Papillary Thyroid Carcinoma

That's what the paper said when the doctor handed it to me. He never came out and said, "you have cancer." On my follow up visit to find out the results of the biopsy, he did ask me, "do you have insurance?" I was surprised by the question expecting the whole visit to be routine, "you're fine, the epitome of health, see you in a year." I had to practically drag the truth out of his rounded eyes that were hiding my fate, behind smudged glasses. I asked, "it's not good news then?" No answer, just a slight nod of the head and a stretch of his arm to touch my neck and feel once again for the lump that had consumed it. Shock set in.

I watched him pull up my records on his computer and print out my diagnosis. He handed it to me and that's the first time I saw the words papillary thyroid carcinoma. "So it's cancer, I have cancer is that what you're telling me?" Cancer has always seemed like such an extremely scary word to me. A long time family friend, a heart surgeon, was diagnosed with cancer last year and within weeks he passed away, a heart surgeon! This is a man I knew since I was very young, it was extremely sad, still is. Before that, my sister's fiance, a successful financer, diagnosed with the same cancer as mine, passed away not that long after. Another beautiful person inside and out, I still have his picture up on my mantle, with no plans of removing it. I'm doing the math thinking, if those two amazing people can pass away, there's no way my life would be spared. I guess I'm next, I might die.

I spent the whole day crying of course. As soon as I got home, I knew I had to call my father first. A physician himself, I figured he would make everything ok. I was strong when he first answered the phone and then when I tried to tell him I just started crying again. I had called him before when things weren't going so great for me in New York crying, poor guy, I should probably not have done that. He has an indomitable personality and is very as a matter of fact about everything, so he's the perfect type to cry to because he won't get emotional at all, he'll just say, "it'll be fine, you're going to be fine." I love that. My mom on the other hand, she'll start crying with you, that's not what I wanted! (It's ok, it's out of love obviously).

Well he did make everything better, he explained how this type of cancer is one that is completely curable and then explained all the exact steps I would be taking. I brought up my sister's fiance and he said, "yes but he had a different cancer," it turns out he was misdiagnosed. Of course now I'm thinking I could be misdiagnosed and my son, oh my god. It was all too much to handle for one day. Next up was the call to my mother. My father prepped me and told me to just "tell her straight out." Strangely enough, I was more worried about how she would handle it vs. being upset about having it, so I chose my words carefully and said it fast, like ripping off a band aid. Then you can only imagine a true Latina's reaction to her daughter being diagnosed with cancer, that's what it was.

It had all started with a lump I felt in my throat. It just kept growing and  getting harder. I never felt any pain though, just this strange lump thing. I sat on it for a while, because I thought it would just go away eventually. I'm not one to run to the doctor for any little thing, I'm too busy, I don't have time to worry about my health. That's the New Yorker in me. I've since changed my tune, I'm still not going to run to the doctor for anything, but I won't sit on something ever again, if it seems abnormal. The doctor said I needed to see a surgeon and that it needed to come out. "You're going to need surgery and after that we'll do a round of radiation." "When do I have to have this all done?" "Within the next three weeks."

I was not prepared for this. It's not something you can prepare for. It just happens and you have to deal with it. I preach "thinking positive" all the time so I figured now was a good a time as any to do so. I told myself it would be ok, yet couldn't help the thoughts of death and of people coming to see me at my funeral. I would quickly dismiss those thoughts and tried to imagine the congratulatory words of support from people saying how happy they were everything turned out to be ok. I did my best to focus on the latter as much as possible. After doing research on the cancer, it turns out it is the "best" cancer to have, if that's even possible, so that made me much more confident. Still, my sister's fiance was misdiagnosed and that still loomed around my head.

The next step was surgery and the surgeon decided he wanted me to stay the night at the hospital, "just in case" he said, what on earth could that mean? Horrible. I knew I had to deal with everything this cancer entailed and I knew I wanted to beat it. Then again, so must have the doctor and the fiance. I could whine and complain about this or I could just accept it and move forward with whatever I had to do and keep positive. I'm very lucky in the fact that I have such a loving family and friends. Of course they were right by my side, keeping my spirits up and that made me very happy.

The last week and a half has been quite a ride. I'm still healing and don't mind doing so, as I'm still here typing, alive. I'm happy it is out of my body. The surgery and the hospital is a whole other story, that I'll have to save for another post, as this one is getting a little too long.

-Fabiola Conrado #cancerawareness 

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