Katie has started a facebook group for young adult thyroid cancer survivors called “Out came a butterfly.” To visit this group please click here.
How did you find out you were sick? What events led to the diagnosis?
I was actually being treated back in 2003/04 for stage 1 cervical cancer had the whole cone biopsy, and coterization not fun!! I was actually seeing my gyno when he noticed my voice had changed and during routine blood tests my thyroid levels were really low. He suggested I get an ultrasound of my thyroid just to see if everything is ok. The funny thing is I went home that night and had to google thyroid to figure out where it is!!
The ultrasound came and went and they wanted to do a biopsy of a little nodule they found. The doctor called me in for an appointment on June 14 2007 and told me that it was papillary carcinoma and not to worry. He said, “If you have to get cancer this is the one to get!”
Do you work? I work for Scarborough City Cab (wheelchair accessible services).
What are your career goals?
To be happy with my job and make a difference.
What were your first thoughts when diagnosed?
I couldn’t believe it.
How did your family react?
My family all reacted differently, some were very supportive while others distant themselves.
How did your friends react?
A lot of people who I thought were my friends faded away. They didn’t understand. Or tried to make suggestions on what I did to cause it!
What did your treatment consist of?
Medical Side: Medically, my treatment consisted of surgery a total thyroidectomy, which should have went smoothly however my thyroid and surrounding area are flipped. This made my surgery about five and a half hours longer then expected. To top it all off I found out I was allergic to the surgical tape they used to cover the stitches!!
Six weeks after surgery I had radioactive iodine treatment (basically radiation in pill form), which included one week of isolation and a specific diet.
Now were just trying to regulate the right amount of synthyroid.
Non-Medical Side: Non-Medically, I felt lost. I felt the need to be strong for everyone and not let them see how it was affecting me. I have a son who was seven at the time and three step children ranging from six to eleven, who, at first, I wasn’t going to tell. I was always extremely tired and emotional. I thought after the surgery I would be back to myself, I didn’t realize I would have to find a new me.
In which hospital(s) were you treated?
Princess Margaret for surgery and Sunnybrook for the RAI.
What is your current medical status?
Currently I am one year post surgery and so far, so good. I am currently being tested for issues with my kidneys from the RAI.
How is life different for you now post diagnosis (physically, emotionally, socially, spiritually)?
I have learned that I am a lot stronger then I ever thought. I have fewer friends, but they are life-time friends. I cherish the small things in life. My kids, I don’t think I could have found my inspiration without them. I am also more sympathetic towards people.
What is/was the toughest part of your challenge?
Accepting help and admitting that I can’t do it all.
What is/was the best part of your challenge?
It brought me closer to my family and made things clearer for me.
I also had the chance to go to Retreat Yourself 2008 and meet some amazing people.
What really motivated you to keep going while you were sick?
My kids, they didn’t care if I was sick or what I looked like, they would all climb in bed with me and we would watch movies!
What lessons or messages have you taken away from your experience?
Cancer is everywhere and everyone has a story, some you can see on the outside but others are fighting just as hard on the inside!!
What are your thoughts and feelings about your illness now? How have they changed since before your diagnosis?
I think I was in denial; it was almost easier to deal with it. It wasn’t until after my surgery, when I had just got out of the shower and the tape had come off my stitches, I stood there looking in the mirror and cried. It hit me all at once I had cancer! Then all the emotions came through.
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?
They still do not know what causes thyroid cancer so aside from avoiding radiation exposure, just make sure you get tested and trust your instincts if something doesn’t feel right then make them test you.
Did you attend any support groups during your challenge?
I wasn’t given very much help from my doctor so I did a lot of on-line research which has its pros and cons!
Facebook has a group just for thyroid cancer survivors so that helped to hear other stories.
If you did not attend a support group, why?
Had my doctor told me about a group I might have went, it would have been nice to have someone my age to talk too.
How are you connected with Young Adult Cancer?
I went to a thyroid seminar at Senca College back in May 2008 a young girl was there who suggested I try them for help, she had gone on the retreat the year before and found it very helpful.
I think YACC is great. There should be way more organizations dealing with young adults, we have very different issues then people in there late 40s .