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 ๐Ÿ˜‰

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 ๐Ÿ˜‰
  • 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. Nowย 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