Cancer and Car Theft

Well, I think I'm ready to share some news about what's been going on in my world. You know I spent most of November after I returned from ObesityWeek in Washington DC sick with the flu. It was a bad strain this year as anyone that got it can tell you. I got over the major symptoms but I was still feeling not quite myself: swollen glands, tired/sluggish, cold, anxious. I thought maybe my iron/ferritin was just getting low again, a few years ago I dipped low and it required a round of infusions, which for those that don't know sounds like a big deal but really it's just an IV drip (sometimes an hour or so, in the past I had Injectafer which is quicker 30 minutes, 2 treatments, a week apart) and I was back up in the black for the past few years. I am faithful in taking my vitamins (a non-negotiable, post-bariatric surgery) so when I was still feeling not like myself after a month I knew something was up.

I went to my Primary Care Provider (PCP) who ordered blood work and it came back Ferritin 10 (range is 10-232.) I emailed him when I saw the results and asked for a referral to a Hematologist. I received a reply that it wasn't needed because I wasn't anemic. I emailed again and received no reply. So I made an appointment to have a little chat: Me: "I really think I need iron infusions." His reply: "I don't know who is telling you that you are anemic but you aren't." I explained my symptoms again and I finally got him to refer me to a Hematologist. Me: "I get you are saying I am not anemic but do you have a problem giving me a referral? I'd like to hear that from a specialist." Him: "No, but you aren't anemic." Me: "Good."

I couldn't see the Hematologist that I'd been referred to a few years ago as my insurance no longer covered him and was sent to a new office and I mean brand new, they were still having furniture delivered, disorganized, not fully staffed. I wasn't pleased but New Hemo Doc was pleasant enough and said he'd put in for infusions but he didn't think they would be covered until I dropped below 10 (he was right they were initially denied) but he ordered more blood work said he'd resubmit as soon as my ferritin dropped below 10 and then he asked me about a nodule they had found in my neck via ultrasound this past summer.

Rewind... well over a year ago I went to a health fair with my Mum. We both had a free stroke test ultrasound. The technician told me after mine that I should tell my Dr that he saw something on the ultrasound and to give me a thyroid test. At my next appointment, I mentioned it and my PCP (yes, same one as above) said something to the effect of health fairs causing unneeded tests... he'd order a thyroid test and ultrasound but it was probably just a nodule... tons of people have nodules that they are only cancer in 1% of cases so it's "usually unnecessary to have a need stuck in your neck." My blood work came back "fine" and ultrasound confirmed a nodule but again he gave me the line about the needle in your neck... so I passed on the needle.

Fast forward...
New Hemo Doc: What's this nodule mentioned in your file. Have you had a needle biopsy on it?
Me: No, my PCP said tons of people have them, that they are only cancerous in 1% of cases so it's usually unnecessary to have a need stuck in your neck. Why? Could that be causing my issues?
New Hemo Doc: It could. It's no big deal. It's a fine needle... like blood work. Get it done.

I scheduled the biopsy for December 20th, trying to get in before the end of the year when my insurance was changing. I figured if I didn't just do it, New Hemo Doc might not push for infusions. It was a fairly easy procedure... sort of like the ultrasound of the neck I had in the summer but instead of lying down I was in a cool motorized reclining chair that tipped me back, I felt a little pressure, 2-3 needle pricks then ice. I waited in the cool reclining chair with ice on my neck while the Biopsy Doc examined the tissue. Instant pathology results. I remember thinking that's great I don't have to wait for days to get the all clear and I really want one of these chairs.

