Surprise! Everything Just Changed

One night seven years ago, I woke up in the dark completely terrified and–long story short–ended up in the emergency room. (The most memorable part of that experience was when, in response to the 911 call, several gorgeous firemen burst into the bedroom and carried me out to the ambulance. If I were writing a Rom Com, hello meet-cute!)

Turned out to be the first in a long line of terrible panic attacks. I also developed a persistent cough, a painful ache around my ear, and an unnerving swallow problem. Sometimes I had the odd sensation that I wasn’t breathing in enough air. Other times, my voice was inexplicably raspy. Yet tests with an array of specialists over the next six years didn’t identify any specific reason for the assortment of mysterious ailments.

It’s anxiety, they inevitably concluded. Note: once “panic” or “anxiety” is in your medical record, it can perform like a catch-all. One doctor even insisted that my other symptoms weren’t real. It was all about the anxiety: my anxiety about my anxiety was making my anxiety worse. I should just stop worrying so much (he said). So I spent a lot of time afterwards sternly instructing myself not to worry, which only made me feel guilty about worrying.

Then last summer, my fantastic PA found a neck bump during my annual physical, and after a new batch of tests, I finally had a diagnosis: thyroid cancer. I learned that every single one of my seemingly unrelated issues was on the symptom list and that thyroid problems can sometimes manifest as…wait for it…anxiety. With the mystery solved, we raced to the surgery phase. I had a total thyroidectomy as well as some lymph nodes removed (and am now sporting a cool throat scar that my sons advised I should say came from a knife fight.)

That was followed up in the spring by radioactive iodine treatment, which I imagined would be like that episode of The Simpsons where a glowing Mr. Burns floats through the woods with a bright green aura saying “I bring you peace! I bring you love!” to everyone. (Much to my disappointment, I did not float or have a shiny aura.)

The initial full-body scan showed no spread; I dared to hope we were done. But a few weeks ago, a new bloodwork-ultrasound-biopsyfest revealed that I have cancer in some other lymph nodes, which means another surgery+RAI combo is ahead. (My sons have advised me to say that the soon-to-be-much-bigger scar is from a shark attack.)

The first time around, I was in shock. Cancer is a big word to process. Talking about it was scary and overwhelming for a variety of reasons, plus I didn’t want to bother anyone, so I mostly kept it quiet (though the kindness/support of those who knew has been extraordinary, and I will be forever grateful). But it started to feel like a secret, which was demanding in its own way.

Now that I find myself facing round two (it’s like Groundhog Day but with cancer!), there has been a shift. I feel compelled to do something positive with the experience if at all possible, like trying to raise awareness about thyroid cancer; maybe it could help someone else. As my doctor reminded me, this is my life now. It’s okay to talk about it.

Did you know?

  • The thyroid is an endocrine gland in the neck that regulates essential functions in your body.
  • There are four kinds of thyroid cancer: papillary, follicular, medullary, anaplastic.
  • In the past few decades, thyroid cancer diagnoses have increased dramatically.
  • You are called a “survivor” from the date of (any) cancer diagnosis forward.
  • The ribbon for thyroid cancer has three colors: pink, purple, and teal.
  • The butterfly is a symbol for thyroid cancer because your thyroid is shaped like one.

Learn more here! > https://www.cancer.org/cancer/thyroid-cancer.html

In addition to raising awareness, I hope to raise money via Relay for Life, an event taking place shortly after the next surgery. No pressure of course, but if you know any person or company who might be interested in donating to this fundraiser run by the American Cancer Society, please share my page with them. > http://main.acsevents.org/goto/cyn

And if you have any of the symptoms on the list, please talk to your doctor as soon as you can—and make sure that every annual physical includes a #neckcheck.

Peace and love, everyone! 🦋


Question of the day: have you solved any mysteries or had any surprises lately?  

