Archive | June, 2011

My Voice in Pictures

29 Jun

Dear Surgeon,

I may seem neurotic to you. I understand this is a pretty low risk surgery. However, 28% of patients experience voice changes after a thyroidectomy. I need to be in the other 72%. Capice?

Maybe you need to understand me better. No, I am not a professional singer. In fact, I don’t even sing that well. But that’s irrelevant. It’s what I like to do, and I would appreciate you not taking that away from me.

While you perform my surgery, there are a few images I would like you to have in the back of your mind. My voice in pictures, if you will.

When I was a little girl, I demanded the spotlight at family Christmas to perform the entire Annie album.

In high school, I belted out “Spanish Rose” in “Bye Bye Birdie.”
In college, I was the Mock Rock queen. And although I was only lip synching in the performance, I screamed the lyrics during the winner’s encore.
Did I mention how many times we won first place?
I need to be able to sing at venues that don’t even offer Karaoke, as I did during the summer of 2002.
I have big plans to once again hit the stage in Vegas with a live band to perform “Hit Me With Your Best Shot.”
Coldplay is releasing their new album. Do you think I am going to stand for not being able to scream “YEAH!” after Chris Martin asks, “How long must you wait for it?”
Yeah…there’s no way I am letting you take away my ability to scream.

So write yourself a note, or do whatever you have to do.

Sarah Young is in the 72%.


Go Blue!

27 Jun

Just a quick lunchtime update…

All of my files have been sent to U of M. I spoke with Wendy, the endocrine surgical coordinator, this morning, and she is from Hemlock. She had her total thyroidectomy 3 years ago, and sees an endocrinologist at U of M. She suggested I first book an appointment with her U of M endocrinologist, and then book my surgery. She said either way, the timing is the same (mid to late August), and this way I will have a post-surgery treatment plan.

Wendy did share that she has a very weak voice since her surgery, but she feels really good otherwise.

I love Wendy.

My endocrinologist appointment is with Dr. E on July 26. Anyone have any experience with her? I requested Dr. G for my surgery, since I have received 6 recommendations for him!

Dr. R’s office was super understanding and supportive of my decision to go to Ann Arbor. I am relieved and happy, and I know I am being led in the right direction. I can’t believe how responsive and organized everyone at U of M has been so far!

Go Blue!

What does Mark Zuckerberg have to do with it?

27 Jun

Mark Zuckerberg has everything to do with everything. I think I should take a moment to talk about what Facebook has done to get me through the past few days.
– I am able to tell my story ONCE, and move on. I saw so many family members and friends today, and we were able to have a nice day that wasn’t totally focused on my health.
– People I haven’t seen in years have reached out to me to tell me their personal stories and offer support. It means so much!
– I have dozens of doctor and treatment recommendations from people I trust.
– I have made connections to friends of friends of friends, and been able to hear from people with my exact diagnosis, living nearby.
– My Facebook addiction distracts me at all the right moments.
– I just love Mark Zuckerberg.

Let’s not forget about Twitter. I have found so many wonderful resources out there for people with thyroid problems. In case anyone is interested, these are my favorites:

And even if you don’t have thyroid issues:

Thank you, everyone…for reading, for caring, for emailing, and most of all, for praying.

“You’ll have to excuse me. I just found out I have cancer.”

26 Jun

There is an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm where Larry discovers that when he tells people his mother just died, they excuse him from things he doesn’t feel like doing. “You’ll have to excuse me…my mother just died. I won’t be doing much…for awhile.”

You think that would work for me?

Today I missed my sister’s bridal dress fitting because in my state of brain fog, I thought it was 30 minutes later than it really was. Plus I forgot how long it takes me to do my hair. On the upside, it gave me some time to run some errands ALONE, which never happens.

As I was driving, I started to get that panicked feeling again. It’s like my body is catching up to my brain. I started thinking about my life without a thyroid, and the pages and pages of information I’ve read in the past 3 days. Will I still sound the same after my surgery? Or will I be one of the unlucky ones who ends up permanently hoarse? Will I ever be able to sing or shout again?

Wait. Is that Britney’s “Til The World Ends” on the radio? I turned it up and rolled down the windows. I started to sing along, louder and louder. Oh, how I love to sing in the car! As I rolled to a stop light, I was seriously jamming…dancing like I was in the middle of the club, and yelling “oh oh oh oh oh oh oh OH oh!” Cars full of people were staring.

“You’ll have to excuse me. I just found out I have cancer.”