A few minutes later Biopsy Doc returned, "Well, it's thyroid cancer." I remember saying "What?!" She must have walked into the wrong room. "Yep, it's thyroid cancer but if you are going to get cancer this is the best cancer to have. It's highly treatable. I'll be sending your doctor the report and you should expect a call from him tomorrow but if he doesn't call you, call him. Do you have any questions?" I think I asked her what the treatments are? Do I have to have chemo? Am I going to lose my hair? Sort of in a rapid-fire string. I felt like I should have better questions but this was not supposed to happen. I remember her saying something about surgery and chemo only being necessary if it's spread beyond the thyroid. I could feel myself welling up and just needed to get out of the building. So I said thank you, was handed some aftercare paper and walked into the waiting room. My Mum was with me and I remember her looking at my face and I could feel my eyes widen in that "holy crap!" deer in the headlights look and she said "what, what" and I remember just saying, "come on, let's go" as I walked out of the office. I got to the parking lot before I burst into tears and told her. I remember straightening myself up and saying nothing has changed. I walked in there with this and the only thing that has changed is me knowing and how everything was going to be OK. So yeah... not a good day in my world.

I spent the rest of the day Googling, freaking out, crying, and a little cursing "WTH?! My PCP said 1 f---ing percent." (It's actually closer to 5% of nodules that are cancerous as I am learning more.) My Hemo Doc called me later that night and said, "So you got some bad news?" "Umm yep." He said he'd see me on the 27th and we'll talk about finding a surgeon to remove the thyroid." I already knew from my Googling I was looking at Full or Partial Thyroidectomy (perhaps removal of some lymph nodes in the area) then depending on the biopsy I might need I-131 treatment where you take a radioactive iodine pill and need to be quarantined for a few days from people and pets (it targets and kills any remaining thyroid tissue) and a lifetime of a prescription thyroid hormone replacement medication (oh joy) but that is usually it. Unless... cancer has spread beyond the thyroid and then well you know the drill chemo, radiation, that hair loss I was so worried about. But... one step at a time. I remember telling him I had new insurance starting in January, that I was hoping it wouldn't cause delays and he said to bring that information on the 27th. He said to try and have a Happy Holiday and I said you too.

Christmas. Wow, I really had forgotten. I would try and enjoy it. It was just my Mum and I. My sister just had her 2nd knee replacement so was recovering from that still and my brother had visited earlier in the month. We went shopping for a few things on Christmas Eve. I made a few seafood dishes, it's tradition and I tried to be cheerful but my mind kept going back to worst-case scenarios and what-ifs which only got me upset and gave me a gnarly headache and the Tylenol I kept taking wasn't doing a thing for it, so I went to bed pretty early. It was a quiet Christmas Day we stayed home and watched movies, I made a couple of steaks with sauteed mushrooms and I made a super yummy loaded cauliflower side dish.

On the 26th we decided we needed some things from the store and at around noon when I walked around the corner of my house... I was staring at... an empty driveway. My car was gone. Seriously... you can't make this shit up. We think based on our neighbor not seeing it on Christmas Day it was gone late Christmas Eve (he got one of those hovercrafts for Christmas and was flying it down the street and thought we were out visiting for the holiday... it's our only car.)  I filed a police report and as of today they still haven't recovered it. I remember waiting for the cops to come take the report and thinking well had this happened a few days ago I would have been way more devastated but hearing the word cancer sort of puts everything into perspective but... WTH?! Seriously?! I actually had to Uber to my Hemo Doc appointment on the 27th to hear about my cancer diagnosis. And OK, I know it's bad karma but I figure I'll get a pass on this one... my car trunk, if you aren't careful can fall on your head. I know about it and it's still happened to me, twice... and it's gnarly-knot-creating-concussion-hard. Gosh, I hope the creeps who stole my car need to put something in the trunk ;)

Anyway... the New Year came and with it a new attitude. I went to Denver for the Obesity Action Strategic Planning Meeting/Retreat and am really excited about all the plans we have for the year. I'm serving as Chair of the National Board this year. All the great plans are keeping me busy and sane. I can't wait to share all those throughout the year and am hoping to see everyone in July at the Your Weight Matters National Convention. Big plans this year so I need to kick cancer's ass and move on...


