Thyroid Cancer Survivor

Young woman tackles cancer with help of family

Wendy Hudson was diagnosed with thyroid cancer while only in her 20s.

I’ve always been a very independent person, a typical oldest child. But I quickly learned how much I needed my family and friends when I went through a cancer diagnosis.

The trouble with my thyroid started about seven years earlier, when I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism, a condition when your thyroid doesn’t produce enough of the thyroid hormone. That eventually led to headaches, a lot of fatigue and fluctuations in my weight.

I was actually at a friend’s house when the doctor called and told me it was cancer—specifically, papillary carcinoma thyroid cancer. Initially, I was in total shock but got so wrapped up in scheduling surgery that I didn’t have much time to think about it. I was definitely scared, but I knew I trusted my doctors to give me the best care possible.

My treatment started with a complete thyroidectomy. My weight dropped significantly after surgery, which they say is common, and I battled ongoing fatigue for several months while my body adjusted to new medications. Recovery involved a lot of rest and slowly getting back to eating “normal” food once the swelling had gone down. I had to eat a lot of high-calorie foods to make up for the weight loss, and I needed to massage my neck and move my head a lot to help the incision heal and prevent it from getting tight.

After recovering, I started an iodine-free diet to prepare for radiation treatment of radioactive iodine. The radiation caused some issues with my glands, but thankfully that was only temporary.

At first I kept my cancer news fairly private, only telling my parents and close friends. I didn’t want anyone to feel sorry for me, and I didn’t really want pity along the way. Eventually my co-workers and other friends found out through word of mouth, but that was fine.

I very quickly learned that I have the most amazing and supportive parents and realized that I truly needed them for emotional support. I had to allow myself to become vulnerable to them and let my guard down because I was just so exhausted. Because I lived alone at the time, I stayed with them after the surgery so I could recover. And of course my friends were amazing as well and were always checking in on me.

During this time, I also didn’t want to go crazy thinking about my condition all the time, so I kept working as much as I could to keep my sanity and stay distracted. For the most part, I just tried to keep a positive attitude that everything would be fine, and I think that helped speed my recovery.

The hardest part of this whole experience was the constant fatigue and just getting through a normal day. It’s hard to recover when you don’t have any energy, and it gets frustrating. But making it through the suggested treatment usually removes any chance of this type of cancer coming back, so I’m glad I toughed it out.

When I was diagnosed with cancer, it made me thankful for everything I did have in my life. I didn't want to feel sorry for myself and drag out my recovery process. I think the best choice I made was to stay positive, deal with things day by day, and enlist the help of my close friends and family. Just tackle it head on and get back to enjoying life.