100 thoughts on “Surprise! Everything Just Changed

  1. I’m so glad you finally discovered the cause of your symptoms and are getting help, Cynthia! And thank you for sharing your experience. It’s quite discouraging how many medical professionals are quick to dismiss problems because their tests fail to reveal the issue. I’ll be keeping you in my thoughts as you battle round two.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for sharing. I had a lump on my neck for years and multiple doctors confirmed it was not cancer but couldn’t tell me what it was. 5 seconds under an ultrasound wand and the tech said it was a lipoma. Thyroid issues run in my family, so that is always my biggest worry. Hopefully this round of surgery-RAI knocks it completely out. We’ll compare neck scars next Malice!
    Cheering you on from Virginia Beach!
    Kristin

    Liked by 2 people

  3. One night several years ago I was up late reading my kindle and suddenly I couldn’t see. Go to the ER and have all kinds of tests, my blood pressure monitor alarm kept going off. Ended up I had a mini stroke. It was quite scary to lose my vision and my worse nightmare.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Cyn, I had no idea this went on for seven years! And so sorry you’re dealing with it again. I did have an unpleasant surprise recently. A cat scan inadvertently picked up not one but two “really???” I have to deal with. To be continued…

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh, Cynthia. I’ve known several long-term survivors of thyroid cancer (including one of my nephews) so I know you’ll be fine. But sheesh, I wish you didn’t have to go through this. Sending love and big hugs.

    Liked by 4 people

  5. Thank you for raising the awareness and sharing your inspirational journey. I join with others wishing you the best as you go forward with treatment and receive a complete healing.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Gosh, Cynthia. Thank you for sharing this. Wishing you all good health and success with the next surgery. How grateful you must be for that alert PA and some answers.

    My little neck story is this: I was born with a red birth mark on the side of my neck. When I was two (in 1954), some doctor in Los Angeles scotch-taped a piece of radium over the mark. Yes. RADIUM. After several treatments like that, the birthmark stopped growing. When I was four, they did surgery to cut it out (which resulted in an angry messy red scar because, like my mom, I make extra scar tissue). Now, my doctor always checks my neck during my physical and runs thyroid tests. Scary stuff.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you so much for sharing this, Cynthia. Knowledge is power, and I’m sure your post will help others. Wishing you a speedy completion of round 2!

      Liked by 3 people

      1. That is so nice–thank you, J.C.! Would be very happy if this helped someone.

        It has helped me tremendously to read about other people’s experiences online. This has been a year of so much research.

        Liked by 2 people

    2. Edith! Radium!?!?!?! What? That is…wow. So sorry you went through that.

      Now I’m thinking you must have some superhero powers! (In addition to the writing superpower you already have, of course.) And thank you for the kind words.

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  7. Thank you for sharing this…awareness really does save lives. Sending you lots of positive energy and good wishes! (My husband is in treatment for a different kind of cancer, so I know a little about this.)

    Liked by 3 people

  8. While a sad reflection on some in the medical profession, it’s a huge shoutout to your PA. Your courage (and dare I say your sons?) are awesome. I know you. You’ll move forward in grace and honesty, and help as many others get through similar situations as you can. xoxo

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Peg, that’s so lovely about moving forward that way. Thank you! Yes, my sons and husband have been so strong, brave, and sweet–has been hard on them too. (And my PA has my everlasting gratitude. She is the best.) Appreciate you.

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  9. Cynthia, I feel your energy and music bubbling through this beautiful blog post. May that endless energy and soul-reaching writing carry you through to complete health! Big hugs.

    Liked by 3 people

  10. We love you, Cynthia! But you knew that already. We’ll be here rooting for you, whenever you need us (and even if you don’t). Thank you for sharing your story–yet another act of bravery! You’ve got this. xoxo

    Liked by 3 people

  11. Thank you for sharing your story, Cynthia. I hope your journey goes smoothly. I’m always interested in hearing thyroid stories. I had mine checked out when my hair started thinning, and lo and behold, sometime in the past (after learning about all the symptoms, I could pinpoint it exactly), I’d had a virus that infected my thyroid, giving me thyroiditis, as my endocrinologist called it. For ever after, I can expect my thyroid to react quickly to anything that affects it, including BPA, which is still used for lining some cans–hello, Coca Cola, are you listening?
    My very first symptom was being overcome by the heat one summer morning, to the point where I felt weak holding my 6 month old granddaughter. Then later that day, one of my legs swelled up.
    I’ll check out your list of symptoms and see what else I need to look out for.
    Keeping you in my thoughts and prayers.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Mary, I’m so sorry that you’re dealing with this. Glad that you have an endocrinologist working with you. Hope that this list is helpful. Thank you for sharing–sending you hugs and best thoughts.

