So Many Positive Things

(A) I have Type 1 diabetes.
(B) I’ve been diagnosed with papillary thyroid carcinoma.
(C) It could be worse.


That’s not multiple choice. All three are true. This week, then, in no particular order, are just a few of the positive things I’ve been including in my ongoing (and often-changing) narrative to friends and family when talking about my recent diagnosis of thyroid cancer, a diagnosis that piggybacks onto my diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes from less than three years ago.

  • I have a wonderful support network of friends and family, all of whom are concerned and who’ve offered in so many ways to help us through the next few months.
  • I have an incredible health-care team working for me as I go through the treatment for the cancer over the next few months. Last week I wrote that I hadn’t heard anything from my surgeon. Well, I discovered later that day that the silence was because my endocrinologist was communicating with Endocrine Surgery to ensure he was happy with the surgeon. I’d have liked to have known earlier that this was what was going on. It’s a long story, but in short: The surgeon my endo initially recommended is unavailable for the next few months, and because the surgeon who will take his place is someone my endo hadn’t really worked with, he wanted to do some checking. I like that. (A side note: one simple two-minute phone call from the scheduler that afternoon to let me know what was happening relieved so much anxiety for my wife and me. Even though nothing had really happened, that simple phone call was all it took to help us out. Communicate with your patients is the lesson to be learned here.)
  • If there’s a cancer to have — as I’ve said before — this is the one. I’ve gone through some doldrums these past few weeks, and I’ve done the woe-is-me thing and already milked the malady far more than I should. Thankfully I have a caring, observant, whip-smart wife who lovingly called me out on my negative thinking and helped me put things in perspective. Kathryn, thank you. My standard operating procedure from this point forward: be thankful that it is what it is (a rather overused phrase, I know — watch any postgame sports interview and you’ll taste the bile after hearing it).
  • Having diabetes and having thyroid cancer? Well, they’re both handled by endocrine specialists, and so during my conversation on Tuesday with the surgeon, he handled all of our diabetes questions without hesitation or pause, and he reassured us, just as my endocrinologist had, that although the stress of surgery may alter my blood glucose control for a little while, in the long run there will be no adverse effects to my diabetes self-management.
  • Five years ago I was working for myself, freelancing as an editor and writer. I didn’t have insurance that could adequately cover the health-care costs I’ve seen these past three years, not to mention the large dollar amounts I’ll see on hospital statements over the next few months that will thankfully say “insurance being billed,” and for which I’ll not have to pay a thing. I’m quite fortunate to be working where I work, to have the health coverage I have, and to be so close to such a wonderful health-care system.
  • I have, for the duration of my life with diabetes, practiced tight control; therefore I am entering into this brief period with thyroid cancer without my diabetes causing problems or concerns or complications beyond the straight fact that it is there. It exists in me. Good control and lack of diabetes difficulties simply means smoother sailing as I go into surgery and recover afterwards. So, if the thought of complications from diabetes alone doesn’t push you into good self-management, think about how life can and often does hand you health problems despite your diabetes. See, while I never said to myself last year or two years ago, “You need to manage your diabetes well so that when you’re diagnosed with cancer in late 2009 you’ll be in a better position to fight it off more efficiently and recover more quickly,” it appears, in hindsight, that such is the case.

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  • Yisroel

    When my wife was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, she was told, “If you have to have a cancer, this is the one to have.” Of course, spoken by someone who had never had it…
    Over 99% cure rate if caught relatively early, the chemo attacks ONLY thyroid cells (not any fast moving cells like most chemo), almost always one treatment only (drinking radioactive iodine, with the dose tailored to the individual), there’s no more thyroid on which to have a relapse, Synthroid is virually identical to human thyroid secretions, etc.
    My wife had more scares than the reality. “You’ll have a red scar on your neck, perhaps a bump, that will be sensitive for years.” Scar is virtually invisible, she can wear jewelry or turtlenecks without a problem. “You may lose your voice completely for months, or it’ll at least sound very different.” Her voice was raspy for about 2 hours after surgery, as the surgeon was able to avoid her vocal chords. (Okay, it helps that she had many true friends praying for her. And that she’s such a positive person.)
    Her two-year scan a couple of months ago showed no thyroid cells anywhere in her body, her endocrinologist keeps her thyroid levels slightly high which has helped her remain the high-energy person she’s always been.
    Eric, may G-d help you and protect you, and bring you through this ordeal healthier and stronger!

  • Beverly

    I don’t know if attitude can actually help someone to overcome cancer, but it can make your life so much more worth living. Good luck. You’re in my thoughts and prayers.