By Sandi Liberatori
Five or six years after I was treated with radiation for Hodgkin lymphoma, my husband and I decided to start a family. When I didn’t get pregnant right away, I started to work with my gynecologist to find out if there was a problem.
After some testing and consulting, my gynecologist said that my thyroid was “sluggish.” She wanted to put me on medication because she thought that it might have something to do with my fertility issues. As was and is my practice, I ran this by my long-time oncologist. (When my late-term effects started cropping up, I began to view him as my own personal late-term effects clinician. He chose my specialists and surgeons for multiple surgeries- breast cancer, endometrial cancer, kidney cancer, gallbladder removal, thyroid nodules). Of course, back when I was trying to conceive, I was in my early 30’s, and I was blissfully ignorant of what was to come.
My oncologist’s response to the question of thyroid medication was that I should NOT take it. He felt that monitoring my thyroid regularly with oncology follow-up appointments four times a year was sufficient. I soon realized that those appointments were not just to see if the Hodgkin’s came back, but also to see what else might be happening due to my radiation treatments.
The truth is, I had never really considered late effects when I was first diagnosed. I chose the treatment that I was given because I was 27 years old and did not want to die. It was that simple. The radiation and chemotherapy I received was considered “state of the art” at the time. I knew others who chose NOT to have the treatment, and they didn’t do so well. Some died quite young. I am a survivor, and I will never regret following the advice of my doctors back then, no matter how hellish the months of radiation were.
All these years later, I have two great kids. I have also had my share of secondary effects. In the course of one of my several cancer diagnoses, some nodules were spotted on my thyroid. Like the good patient I have learned to be, I went to a specialist who did a needle biopsy on my thyroid. It wasn’t that bad. The specialist was surprised when I commented that. (Let’s face it, once you have been sliced, diced, and fried due to the initial cancer diagnosis, you kind of get used to it. You’re always thinking it’s going to be the worst and are surprised when it’s not too bad!)
The specialist had a long talk with me after the procedure. She discussed the whole procedure and possible outcomes. She told me that many times the results on these tests come out inclusive. Then I heard the words that I am unfortunately getting used to, “Because of your history, if it’s inconclusive, we will be removing the entire thyroid.” Even if they weren’t sure it was cancerous, they wanted to remove it as a precaution.
I went home resigned to the fact that I was probably in for another surgery. I’ve gotten pretty good at this though- compartmentalizing the fear and anxiety that goes with not knowing what will happen. AS a long-term cancer survivor, I was a pro at this!
I received a call from the specialist with my results. She ecstatically told me that the nodules were benign. Now, I will be following up with her, as well as all my other specialists, having all the necessary tests and scans. Such is the life of a Hodgkin’s survivor. Moving on…
Please note: the thoughts and opinions expressed within the content are solely the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the the opinions and beliefs of Hodgkin’s International.