Welp. I never thought I’d find myself writing a headline like this.
The Words ‘You Have Cancer’
It’s still surreal to me to even be uttering these ugly words. I finally cried about it for the first time the other night at Bible study and then cried all the way home, too.
As I sang my son to sleep this afternoon, my voice went out. That made me cry, too.
How ironic is this? I use my voice to advocate for those with hyperhidrosis, and now I have thyroid cancer.
After the doctor told me, my mind started spinning.
- What if they nick my vocal chords during surgery?
- Will I ever be able to read to my son again?
- Can I breastfeed after surgery despite anesthesia?
- Cancer happens to other people, not me.
- Why me? Why now? I just had a baby!
Getting a Cancer Diagnosis
Having hyperhidrosis does not equate to one day having cancer. The two are not related condition-wise, but they are related in a sense, which I’ll get to in a minute.
In my case, I’m not only dealing with an excessively sweaty body, but two other chronic health conditions — ulcerative colitis (aka UC, an inflammatory bowel disease and autoimmune condition) and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis (an autoimmune thyroid condition). Things come in threes, don’t they?
I was diagnosed with UC in 2013 and Hashimoto’s in 2016. When you have one autoimmune condition, you’re at risk for developing others over time. Lovely. 🙄 Hashimoto’s is when your body attacks your thyroid gland; I picture mine surrounded by tiny pissed-off Gremlins holding knives.
After 6 years of not seeking treatment for Hashimoto’s, I now have papillary thyroid carcinoma. Did lack of treatment contribute to this? I’m not sure. Hashimoto’s doesn’t necessarily cause thyroid cancer, and thyroid nodules are quite common and mostly benign. In fact, many people may not ever know they have them unless they experience symptoms or they are discovered as part of some other imaging test.
Here’s What Happened
When I first got diagnosed with Hashimoto’s, it was thanks to the deep knowledge of my psychiatrist at the time. She ran a full thyroid panel of bloodwork as part of my workup for some mental health challenges I was experiencing at the time (you can read about that here). I then went and saw an endocrinologist at a prestigious university hospital. She told me I was fine. She ran only a TSH blood test – thyroid stimulating hormone – and said we should just check that once a year.
If your doctor runs only one test and tells you you’re fine, you might want to get a new doctor.
I didn’t know much about Hashimoto’s at the time, so I trusted this big wig doctor at the big wig hospital. Now that I’m much deeper into my hyperhidrosis advocacy journey and have two autoimmune conditions, I’m really good at doing my own research, seeking second opinions, and asking better questions of my health care team.
I have a new primary care doctor this year. He’s the best, and I was referred to him by a friend and former coworker whom I worked with in the medical field. I came to my appointment armed with a list of blood tests I wanted ordered. Shout out to functional medicine physician Dr. Amy Myers, author of The Thyroid Solution for helping me know which thyroid tests to order.
The Negative Voice in My Head
Do you have one of those, too? I usually call mine my sweaty inner monologue, but after a cancer diagnosis it’s morphing into some really anxiety-inducing thoughts and worst-case scenarios.
I will undergo a partial thyroidectomy on May 27. Thankfully, no chemo or radiation are required. Papillary thyroid carcinoma is a slow-moving cancer, and mine is stage 1 and I’m considered a low-risk patient. I guess if I had to pick a cancer to have, I’d pick this one. Again, some really weird sentences are coming out of my mouth lately. Cancer is a mind scrambler in addition to a few other choice words I have for it that are not rated PG.
How Hyperhidrosis and Cancer Are Related
I think I’ll have to save this part for another post. I’ve been working on this one for a couple weeks now, and I don’t want to hold it up any longer. It’s been a weight on my neck — er, chest. Well, you get the idea.