A Message from Brittany:
I just celebrated my 9th year being cancer free! I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, in September of 2005. It was kind of a surreal experience, looking back on it now.
About a month before my official diagnosis, I had gone in to see my general practitioner about a lump I had noticed on the right side of my neck. I had been noticing some pressure on my larynx and the lump was quite visible. My GP’s response to my concerns? “Yep, there’s a lump on your neck.” I laughed: He is a wonderful guy. He immediately sent me in for blood work and then scheduled me to see an ear, nose & throat specialist and have a ‘scope’ done of my throat, to see if the lump was affecting my larynx.
The blood work came back normal, thinking that it was a goiter. With the normal blood work, they decided to do an ultrasound and a biopsy of the goiter to determine the size and what was going on with it. Big surprise, the biopsy came back…”normal”. It was removed because, of the danger it posed to my way of life (you know, eating and singing and stuff. LOL). I was a still doing a bit of singing (Opera and Musical Theatre), at the time, so this was a cause of concern. Would the surgery affect my voice? GAH!!!
The specialist and I had a frank talk. He gave me a brief ‘neck anatomy’ lesson and assured me that the vocal chords themselves would be fine (whew). Yeah, I was a little nervous (read: scared to death). So, we scheduled surgery to remove the silly lump. I should also mention that I was planning my wedding and had lost a cousin a little over a month earlier to cancer. It had kind of been a roller coaster of a year for my family but we were confident things would be grand, with the removal of the goiter and the right side of my thyroid.
I was also informed that they took a little biopsy of the goiter and did a quick freeze on it to test for cancer. It came back negative but they were going to send it to the lab, for a more extensive test: normal procedure. I thought that was great. I was getting out of there later on that day, I could still sing, I was going to have a cheeseburger and fries and life was grand!
2 days later, I got a phone call from my doctor with the results of the test. Cancer. Early stages. I was a bit shocked. I was 29…what the hell!? I was also getting married and had an audition for a musical coming up. I didn’t have time for this! My doctor and I talked and he advised he would like to be “aggressive” and that it would be best to remove the other side of the thyroid, because there had been blood flow between the goiter and the thyroid. I said, ok, let’s get this done. I have things in my life I want to do. I made the appointment for the 2nd surgery.
I talked to my fiance and asked him if he wanted to call off the wedding until I had this whole “cancer” issue cleared up. He looked at me like I had lost my mind. He told me he was already in it “for the long haul” and wasn’t about to back out now. The wedding would go on as planned (he is amazing!). My extended family was distraught (especially my grandmother and my aunt and uncle: parents to my cousin I had just lost to cancer). Between my parents and I, we were able to alleviate most of their concerns. To this day, they are still big “cheerleaders” on my continued clear results.
After the surgeries, my doctor put me on Synthroid, to regulate my hormone levels and give me a metabolism so I could be “mostly human,” while I was getting married and having a short Honeymoon. We got married October 15th and it was wonderful My husband and I had 2 weeks of happily married bliss and then…I had to go off the Synthroid, to prepare my body for the irradiated iodine treatment. 1 month without any hormone stimulant at all. I think that was the hardest time for me.
The surgery is scary for a lot of people but I think the month of waiting was worse. I think it’s because I was SO tired. All the time. Towards the end of that month, I was sleeping probably 16 or more hours a day and I STILL felt like I needed a nap! I was doing what I could to keep my mind off of it. I was in rehearsals for the musical (yes, I got the part!), and working full time.
When the date finally came to go take the irradiated iodine treatment, I was thrilled!1 more week. 1 more week and I can get back on my medication and start feeling slightly more alive. I can do this! The lab technician appeared, wearing a lead cape. He came into the room wearing lead lined oven mitts and carrying a small glass cup, which was sitting in a thickly lined lead one. I almost laughed out loud: I couldn’t help myself. I realized at that moment that I was absolutely fearless of what I was about to swallow. I didn’t care: it was going to burn out what was left of the thyroid tissue and would be DONE!
I did get slightly nauseous and it took me years to be able to eat lasagna again. I ate some that first night after treatment…WOW, did it leave a nasty impression for a while. I was able to entertain myself for that week. I did some serious movie marathons. I really love Peter Sellers in ‘The Pink Panther’ movies, so I watched ALL of them.
By the end of the week, I was anxious to get back to the hospital to get the final stage done. The technician at the body scan told me it looked good but he couldn’t give me an “official clear,” so I had to wait a couple of days to get the results. And, duh duh duh da! CLEAR! I was cancer free! I knew I was in for many years of checkups, blood work and ultrasounds, but I was clear! My husband and I went out to dinner and celebrated. It was awesome.
For the next several years, I had my annual exam and blood work with an ultrasound done, always with a clear result. I always get a little anxious during those few days of waiting to see what the blood work and ultrasound say. Finally, on year 8 (2013), my doctor told me that he could give me an official “you’re cured” diagnosis. I was elated! No more ultrasounds. I still have to do the yearly blood work, to make sure my medication levels are good, but that is a small price to pay.
November 10th, 2014, I received my 9 year clear result. My Doctor told me that, when I hit year 10 (next year, baby…oh yeah), and I have another clear result, then he will be turning my medication monitoring over to my general practitioner and I don’t have to see him again. As much as I love this guy, I am SOOOOOO happy at the prospect of not going in to his office. LOL.
Life has been an adventure. I’ve been married 9 years to the same wonderful man who wouldn’t give up on me. We have a beautiful, almost 4-year-old daughter: something we both thought was not in the cards for us. Life is grand. It has it’s ups and down and tragedies. But honestly, the comedy of everything around us…it tips the scales in it’s favor. I now have 2 “smiles” to share. 😀 )