11 January 2011 ~ 25 Comments

Donna Anderson Terlecki: Thyroid Cancer Survivor, Thyroid Disease Patient, Eager To Spread Awareness and Advocacy

This is part 2 in our series of articles from guest writers on what awareness means to them in honour of Thyroid Awareness Month. If anyone would like to contribute their own article on this topic, I would be happy to publish it.

At the age of 44 I was diagnosed with follicular thyroid cancer. It was October of 2006 and my son was just five years old. I am now cancer free but no longer have my thyroid so I depend on a pill to replace it. So far it has been an ordeal, more so than I or my family realized it would be. It took me a long time to understand that my levels fluctuate and when they do I need to get bloodwork done to determine if my dosage needs to be changed. The process is long; the medicine takes a while to adjust. I have learned to be patient, I have no choice really.

Thyroid disease is often misdiagnosed and misunderstood. It is difficult for many to understand how thyroid disease and cancer can wreak havoc on your mind and body. I’ve made a few mistakes along the way and am finally beginning to understand everything about thyroid disease – the quality of my life depends on it. My family and friends deserve better than this from me, my swinging hyper to hypo is not fair to them so I will do all I can to stay on top of my disease. Yes, even though I am cancer free I still have thyroid disease because of it. I will have it for the rest of my life. My type of thyroid cancer has a higher rate of recurrence. I can live with all of this as long as I feel I have a grip on my mind, body and soul and I do. But I can’t say I always have.

Here and there I post things about thyroid disease. I feel it is important to raise awareness and hopefully help someone who may not know that they have this wretched disease or for those that do to realize that there are ways to live a better life and get the proper care and treatment they deserve. I want more than anything to turn my negative into a positive for others. It is important to me. I want to make a difference. I don’t want others to suffer unnecessarily and live in denial like I did. I’m willing to put myself out there and share my mistakes if you are willing to ask the questions.

So first things first, do you check your neck? Do you ask your doctor to run bloodwork to determine your TSH level? Do you understand what your thyroid does and what it will do (or not) if it is not functioning properly? Do you mistakenly think this is just about women? Do you know your body and react if something is not right? Are you an advocate for yourself?

I am by far not an expert about thyroid disease and I am sharing my experiences but am not a doctor. I do know enough now to react to what my body is doing. I know that breathing problems, heart palps, anxiety, hand tremors, body aches, weight loss and being exhausted mean I am hyperthyroid and need my Synthroid reduced. I know what being hypothyroid is too. It’s different for everyone to some degree but there are lots of symptoms that mirror other illnesses and that is where much of the problem in diagnosis lies. Your thyroid, or lack thereof, deserves attention. You just may not know it.

There are lots of supportive and informative websites on chronic illness and thyroid disease. If you take a peek, you will find links to all kinds of wonderful information that may pertain to you or someone you know. I have met some fabulous online friends who are open and honest in a very real way. Reading about others’ experiences made me finally choose to be more proactive about my own health and I believe this has directly impacted the quality of my life.

This is a new beginning for me. It’s a process for sure. If I can make a difference and touch someone’s life in a positive way, it will have been worth it. Bear with me, awesome friends, be patient and put up with my health posts, LOL. And if you could, please share some of my posts on your Facebook wall, you never know, you could make a big difference to a person suffering. Thanks for listening and putting up with me. I love my online friends 🙂

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