Tammy Stockman

 Tammy Stockman

Age: 35

Hometown: Calgary

What school did/do you attend? Currently attending Mount Royal University

Do you work? Part-time deli clerk at Safeway

What is your career goal(s)? Missionary Nursing in Africa

Your Cancer experience:

How did you find out you were sick? What event(s) led to the diagnosis?

In 2006, I noticed a lump on my neck, went to a doctor who initially said it was nothing and said it would go away in two weeks. I went back after a couple months and saw a different doctor who scheduled an ultrasound, then a CT scan, and then an appointment with an endocrinologist who performed a biopsy. I had only moved to Ontario from Calgary three days after the biopsy and learned a week later that the lump was malignant. In 2010, I had followed up with blood work which revealed that my thyroid marker was high indicating cancer. I had another ultrasound and biopsy which confirmed that it had metastasized to some lymph nodes in my neck. Days before Christmas, I had a modified neck dissection done and am waiting to see the endocrinologist about radiation therapy or not.

What was/is your diagnosis? I was diagnosed with Thyroid Cancer.

What year was it? What was your age at the time? January 2007 at the age of 31

In which Hospital(s) were you treated? I had a thyroidectomy done at Oshawa Hospital in Ontario in February 2007 and one treatment of radioactive iodine in May 2007. Surgery at Peter Lougheed Hospital in 2010.

What were your first thoughts when diagnosed? I heard the news over the phone and was emotionally upset. I immediately contacted the medical office in Ontario  to try and get a doctor who would see me right away to deal with issue.

How did your family react? Concerned under the circumstances.

How did your friends react? Were you treated any different? They prayed. Not much else they could have done.

What did your treatment consist of?

I had only moved to Ontario from Calgary three days after the biopsy and learned a week later that the lump was malignant. I had a thyroidectomy done in February 2007 and was in the hospital two nights to monitor my calcium levels. I had one treatment of radioactive iodine in May 2007. In 2010, I followed up with blood work which revealed that my thyroid marker was high indicating cancer. I had another ultrasound and biopsy which confirmed that it had metastasized to some lymph nodes in my neck. Days before Christmas, I had a modified neck dissection done and stayed in the hospital overnight and am now waiting to see the endocrinologist about radiation therapy or not.

What is your current medical status? Ongoing

How is life different for you now post diagnosis (physically, emotionally, socially, and spiritually)?

The worst part about having thyroid cancer is preparing for blood tests and/or radiation. It requires going off my medication for up to four weeks which presents signs of hypothyroidism and a low iodine diet for radiation; trying to work treatments into my school schedule is a challenge for that reason. Post second surgery has been more a challenge for me in every aspect, as I have been suffering severe headaches, numbness in my neck and jaw and limited range of motion in my neck. It is improving though. When I started this current semester at school, into the second week, I wasn’t sure I could do it. I just felt defeated and wonder at times where God is in all of this, but I am always reminded of His presence which gets me through each day. I have great friends and some family who are very supportive and are continually praying for me.

What was the toughest part of your challenge?

The toughest part after the first diagnosis was living in a new place and having only one friend, dealing with all of the appointments and preparing for radiation treatment (having to find a temporary home as the friend I was staying with was pregnant) and taking a Personal Support Worker course.

What is the best part of your challenge? God is with me through it all. He is preparing me for greater challenges.

What really motivated you to keep going while you were/are sick?

School kept me busy and is keeping me busy, so I don’t have much time to think about it. I am also motivated by hope and faith in God. His grace sustains me through it all, because I don’t believe I could get through it all without it.

What lessons or messages have you taken away from your experience? Not to give up and to take one day at a time. When one day is rough, have hope for the next day; it does get better.

What are your thoughts and feelings about your illness now?  How have they changed since before your diagnosis? I am a stronger person. I am learning to take one day at a time; to not plan too far ahead, because God changes plans and may have something better than I can imagine.

What are some (if there are any you know of) preventative measures that people can take to lower their risk of having an experience like yours? Thyroid cancer is on the rise and is generally caused by exposure to radiation, so I would limit that as much as possible. Get regular checkups. Be proactive about your health. If you are unsure about something, get it checked out.

Did you attend any support groups during your challenge? No.

If you did not attend a support group, why? I didn’t know of such groups.

Would you if one had been available? Do you think attending one would have helped you? A support group would have been very beneficial in Ontario as I was a new resident.

How are you connected with Young Adult Cancer Canada? How did it happen? Mike Lang was a speaker in my class at Mount Royal. He shared his story and part of the video that he is taking across Canada.