One reads about misdiagnoses in the medical world but no one truly talks of the frustration, relief and anger that follows after a patient finds out they have been misdiagnosed for years. But Danielle, a Thyroid cancer fighter, understands that feeling and everything that comes with it.
I am 27 years old and have been sick for seven years.
When I was 20 years-old I blamed my illness on the HPV Gardasil vaccine, which sent me to the hospital after two days of taking the shot. Following that incident, I was in and out of hospitals for years as they tried to find out what I had. The doctors were baffled and didn't understand why I was having non-epileptic seizures; I experienced sensitivity to light, syncope, sudden loss of consciousness as many as 2 to 3 times an hour, followed by confusion, heart palpations, extreme fatigue and pain and weakness in my legs. I felt pins and needles throughout my entire body and soon I couldn't feel my feet or be able to stand. If I tried to stand for a few seconds, I would fall.
Although doctors did every test in the book, none of them knew what was wrong with me - they couldn't find the problem and had no concrete diagnosis. I was confused and frustrated. I knew there was something wrong.
I started to give up.
I quickly went from walking perfectly fine, to needing a walker, and then being confined to a motorized wheelchair. In such a short amount of time for a young woman, this experience was horrifying. I couldn't hold a job or go to college since the pain in my legs and feet was excruciating.
I found some relief when I was given Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy but eventually the pain came back - this time, in my neck. A physician diagnosed me with hypothyroidism and Hashimoto's Thyroidistis, an autoimmune disease that attacks your thyroid.
Weeks after this diagnosis, I began to have more pain in my neck and was starting to have problems swallowing food and water. When I returned to the endocrinologist, I was told nothing was wrong - I was just "suffering from a cold." The endocrinologist wouldn't issue me a sonogram for my neck, so I called my oncologist who wrote me a script that same day. After a sonogram and a biopsy, I received a call from the doctor in the imaging center.
I knew right then and there, something had to be wrong.
The doctor said my name, then paused. My heart skipped a beat as I waited for the news. "Danielle, you have Thyroid Cancer," he said. "You need to be seen immediately at a cancer center to treat the two tumors in your body." Tears streamed down my face. I couldn't comprehend the words that were just said to me-I have cancer?
I realized then that the endocrinologist not only misdiagnosed me, but didn't pay attention to me when I was in pain. He brushed my symptoms and my concerns off as if I didn't matter.
Two days later I got a formal apology from the endocrinologist - he told me that if there was anything he could do to let him know. I told him that the one thing he could learn from this is to listen to his patients. He took this advice with an embarrassed silence.
I was overwhelmed by the words, 'you have cancer..."
I understood these three words would change my life completely, so it took me four days to figure out where I should be treated. I eventually decided on Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, where I had a total thyroidectomy and several lymph nodes removed. In December 2012, I started my treatment, which included Radioactive Iodine that left me in isolation for a few days because I was radioactive. While the experience was scary and unnerving, I owe a big thank you to my amazing surgeon and to my wonderful for saving my life. It was a relief knowing that my doctors had my best interest in mind.
Knowing something was wrong with my body when the world kept telling me otherwise was a lonely and frustrating-especially for seven years. Although the time was tough, it also taught me that I had to become an advocate for myself. Not only did the diagnosis of Papillary Carcinoma Thyroid Cancer change my life, but the journey itself did as well. I learned to trust my instincts, and that I am stronger mentally, physically and psychologically than I ever thought possible.