Friday, December 7, 2012

Cancer-not the sign

August 30, 2012 I received that dreaded phone call that no one ever wants. It was my OBGYN calling with the results of my biopsy. I have papillary thyroid cancer! (  I of course had a melt down. Then composed myself enough to finish the conversation.

After my 6 week post-partum check from having Lincoln, my doc did a head to toe check. (which is odd cuz usually they only do a pelvic check, but divine intervention played a role here) She found a lump in my neck. She did a thyroid blood test on me to check all my levels. Everything came back normal. She had me do an ultrasound of my neck to have the lump measured. If the lumps are larger than 1 cm they biopsy them, if smaller they just watch them. I had two larger ones and several smaller ones. The two larger ones were bigger than a cm so we biopsied them. One was cancer the other benign.

My OB said I would have a rough couple of months but that I would still be able to be a mom and wife and live a good life. I wasn't nearly as freaked out about having cancer as I thought I would be. Maybe Heavenly Father just comforted me enough to make me feel safe, I don't know why I didn't freak out more. Thyroid cancer is the BEST kind of cancer to have. (Weird to say, but it's true) Many women (can occur in men) have several lumps in their thyroid throughout their life. 25% of them are carcinoma (cancer). Thyroid cancer is 100% curable. For some they remove the whole thyroid, others just part of the thyroid. They removed my whole thyroid. I will now be on meds the rest of my life. (which is much better than dying from cancer) Thyroid cancer is the slowest growing cancer as well.  They removed my whole thyroid and some of the lymph nodes. I had stage 1 and it had not spread to any of my lymph nodes, which is super good.

The next step was telling our families. We knew we would need lots of help, especially with the kids. We have had an amazing support system through all of this. Our families have been a huge help and tremendous blessing and we have had lots of friends help and offer support too. I got the lovely task of telling our families. I had a harder time telling our families than I think I did knowing I had cancer. Not a phone call I ever wanted to make. I never thought at 26 that I would have cancer.

Our next step was seeing the ENT. I had an amazing surgeon! (Matthew Schwarz) He took time to answer any of my questions and walked me through the basics of what would be happening. I was TERRIFIED to be having surgery. I had never had surgery in my life. In fact, the only thing I had ever done at a hospital was have my children. I wasn't so much scared of someone chopping body parts out of me, cutting me open, nope I was terrified to be put to sleep. I like to be in control of my situations and I knew that I would loose all control by being knocked out. I must report, it wasn't bad at all. I remember going into the OR room and then I remember being pushed through the doors into the recovery area. The pain wasn't even as bad as I thought it would be. I hurt more from the tube going down throat then the actual incision. Surgery went very well. The doc was very pleased with it. My lump was 1 1/2 cm (about the size of his pinky (from the tip to 1st joint). Recovery was pretty easy. I was a little tired for the first few days, but recovered quickly.

After surgery I was placed on a thyroid supplement. I adjusted well to the meds. Next thing, seeing an endocrinologist. The endocrinologist is the one who will monitor me from here on out and prescribe my meds for me. She started me on a low-iodine diet Nov. 19th. For this diet you have to basically eat nothing. Fruits, veggies, tiny portions of meat, pasta (depending on what it's made from). You can't have any iodized salt, egg whites only, no dairy. It's pretty rough. This has been by far the hardest part of all of it. Along with this diet you can't take your thyroid meds, which makes you hypo thyroid. Not so much fun. It will be almost 3 full weeks that I will have done this diet/no-med ordeal. It has been hard, for all of us. I can't eat much, then I get grouchy. I feel like I have no temper control. I get mad at my kids for the stupidest things. And I still have to feed my family, so I've been trying to fix 2 meals that are someone similar but that I can still eat. I also FREEZE. I get cold so often and have a hard time getting/staying warm. The whole purpose of this diet is to prepare for the I-131 treatment. This treatment kills any remaining thyroid tissue/cells in your body.