So where I'm at now... my insurance change caused some delays for new pre-authorizations but I think we are good on that front now. I had an iron infusion this Friday (my Ferritin dropped to 9 on my last blood work) and while the only in-network surgeon is about 50 miles away I understand he's top notch in his field. I see him this Tuesday for a consult and we'll hopefully schedule surgery in February. Thyroid cancer is very treatable and I'll likely be all good with the removal of some or all of my thyroid. Fingers crossed and prayers welcomed. I'll put some resources I've found helpful at the end of this post for anyone recently diagnosed and Googling who stumbles upon this. I Google a lot and I would be lying if I didn't still sometimes start worrying about what if's (damage to vocal chords during surgery, medication-related weight issues, calcium issues, etc. etc.) but I try not to stay in those thoughts too long. There is power in positive thinking.

If you are still reading along... sorry I know this was loooong... thank you. I have lived the last decade sharing my life post-Bariatric Surgery on this blog so it felt strange not sharing this past month, I just needed a little time to process. I thank you in advance for prayers and good thoughts. They are much appreciated.

Oh and if you take anything away from this blog entry I hope you take this: if you know something is not right DO NOT let anyone push your concerns aside. You know your body better than anyone.

Thyroid Cancer Facts:
• Thyroid cancer is the most common endocrine cancer.
• The cause of most thyroid cancer is unknown.
• Thyroid cancer is one of 13 cancers associated with overweight and obesity.
• Thyroid cancer is a malignant tumor or growth originating within the thyroid gland. It is also called thyroid carcinoma.
• Thyroid cancer is one of the few cancers that has increased in incidence over recent years. More than 56,000 people will be newly diagnosed with thyroid cancer in the United States in 2017 and more than 600,000 people in the U.S. are living with thyroid cancer.
• 2 of every 3 people diagnosed with thyroid cancer are between ages 20 and 55.
• Thyroid cancer is more common in women than in men. More than 7 of 10 people diagnosed with thyroid cancer are female.
• Thyroid cancer is usually highly treatable when found early.

For those wanting to learn more about Thyroid Cancer:
American Thyroid Association - great resource, current treatment guidelines.
ThyCa - this website has been a great resource for information, videos, and patient support.
Here's a great UCLA video presentation: Thyroid Nodules & Thyroid Cancer: What You Need to Know
Thyroid Awareness - Check your neck.

29 comments:

Corrinn Schwabrow said...

Shelly, praying for a full recovery for you! It sounds like you're in a good spot after some crazy end of the year s**t! I hope you remain positive as we'll all remain positive for you!! Congratulations on your Chairperson position - you're going to do amazing things this year!!

Unknown said...

I am sorry to hear about your thyroid cancer results. I wish you a speedy recovery. My endocrinologist noticed a lump on my thyroid in November, 2016. I have had 3 ultrasounds since then. They now rate these nodules with a Ti-Rads Score. One of my nodules has a score of TR4 (Moderately Suspicious). My doctor recommended that I wait another year to have another ultrasound. I have not had a biopsy yet. I am a worrier but I am hoping it’s benign.

I am thinking positive thoughts for you.

Rachel said...

I can't believe what you've gone through in just a few weeks. I'm honestly not sure which would bother me more, the car or the cancer diagnosis. Together I'd probably be a sobbing inconsolable mess. (seriously, I've had my car broken into and items stolen and I felt so violated. I can't imagine having had the whole car stolen). If it makes you feel better, I also wished terrible horrible things on the thief(s).

It sounds like you need a new PCP. I can't imagine going to someone who seems so dismissive of your concerns, in particular in light of the fact that he was wrong. Anyway, my best friend had her thyroid removed and she hasn't lost a step. Here's to hoping for the best for you, speedy recovery and all.

And no more major disasters, at least not for a while...

Anonymous said...

Prayers for speedy recovery.

Jennifer Allingham said...

I hope that you get the help you need for a full recovery.
(And damn those car-stealing creeps!!!!!)

sheryl said...


