By Jackie B-F
Thyroid cancer is referred to as the “good cancer” to have. Treatment generally involves surgery followed by radioactive iodine, and cure rates for the disease are incredibly high. After surgery, the only drugs I took were my daily hormones and a lonely round of radioactive iodine.
Less than a month after learning I was in remission, I joined a young adult cancer support group where almost everyone but me had been treated with a stem cell transplant. My week and a half of radioactive quarantine paled in comparison to their experiences, and I felt that I wasn’t part of “the cancer club.” I was reminded both how lucky I was and how alone I still felt, even among other young adults with cancer.
Since then, I have become active with a few young adult cancer advocacy and outdoors organizations. Unlike like the support group, participating in these organizations has affirmed my experiences as a thyroid cancer patient. When other cancer survivors comment, “At least you got the good cancer,” I explain that my experiences haven’t been so easy and no cancer is a “good cancer.” I went through treatment with co-morbid health issues, poor health insurance, and while living across the country from my family. When I speak about the quarantine period required with radioactive iodine, other cancer survivors commend me for doing it all alone, and in some ways this is my right of passage into the cancer club.
It was during campfire on a First Descents trip with other young adult cancer patients that I realized my story is worthy of telling. As I listened to other survivors whose diagnoses covered a wide spectrum, I understood that I shared in their stories. On the most basic level, young adults with cancer know something that our non-cancer friends do not. Many of us know what it’s like to live in a hospital, to battle insurance, and to feel isolated by a diagnosis. Thyroid cancer patients are no different in that we too may fear recurrence, feel lonely, and are unsure about the future. At the end of the day, regardless of our cancer type, we are all still young adults with cancer and this community is too small to have any outsiders.
For thyroid cancer patients, do you feel like a member of the ‘cancer club’? If you have another cancer diagnosis, have you ever felt like an outsider in the young adult cancer community?