want to know Him, I want Him to be beside me during all of this, and I want to feel His comfort in a way I have never before. I want my heart to grow closer to His, to become more passionate, to love more deeply and to care about others more intimately.

I empathize and can say that I am adopting apostle Paul’s attitude right now and cannot wait to see how this suffering brings me closer to Jesus:

But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christand be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead. Philippians 3:7-10

Cycling 500 Miles, Law School & Thyroid Cancer

Seven months ago I began bike training for a 500 mile bike trip that I completed three weeks a go. It was at this time that I started noticing a lump on my neck, because my helmet strap laid across it everyday when I put it on. I didn’t think much of it and focused on my training.

The bike tour was radical. I will never forget riding through the mountains of West Virginia singing John Denver’s song Country Roads.

We rode to spread awareness of modern-day slavery and the reality of this kind of oppression in our world today. We rode to raise money for International Justice Mission, to support their efforts in combating these issues. I wrote this post right before we left, and it shares a little more about why we rode. For more of my updates from the trip, search #IJMFreedomTour on Instagram (@Joyness44) and Twitter (@Lydianess).

One of the last days of the cycling trip, I asked Una, one of the participants on our trip who happens to be a doctor, to take a look at the lump on my neck. She told me to go to the doctor when I got back.

I went to the family doctor initially, and he expressed a little concern. I had an ultrasound over my neck which revealed several small nodules around my thyroid and one significantly larger nodule which looked like a lymph node–all on the right side of my neck. The ultrasound showed that the nodules were in fact solid, so they could not be cysts.

However, he called me and said that sometimes lymph nodes swell up when you get a virus, and to just wait it out a couple more months to see if the larger one goes away or gets larger. This was frustrating because it had already been there for over six months, so I didn’t understand why they thought it would go away now. I was also surprised because my grandma had lymphoma, so I didn’t understand why they wouldn’t at least want to remove the large lymph node that was causing me problems.

The next morning he called me back and changed his mind and told me to go see an ENT. Because I moved close to where I lived when I was very young, I have actually been able to see the same doctor that did minor surgery on my ears when I was very little. He has been awesome. In our initial visit, he was concerned about several things that he felt. He told me that his initial thoughts were either thyroid cancer or lymphoma.

He had me get a biopsy of the large lymph node. They didn’t numb me, because it was supposed to be a quick in and out needle biopsy. However, because of the location of the nodule, they had to try four different times with two different sized needles to get cells that would be useful. It was pretty painful by the fourth time.

I flew to California for a wedding last weekend. Amanda and I went to see The Bourne Legacy at 10 am the day it came out–> we wanted to see it cheaper :). About halfway through, the ENT called me to say that the biopsy showed thyroid tissue in my lymph node, which more or less solidified his concern for thyroid cancer. We scheduled a CT scan for the day I returned from Cali and an appointment to talk about surgery. Amanda and I didn’t finish the movie (anyone want to go? ;).

The CT scan was so interesting. They injected me with dye so they would be able to see contrast better. They told me that it would feel warm and might feel like I was peeing my pants. They were right, and I ended up laughing hysterically the whole time they were doing the scan because it felt like I was (I hope you can picture that–it was pretty entertaining). The CT scan showed a growth on the right lobe of my thyroid, and then at least three other nodules between my lymph node and the thyroid.

I am now scheduling surgery for a full a thyroidectomy and cleaning out of the lymph nodes on the right side of my throat. When I’m under for surgery, they’ll figure out what kind of thyroid cancer it is. I start law school Monday, so this will be an interesting start to the next chapter of my life. BUT, the incision will be a hockey stick shape on my right side of my neck, so maybe I can get sponsored by Nike 😉

There will be follow up 6-8 weeks later to see how things clear out, or if anything remains, and we’ll go from there.

Now, there are several details to take note of:

  • When I had my physical before the bike trip, I forgot to tell the doctor that my grandma had lymphoma, so she did not check out my neck at all. Looking back, I probably wouldn’t have been able to go on this bike tour if they had started testing before the bike trip. I deeply believe that this bike trip was an essential part of my life story, so I also don’t believe this was a coincidence that I managed to forget on that day to tell the doctor a vital piece of family health history.
  • I managed to train for and ride 500 miles across the country with thyroid cancer 😉
  • A month a go, my mom scheduled a visit to Chicago to see me, and little did we know then, that it would happen to be the week that I have finalizing tests before heading into surgery. It is such a blessing to be able to have her here for this.
  • Over the past several months, I had developed an irrational fear of dying young, before getting married, before having a family of my own, before accomplishing my dreams… I know this seems pathetic, BUT it was this fear that prompted me to ask Una to check out my neck. I am a very optimistic person and fears like this never permeate my mind. I truly believe the Holy Spirit prompted me to ask Una.
  • The community of my bike trip has been the biggest God-send. I have been updating them on the process of going through testing of this lump, and they have been steadfast in prayer and encouragement. In fact, they rallied together to fast and pray for me the day of my CT scan, from their various locations around the country. Now that is community. Thank you all from the bottom of my heart.

Above all else, I want to be clear that I am doing fine, that I am surrounded by love and that I am SO thankful for my life and the people in it.

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9