Meet papillary thyroid cancer student, Catherine dominguez!
Name: Catherine Dominguez
Age at Enrollment: 23
Major: Papillary Thyroid Carcinoma
What were the primary symptoms you experienced prior to diagnosis? A large lump in my throat, trouble swallowing, trouble breathing, both symptoms of hyper/hypothyroidism.
What symptom(s) lead you to go to the doctor? Trouble Breathing lead to an ER visit, which lead to a CT scan- that's where they noticed a very enlarged thyroid gland.
Courses completed: I started with lots of fine needle aspirations (Biopsy), Total Thyroidectomy and lymph node removal, a treatment of radioactive Iodine (yuck), and most recently a left neck dissection (removal of all tissue and lymph nodes in the left section of my neck).
What was the hardest moment (or moments) for you, and how did you you get through it/them? During radioactive Iodine, I had to be in complete isolation for almost a week. It was hard to be away from my family, and really just any human contact. Also, the feeling you get when your excited to get a scan and you're almost positive there won't be anything wrong, and then you get that news that they found more lymph nodes with cancer. It's hard keeping your hopes up...
Any helpful (tangible) tips or tricks you discovered for dealing with your symptoms and/or cancer? Thyroid cancer is mostly taken care of by an Endocrinologist, not an Oncologist or other doctors because most of the time it's so slow that it never spreads. My best advice is this- if you feel like something is wrong in your gut and you feel like you're not getting the complete care that you need, ask for a second opinion and try to see doctors in universities or large hospitals. You are not "too young" for cancer, and if the doctor says "well, it's not likely", still get the test.
How did you find joy during this experience? For being such a hard thing to do in someones life, finding joy has been hard to come by. There are those days where you feel like nothing could get better, but I'm here and I'm going to be as healthy as I can be. I'm joyful that I still have life.
Did you learn anything about yourself? If so, what was it? It's okay to cry it out. I learned how to not bottle all my feelings up during this process and it's really helped. It's alright to not be strong all of the time and to feel bad for yourself, because it *does* suck and it is happening to you. At first I felt like I needed to be strong and act like it wasn't a big deal, and it just stressed me out more. I have been more positive about a lot of things.
Thanks for sharing your story & tips with the Cancer Grad community, Catherine!
Check out Catherine online!