D-Day

Today, I celebrate my D-Day – my Diagnosis Day! I know most people wouldn’t think that this is a day for celebration, but you know I love a party, so… we celebrate. Two years ago today I was diagnosed with cancer and today I celebrate that I am alive, that I am healthy and that today will not be like that day. I get asked frequently, “How did you know that you had cancer? What were your symptoms?” Well, it all started with my big toe. Seriously, it did. If you want to hear the whole story, settle in and keep reading- it’s a long one.

First symptoms + Initial testing

One morning in September 2012, I woke up to my toes tingling and feeling like they were “asleep”. You know that feeling when it feels as if thousands of tiny pins are pricking your skin? That’s what I was feeling. Over the next two weeks, that feeling spread to my lower legs, then my hands, forearms and shoulder blades. I put a call in to my doctor in Denver and he ordered a CT scan to check for a pinched nerve. When we got the report, all was clear. No pinched nerve. Jacob and I were sitting on the couch looking over the report when we noticed a notation on the last line of the page: “Of note – 9mm ovoid nodule on R thyroid lobe.” Ummm… What? Of course, I freak out and call my doctor because he did not even mention it. He reassured me that a large portion of the population have nodules on their thyroid and that he would like to look at it again in three months, but not to worry. Of course, I worried. I’m no dummy because before I called my doctor, I had become an “expert” on thyroid nodules thanks to WebMD. Hah!

Fast forward to January 14, 2013. The Broncos had just lost to the Ravens in the divisional round of the playoffs and we were packing up to head home to Kentucky. Thankfully, I had written a reminder in my planner to have a check-up on my thyroid. I called the doctor to let him know that we were leaving town to see if he wanted to see me. He did and I had an ultrasound the next day. The nodule had grown. It wasn’t a drastic growth, just .1mm, but it was enough to warrant a biopsy. He knew that we were anxious to get home for the off season, so he said I could get the biopsy done in Kentucky.

Biopsy + Diagnosis

My biopsy was scheduled for Jan 31. Through a chain of events including the help of some good friends (thanks Kelly!), that date got moved up to Jan 28. Jacob wasn’t allowed in the procedure room with me, which made me anxious, but I tried to stay calm. The radiologist performing the biopsy goes to our church, so at least I had a somewhat familiar face in the room. I was awake for the whole procedure that included a HUGE needle guided by ultrasound going into my neck. All I could feel was the pressure, but I couldn’t move – at all. You see the thyroid sits very close to several arteries and my voice box so if I moved I risked that needle going places that would be very dangerous. After three attempts at the biopsy, I was told that the nodule had the consistency of a bouncy ball and it “wasn’t giving up any cells”. At that point, my heart sank. I knew. I had cancer. I tried to stay positive (and stay still), but my heart and my mind were racing. After seven attempts at the biopsy, the pathologist finally had enough cells to test. I left the hospital and Jacob took me home to rest with a noticeable wound on my neck. I was told that I would hear something in 48 hours. However, four hours later, my phone rang.

The number on my caller ID was familiar, it was my doctor here in Kentucky, Dr. Clark. Again, my heart sank. I knew. I yelled for Jacob to come in the room and we sat at our dining room table as I slid my finger across the phone to answer it. The conversation was like something you would see in a movie.

“Allison, this is Dr. Clark. How are you?”

“I’m fine.” I’m usually not short on words but that is all I could manage to utter.

“Are you at home? Are you by yourself?”

“No, Jacob is here with me. I have him on speaker phone.”

And then, Dr. Clark’s voice began to waiver ever so slightly and he informed me that I had thyroid cancer.

My whole world started spinning out of control. I couldn’t see. I couldn’t think. My entire body was numb. I was 28.

Jacob was intently taking notes and asking questions as Dr. Clark spoke. His voice sounded so positive but all I could think of was that word – cancer. As our conversation drew to an end, I only had one question – “Will I be able to have more children?” He affirmatively said, yes. I was relieved, but still terrified.

As we hung up the phone, Jacob leaned over and wrapped me in his arms and the floodgates of tears opened. Our world had just been rocked like never before and we knew we had a long, hard fight in front of us.
We called and informed our immediate family of the news and within an hour they were all at our house with dinner and ice cream (I told you we love a party, even under bad circumstances.) We hugged, we cried, we laughed. We were all just stunned.

IMG_2080

This picture is blurry, but it’s the only one we have of the night of my diagnosis. You can see on my neck where the biopsy was done. Luke was so sweet and sensed something was wrong, so he snuggled with me all night.

