Lisa Joseph

New Castle , Pennsylvania

Nothing prepared me for the journey I was about to take on November 16, 2017. For the 2nd time in less than 5 years, I heard the words so many hear, "Your cancer has recurred " I had a total thyroidectomy in February 2013 and no lymph nodes removed. Each year do my I-131 radiation, with the whole body scan a few days later. In August of that year, as I was preparing for the scan, I was expecting something to show up. You could imagine my surprise when my radiation oncologist emailed and said the scan can back clean. Especially since I showed him the area of concern on my neck. A very palpable hard lump near my right carotid artery. Thank GOD, for having one of the best radiation oncologists. The bloodwork on the the morning before getting the I-131, and the morning of scan the TSH levels were high. And even higher the morning of the scan. He emailed my endocrinologist with these findings. She immediately set up an ultrasound which a week later had me back at the hospital for a guided needle biopsy. A week later the report: malignancy! My life has been anything but normal since. I had a bilateral radical neck dissection with the removal of 54 lymph nodes from right neck in all sections and 42 on left side. Of the 54 on right side, 8 were malignant. 0 came back for malignancy of left side. I also had to have a mass taken off the trachea which was positive for cancer. A week before this surgery, I had a PET Scan which showed 2 very small nodules in lower base of left lung. They are too small to biopsy and they will need close observation. I was never prepared by surgeon, his team, none of the staff as to how life was going to severely change. Life as I knew it, would never be the same. My first follow-up, my surgeon took 1 look at the area I was concerned about and uttered the words, " This is lymphedema and needs a specialist to treat you." It's now going on 3 months since surgery. I finally started outpatient physical therapy with a lymphedema specialist. The tightness is unbearable, the difficulty eating chewing and swallowing has become too much to handle at times. Range of motion is still very limited to the right side more than the left. Add this with taking care of my 2 grandchildren, ages 5 and 8. It's almost defeating most days. I look for the positive through the storm! I AM ALIVE!!!!! Even though most days I cry from the pain, but smile in spite of it because I don't want my grandchildren to see how hard this is. I miss doing the basic things for them and with them. Heck, I would just love to be able to brush my hair!!!!! Still looking for better options and I won't stop until I do!