Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Thyroid Cancer and my Journey

Greetings from Kelly Teegarden Organics,

By: Kelly Teegarden
My Story and Journey of Thyroid Cancer

I am convinced that Kelly Teegarden Organics is my why for getting   cancer.
I am not a doctor. I never went to medical school. I do not diagnose or recommend treatments for disease. I am an average person that has discovered many scientifically proven facts to staying healthy and remaining cancer free. Unfortunately, I had to learn the very hard way.

My personal mission is to share the knowledge that I have discovered during my research, as to why I could have gotten cancer in the first place. I just finished my book titled Make Cancer a Choice due to launch by the end of summer; it will empower and teach you how you can take responsibility for your own health and well being. By being proactive and implementing changes in your choices; you too can enjoy wonderful health, potentially reduce the risk of cancer, and most importantly, pass down to your future generations the greatest gift in the world, the gift of health and the knowledge to make healthy powerful choices.

My Story:
My scary reality is that I would have died if I had listened to my doctor, who happened to be on the board of endocrinology at a very reputable hospital. The lesson for me was that EVERYONE is fallible, yes including doctors. After 6 months of screenings and 18 thyroid nodule biopsies later, he missed the most life threatening tumor that was attached to my windpipe.

I thank God everyday for my blessed mother; her God given sixth sense is amazing!
She spotted the erroneous tumor on my throat; she is the angel that saved my life.
We were standing talking one morning and she said honey, “what is that thing jumping around on your neck every time you talk?” I said, “I don’t know.” But don’t worry mom my doctor has checked me out so many times, that I’m sure I’m fine. She said no honey, please go immediately and get it checked out. Two days later, my doctor examined my neck and very nonchalantly said, “Oh sure, we see these THINGS ALL the time, we call them thyroid trash or thrush, I can’t believe I missed it, but let’s just watch it for a year and check it then.”  I thought, no way that’s not happening.  My instinctual response was, I am not gambling with my life, there is no way I’m living with this tumor on my neck and not having it checked. I told him I wanted a biopsy immediately. His response was, “wow, you sure are a glutton for punishment.”

Have you ever been to the doctor and just didn’t feel like the diagnosis was right? I tend to always listen to my instincts, because they are usually never wrong. My doctor actually laughed at me and said patronizingly, “Okay Kelly, I think you are going a little overboard, I assure you that you are fine, but I’ll order the biopsy anyway.” How can you assure someone that they are fine without a biopsy? I can still remember how I felt when he laughed at me.

Three days later I received a frantic phone call from my doctor saying, “Oh Kelly, I am so sorry I have bad news for you; your biopsy came back and it is stage III papillary carcinoma, and it’s very dangerous because it’s sitting on your wind pipe.  You need surgery immediately and the surgery could be life threatening because of where the tumor is on your windpipe. We aren’t sure if it has spread into your lymph system yet, but the surgeon will be able to know that once he has you on the operating table and can biopsy your lymph glands in the operating room.”   There was a very uncomfortable silence as I sat shocked angry and afraid.

Five days later, I had a very intense 3 hour surgery. My mom told me that my doctor looked like he went through battle because he looked exhausted; due to the placement of the tumor on my windpipe, my doctor had to be careful not to cut my vocal cords. Before my surgery, I was told that the tumor was embedded on my wide pipe and that the risk of dying was 50/50, and the risk of coming out of surgery mute was also 50/50.  I will never forget writing my goodbye letters to my children and family. The reality was that it could all have been over the next day in surgery. Life can be very short, sounds cliché but at 38 I was preparing to say goodbye. Going into surgery was so overwhelming for me; I’ll never forget how scared and then the next five days I endured pain that I didn’t know existed.

The horror didn’t stop there, 5 days after surgery I started having difficulty swallowing food and I whistled every time I spoke. I assumed that it was post surgery discomfort. It wasn’t. I received a call from my surgeon’s office to check on me and the doctor said I hear you whistling, I need to check you. He immediately referred me to another doctor that scoped my throat. Low and behold another tumor had grown on my trachea, it happened from me being intibated too roughly. The tumor was the size of a raspberry, and the diagnosis was hardly palpable. The doctor said to me, “I can’t do surgery on her because I can’t intibate her. He said, If she eats something sharp and it does rupture, (his voice lowered) she will bleed out, roll her on her side quickly, it will be life threatening.” And so the tears poured down my face again, and yes, the second fear of dying kicked in and at that moment in time I lost it. The panic of dying and leaving my family so young started all over again, and this time I cried and prayed to God that he would have mercy on me and protect me.

All I kept thinking was what if I had waited a year and listened to my doctor? My new doctors tell me that I would have died.  Or it could have spread to my Esophagus, and esophageal cancer survival rates are scary, only 1 in 16,000 survives. Either way I wouldn’t be here writing this today.