I started the I-131 yesterday. I have to be isolated for 3 days. I can't have any human contact. I have to be extra careful, wash my hands extra good, flush the toilet 2-3 times everytime I flush, drink lots of water to flush it all out, remain on my diet. We sent the kids to grandparents/cousins house for the time being. We knew it would be hard to have them here and not be able to come in my room. Even Josh had to move across the house. It's weird moving your spouse across the house to sleep in a separate bed (especially when he hasn't done anything to deserve it) :) The main side effects from this treatment are swelling and aching in the neck/jaw area. And they weren't kidding! WOW! I took the pill yesterday and when I woke up this morning my neck and jaw hurt so bad. I feel like I have a metal jaw. I am more swollen then I ever was with all of pregnancies combined even. Luckily, that will go away. Ibuprofen is helping. I am able to go out to the kitchen and cook myself food while Josh is at work. I can wander a little bit while he is gone. It's mainly excreted through urine, fecal matter, saliva, and sweat. I just have to be cautious of what I am doing and use good hygiene.  Then I go back to the hospital on Sunday to do a test to check my levels to make sure my radiation levels are low enough to be around people again. As long as my levels are fine, then I can be human again. I can eat normal and then I start my meds 3 days later. And work on being "normal" again.  If they aren't safe then I will remain in isolation until they are good. Typically, for the dose I was given I should be good in 3 days. As long as I drink lots and lots of water.

Dealing with cancer at 26 was never something I would have imagined for myself, but I know the Lord has a plan and it's all part of His plan. There have been several things that have occurred that I could never deny His hand playing a big part. I want to list them here so I don't ever forget. If it weren't for having Lincoln, we wouldn't have found it as soon. My regular checks were in December and who knows at that point how bad it could have been. I am so grateful for a doc who did a head to toe check after having my baby. I never have head to toe checks but if she wouldn't have done the check and only done the pelvic check, it wouldn't have been found for at least a year. A blessing for us, our insurance has a $750 deductible and a $5000 out of pocket max. Having the baby and surgery definitely put us there. (Surgery itself was $20,000. Josh's insurance is changing next year to a high deductible plan. We ended up paying less due to having it all in the same calendar year vs starting from scratch. Josh has been working on his CPA tests. He has finished taking all 4 and is just waiting for his last grade (which hopefully will come today). He has studied but this is all going on while I have been dealing with my cancer. It hasn't been easy for him to study and I know without a shadow of a doubt that the Lord has helped him remember the things he has been studying. There is no way he could have done it alone. He has been able to pass all of his tests so far. I know there are other things, but I can't think of them.

This has been a big change and adjustment for all of us. We have come closer to our Savior through it all and I am so grateful for the blessings we have received through it all. We have been much more aware of the blessings we are receiving and I feel like they just keep coming, even in moments of trial, maybe even more so. It's been a very humbling experience for Josh and I. We have grown closer together and have strengthened our relationship through this all. He has been so so supportive of me and the things I need and has been willing to help with anything. My kids have been amazing and have been so awesome at handling my ups and downs.  We have had a tremendous amount of help from our parents. They have come to stay and help with the kids when I had surgery, they took the kids right now for my treatment. They have offered so much love, support, prayers, and things I can't thank them enough for. We have had a tremendous amount of support from our ward family and friends. Especially, the Peterson's and the Larsen's. They have been willing to watch my kids while I have doctors appts, tests, etc. They have been a major blessing in our lives and we can never thank them enough!

Last weekend I had the opportunity to be my friend, Lisa, escort through the temple. They were able to take their boys and be sealed as a forever family! It was the first time back in the Boise Temple since it reopened. The Spirit was SO strong. It's a day I will never forget. I had some time to ponder and mediate while Lisa was doing some other things. It was just what I needed. I read a scripture in D & C 136: 31-My people must be tried in all things, that they may be prepared to receive the glory that I have for them, even the glory of Zion; and he that will not bear chastisement is not worthy of my kingdom. This scripture really stood out to me. I am so thankful to a Father in Heaven who knows/sees the big picture and gives us what we need, even when we don't think we can handle it. I am so grateful for the lessons learned, the relationships strengthened, the testimony grown, and I am most of all grateful for the Atonement. It's such an amazing concept and something I am still trying to understand/fathom. It's truly an amazing gift. I love the gospel and the peace of mind it brings and the bounteous blessings we have received because of it.

I cannot express enough the gratitude we have for those who have given/offered their support, their love, the prayers, and service provided. We love you all!


Johnson Family said...

I am so sorry to hear about this, I can not imagine how you are feeling or being separated from everybody (especially your babies and hubby) for the time being. Our thoughts and prayers are with you that the levels will be good so you can get back to doing the things you love.

Chad & Tiff said...

Oh my gosh Jen, I am so sorry you had to go through this! How scary but I am glad you caught it early and everything went well.

The Real Life of Mark and Em said...

Oh my goodness Jen! You are such an amazingly strong woman!

Cameron VSJ said...


I have a quick question about your blog, would you mind emailing me when you get a chance?



Jen said...


I don't have an email address for you?