The Rest of My Thyroid Cancer Story

You can read the beginning of this story here. This is another super long post and while I would love for you to read my story, I’m writing this mainly for me. I have never written about my cancer and it’s something I want to have in writing that I can keep forever.

I had my first thyroid cancer surgery appointment in Lexington on January 31st. Jacob drove us to UK hospital in a blinding rainstorm and neither of us spoke a word on the 45 minute ride. We had KLOVE playing at a barely audible level and as we pulled into the hospital parking lot something miraculous happened. I heard the words, “this is where the healing begins, ohhh, this is where the healing starts”. I reached for the volume knob and cranked it ALL the way up. Jacob and I looked at each other with big tear filled eyes and huge smiles. God was letting us know that it was all going to be ok. We could not believe what just happened. Literally the moment our truck crossed into the parking lot the song “Healing Begins” by Tenth Avenue North came on the radio. How in the world was that timed so pefectly? God – that’s how. He cares about us so much that he even orchestrates radio waves to play the exact words for little ole me at the perfect time! Wow!

Our attitudes changed, and for the first time in three days we smiled. Not fake smiles, not forced smiles, real, genuine, joyful smiles.

We first met with the resident at the surgeon’s office. I don’t remember his name, but I will never forget him. As I broke down crying in the exam room, he gave me a big hug and told me, “you will be ok.” I SO needed to hear that from a doctor who dealt with this everyday. About 10 minutes later, my surgeon, Dr. Sloan walked in. I hopped off the exam table and stuck out my hand to greet him. “You’re my new best friend!” I said. Jacob just stood there and laughed. Jacob stood and shook his hand as well. The important thing about that hand shake was that Jacob had not shaken hands with anyone in several months. He injured his hand playing football and it hurt terribly to shake hands. He had become a master of the fist bump. However, he said I’m going to shake the hand of the doctor that’s going to heal my wife… and he did.

My appointment lasted two hours and they ran lots of tests. I had a tiny camera shoved up my nose and down my throat (that was pleasant) and an ultrasound to look at my thyroid and the surrounding lympnodes. Dr. Sloan wanted to see with his own eyes what he was working with so he actually did part of the ultrasound himself. I was shaking and nervous as I laid on the table while he glided the ultrasound wand back and forth across my neck. Every time he would stop and stare at the screen I would ask, “What do you see? Is it bad?” I quickly learned through this process… Ask questions. Question everything. Then when you think they’ve told you everything, ask more! After the ultrasound was over, he explained that it looked contained. With teary eyes, I told him that I had complete faith in him to heal me. What he said next, I will NEVER forget.

“Well, Allison, I believe in the ultimate healer and He will heal you. I’m just here to help make it happen.”

Wow! More tears.

We left the appointment with burdens lifted, more joyful hearts, a plan of attack and a surgery date the next week! Again, God was moving this process right along. There would not be weeks of waiting; I only had one week until my surgery to rid my body of cancer. Hallelujah!

A few days before my surgery, we posted on social media about my diagnosis. The local media saw Jacob’s twitter feed and they announced it on the news. I felt exposed and vulnerable with everyone knowing, but I also knew that I would have more people praying for me. At this point, I coveted prayers, so the more the merrier. We were bombarded with phone calls, e-mails, texts and messages that people were praying for me. Some people we had never even met – we felt so blessed.

Surgery
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Pre-surgery selfie and the last picture of me without my scar

I had my total thyroidectomy on February 7, 2013. That morning, I snuggled Luke extra close and I recorded my voice saying, “I love you, Luke.” and ” I love you, Jacob.” There is a risk with thyroidectomies that your voice box could be damaged temporarily or permanently and I wanted to be sure that my boys could hear those words from me forever.

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My sister bought these buttons for everyone in our family to wear!

I had complete peace about the surgery. God had been with me taking care of all the details up until this point and I knew He would continue to do so. I was so at peace that when my family came in to see me  in pre-op my mom thought they had already given me medicine to calm my nerves. And of course, we had a small party right there in pre-op! My parents and sister came bearing gifts. My sister got me a hand knitted scarf in the “thyroid cancer colors” – purple, aqua and pink, and my parents got me a new shirt. They sure know how to make a girl feel special! Jacob was there too, holding my hand until they wheeled me away. Just before they took me to the operating room, my pastor, Brent, and a deacon from my church came and prayed over me, Dr. Sloan and Jacob. Peace, just peace!