 

I would love to tell you that I was strong after my diagnosis. That I wasn’t worried. That as a child of God, I knew that everything would be ok. However, I can’t tell you that. I was terrified. My worry muscle in my brain was being worked to the point of exhaustion and I was inconsolable. The next two days of waiting for my first surgery/oncology appointment was pure hell. I know my Mama is not going to like me using that word, but that’s just what it was – hell. I was so incredibly blessed because I only had to wait two days; many people wait weeks for their first appointment. However, there was a surgeon in Lexington that specialized in thyroidectomies and he just happened to have a new patient opening on the morning of the 31st (that biopsy getting moved upended up making a big difference for me!) God was already at work orchestrating all of the events in my cancer story to work for my good, even if sometimes it didn’t always feel like it.

I’ll continue the rest of my story tomorrow, but for today I’m off with my little family to celebrate. First stop: Bluebird Cafe.

 

 




Comments

  1. Aidan FitzSimons says:

    That’s an incredible blessed journey. God is deffinatley good! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  2. Debra Thompson says:

    So here I sit at work crying. But that’s okay. They all think I’m crazy anyway. Appreciate your story and anxious to read the rest of it. Thanks.

  3. Monica Davis says:

    Allison, just reading this makes me feel your anguish! I had to have a parathyroid taken out but it was benign. I found out through yearly bloodwork and checkup. So important to have those each year! Thanks for sharing with us! You are a strong beautiful women! Yes you are!! Can’t wait to hear “the rest of the story”!

  4. I can relate to your experience…our 33 year old daughter was diagnosed with thyroid cancer and had a thyroidectomy during her 18th week of pregnancy. We could see the Lord’s hand in the timing of the diagnosis and surgery. She had NO symptoms…she had decided she should have a long overdue (14 years) physical and her GP noticed a thyroid nodule which everyone thought was “nothing.” Turns out it was cancer, and the best time for a pregnant woman to have surgery is during her second trimester. Her cancerous thyroid was removed, she is cancer-free, and she gave birth to a beautiful, healthy daughter 20 days ago! I know I have related this experience to you before, but I just want everyone to know how thankful we are that God protected our daughter and unborn granddaughter during this time. We all trusted in the Lord and He answered our prayers. Praise be to God.

    Gail
    Annapolis, MD

  5. Tonia Hemmer says:

    Hi Allie, I just wanted to tell you that you have inspired me since you started your blog and I created my own list, 38 in 38. One of my 38 is to start my own blog and share my voice and my experience with my own cancer journey. I have wanted to do this for quite some time, but, putting it on my list, and seeing it has pushed me to start making it a reality. I was 29 when I was diagnosed with stage 3B breast cancer and my daughter was only 10 years old. I have been cancer free for 8 years and I to celebrate my diagnosis date and although it was the most terrifying day of my life it also was the best day of my life because it was the day that I started really living and making the most of each and every day that I am blessed with. P.S. I hope Jacob remains a Bronco this coming season. Have a blessed day.

    • Allie Rae says:

      Hi Tonia! Thank you for the kind message. Sounds like you have a very inspiring story of your own. Can’t wait to read your blog!

  6. Thank you for sharing your story with us. How very scary! I hope you had a great day celebrating being cancer free.

  7. I’m sorry for commenting so late, but I’ve been so busy and wanted to read your story with all the time and concentration it would take. Thank you for sharing this, and Im glad you celebrate!!! I was getting teary eyed when I wes reading of your diagnosis and then found it so funny when you said your family likes to party, even under bad circumstances. You’re a good writer and I’ll go read the rest of your story now!!!

  8. Lynn Vick says:

    Your survivor story is very inspiring! Our daughter was diagnosed in 2003 w/Hodgkin’s disease at 17 and, we too, experienced God’s awesome intervention unfolding! She had 6 1/2 months of chemotherapy. She was a brave and strong young women just like you. She’s now been cancer free for 11 years!!! God is good, all the time

  9. I’m soooooo glad I found your blog even if I’m super late…. I had my thyroidectomy on the 21st of July and I’m about to go through the radio active iodine treatment on the 14th so nervous! But definitely helps to read your experience. Any helpful tips as far as the low iodine diet? Snacks? lol anyways thank you for writing about your cancer story I almost feel like it was meant for me to come across!
    xo
    Jess

    • Allie Rae says:

      Jess, Oh my goodness! I’m so sorry I’m just now seeing your comment. As far as snacks go my go-to was popcorn. I kicked microwave popcorn out of our house long ago and make it on the stove top anyway. Just use olive oil and popcorn kernels and pop away! Then add non iodine salt after its popped. I stored it in gallon baggies and took it everywhere with me. I also munched on apple slices and no salt added pb (got mine at whole foods) and no salt mixed nuts were great too! I also snacked on my no bake cookies and the lemon sorbet! SO good! Please e-mail at allison.tamme@gmail.com or reply here if you have any other questions! I’m an open book and happy to help!