2. Thyroid Cancer Diagnosis - Real Stories
You'll find many people have already walked your path. These quotes are from real people who provide real information and real comfort. Follow the stories of Anne, Grace, Annabell and Sonya and you will see there's light at the end of the tunnel. The stories will give you practical ideas to better manage your situation.
I was drinking a glass of wine and [the doctor] rang me. And, of course, the minute I hear her voice, I know that the answer's not good because she's not going to ring me... And she says, "I'm sorry it does give a result that I'm not happy with". And she probably used the word cancer and said I'd need surgery but she needn't have said anything. The minute I hear that person ring me I know exactly what they're going to tell me.
It's the word cancer that's part of the problem. Everybody in society thinks that cancer is one diagnosis. The word is very emotive... because cancer basically equals death. That's what people think. All that cancer means is there's uncontrolled growth of cells. It's where it is that matters and how we can deal with it.
I found a lump and went to see my doctor. He suggested I had an FNA. My doctor told me the chance of my lump being cancer was very low. I never thought it would be cancer. There’s no cancer in my family. I never thought thyroid cancer would ever happen to me. I didn’t think there would be a problem.
When I got the result it was totally shocking. I never expected something bad would be happening to me. It’s always someone else. But this time, it’s me. I felt my life was going to be ending. It was weird kind of feeling. I was angry. I was upset. I was nervous. How was I going to cope? How was my partner, my family going to cope?
My world suddenly changed color. The sun shines still but I felt so different. I felt the world was now so strange to me. It was totally different from that moment. I was angry, pissed off, sad. But I didn’t want to show any of my feelings to my family. I had young children at the time and I didn’t want to upset them or worry them. I wanted to keep my thyroid cancer quite secret. I didn’t want my friends to know about it or to treat me differently.
I remember when I went for my FNA, the walls were very thin and I could hear the chap saying to the person ahead of me that there was only a 1% chance that it would be anything other than benign. And for some reason I thought I’d be that person in the 1%. Some sort or premonition. And of course it turned out that I was. I felt shocked. Even though I had a feeling that I would be in that few percent that are cancerous, when it did turn out that my FNA showed cancer I still felt shock.
Quite often you go to an appointment and you think you’ve heard something. But I always check my clinic letter (both my doctor and I get a copy) to check that I’ve heard things right and things are what I think they are. Often you hear things wrongly and it's only possible to take in so much during the appointment, particularly at the beginning, when you’re less familiar with the process and the terms they use, whereas later on you’re more familiar with everything, the rooms, the people, the process, and so its get easier to understand what’s actually being said. It’s good to have somebody with me. I brought my daughter. She’s a nurse and it's so much better to have her with me to make sure that between us we understand what’s going on. She would support me, listen during the appointment, take some notes. We would often have a list of questions prepared before the appointment and, if they hadn’t been answered during the clinic, she would be able to prompt me to make sure we got the information we needed. It was a real help.
I’d advise people to ask the questions. Not to feel foolish. If you don’t know the answer, ask the question. Some people have a fear of authority and might not ask for the information they actually want. But I found everybody was happy to answer questions.
When I went for my FNA they did warn me that sometimes the results are not very clear and in that case they'd have to take out half of my thyroid to get the answer. It wasn't until I was talking to the specialist who said something about stage one when I though, "Oh my goodness, he's talking about thyroid cancer. That's so weird, it's not what I expected". Perhaps it was really naive of me. I'm not really a worrier and despite the lump and the FNA, I just didn't think I'd be in the small statistic of people that have thyroid cancer.
I was then given the statistics of 98% of people in my position doing well and not dying of their thyroid cancer so I went so quickly from being told about thyroid cancer to then being told about the likely good outcome.
These stories and a simple, medical explanation of the thyroid cancer journey are packed into Dr Tom's book, Thyroid Cancer: Overcoming Fear & Finding Fulfillment. The book covers essential information and practical and emotional tips to get through thyroid cancer.