I spent just one night in the hospital and then headed home to recover. From that day forward, my body is completely dependent on a drug to replace my thyroid. Every morning like clockwork, I pop a little pill that keeps me alive. No, I won’t drop over dead if I forget it, but if I didn’t take it for a few weeks I would be in a coma and a couple weeks after that, I would be six feet under. I loathe the fact that I’m dependent on medicine, but you gotta do what you gotta do!

I love what Jacob wrote on the white board in my hospital room. You can see it in the picture below:

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Treatment

Four days after my surgery, I went back to see Dr. Sloan to get the pathology reports. It was confirmed that I had papillary thyroid carcinoma and that there were actually multiple tumors on both lobes of my thyroid. However, the muscle margins were all clean and so were the 15 lymphnodes that they removed. Praise the Lord. We were told that I had a very high cure rate, not remission, but CURE. So grateful for those words. Since I did have multiple tumors, I was going to need radiation treatment to kill any remaining cancer cells.

The next week I met with my oncologist, Dr. Ain, for the first time. It still feels really weird to say “my oncologist.” In case you’ve never experienced it, oncology waiting rooms are probably the most depressing place in the world. I was so relieved when they called my name so I could get out of there and head to an exam room. Dr. Ain was the first thyroid oncologist in North America and he is *the* expert on the subject. If you read a book on thyroid cancer, he probably wrote it. How incredible is it that he is in Lexington, Kentucky? The expert on my type of cancer is 45 minutes from my home! Wow! God’s provision once again! Dr. Ain taught us everything we could ever want to know about thyroid cancer and then some. We set up a plan of attack for my radiation and he even worked it around our trip to Disney! I did not want to miss out on that!

After three weeks of a crazy, strict low iodine diet, a full body scan and two rounds of injections, my body was ready for radiation. It’s a special radiation treatment called I-131, radioactive iodine. Basically, I would swallow a single pill, become radioactive for a few days and hopefully my cancer would be eradicated. They took Jacob and I into the basement of the hospital and told us all the risks and precautions we should take with me being radioactive. They made Jacob leave the room and I gave him one last hug. I wouldn’t have human contact for the next 10 days because everything I touched would become radioactive as well. In walked a woman dressed from head to toe in protective gear wheeling a cart with a few items on top. See that jar below? It is made of tungsten and it contained a single pill. Those tongs… that’s what the radiologist would use to pick up the pill and give to me to swallow. Yep, that’s right, a woman covered in protective gear has to use 12″ tongs to pick up a pill that I have to swallow! Hey, you gotta do what you gotta do! So, down the hatch the pill went and within 15 minutes I was radioactive.

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I sat in the third row of our car as Jacob drove me to my parents house. They graciously let me stay in their basement during my quarantine of 10 days. Y’all, it was a LONG 10 days. I now know why solitary confinement is such a terrible punishment. The worst part was not being able to see Luke. He couldn’t even be in the same room as me and I didn’t get to hug or touch him on his 2nd birthday. It was torture, but it was worth it to get rid of my cancer. The radiation made me sick and nauseous, but only for about 48 hours, which is much better than traditional chemotherapy and radiation treatments. I didn’t have a follow-up to see if I was cancer free for six months. My oncologist explained that the radiation was like a war: Some of the soldiers (cancer cells) die instantly from mortal wounds. Others get injured and live for weeks weak and wounded until the eventually succumb to gangrene. So, we waited. And on September 20, 2013, I was given the NED designation: No Evidence of Disease. We now call that day “Good News Day” and you better believe that we celebrate every year!

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This is the hilarious card Jacob gave me to open after my treatment. He knew I would need a good laugh!

Come back tomorrow because I’ll be blogging about what we’ve changed in our lives since my cancer diagnosis including what products we will never use again and the things we’ve banished from our diets.




Comments

  1. Awesome … thanks for sharing with all of us

  2. Thank you for sharing. I am anxious to read your blog tomorrow and pass on info to my daughter.

    Gail
    Annapolis, MD

  3. Thankyou for sharing your story, I am really interested to read more about your lifestyle changes and food discoveries. Thankyou again for sharing something so personal, your family’s strength in faith is inspiring to my own.

  4. First of all, love your story!!! I got chills and tears when I read about how the song came on the radio!!! Wow, talk about a God thing!!!! Second, you’re really pretty!!! Your story is amazing!!!! I can relate to healing stories and I’d like to share a post I recently posted on my blog that tells part of my story!! I was born with club feet and had polio when I was 2 months old. Here’s what God has been doing in my heart and life now: When God Said, “Walk!!” | Walking Barefoot
    https://walkingbarefootblog.wordpress.com/2015/01/03/when-god-said-walk/
    Thank you again for sharing your story!!! I love Miracle stories!!!!!!