Lazarus-forum | Jane’s Story

Jane’s Story

We moved to Tokyo in 2009 with our 6 month old daughter. It was amazing, such a calm and delightful city, I just loved being on an extended maternity leave so I could meet other new mums and explore the city with my buggy.
After my son was born two years later, I took up running with some other mums in order to shift some over indulgence which I was disguising as ‘baby weight’. It was sociable running but we were getting into it, and started signing up for 10k races.
I had been feeling under the weather since my daughter was around 1 year old, and had found myself feeling depressed and having weird night sweats combined with extreme exhaustion. I also had constant throat and sinus infections and felt I was always battling a cold or flu.
When I went to see my GP, she dismissed how I felt, as being a mum of 2 small children, so I just continued plodding on despite feeling terrible most of the time. I was waking up in the middle of the night drenched in sweat after having horrific nightmares and spent a lot of evenings crying myself to sleep after getting the kids down. I don’t remember a lot except sheer exhaustion and feeling I was climbing/struggling constantly to get through the days.Tiredness all the time.
The running was a lifeline, both in terms of feeling better (I had started to think I must be mildly depressed despite being very sociable and getting on with life) and meeting other mums to chat.
In 2013 I went to see a different GP, he listened as I sobbed my story to him, telling him I didn’t feel depressed but that I had something wrong and I couldn’t figure out what it was. He gave me a prescription for anti depressants and told me that he saw ‘this kind of thing’ all the time in expat housewives.
To say I was mortified and dismissed, doesn’t cover how I felt, especially when the medical report listed ‘mental health issues’ on the insurance forms. Having to explain that to my husband was humiliating.
I took 1 tablet and then threw them all out. I knew myself I wasn’t depressed, I thought I’d better just ‘buck up’ and get on with it.
I was very involved in charity events, playgroups and mums groups so was always busy. In fact to the outside world it seemed I was on top of the world.
In October 2014 I went for a great 10k run in glorious sunshine, but afterwards had a severe pain in my neck. I had been experiencing neck pain for a few months but had thought it was just from all the Km’s I had been running.
I decided to go back the the 2nd GP I had seen and really try to get him to take my concerns seriously. He felt my neck and said he thought there was no problem (probably thinking to himself I was just another depressed housewife again) with my glands, and ordered blood work to be done but that he expected it to all come back normal as it had previously. I remember him saying ‘ the only other thing we can do, if you want, is an ultrasound’.
When the sonographer was intently measuring something, and even asking if Id been in for a scan before I never suspected a thing. I waited to see the GP again thinking nothing was wrong. The GP explained that there was a large tumour on my thyroid which was falling into the cavity at the base of my neck, and that he thought I could have cancer. He explained the type of cancer I might have (thyroid) and the percentages of patients who go on to have a full recovery.
I was in such disbelief that when he asked when I could go to see an oncologist I started telling him which days I was free the following week.
He had to explain to me that I should drop everything and make myself free the next day, and that this would be a longterm recovery plan.
It did explain however why I always had to sleep on my left side as I couldn’t breathe when I turned the other side (I had thought it was a leftover form being pregnant, when you can’t sleep on your back, and had never questioned it).
Two days later I saw an oncologist and he did another ultrasound and biopsy on my thyroid. He said the markers for a tumour were off the charts and that I would need surgery within the next 7/8 weeks.
The oncologist said we could wait until after christmas to do surgery as it wasn’t imminently urgent, but he had a surgery slot 3 weeks later so I decided to get it over with and book in for the day before my 39th birthday. He also said he didn’t think the tumour was cancerous but its size was an issue as despite the fact that it was slow growing (and had been there for 5 years), it was eventually going to block my airway, and that it had pushed my oesophagus to one side (aha, thats why I always had indigestion!), he also said that with these things, you never know when the growth might speed up suddenly.
He also said I could have experienced highs and lows of thyroid hormones hence the periods of night sweats and feeling of semi depression.
Im not sure if I can fully describe how I felt during those few weeks, and the moments after seeing my GP, and then the consultant – but I think the one massive, huge thought that pounded through my head was:
my babies. Who was going to take care of my babies?
what was going to become of them?
And then, would I get to see them married and with babies of their own? I was determined that I would but petrified that I wouldn’t.
The surgery went well and recovery was fine. Half of my thyroid was removed along with the tumour.
Two weeks after the surgery, I got the results of the tests on the tumour. It had contained a small amount of follicular thyroid cancer, the consultant said he was surprised, but that I was lucky and I wouldn’t need any other therapy unless something showed up on my lungs or lymph nodes. Follicular thyroid cancer travels through the bloodstream so I would need tests to see if it had travelled every 3 months for a year.
I didn’t know whether I should feel elated or shocked.
Thankfully tests came out clear and it seems the cancer has not spread.
And then the thyroid crash came.
My hair started falling out and I was so tired that I would struggle out of bed to get the kids to school, go home for a 10am nap, have lunch, do errands, have another cat nap at 2pm, pick up the kids and then be ready to crash again at 7.30 when the kids went to bed.
This went on for months.
I asked the consultant if there was something I could do, he said I was lucky with my diagnosis and I should ignore any symptoms, and feel lucky not to be like the other poor souls I saw in the Cancer Dept. waiting room who were weak and thin, and undergoing chemotherapy.
My GP said all of my TSH/T3/T4 results were coming back towards normal range, he suggested I had alopecia and that lots of middle aged women’s hair thins at my age! So there was nothing to be done but wait, and hope that things improve.
Its nearly 10 months since my surgery and Ive recently gotten a new GP, who prescribed me Thyroxine.
She said I deserved a break and that all my symptoms of hypothyroidism cannot be ignored.She said Im on the border of being out of ‘normal range’ but that ‘normal range’ is different for everyone.
It is like the blinds have been opened. I have energy again. I don’t need to sleep all the time, I feel I can smile again. I have enough energy to get through the day without dragging myself.
I am hopeful this is the end of my struggle.