My endocrinologist assumed that I would be doing the radiation treatment after my surgery, a standard procedure for thyroid cancer. After researching this in regards to my unique situation, I learned that the radiation could have been life threatening.  My doctor never called my surgeon to make sure that I was back on my medicine.  I personally couldn’t even think straight because they had taken me off of the medication that actually runs my body and my brain function. Little did I know that I was slowly shutting down.

Daily my cognitive skills were declining; finally I was put back on my thyroid meds, but I was already losing my hair and my memory.  It was so horrible that I was afraid to have my children in the car with me. One day I was driving to the market and all of the sudden my daughter sneezed in the back seat. To this day I can still remember the panic and rush of adrenaline through my body, I had no memory that she was even in the car. My short term memory was gone. I drove back home in tears, because at that instant I was terrified of myself, that I could have potentially killed my child on accident.  I was so jittery, exhausted, irritable and angry. One day I thought that I was going to have a heart attack because my heart was pounding. I couldn’t cognitively make sentences, I couldn’t remember the simplest words like the or and, and I begged my doctor to help me.

After a full blood panel was run, it turned out that my TSH levels (hormone levels) had dipped so severely low that I was about 22 points away from having a massive heart attack. When your thyroid levels are low, your entire body doesn’t function properly.  

I am not angry at that doctor anymore; his mistreatment has taught me a huge lesson and made me take my health very seriously.  I have forgiven him for how he jeopardized my life. The moral of my story is that doctors are only humans, if they don’t have the passion to truly care about their patient’s life and wellbeing; then our lives are in jeopardy. And most importantly is that you have to ultimately be responsible for your own health by doing your own research and knowing your options. Not every diagnosis is the same, nor is every idea from a doctor of how to treat you the perfect solution. You have to be an active part in your own health and well being. For example the regular routine after thyroid cancer surgery is to do radiation; my endocrinologist wanted me to do radiation. I did my own research and asked four top endocrinologists and studied on the internet and the consensus was that where the cancer was located on my windpipe was way too risky for radiation and that it could have burned through my windpipe, the result could have been death.

After 10 months under this particular doctors’ care; still sick from the litany of medicines he prescribed, the final clincher happened (can we rephrase?).  I called his office and he had another doctor take my call because he was too busy.  I explained that I still felt horrible and that my medicines must not be right, and I needed help.  To my disbelief, he responded, “Kelly I think you might need to get psychological help, because nothing seems to work and I believe that this is now a mental problem.”  What? I could not believe my ears.  I was desperate for medical help to get my levels corrected and his diagnosis was that I am a mental case?  I had endured the worst treatment a patient could endure.

Moments after I hung up the phone from that disturbing call, my close friend Kristi called and recommended I go see her doctor at UCLA.  Within 15 minutes of meeting this amazing doctor, I felt hopeful again.  I will never forget his words.   “Kelly, I’m so sorry about what you have been through. The most important part of treating thyroid patients is to remember that no two people are the same.  The problem is that your doses of medication haven’t been customized to find your sweet spot”.  I could finally relax, I found a doctor that cared.  He didn’t think that I needed mental help and understood the true dynamics of treating thyroid patients with precision.   He gave me back my life by adjusting my medication to find my sweet spot, and for him I am truly grateful! 

There are still side effects that I have to endure.  My short term memory is severely affected. Unless I see someone often, I can’t remember their name or how I know them.  This has been devastating, but I am hopeful that one day my new doctor will be able to get this portion of my memory restored.  I have also learned that stress causes my levels to drop, and then I feel horrible, so I strive to live a balanced and peaceful life.   The hair loss has also been a difficult result of being sick, but I’ve learned to take that in stride.

I am grateful for my new doctor who saved my health by getting creative with my dosages, and by finding my so-called “sweet spot”.  It’s still shocking to me that his minor adjustment to my medications was all it took.   I now rely on these pills to keep me alive, and boost my brain function.  I also need nutritional supplements to help me feel good.   I try to live as chemical-free as possible, and eat only organic foods. 

I thank God that I’m still here to help as many people as I can on their crusade to health.  I thank my amazing parents for being there every step of the way, and especially my beautiful mother for saving my life.  I love you dearly and I am forever grateful.  

My final words of advice:  do research, get a second opinion, and most importantly, trust your instincts.  Live healthy.  Health is choices ™. 

I have come to find out that the number six leading cause of death in the United States is from being misdiagnosed. This is a very scary statistic to say the least.

I could have been a statistic. I thank God that I’m still here to help as many people as I can on their crusade to health. And I personally want to thank my beautiful parents, my family and friends for being there for me every step of the way making sure that I was always taken care of, and especially to my beautiful mother for literally saving my life, I love you dearly and I am forever grateful.

Health is Choices, ™   
Kelly Teegarden