After that, I sped down Mackinaw Road with my favorite karaoke playlist. I started with “Heartbreaker” by Pat Benatar. I belted out the words like I was performing a concert. I pictured myself in my childhood basement, singing along to my record player, and clutching the album cover that had Pat in her black tank top and leather pants. Next up was “In My Place” by Coldplay…from the Live 2003 album. I imagined myself back at Pine Knob…screaming for Chris Martin as he ran through the pavilion. Then I got serious with my favorite Journey selections…”Separate Ways,” “Don’t Stop Believin'” and “Any Way You Want It.” I’ve owned Journey’s Greatest Hits on record, cassette tape, CD and mp3. I’ve sung with Steve Perry while I curled my hair before the first day of 7th grade. I had it playing when I was crying over high school drama. I performed it karaoke at The Blackstone at CMU, while holding a $1.00 pitcher of beer. I sang it softly when my boyfriend Andy learned to play the whole album on the piano just to impress me. I’ve sung it with my kids on Rock Band 2, and scored 100% on the Expert setting. And my thyroid was there the whole time.

Will I ever be able to hit those big notes again? I guess I don’t know. So if you happen to see a crazy lady in a Chevy Traverse, singing her heart out and rocking out like she’s on stage, you’ll have to excuse me. I just found out I have cancer.

“Hey Sarah…it’s your gut again.”

24 Jun

I can’t sleep. And I can’t even concentrate on Lost.

I got my surgery consult appointment notification tonight. Dr. R referred me to her husband. He has an excellent reputation. People like him. I really don’t have anything bad to say about him.

But over and over, I remember a conversation I had with an ophthalmologist last year. He said, “If you ever have something wrong with you…you go to Ann Arbor.”

I need to recover from this surgery as quickly as possible. And I need to come back as ME. No complications, no worries. On the other hand, how do I tell Dr. R that I don’t want her husband to do the surgery? Will she treat me differently? Will I ruin the first good doctor-patient relationship I’ve had? Am I over-reacting? I don’t even have a large tumor…any idiot could probably do the surgery just fine. I should just keep my appointment in Saginaw.

But what would I tell my mother, my sister or my daughters in this situation?

I would say, “If you ever have something wrong with you…you go to Ann Arbor.”

But I was done…wasn’t I?

23 Jun

Today I lived my normal life. I woke up, got myself and the kids ready, and was 5 minutes late for work with coffee in tow. I went to meetings and sent emails, and I pretty much forgot that I got diagnosed with cancer yesterday. And then there’s the pregnant people.

I have two healthy, beautiful and brilliant daughters. I live a busy life, I have two mortgages and my husband works swing shifts. I couldn’t possibly handle another baby. But now I know that I CAN’T have another baby. That was supposed to be my choice.

Maybe I was only going to gain 20 pounds with my third pregnancy. I was going to wear my Paige Denim maternity jeans, and Andy was going to ban me from shopping at Bella Belli in Birmingham. I was going to feel the nudge of baby feet in my belly again. And I was going to have a little boy. His name was going to be Andrew Joseph, and I would call him Drew. He was going to look just like Andy, only he would have dark wavy hair like my brother did as a baby. He was going to be sweet and cuddly, and he was going to drive his sisters crazy.

Hopefully I won’t get teary every time I see a baby bump. But for today, I mourn the possibilities.

