My Story and Journey of Thyroid Cancer
By: Kelly Teegarden
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 that the effects of my cancer will now last for the rest of my life as pills keep me alive.
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 “Cancer Doesn’t Just Happen,” due to launch soon; 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, 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 scary reality is that I would have died if I had listened to my doctor, who happened to be head of 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 talking in her backyard one morning and the sun hit my neck just right, 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, 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 instantly had cold chills all over my body, this is God's way of telling me something is either great or really wrong. I've had this sign for years. 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 biopsied. I told him I wanted a biopsy immediately. His response was, “wow, Mrs. Teegarden aren't you a glutton for punishment.” (you can't imagine my level of upset).
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 guarantee you that you are fine, but I’ll order the biopsy anyway.” How can you guarantee 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 have bad news for you; your biopsy came back and it is stage III papillary carcinoma, and it’s very dangerous because it’s already embedded on your wind pipe. You need surgery immediately and the surgery could be life threatening. We also 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. Mind you he never apologized for how he treated me.
Before my surgery, I was given a 50/50 chance of survival and a 50/50 chance of being mute. I will never forget writing my goodbye letters to my children and family. The reality was that it could all have been over in surgery. Life can be very short, sounds cliche but at 38 I was preparing to say goodbye. My prayer to God before surgery was, "if you give me another chance to live and raise my children than I will do something to make a difference in the world."
Five days later, I had a very intense 4 hour surgery. My mom told me that my doctor looked like he went through a battle zone because he was so exhausted; due to the placement of the tumor on my windpipe, he had to be careful not to cut my vocal cords or my windpipe. Going into surgery was so overwhelming for me; I’ll never forget how scared I was and then the next five days I endured pain that I didn’t know existed. My neck was cut in two places, through the muscles and I truly felt like a pez candy dispenser.
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 immediately. He referred me to another doctor that scoped my throat. Lo and behold a post surgery tumor had grown on my trachea, it happened from me being intubated too roughly. The tumor was the size of a raspberry, and the diagnosis was hardly palpable. The doctor said to my husband and mom, “I can’t do surgery on her because I can’t intubate 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 again 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.
Post surgery, my endocrinologist assumed that I would be doing the radiation treatment, a standard procedure for thyroid cancer. After researching this in regards to my unique situation, I learned that the radiation could have burned a hole right through the surgical area and I would have died instantly. My doctor never called my surgeon to make sure that I was back on my thyroid 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 medication, 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 it was 101 degrees outside, I pulled in the parking lot, parked and opened the door to get out, all of the sudden my 11 month old daughter sneezed in the back seat. To this day I can still remember the sheer 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 quickly closed the door and drove back home in tears, because at that instant I was terrified of myself, that I could have potentially killed my child by 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 out of my chest. 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. There was a day that I told my husband I couldn't live in my body anymore, it was just too awful to have no ability to feel calm inside, no ability to think straight or speak properly....and all of this was because my doctor wasn't medicating me 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 and emotionally tortured me for almost a year. 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 well being; 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 other 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 right through my windpipe, the result could have been death.
After 10 months under this particular doctors’ care; still not functioning well from raising my thyroid meds to lowering my meds over and over, the final clincher happened. 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 medicine must not be right, and I needed help. To my shock and disbelief, he responded, “Kelly really, I think at this point that 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 and at that moment I made the decisions that I will figure my own health out and I did.
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. I see family vacation old photos and have zero recollection of ever having gone. 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 thyroid disease, but I’ve learned to take that in stride.
I am grateful for my new doctor who saved my health by getting creative with different medications and customizing my dosages to find my so-called “sweet spot." It’s still shocking to me that his adjustment to my medications took over a year and a half to get my levels correct so I could function properly. I now rely on these pills three times a day to keep me alive, and keep my brain functioning.
This entire process has forced me to become a huge advocate in my quest for remaining cancer free. I use nutritional supplements, live as chemical-free as possible, and try to eat only organic foods as much as possible.
My Gentle Words of advice:
Do your research, get a second and third opinion, and most importantly, trust your God given instincts. Transform your health by living chemical free. Your Health is your choice.
I have come to find out that the number six leading cause of death in the United States is from being misdiagnosed from the doctors that we put so much trust in, this is a very scary statistic to say the least. I think that most doctors are wonderful and can truly make a huge difference in your health.
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 husband, my children, and 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 mom and I am forever grateful for you.