Myths: There is a myth that thyroid cancer is treatable, not a big problem. That may be usually the case but not always. If you want to read about thyroid cancer at what must be near its worst, have a read at
Another myth is that once the thyroid is removed, if all the cancer is gone then it is "life as usual". Not so. For some years after removal of a thyroid carcinoma, the patient is kept severely hyperthyroid, so that any remaining thyroid cells have nothing to do but sleep. Hyperthyroidism affects different people differently. It can be manifest in weight gain, fatigue, anxiety, and depression. These symptoms are most severely manifest during the first year or so of treatment, while the dosage of thyroid hormone (levothyroxine) is adjusted to the individual.
Probabilities: Following are some rough probabilities. I have read that 25% to 30% of all thyroid cancers reoccur. Also, the mortality rate from thyroid cancer is 10%. Assuming that the thyroid cancer must reoccur for it to be fatal, this means that the probability that you will die of thyroid cancer if it reoccurs is 1/3 to 2/5. Personally, I am no longer much worried about this -- just a little.
Health Insurance: Reading on Cancer Survivors about people with cancer who are not able to afford health care or health insurance is heart-rending. I probably can feel only a hint of their distress. It must be terrible to be sent home from a medical center without treatment because one cannot pay for it and does not have insurance. It does make me feel why someone might be highly motivated by health insurance. On my part, since living in Canada and then having health insurance through my University and, for a period of time, both private and public insurance in the UK, I have come to take health insurance for granted. Who am I to complain? Yet I expect people to do their jobs, including physicians.
I have no family to support, I earn a good income, I can afford health insurance and travelling to Boston for medical care has not been prohibitively expensive. But, actually, it seems that some people do not realize that the first fear of cancer is not health insurance but fear of the illness, of suffering, of death. Of some strange thing growing inside their body.
There is a Scottish poem about a family of foxes planning to raid a chicken coop. The plans are all made. As night approaches the youngest fox asks "Will there be dogs"? Will it be hard? A question filled with fear. My young granddaughter has lost her other grandmother to cancer. When she heard that I had cancer her first words were "Has it spread?" Will it be hard? Will I die?
It seems to me sort of weird to write this. Surely it is understood. The first concern of a "cancer survivor" is whether he will survive and how. I recently talked to another cancer survivor, a scientist highly regarded worldwide, a brilliant and sensitive man, who says that cancer it "different", you know you had it -- or do you have it? It is growing inside you or is it gone?
During the spring and summer of 2011, as I waited for my first post-thyroidectomy exam, I was anxious about whether the outcome would be negative, whether the future would be hard, whether the cancer would spread, whether I would die from it.
It was extremely important to me to continue with the same endocrinologist, Dr. Erik Alexander, who is a researcher in thyroid cancer. Also, the same radiologist participates in my medical exams. Had the outcome of my August 2011 exam been bad, I would have been extremely reluctant to change endocrinologists! I imagine that most people want to continue with someone who they believe to be competent and who is familiar with their particular history.
Another friend, based in Asia, tells me and others that many years ago he learned something very important from me. I have thought: Great! Wow! Which theorem? Which conclusion? Which result? It turns out that it was something totally different. He tells me that he and his sisters used to argue "You think blah blah...! You want blah blah... ! You mean blah blah...!" . What he claims to have learned from me was the idea that we cannot know the mind of another person. We can conjecture of course. But reading the main page of this website does it seem that my major concern was or is health insurance? If so, I am an extremely poor writer.