      (And really? BPA inside of Coca Cola cans?!?!?!)

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  12. Thank you so much for sharing all of this with us all, dear Cyn. Cancer is scary, and folks often feel weird discussing it, but the more informed we all are , the better prepared we can be. Sending you love and hugs and wishes for a speedy recovery from this next round of treatment. You are my hero! xoxo

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Aw, you are very kind, Leslie, thank you! And this is so thoughtful–can feel uncomfortable to discuss (even though the info is important).

      Annnnnd now I’m thinking of the mom in St. Elmo’s Fire who finds certain words “too horrible to utter,” so she whispers them loudly instead…like “cancer.”

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Thank you, Cyn, for being brave. I love how you’re reaching forward and outward to help others. (I’m now trying to remember if a neck check is part of my annual…)

    And I want to say it’s no *mystery* that you’re an amazing person! Thank you for being you and navigating this with poise and compassion. Lots of cheering, care, and hugs to you.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Dear Cyn,
    I’m so sorry you have to dance this dance a second time. I know you’ll do just as well, but props for having the courage to speak and help educate! My mother is a thyroid cancer survivor (and uterine) I agree with your boys and their ideas for scar explanations, may I add my idea is getting either a butterfly tattoo (it can be small!) or a thyroid ribbon tattoo to remind yourself every day of what you have overcome. Sending hugs across the miles!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you so much, Tracy!! And I’m really sorry that your mom had to deal with thyroid and uterine cancer too, wow. She’s been through a lot! Hope she’s doing well now. Celebrating her from afar.

      Someone else said last week that I should get a tattoo, and I immediately thought it would have to be a butterfly if that happened…we may be on to something, here. I like your other idea too! Hmmm. (Right now I am a wee bit needle-averse, after the multiple neck biopsies (*shudder*) but I will for sure ponder.)

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      1. Cyn, Before you get inked, if you choose to, zap me a note. I’ll tell you what areas to avoid. Honestly, I tend to nod off each time I get a new one or a touch up. I think the humming of the tat gun is just my zen. LOL!

        I agree with all of your friends here. You’re loved– that’s very obvious. You have us to rely on. Before my wife passed in 2018, I found who truly meant those words and who just said them. It’s a difficult, but important lesson. Use your tribe. We want you to. Strength in numbers, girl! XO

        Like

  15. Thank you so much for sharing your life with us–including this chapter. ❤ I'm so happy you finally got some answers after being dismissed for so long.

    We love you to the moon and back, and are sending every ounce of support your way. You are amazing–but we already knew that! xoxo

    Liked by 3 people

  16. Wishing you nothing but healing and happiness going forward, Cynthia. Thanks for sharing your story and raising awareness. I’m looking forward to celebrating your healthy return to all the writer things!

    Liked by 2 people

  17. What a journey you have had and continue on. Thank you for sharing. Awareness is so important. Sending hugs and healing thoughts your way.

    Liked by 2 people

  18. That’s never an easy diagnosis to get. But it sounds like you are in great hands.

    I’m sure you’ll come through your upcoming shark attack with glowing colors. Or something like that. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  19. Oh, dearest Cynthia, you are so brave. Thank you for sharing your experience and thank you for sharing the warning signs. If I were there, I’d give you a big cup of tea and a hug and we’d talk until we ran out of things to talk about. Love always, K

    Liked by 3 people

  20. Thanks for going public this time. You’ve been a success as a mother, wife, educator, writer, but if your story helps even one person, you will have more than the word success to add to your being — you will have gratitude from the one, the family, and all who that person touches.

