Life Happens, Attitude is Everything
Full Name: Amber Young
Type of Cancer: Papillary Thyroid Cancer
I wanted to be involved with beYOUtiful because it spoke to me in a few ways. Being a cancer survivor myself, I have firsthand knowledge on the emotions and feelings that come with a diagnosis. I am also a hairstylist who has worked with cancer fighters and survivors to help them look and feel their best. This foundation has set up a wonderful platform for women to connect with people who’s talent and passion is to make you look and feel your best. We, in the beauty industry, have such a unique job that allows clients to immediately feel better walking out the door than they did coming in.
A few months after Tom and I got married I was getting sharp pains in my chest while running. I went to see my pc and he was concerned about a clot in my lungs. He sent me straight to the ER for a cat scan. Before leaving the hospital I got on the phone with the radiologist and she told me luckily my lungs were clear, but they caught a spot on my thyroid and wanted a closer look with an ultrasound. What she told me didn’t sound alarming in any way. I went in for an ultrasound on my neck and when the tech was being extremely quiet I asked if it looked ok. She told me they weren’t allowed to say anything to patients about what they saw but, bless her amazing heart, she said if I were her daughter she would immediately make an appt with an endocrinologist. That set off the alarms in my head. I made my appointment while I waited for a response on my ultrasound. The doctor called and told me I had a mass/tumor on my thyroid and he wanted to biopsy. I had never had any thyroid issues, and frankly forgot that I had one. My first FNA biopsy came back inconclusive which isn’t abnormal. So I went in for a second round of biopsy, and this time the results came back positive for Papillary Thyroid Cancer. I remember getting the call- we were in the car with friends on our way to a Memorial Day Bbq. Thankfully I had to put on a smile and hang with our friends, which was such a blessing to not have to immediately process that call. I was referred to an ENT surgeon for my next step. There wasn’t much option as to how to proceed. I needed a complete thyroidecomy and at least one round of RAI (radioactive iodine).
I was scared as to what that meant and looked like. I honestly knew nothing about what/where/how a thyroid works and what my body would do without it. After vigorous research, as well a getting an appointment with an integrative endocrinologist, I started to feel like I was getting a grip on what all this meant. I couldn’t let this rule me. I got a second opinion, and both were exactly the same. It my mind, getting upset and letting it takeover wasn’t an option. I needed to be strong and keep it together. If I wavered, everyone around me would waver and I wanted to be surrounded by strength and positivity.
On September 3rd 2014 I went in for my thyroidectomy. It took 2 hours longer than planned due to many lymph nodes wrapped around my vocal cord that had to be carefully removed . Surgery went well and I was happy to hear they successfully removed the thyroid, tumor, as well as 12 lymph nodes. Recovery was a couple weeks off work, as well as adjusting to full hypothyroidism as a result of no thyroid. Its manageable with constant monitoring of hormone levels and taking a few medications everyday.
Almost 2 months after my surgery I was scheduled for my RAI. I was lucky enough that my doctors didn’t think chemotherapy was necessary. Hopefully one dose of radiation would be sufficient. In prep for my RAI, I was on a strict no-iodine diet. The goal is to starve the remaining thyroid tissue cells in my body, so when I was given a radioactive dose of iodine, those cells would be drawn to the iodine and ablated by the radiation. This process can take up to a year to pass through the body. The day of my RAI I was take to the hospital, into a nuclear medicine room, and with a mask and medical tongs, the doctor handed me a pill in a cup which i was to take immediately in front of him. Slightly intimidating. I then went home and stayed in my bedroom at least 10 feet away from anyone for 48 hours. My sweet husband dropped off food in the room and kept me company while at a safe distance. We played Heads Up on separate iPads while he sat on the floor in the doorway to our room.
The weeks and months that followed were just a waiting game. I was diligent with getting my lab work done every 3 months. I patiently watched as my Tg number went lower and lower. The goal was 0 by a year mark. I have never received a Tg of 0. Over the last few years my number has wavered around 1. My endocrinologist assures me that as long as that number doesn’t jump up and hovers at or below 1, he’s comfortable with it. As thankful as I am for him, I cant say his confidence is comforting. No one can tell me that the few remaining thyroid cells are clean or cancer. There is no way to know. I try my best to not let it consume me, however it’s always in the back of my mind. I always have the other option of another dose of RAI. It’s been almost 4 years since my removal and radiation.
Life took an unexpected turn and I’m happy it did. It shakes up your mentality and approach to life. As soon as I could, it was back to work, back to enjoying life, and appreciating everything a bit more than before. I’m not going to lie, its always in the back of my mind. Everyday I try to push it back further and not let it consume me. I thank my lucky stars my experience wasn’t worse. I am beyond thankful my doctors – Dr. Michael Lee and Dr. Andrew Beros are such rockstars. It made all the difference know that I was surrounded and supported by such a strong team of family and friends, not to mention my amazing husband.