My Story

22 Jun
It’s been a long 16 months.
It was February 2010 when I began this journey. Mary was six months old, and I had just finished nursing. I was all excited to finally lose the baby weight and get back into my skinny clothes. But instead, I started putting on weight. I was tired, my hair was falling out, my legs hurt all the time…I just wasn’t myself. My nanny told me about her postpartum thyroid issues, and I made a doctor’s appointment to check it out.
My doctor at the time was Dr. P in Saginaw. I admit, I can be a tough patient…I am hooked on WebMD and as a former drug rep, I always assume the worst. But my experience with Dr. P was extreme. When I touched my throat and mentioned my thyroid as a possible culprit of my symptoms, she laughed me off and said I didn’t even know where my thyroid was. Her nurse then came in and had me fill out a 10-question quiz (created by Eli Lilly, of course!). She diagnosed me with depression and said I needed antidepressants right away. If there’s one thing I know about family doctors, it’s that they LOVE to prescribe antibiotics and antidepressants. I declined the Zoloft script, and I left. Weeks later, the symptoms continued. I pushed and pushed, and finally she agreed to thyroid bloodwork and an ultrasound. My bloodwork was within normal ranges. By CHANCE Dr. P was on vacation when my throat ultrasound results came in. Her partner called me and recommended a biopsy in May 2010. The biopsy was inconclusive, and Dr. P called me personally to tell me that she would have never ordered it based on my ultrasound. Every time I walked into Dr. P’s office, I would catch her gossiping about me with her staff. I was just a crazy person who was weight-obsessed. So, in a last ditch effort for treatment, I scheduled an appointment with Dr. P’s nurse practitioner. Surely she would listen to me! Dr. P walked right past me that day in the office, and never said hello. Her nurse practitioner came into the exam room, and said, “I have spoken to Dr. P. All of your tests are normal and we really need to talk about antidepressants.”
That day, I got on Dr. R’s waiting list.
I finally got in to see Dr. R in June 2010. She read my pathology report and said she would recommend surgery to remove the questionable nodule. She referred me to Dr. K, an ENT in Saginaw. That was the worst 30 minutes of my life. He stuck a scope up my nose and down my throat, and said I looked “fine.”. Then he kept asking me about my sleeping habits, snoring, etc. I don’t have sleeping issues, so I kept pushing back on his questions. He said he would watch and wait on the nodule, and said I probably had chronic fatigue syndrome. As I walked out of the office, I took notice of the Sleep Lab educational materials. Apparently, my thyroid wasn’t as profitable as sleeping issues might have been.
Dr. R was surprised that Dr. K said to watch and wait, but she took his advice. She asked me to have another ultrasound in 6 months. It felt like a death sentence. I couldn’t lose weight no matter what I did. My hair was brittle and falling out. I woke up every morning feeling hungover and I had terrible bone aches at night. I read every thyroid blog that has ever been written. Finally, I went to a natural thyroid specialist in Southfield – Dr. L. She put me on iodine and thyroid supplements (Iodoral and GTA Forte) and I did GREAT. I was finally feeling like myself again, and I started to lose weight! But after just three months, my bloodwork showed a HYPERactive thyroid, and I was worried that I was doing damage with the supplements.
In March 2011, Dr. R ordered a radioactive iodine uptake scan. But after having been on supplements, the results were skewed. I felt sheepish for self-medicating, but Dr. R treated me like a human being. I waited the assigned 6 weeks with no supplements, and repeated the scan. It showed a cold nodule in my lower right lobe…9 mm in size. Dr. R called her personal friend, radiologist Dr. N at Covenant, to do the biopsy. This time, Dr. N had a cytopathologist look at the sample before she ended the biopsy. This ensured she got a good sample for diagnosis.
Dr. R called me with the news this morning. The biopsy showed papillary cancer. It’s early, and very small and easy to remove. Dr. R said, “Kudos to you for pursuing this. I always tell my medical students to believe their patients…they know when something just isn’t right.”
So, that’s my story. I will be fine, and I feel confident that I finally found a doctor who will partner with me in my health. Here are the takeaways.
-Morning headache
-Stubborn weight gain and inability to lose weight despite diet and exercise
-Cold hands and feet
-Bone pain in lower legs at night
-Dry, brittle hair that tangles and falls out easily
-Itchy scalp
-Irregular, painful periods
-Edema and constipation
-Brain fog
-TSH ranged from 1.1-2.5 (“normal”)
-Enlarged thyroid…hard to see, but you could tell by feeling my neck
-Calcified thyroid nodule, 9mm in size and “cold” on an uptake scan
-Stay away from doctors that are annoyed that you have done research
-Thyroid nodules are quite common, but my symptoms were not normal. Therefore, the small calcified nodule on my throat ultrasound needed to be taken seriously. Doctors usually do not biopsy a nodule that is less than 1 cm. I insisted, and I am glad I did.
-“Normal range” is not necessarily normal for you
-There is a lot of crazy thyroid info on the internet, but Mary Shomon is a reliable source of info –

My Diagnosis

22 Jun

This morning I was diagnosed with papillary thyroid cancer. It is extremely early, and the tumor is only 9 mm. My only expected treatment is surgery, and there is no reason to believe that the cancer has spread anywhere. I’m okay now, and I am going to be okay.

My thyroidectomy surgery is scheduled for the first week of August, and I will be back up and running in 2-3 weeks.

Overall, I just want people to know:
– I am going to be fine
– I do not want anyone to freak out, because that will freak ME out
– The cure rate for this kind of cancer at my age is 99% at 20 years…if you have to get cancer, this is the kind you want to get
– I am only telling my girls about the surgery when that date gets closer. Please do not scare them unnecessarily by talking about this in front of them
– I will post news as I have it
– I really appreciate your prayers and good thoughts

I do feel compelled to document my journey, including how I got diagnosed, so that’s why I am starting this blog. Hopefully those of your who are interested will read it, and those of you who aren’t will continue to correspond about regular things on Facebook!

Life goes on, and so will I.