Thursday, March 01, 2007

Thyroid Cancer - The Diagnosis Process - The Ultrasound

My intention with this blog and the ones to follow over the next few months is to document my medical history of my journey through thryoid cancer. My hopes are that it will help someone else who is either newly diagnosed, in the middle of their journey or has gone through the same thing. I am finding that this process has created a sense of healing and strength as I remember what I have been through and realize that I have in deed made it through.

I will be adding a bit of my story continually so check back for the new installments. :)
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My journey begins in March, 1999. I was at my annual physical with my OB/GYN. He was performing a lymphatic / endocrine check and casually mentioned that my thyroid was swollen. I didn’t ask what that meant nor did he offer any words of direction as to whether I should do something or have it checked by someone.

One week later I was to discover that I was pregnant with our first child. I was 33 years old, working for a regional CPA firm, had just made manager and was flying high in my career. I was working 70-100 hours most weeks and found myself on a plane early Monday morning only to return home late Thursday evening. I was sleeping little and eating poorly. My average breakfast was a pop tart and a cup of coffee. Morning snack was a can of Coke and a candy bar or Little Debbie snack. Lunchtime was usually fast food like Mc Donalds or Wendy’s where I would pile on another Coke and some fries and a burger or chicken sandwich. While on the road room service was the norm because I was always under deadlines with my clients and had too many clients on my plate to allow any time to rest and rejuvenate from the stress of the day. When my weight reached a level above which I would tolerate I would join Weight Watchers and get back to a slightly healthier life and force myself to exercise while traveling. This continued for the 4 ½ years I was a consultant. Next came pregnancy.

I was so sick throughout my pregnancy. I eagerly awaited my 12th week hoping that somehow the nausea would subside but it did not. I vomited every morning and throughout the day so I ate what I could keep down. This consisted of chicken, grapes, bagels, double cheeseburgers, fries and ham & egg croissants for breakfast. I limited myself to 1 Coke a day because I didn’t want my baby to get too much caffeine. Some days I could eat more and spicy Mexican or Italian food hit the spot. Vegetables were a virtual no go. I could not stomach the thought of a vegetable so I did not eat them. I am sure I ate a few but it was very minimal. As the fatigue continued from pregnancy and I am sure also due in part to my failing thyroid I cooked less and less and picked up a variety of takeout items. My husband would treat me with Slurpee’s which soothed my stomach. And so this continued for 9 months until our son was born by C-Section on November 5, 1999.

All was well with the world as I cared for my new baby. I experienced the normal fatigue that comes with being up all night and also some post partum blues which I attribute to the c-section and the lack of the transition your body goes through in preparing for labor and delivery. He was a beautiful baby and I adored him. My life would forever be different. Little did I know just how different my life was about to become.

One week before my postpartum checkup I contacted my OB/GYN to tell him that I was experiencing some rectal bleeding. He instructed me to come to his office so he could check me out. He was being cautious because my father had died in 1997 from colon cancer as did his mother (my grandmother) in 1998. He did an examination of me and said that he suspected it was a fissure but to be safe he was sending me to a gastroenterologist. This was now the first week in December 1999.

Within a few days I was seen by the gastroenterologist. He first did a preliminary exam which included a lymphatic check along with my thyroid. This doctor asked me if I was aware that I had a cyst on my thyroid. I told him “No” but that my doctor had mentioned 9 months prior that my thyroid was swollen but had not told me to do anything about it. He told me I should have it checked. So I mentioned that my 6 week post partum was the following week and I would mention it to my doctor then. I was elated to learn that there was nothing wrong with me after this doctor did his full exam only to find that it was hemorrhoids related to pregnancy.

The following week I went to my 6 week postpartum. My son traveled with me to my doctors appointments. He was such a good baby that it made it easy. Little did I know that I would be carting him to many more appointments. I asked my OB/GYN about the lump on my thyroid and he checked it and agreed that there was something there and we should check it out. He ran standard labs including a TSH, FT4 & T4. All of which were normal – or should I say “in the range”. He ordered an ultrasound which was performed on 12/29/99. It showed that I had a multi-nodular cyst measuring 3.9 x 2.8 x 2.6 cm.