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The Color of Cancer - September

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Rio Grande Cancer Foundation
Rio Grande Cancer Foundation
Rio Grande Cancer Foundation
  Patty Tiscareño / Special to the Times   5 min read 9 years ago

The Color of Cancer - September

“Have you forgotten to take your thyroid pill today?” is a query that Andre utters when (1) I’m unusually short-tempered or snippy, (2) lacking my normal vigor, or (3) keeping the thermostat at dangerously low levels of frozen while my poor spouse layers yet another blanket on the bed.

A few years ago, I made the discovery that millions of other women have made about the significance of the small but powerful, butterfly shaped gland that is located directly in front of the neck. The thyroid gland. Responsible for the production of thyroid hormones which are essential to regulating metabolism and other key body functions, your thyroid can wreak major havoc when it gets out of kilter. If your thyroid hormone levels are not in the normal range, you may be experience symptoms which are commonly confused with menopause.

After sharing my symptoms of severe fatigue, weight gain, fluctuating body temperatures and some major irritability with my physician, she prescribed a simple blood test which revealed an underactive thyroid. A daily dose of levothyroxine has proven mutually beneficial for me and my beleaguered spouse.

Although some 59 million Americans will experience a problem with their thyroid, not all adventures with the temperamental gland can be attributed to thyroid disease. In some cases, like that of thirty-six year-old Nicole Grado, the results of her annual check-up in 2009 were wildly unexpected.

A dedicated athlete throughout her life, Nicole had run track, played basketball and participated in cheerleading in her high school days. Subsequently, she entered into competitive body building and became a personal trainer. Although fatigue would not be an unusual symptom for such an active young adult, the combination of that and a sore throat prompted the suggestion of an ultrasound on her thyroid. A suspicious nodule further prompted a biopsy of the site on her neck.

“I was really hesitant to go through the procedures”, says Ms.Grado. “I didn’t want to waste my time or my money, but at my mother’s insistence, I went ahead with the procedures”, she added.

As we all know, Mom knows best. On the morning of May 14, 2009, Nicole was ushered into the physicians’ office and given a diagnosis of papillary carcinoma, the most common and treatable thyroid cancer diagnosis. “I don’t remember much after hearing those words, but do recall thinking ‘my life is over’”, she recollects. After some initial falling apart and hysteria, Nicole “started counting my blessings… I have a great job with my family business, a life with Bennett, my rescue terrier and Billy, my fiancé to support me through this ordeal”.

The ordeal was difficult; she admits. A complete thyroidectomy followed by radioactive therapy and the postponement of an October wedding date.

The new normal that accompanies Nicole today includes the word ‘Ally’ in her vocabulary. In 2011, she became involved in the Rio Grande Cancer Foundation’s annual Cancer Survivor Conference as a volunteer. “I met incredible people who helped me through my recovery and I really wanted to give others hope”, she says. Her outlook for the future is bright, although she will be on medication for the balance of her life and sometimes experiences the fatigue factor. She admits that it has taken her a while to understand that she did not cause this cancer. “Tomorrow is not a guarantee for anyone, so I choose to stay healthy and live my life fully and without fear”.

-Patty Tiscareño is the Executive Director for the Rio Grande Cancer Foundation, the community’s only local non-profit support cancer patients and their families.

Call the Rio Grande Cancer Foundation (915) 562-7660 for more information. And make an appointment with your doctor if you have any signs or symptoms that worry you.

Know More About Thyroid Cancer

  • The ribbon color for Thyroid cancer is a combination of teal, pink and blue.
  • Thyroid cancer is much more common in women than in men, with about 48,000 women and 15,000 men receiving that diagnosis every year.
  • It is commonly diagnosed at a younger age than most adult cancers. Nearly 2 out of 3 cases are found in people younger than 55 years of age.
  • There are very few risk factors for thyroid cancer. Female gender, Asian race and a history of radiation treatment or exposure in childhood years are among them.
  • Thyroid Cancer, especially early in its development, may not cause any symptoms at all, but as it grows, it is more like to appear as:
  • A lump, or nodule in the neck -- especially in the front of the neck, in the area of the Adam's apple
  • Enlargement of the neck or lymph nodes in the neck
  • Hoarseness, difficulty speaking normally, voice changes
  • Difficulty swallowing, or a choking feeling
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Pain in the neck or throat, including pain from the neck to the ears
  • Sensitivity in the neck -- discomfort with neckties, turtlenecks, scarves, necklaces
  • Persistent or chronic cough not due to allergies or illness
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