My walk with Thyroid Cancer
It was December 2010 when my world changed. I noticed a lump on my neck which was X-rayed and found to be a “benign” goitre which is not uncommon. The surgeon said I could leave it or remove it if it was irritating. I chose to have it removed meaning that a portion of my thyroid gland would be taken. He suggested that we have it biopsied although in his experience, it was a 5% in 5% chance of being anything more threatening than a simple goitre. Anyway, that’s what we thought.
I got a phone call while recuperating after the operation and the surgeon said simply, “Please come and see me.” Those words run ice water down your spine as you will all probably imagine.
I went back to him and he explained that he would have to remove the whole thyroid and would be on thyroid replacement hormones for the rest of my life. It was a carcinoma but lucky it was very early stage. In fact, his words were, “at least you have got the nicest of cancers.” How do you digest that news?
One week later, another full operation, only to be told that they didn’t get all of it. So, another week later, a third operation with a hook placed in your neck to pin point the exact location of the tissue.
The good news was that all of it but the drama was not over.
Apart from having to deal with the “C” word hanging over you, I began a 6 week regimen of not having any thyroid function and not being allowed any necessary medication. I gained 20 kilograms despite feeling too ill to enjoy food, I lost hair, I felt cold all the time despite living in one for the hottest parts of the country. The suicidal and homicidal thoughts never leave you and you actually long to die because you feel so grim.
After this experience, I went to Pretoria where I was in isolation for three days after being exposed to a radioactive pill which could light up Johannesburg. At this point, I was allowed to take my first thyroid tablet and almost immediately started feeling better.
I was now expected to see my oncologist every six months and have radiology every year. The true irony of this whole thing was visiting a friend in hospital one day and walking past the Oncology Centre and thinking to myself “I hope I never have to go in there?” The staff and doctors of Mediclinic Nelspruit and everyone involved in my journey have been fantastic in every respect.
The love of my family, especially my wife Gillian who is a doctor, has always been a pillar of strength to me.
God never left my side and continues to strengthen me to this day
I took up oil painting as therapy and it remains to this day, one of my greatest joys. Now 10 years later, I’m free of cancer and I don’t regret having this scare, in fact it actually been good for me. I see the oncologist for routine neck sonar and x-ray once a year.
This experience has taught me so much about my own strength and the endless love of God. I hope you find encouragement in this story as I’m very committed to supporting anyone affected.
Love to you all