One Monday four years ago, I discovered a lump as I was rubbing my neck at
work, an old habit of mine. By the next Monday, I was at my primary care
doctor’s office; by Wednesday I had seen a surgeon. I was 51 years old.
Within two weeks, I had the lump removed and learned I had cancer. A few
weeks later, I learned what kind it was: medullary thyroid cancer. And it had
spread to my lymph nodes.
The news made me break out in the kind of cold sweat that only someone who
has been given a cancer diagnosis understands. But what made my diagnosis even
more frightening is that this type of cancer is relatively rare and has no
clear prognosis. Some people live for 20 years with it and some live for three
years. There’s just no way of knowing what will happen.
Treating Thyroid Cancer
Since that first surgery in 2004, I've gone through four rounds of radiation
and four more surgeries to deal with cancerous areas that have developed on my
spine, ribs, right femur, and skull.
Now I’m enrolled in a clinical trial of a new drug. I get MRI and CAT scans
every two months. So far, I haven’t developed any new tumors.
I’m incredibly grateful to my doctors and other caregivers for pushing me to
get into this trial. And I feel full of hope, because someone will be the first
to be cured because of this research. It might not be me, but it will be
Living With Thyroid Cancer
A cancer diagnosis is pretty scary, but I think it’s interesting, too. I was
a biology nut in school. By the time I got to high school, I’d already read all
the biology books in the library. So I find the facts of my disease intriguing.
That helps me work well with the doctors. It also really helps me support other
people with cancer.
I know some people see a cancer diagnosis as a death sentence. I actually
see it as a life sentence, because it’s making me do things I would otherwise
have put off until retirement. I was a high school track and field star, and I
used to race motorcycles. I can’t do those activities anymore. But I can do
lots of other things, like hunting, fishing, and archery. I just love to be
outdoors. I’m also restoring a ’62 Corvette.
I’m your classic type A personality, but I’m basically giving myself
playtime. In a way I feel lucky.
I don’t consider myself a cancer “survivor” -- those are the people who are
cancer-free. I’m a cancer fighter. I am fighting cancer, not just for family
and myself, but for the doctors and caregivers who have helped me as well.