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Battle Ready

No one really expects to hear “you have cancer.” Well at least I didn’t. But Nov 2nd thats exactly what happened.I have Papillary Carcinoma of the Thyroid. Im in the prime of my life. I have so many great things going for me! I have 4 beautiful children, I’m graduating college this spring cum laude and with PTK honors. I have a thriving business, and I am helping market another business. So being thrown the curve ball cancer, just was not in my game plan. As a photographer, my camera is my format. It is my means to show the beauty I see in the world. So what better way than to process what I am going through, and to maybe help others than documenting it with my camera, through my eyes. My fears, my happy moments, my sick moments, and my brave moments. For those of you who do not know my story, or are reading it for the first time I will give a quick run down.

In Sept I went to get a physical for work. The doctor performing the physical had noticed a lump in my thyroid. I never noticed it. But then again, how often did I touch my neck, never. I thought nothing of it, I was like I probably have a under active thyroid. Many of you know I suffer from major fatigue. It has been an on going, and relatively recently, getting worse problem for me. However, I keep a crazy busy schedule. I secured a PCP (I did not have one because my ins just switched over). My PCP ordered blood work. We both were so sure it would come back my thyroid was under active which would cause the nodule. Results came back- my levels were fine. I was shocked. The next step was to do a ultrasound of my thyroid. Well that came back with some major red flags, and I learned I have more than 1 nodule. I had 2 large ones and 1 smaller one on my left side, and 2 small ones on my right side. The tech told me that was good- that meant the chances of it being cancer was less. Which- turns out is a complete myth. So I left thinking ok, well its just buildup or tissue. Doctor calls me- I need a Fine Needle Aspiration Biopsy. This scared me. Im not going to lie, I was more scared of the biopsy than the thought of cancer (I really thought I did not have cancer- so it was fair to have this thought process). Its well know in my family and friends that I do not handle medical procedures very well. I suffer from anxiety (as well as PTSD, depression but thats for another time). Let me tell you, my anxiety hit the roof when I was told I would have to do a biopsy. I had to get a needle stuck into my THROAT. No Thank you! But I did not have a choice. I figured ok, I can handle one stick. They numb you I can do it. My prep talk lasted until I got into the procedure room. They told me my mother in law would have to leave. I burst into tears. Im a big baby, Ill admit it. So they numbed my throat, which let me tell you, lidocaine shots hurt! The doctor did the first pass and I felt it. It hurt. I then learned I had to do this 5 more times! I felt the 2nd pass as well so he administered more lidocaine. which hurt again. I didn’t feel the last 4 passes, which I am thankful for. I was shaking so bad, it shook my bed. I thought ok, this is the worst of it, I’m done. Yeah destiny has a way of messing with you. I was told it would be 2 business days for the results. Those 2 business days seemed like an eternity. At 5 pm on Friday I called my doctors office to see if they were in. They were not. I was frustrated. I would have to go the who weekend with this over my head. Im at work so I went back to doing whatever it was I was doing and my phone rang. It was my doctors office. The nurse looked in the system one last time to see if they were in because she felt bad. They were in. She said they hadn’t been transcribed yet. I had cancer. She didn’t want to tell me. She told me to wait until I spoke to the doctor on Monday. I use Monday’s date as my official day since he’s my doctor. After speaking with my doctor he told me he would set up the appointment with the specialist and I would hear back. An hour later my nurse calls I am to see the surgeon on Thursday (today). Well that was fast. I still haven’t even processed the fact I have cancer yet. Which leads us to today. I am seeing Dr.Jabiev at Baystate. He specializes in thyroid surgery. He does 150-200 a year. That is a lot. I trust his expertise and he’s overall a very nice guy!

Where I stand now: I am to have a total thyroidectomy. Meaning- they will be removing my entire thyroid. They will also be removing my cervical lymph nodes as he is pretty sure my cancer has spread to them. He checked my lymph node near my ear and said it was suspicious but will leave it for now. Because of the size of my nodule (was 2.7 cm in sept, but measured 3cm today) I have had this cancer for a long time. So I wish I could say “hey we caught it early” I cannot. I will be having surgery in the beginning of December, I will find out the set date next week after they run everything through my insurance. After my surgery- which will not be pleasant I will have to do radioactive iodine treatment. Also known as RAI. I will become radioactive and will have to stay in isolation at the hospital for a few days. Once I leave the hospital I will have to stay somewhere other than my house for another few days because I will still be radioactive and my doctor does not want to put my children at risk. Before I do RAI I will have to do a LID diet. LID is a low iodine diet. After my radioactive vacation I will get a full body scan to see if and where exactly the cancer has spread. Because I have had this cancer for not a few months, but at least a few years, I am at a high risk of it metastasizing to my lungs and bones. If it has spread there will be treatments to be determined at that point.


Ive already been told by a few nurses that “at least its the good cancer.” or “you got the better one of the cancers”. Cancer is cancer. My battle will be just as enduring, just as scary, just as important as someone with a different form of cancer. By saying those things, you minimize what myself, and other cancer fighters go through. I will endure a scary surgery, and radiation,sickness,brain fog,fatigue,and a beautiful scar on my throat. I will also have to do annual blood tests, body scans and ultrasounds as well as rely on medication-FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE. I will also have to worry about reoccurrence. Papillary Carcinoma has a high rate of reoccurrence. So while it might seem like all is well and good, I will have to worry about it coming back. Because there is no such thing as “Cancer Free” after a diagnosis. This will also affect my children. Al be it I hope in a good way because I am a fighter. Many of you have asked if there was a way you can help. Fundraising is being set up. I earn more than half the income in our family. I will need to take work off for surgery, recovery, and my treatments. My husband will also have to take work off to help take care of me. We also have 4 kids to take care of. Not to mention, this is all happening right before Christmas. I will update everyone when the details are given to me.

I can tell you this. I will graduate this spring. I will walk across that stage and get my degree, even if I have to be in a bubble. I have cancer, cancer does not have me.

This is my journey, this is my battle, this is my story through my eyes.

Fight Like A Girl!


XO Erika



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