You have been the inspiration for me since my surgery in 2009. My heart is so heavy with all you've been through so far. I hope you realize that you have such a following of devoted fans and friends that there will be so many prayers said for you on your journey. Never doubt that we are all behind and beside you through everything. Whenever you feel scared or doubtful of anything - simply close your eyes and think of all of us who enjoy your blogs, ideas and your tireless devotion to our weight problems and know that you are never alone.

Just one more thing - find a new PCP - that one needs to go back to residency and learn how to treat patients and to listen when a patient tells him something isn't right.

Vicki Hall-Clarke said...

Praying for you Shelley for a quick and complete recovery. I found your blog in 2013 before I had my gastric bypass in January 2014 and have been following since.

Lynne said...

Oh my gosh Shelly, what a crappy end to 2017! You are such an inspiration to so many of us, we will all be praying for you and sending you positive thoughts and vibes throughout this whole thing! You've got this!

The AntiChick said...

Oh, my gosh that's a lot to deal with.
I hope a speedy recovery for you, and that the cancer is contained within the thyroid.

You probably already have gotten there, but I would recommend finding a new PCP. Your current guy doesn't sound like he considers you part of your own medical team, and is blowing off your concerns. That's a hassle you don't need.

dkaz said...

I am so sorry that you had to go through/are still going through all of this! Just to let you know, I had my thyroid removed in 2011. Surgery is pretty easy, and recovery is not bad (I wasn't allowed to drive for a week.) My surgeon helpfully confided that he'd made the incision along an existing wrinkle in my neck so it wouldn't be too obvious (thanks, Doc!)
As far as taking thyroid hormone for the rest of your life - it's a really inexpensive Rx (I pay $10 for 3 month supply), and I just pop one before I get out of bed every morning.
I wish the best of luck for you - and thank you for your inspirational posts! Really wish I could attend the YWM convention this year, but it's the same weekend as my son's wedding, so...

Alicia said...

Hi Shelly, I've been following your blog for a while now but not sure I've commented before, but I wanted to let you know that I went through the exact same thing in 2008 and in fact I blogged about it as well. I was diagnosed and told the same thing, that this is the "best type of cancer to have". Seriously that is the stupidest thing they could say to us, it's still cancer, there's still surgery and radiation and hair loss and weight gain and a pill you have to take for the rest of your life, but it's the "best type"?!?!

I will tell you that it has been very difficult for me because my endocrinologist has not been able to find me the exact dosage of medication I should take and they are constantly changing me and I experience hair loss and itchiness and tiredness each time. The hair loss is so bad that I now wear a wig every day...and I hate it! Come to think about it, I need to pick up a new prescription at noon because the dosage I was taking was too high *sigh*

I will keep following your adventure in thyroid cancer and wishing you the best. I know you will pull through the surgery and if you have to have radiation...it's not so bad. They will offer to put you in isolation in a hospital, just think of it as a spa retreat! I choose to just go home as I lived alone at that time and it was a great time to catch up on blogging and reading. Best wishes and if I can answer any questions please feel free to contact me.

P Wilcox said...

Reading the comments here tell me you've heard just about everything. I was so relieved that there were no rambling horror stories included; just nice factual stuff. (What is it about the Internet that makes so many people want to share all that stuff?) Anyway, you'll be followed by SO many prayers in this journey, mine included. I've taken thyroid meds since the 80's (I'm old :) ) and they are inexpensive and no big deal really. They are tiny. The one thing I want to tell you about them is that they bind to Calcium and so should not be taken within 2 hours of other pills. I just put them somewhere where I'll run into them during my day.

A pox on those car thieves! That's awful, and all too common these days. I'm so sorry these things happened to you. Rave on like the champ you are and it'll all work out, I'm sure!

Irma said...

Oh dear Shelly, my prayers for you all the way from the Netherlands 🇳🇱 to you.....

J Frankenbery said...

Cancer is a scary diagnosis anytime, Michelle. You are right - listen to your body, get the best doctor you can, and then follow everything they tell you to do. You are more than a blog out in space to your followers. You are our friend and mentor. I know I am correct when I say we are all lifting you up in our thoughts. Please let us know how your journey goes and if there is anything those of us out here can do to help, just let us know. We are here for you!!

