My Thyroid Cancer Journey
How a 30-something mother found restoration through cancer and facing several losses.
It seemed I was living a country western song: in just a few months, my house burned down, my dog died, and I got cancer.
All this happened to our family in the spring and summer of 2016.
The fire started because we had just finished an addition on our house, and we needed a new air conditioner. The heating and cooling company started the fire when they were installing it, but didn’t realize it.
Fortunately, my husband and I and our kids were not in the house, but we did lose our family dog, Molly, a loss that hit us hard.
Not only that, we were left with months of non-stop insurance and legal hassles about the fire.
Stress was mounting.
An alarming discovery
With no home, we moved in with my in-laws to figure out our next step.
About month later at a checkup, my doctor noticed my thyroid levels were low and that my hair was thinning. Eventually I had an ultrasound and then a biopsy, which revealed that I had thyroid cancer.
My life had already felt like it was out of control and full of loss and grief. I felt like I couldn’t handle one more thing—but cancer was that thing and there was no avoiding it.
Dealing with fear
My thyroid cancer diagnosis surfaced several fears.
The type was pretty straightforward, but sometimes I worried, what if my doctor is wrong? What if my cancer turns into a deadly one?
This fear was not unfounded. With thyroid cancer, sometime people develop more than one type of cancer, even the deadly kind with a life expectancy of only a few years.
My other fear was having to live my life in a different way, not knowing if I would have enough energy or if the thyroid medication would work properly.
The potential long term impacts also looked scary. Lots of people who have their thyroid removed develop secondary issues, like diabetes.
With life already spinning out of control, I knew the road ahead would leave me with even less that I could control.
Gains and losses
With little choice, in mid-July, I had surgery to remove my thyroid.
I like to explain my experience like this: I lost a cancerous thyroid tumor and gained a chronic disease called hypothyroidism.
Most people believe that if you just remove the thyroid and take your pill every day, you’re better, right? Wrong.
One of the most amazing designs of the human body is its synergy. Once you lose your thyroid, you can take a replacement drug, but the amount taken each day is fixed, so it doesn’t read what your body needs from one day to the next the way the body does.
I felt pretty sick for a few months after the surgery, but meanwhile life went on. My family still didn’t have a home and I continued to worry about my health.
How I found hope, strength and peace
Throughout this season, we had a lot of great people supporting us. They helped us with food, with our kids and also planning our new house.
My relationship with God also helped me surrender my fears and find hope. One of my friends sent me a verse that was especially helpful:
“And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast (1 Peter 5:10 NIV).”
The line about “a little while” caught my attention, as did the theme of restoration.
My thyroid cancer journey has been teaching me to see life with a long view. I soon realized that the difficulties, as challenging as they were, would be temporary, which helped me get through them.
Life goes so fast and by looking at the big picture, I hoped that the hard things I was going through would just be a blip in my story. And especially in light of eternity, any struggle on earth is truly relatively short.
As far as restoration, I knew that because of my relationship with God, I have already experienced the ultimate restoration: the opportunity to have a relationship with God.
I’m thankful I did experience some restoration on earth, too, which I see as such a kindness from God.
A few months after my diagnosis, a contractor friend began building a replacement house for our family, working hard to complete it quickly. We were able to move in about nine months after the fire, which was a huge gift.
We were able to create the home we wanted, a beautiful place that is a respite from the world. Just being able to get in our new house was really healing.
We also got another dog, a miniature golden doodle named Sandy. She’s my little BFF and she always wants to be where I am. She’s almost been like a therapy dog to me.
As for my health, I have continued to stay cancer free and I have been learning to live with hypothyroidism. I have experienced some physical problems and health issues that are somewhat related to my diagnosis, so it’s not been perfect.
But the restoration for me is that I gained a greater understanding of how fragile life is, and that every day is a gift. There has been a new openness and freedom and rawness that came from facing my own mortality.
I’m motivated to take that leap of faith and even to say the things you want to say to people because you don’t always get a second chance.
Though my life once did seem like a country western song, I’m thankful for the restoration I’ve experienced.
If you would like to discover restoration on your cancer journey, read Restoration from Cancer.
You can also read more Stories of Hope.