Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Check Your Neck!

For years women have been inundated with campaigns for breast cancer awareness, and prompted to do monthly self checks for signs of breast cancer. Thyroid cancer and thyroid disease in general has not been given as much a view, even though if you read studies on it, in the US alone the incidences are rising rapidly, especially among women. Average onset is between the ages of 35-50, but in rare cases such as my own it can begin in your 20's.

Thyroid disease manifests itself in many different ways, and the older you get, the more likely it is for you to have it. Some common symptoms include:
Weight Changes
Anxiety and/or Depression
Muscle and Joint Weakness or Pain
Sensitivity to temperature
Voice Changes (This is more serious, as it is a common indicator of nodules and thyroid cancer)

I myself experienced many of the symptoms listed for months. I was tested for everything under the sun over a period of about 6 months but other than a severe Vitamin D deficiency they had trouble pinpointing the cause. I began gaining weight, even with no changes in my diet, going from being average and healthy to severely overweight within an 18month period. I was exhausted and in pain every day and could no longer even do small tasks around the house easily. I had exen been diagnosed with a panic disorder, because my anxiety symptoms were quite extreme. I also experienced a sudden deepening and hoarseness in my voice in the months leading up to my diagnoses.

I was one morning, rubbing my neck in the morning that I noticed a very distinguished bump in my neck, and when I checked the mirror I could visibly see it, as could my doctor when I visited her later n the week.

So especially for the ladies reading, you should consider in addition to your self exams for breast cancer, to also check your neck every month. Your thyroid is a small, butterfly shaped gland in the base of your neck, so when these nodules or masses start to grow you can feel them. Most are benign, and cause no problems, but if you are having the symptoms, and you do notice changes in your neck, go see your doctor, because while rare, early treatment is key to successfully being treated for thyroid cancer.

News story on WWAY

Thank you to everyone who is visiting my blog after reading or seeing the news story. Knowing that people care means so much to me.

This morning I got up early to meet with Katie for an interview. After everything Mill Creek put me through and the mounting pile of bills (6 so far this week), it was a breathe of fresh are to meet with her, and just knowing that anyone cares makes all the difference sometimes. (if you hadn't read it and are getting this forwarded to you you can read the story here: http://www.wwaytv3.com/2012/05/22/only-3-cancer-patient-shocked-when-one-late-payment-led-to-eviction-notice)

Once the story posted I read the article and even though the apartment complex took back the eviction notice, it was only because I'd had no choice but to pay them the fines or go to court, so I used the money I'd set aside for the electric bill this month to pay them so I wouldn't have to leave and could keep going to school.

Hopefully at some point things will get a little easier, and I just have to make it through the summer, after that I'll at least have student loans which while I know I'll be paying them back for a long time to come at least it'll be there to help with the room and board part anyways.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

How my Apartment Complex Pushed Me to the Edge

As a student, I live in a complex nearby campus to minimize my need for a car (I actually drive a scooter back and forth to conserve gas). Last year I moved in to Mill Creek apartments off Kerr Ave, so I could get settled in before school started in the fall. For over a year, I've been sure to be on time with my rent, typically early paying 2-4 months of rent at a time so I wouldn't have to worry about not getting it in on time.

Then the cancer struck.

I had depleted my savings account after several months of not being able to work due to my illness and am dependent on financial aid to make it through the year. I budget it out well normally so I can keep everything paid through the year, on top of the little bit I earn working a call center job. I still end up below the poverty line, but as a contract worker am ineligible for unemployment benefits so I had nothing but my savings to hold me up.

This month, for the first time since I'd moved there, I was running a little short until I got paid for summer aid and my job. I contacted the apartment office, to let them know, as I had previously told them about my cancer diagnoses. I let them know I was about 10 days behind, but could pay this months and next months rent on that day. As the staff had always been kind and sensitive to my condition I had hoped for a little understanding...

I was instead met with being served an eviction filing and $200 in fees if I wanted to avoid being evicted and left homeless.

I could have understood being charged a reasonable late fee but this? I had been a model tenant, everything always paid early, kind to the neighbors, never bothering anyone with loud music or parties and in spite of it all, for asking a little compassion, this is what I was met with.

My Story

Hello, my name is Rachel

I am 27 years old and a student at UNC Wilmington. I transferred here from getting a late start after working my entire young adult life and found I had a passion for helping people, even if just doing something as simple as just listening. I decided to study Psychology, a field where I felt I could do the most good for others.

In the Fall of 2011 I began getting sick frequently. I had constant fatigue, weakness and physical pain in my muscles and joints. I pushed through, completing the semester, even with my grades dropping from A's to B's as I had difficulty focusing and getting through the textbooks.​​ I went to my doctor and when the test showed nothing more than a vitamin D deficiency, I assumed it was fatigue and I just needed some rest over the break.

By early Spring semester 2012 I had continued to deteriorate. I was barely able to get out of my bed anymore, the exhaustion and pain were so extreme getting up for 2 hours at a time was too much. Within weeks I had to drop the semester because​​ I was too sick to attend classes. No one could figure out why I was getting worse.

I felt it before I saw it. A large mass in the front of my neck, that was pressing down making me feel short of breath. I again went to my doctor, showing her what I had found, and she immediately scheduled me for an ultrasound and referred me to an Endocrinologist. Six weeks later, I was in for surgery to remove my thyroid. The final pathology on it found multiple nodules and Papillary Carcinoma in the left lobe of my thyroid. ​​

The recovery is long, I am now nearly 2 months post surgery and while some symptoms have subsided, I am still exhausted and in pain every day. I have only been able to return to work part time as well as trying to return to school, at least part time. I know it will get better with time, but it feels like forever when you want to do these things, but realize how much you've lost.