At 14, I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism, after months of not knowing what was going on with my body. I had gained weight, was always tired and sleeping whenever I was able. At the time, I knew nothing about my thyroid and believed what my doctors were telling me. For years, I would get routine blood tests; my medications that regulated my hormones would be changed based on those test results, not how I felt.
While in college, I switched doctors a few times after hearing comments like: “It’s all in your head” or “You just need to eat right and exercise more.” Yes, I understood how important both of those are to healthy living, but I was eating right and exercising regularly. I still didn’t feel “right.” I didn’t even know what “right” felt like.
After a few years with the same endocrinologist and extensive research online about the different medication options, I asked my doctor why I wasn’t feeling “right” and what I could do to feel better. I was at my heaviest weight and everything was just off. My doctor’s response? “You just need to admit that you are overweight and lazy.”
I informed his secretary as I was leaving the appointment that I wanted my records prepared ASAP. I was looking to obtain a second opinion. I went home, scoured the Internet and found another endocrinologist who specialized in the type of hypothyroidism that I supposedly had. I thought, “people travel from all over the world to go to hospitals in Boston – why can’t I travel 50 minutes?”
I met with my new endocrinologist and within 15 minutes I was having a small needle biopsy. He believed my thyroid was either dead or cancerous. Either way, he wasn’t letting me leave his office without being tested. My thyroid had shriveled up so much that I required another biopsy a week later.
I was diagnosed with Papillary Thyroid Cancer. My thyroid and almost 50 lymph nodes were removed, exactly one week after my 28th birthday. That May, I was given radioactive iodine to determine if the cancer had spread anywhere else. On June 1st, I heard the best news of my life – the cancer hadn’t spread past my lymph nodes and the likelihood of it returning was slim to none.
Thyroid cancer is one of the slowest growing cancers and because of the amount of lymph nodes removed that were cancerous; my doctor determined that the cancer was Stage 4. He concluded that it had been in my body for over 10 years. That’s when those other doctors were telling me that it was all in my head or that I needed to eat right to feel right. Who knows what would have happened if I hadn’t listened to myself, knowing my own body and understanding that something was wrong.
My advice? Listen to that voice inside your head that’s telling you, “This isn’t right.” Seek out second, third, even tenth opinions until you know you have someone listening to you. It could save your life.
- weight gain