I have taken thyroid medication since 1983 and it is not a big deal. It's just important that the doctor has your dosage adjusted properly,and that you have it checked with blood tests periodically. When the dosage is correct, you will feel great and will not gain weight. You've got this!

Deborah Meabon said...

Wow, that is some hard stuff you've been going through! I admire your hopeful, positive attitude and will be praying for you.

Chris said...

Prayers for you!

Tammi Goff said...

Sending healing prayers, love & light your way! A positive attitude goes a long way towards healing. And, let’s hope karma hits the car thieves 😉

Cindy said...

I’m sorry you have this to deal with, and will keep positive thoughts for you in this process!
20 years ago I went through these tests and headed to surgery being told I had thyroid cancer. The size of the modules were over 6 and they were had as rock... all symptoms.
Pathology said it was NOT cancer. I questioned the results. Still, I go twice a year to my endo doc for an ultra sound of residual tissue they couldn’t remove. It can change at some point, to cancer, apparently but all these years later that doesn’t seem to be happening.
Here’s to healing and regaining health!

Rhonda Baker said...

My thoughts and prayers are with you!

Anonymous said...

Sending prayers and best wishes for a speedy and complete recovery (and the return of your car!)

Anonymous said...

Prayers for you!

Susan Clayton said...

Sending you love and healing vibes Shelly. You have always been such inspiration and support... hoping we can all be that for you 💝

Kat Bias said...

Praying for you! You are an amazing woman who is such a blessing to so many! Hugs!!

shirley gibba said...

Wow and Wow. After reading all this I send you all my loving prayers, you are strong and I look forward to the recovery stories. :)

Holly said...

Well what in the heck Shelley!! Oh my gosh! I’m actually feeling infuriated for you both on the inept doctors who you had to literally fight for a referral and test you needed to the thieves that stole your car. It’s true that when it rains, it pours. As someone who has always been an advocate for her own health (and others) I’m not the least bit surprised you kicked butt and took control ensuring you’d get the tests and treatment you need. It’s so sad to think that people have to fight like this just to get the care they deserve. I hope your insurance covered the car even though I know it’s never what it should be. I’m praying for you and I’ll be checking back for updates. Your attitude is beyond inspiring!

Barbara Finsten said...

Shelly, I am so sorry that you have to go through this. I know several people who have had this kind of cancer and are doing well after surgery however, I also know thyroid issues can be hard (I have Hashimoto's disease, which means that my body has been attacking my thyroid). There are several thyroid disease groups on FB where you can get friendly help in dealing with the lack of a thyroid and the problems associated with it. The group that I find most helpful is "Thyroid Healing Journey". I am praying for you and wish you the best.

Anonymous said...

I am a thyroid cancer survivor 5 years. My Biopsy was inconclusive but the lump in my neck was large and visible if I tilted my head back, and like you my PCP was not interested in looking into it. My mom was an amazing advocate for me and I had one lobe of my thyroid removed only to be told two days later it was cancer. When I got the call that it was cancer I was in an emergency vet's office having my dog put down. So I know what you mean about something putting all other news into prospective. Losing my dog took over and I was pretty whatever about the cancer diagnosis. I did end up having to have the other lobe removed 2 weeks later imagine the bruising and multiply by 50, and I did radioactive iodine. Now I have to do low dose radioactive iodine pills every few years to get repeat scans to make sure it has not spread which SUCKS!

I wish you all the luck with your thyroid and thank you for all the awesome info here. I found your blog because I am in the process of preparing for gastric bypass.

Cancer Bro said...

Cancer is not invincible. You can win against it. Read this ebook to know how you can defeat cancer with your inner will, strength, & positive thoughts.

Unknown said...

Ok this post reminded me to get my thyroid nodule checked. I’ve had 2 biopsy’s and they have been fine but I was told they need to watch the size because it is pretty big and will need to get it remove. Hope all is well now.