    Liked by 3 people

  21. I’m on the long list of well-wishers and equally pleased you shared your story. As a nurse (retired but always learning) I appreciated your thorough explanation…everyone needs to know how serious ‘thyroid issues’ can be. And neck checks yearly should be common. I’ve always found it to be super annoying when a symptom or problem is labeled ‘anxiety’. If you have a symptom, your body is telling you something is wrong. Folks, don’t let someone who isn’t interested in searching, (or lazy) tell you to take a pill and your ‘anxiety’ will disappear.
    You’re on the right path and with good people surrounding you, and medical care, too, you’ll be celebrating soon.
    But now y

    Liked by 3 people

  22. For me, several years of struggling with a variety of symptoms ended when I went to the ER with what was thought to be a stroke. It was physical and emotional exhaustion from thyroid failure. Thankfully, mine was benign but had spread to all the major vital structures in the surrounding area. It went under instead of bulging out so it stayed hidden. I am 6 years post total removal and it was the best decision I ever made. Prayers that you continue to win the battle against that nasty shark and thank you for promoting awareness.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Oh, Emily, I’m incredibly sorry that you went through all that. And I am so grateful that six years out you’re happy with the decision. Wishing you continued good health and happiness.

      ps “nasty shark” = lol

      Like

  23. As always, sending love and prayers your way. Thanks for sharing your story and increasing awareness. You are amazing and you inspire the best! Take good care as you enter into round two! (And I also like the boys’ recommendation of a sword fight with a pirate. I can just see you taking down Johnny Depp!)

    Liked by 3 people

  24. Sweet Cynthia, I’m sorry you had to wait so long for the diagnosis. And I’m doubly sorry you now have to go through surgery and radiation a second time. You are a warrior princess and your shark fight scars prove it! Sending you all the love!

    Liked by 2 people

  25. Knowledge is power, Boo! Although maybe the Universe could make us not quite so smart?? I won’t say this isn’t scary, because it is, but it’s always less scary when we can share the burden. We’re all here to help carry a bit of that load whenever you need us to. oxox

    Liked by 2 people

  26. I’m a 23 year thyroid cancer survivor and had to go the double round of radioactive iodine treatment as well. Thanks for sharing your story and what others should be aware of should they exhibit any of the symptoms. Hugs as you continue your treatment and prayers for a speedy recovery!!!

    Liked by 2 people

  27. Thank you for sharing your journey–starting with the diagnosed anxiety stage. What a cautionary (& scary) story. Your openness will certainly help others. Best in all that’s ahead. Also–I’m looking forward to the tale you spin about that knife-wielding shark!

    Liked by 2 people

  28. Cynthia, I absolutely adore everything you write. Your books bring so much joy to my life. And now I also get to be amazed by your strength and advocacy. Wishing you the very best in your health journey and please know so many are rooting for you!

    Liked by 1 person

  29. I know you will make something positive out of this, but I’m dismayed for you, all the same. I just read some of the material at the link you provided and now see why my ENT is having me get scans of my thyroid regularly. I do have some symptoms–not the ones you were having, but others. Ugh. I know you’ll get through this!! Sending good vibes anyway.

    Liked by 1 person

  30. Dear Cynthia, I’m so sorry you’re going through this! My niece has also gone through thyroid cancer and is doing well – a supportive medical team like you now have with your PA makes all the difference. Thank you for sharing your experience – awareness will help so many people. I’ll be thinking of you and praying for a full recovery, plus waiting for your boys’ first novels – you can tell they’re the children of an author!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Shari: So happy to hear that your niece is doing well–thank you for sharing that and I’m sending her best wishes! And thank you too for the lovely words and kind support.

      Like

  31. (I thought I commented yesterday, but I must’ve screwed up so if this is a second comment, please disregard) Ah Cynthia as usual you are still such a shining example to all of us. Thank you for your bravery and vulnerability in sharing your journey with us. I’m wishing you the best possible outcome. Missing you tons my fellow SinC-Co sister.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Cynthia, thank you for being brave enough to share this news with us. May your words find their way to those who will be helped by your experience, and may those of us who know you surround you with support. My prayers are with you and your family for a complete recovery.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Rachael, you are so sweet–thank you so much for your support (and donation!). I miss you so much too and hope that someday we can be in the same state and I will give you a big hug and we will talk about writing and life and all of the things.

      Like

  32. What an incredible post in so many ways. The way you are facing into this — while thinking of others too — is beautiful. I am saddened by the many years you went undiagnosed (to which I relate) and all you’ve had to endure. And I echo Nancy Silverman’s words. May you be healed. May we provide whatever support is helpful. And may your experience prevent others’ suffering. Sending love — and gratitude for your willingness to share with us.

    Liked by 1 person

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