I have met so many amazing people throughout my thyroid cancer journey that have truly touched my life. Jamie is one of those people with whom I instantly connected and became friends. I am honored to share her story as she is a true survivor in every sense of the word. Her story is particularly important to tell during Thyroid Cancer Awareness month because it literally defies the myth that thyroid cancer is the “good cancer.”
This is the real face of thyroid cancer, and there is nothing good or easy about it.
This might be hard for some to see but my life has been very hard. My story needs to be told. Thyroid Cancer is on the rise. More awareness is necessary. It has been hard living with the Good Cancer for the past 15 years after being dismissed, invalidated, accused of exaggerating my case, being told I was a hypochondriac, and crazy.
I was diagnosed with metastatic Papillary Thyroid Carcinoma in 1999, 2 weeks after I graduated high school, when I was 18. I have now had 4 recurrences.
I played college basketball on a full scholarship at Pace University, NY for 1 full season and half a 2nd season my sophomore year. I experienced 2 recurrences in college. My 1st surgery of 6, was a complete thyroidectomy with a metastatic spread to my cervical lymph nodes. Between the ages of 18-21, I had my first 3 surgeries and 4 Radioactive Iodine Ablations, the standard treatment used for thyroid cancer as chemotherapy does not usually work as a treatment for thyroid cancer. As an athlete at diagnosis, in top condition, I have always been in touch with my body. My feelings, too, and I have always known what feels “right” and what feels “off.” I predicted my recurrences solely on intuition and proved it every time.
After another recurrence, just before my 34th birthday, Cancer Treatment Centers of America determined I am resistant to RAI. Making it worse, I had exhausted the lifetime limit. My only hope at that point was to go undergo External Beam Radiation to my head, neck and chest in order to treat this “Good Cancer.”
Fast-forward 11 years later, after a decade of poor choices, substance abuse, poor eating habits, obesity, depression, an inability to find it in my heart to lace my sneakers up and step out onto that court again, failed relationships, madness in New York City, and a relocation to a city that allowed me rise from ashes; Phoenix. Phoenix saved me. I became a woman. I found love, family and came to understand heartbreak very well.
I felt “off” during those 11 years. My levels were off yet my whole body scans were “normal.” Heartbreak drove me across the country, to my home state of PA, to see the doctor who diagnosed me at 18. Imagine having active cancer with no proof, for half of your life, and then having to fight to be taken seriously. Thankfully, I pushed hard enough and one of my doctors listened. It saved my life.
If it is one message to come from my story, and all that I have endured and continue to endure, it is that Thyroid Cancer will NEVER be the GOOD Cancer. This needs to STOP. NOW!
You can read more about Jamie’s story and journey on her blog The Dog on Prozac.