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.
Incidence and Mortality
Bladder cancer is the sixth most common cancer in the United States after lung cancer, prostate cancer, breast cancer, colon cancer, and lymphoma. It is the third most common cancer in men but only the eleventh most common cancer in women. Of the roughly 70,000 new cases annually, about 53,000 are in men and about 18,000 are in women. Of the roughly 15,000 annual deaths, over 10,000 are in men and fewer than 5,000 are in women. The reasons for this disparity between...
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 someone.
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.