There’s no good or easy time to get diagnosed with cancer. However, trying to get diagnosed during the COVID crisis, while living in a state that was hit very hard by the virus, while managing a company impacted by the virus, was a logistical and emotional challenge I don’t wish on anyone.
One week before Massachusetts was locked down for the COVID crisis, I had an annual physical with my primary care doctor. I almost canceled because I was so busy. The financial future of my company, Vision Advertising, rested on my shoulders, and I was working nonstop to make sure my staff wasn’t furloughed (a tall order as just under 50% of my clients were hard-hit restaurants).
My doctor found a lump on my thyroid during the physical. I had zero physical symptoms, perfect blood tests, and didn’t even know what a thyroid did. She sent me for an ultrasound, results were “concerning.” She couldn’t even order a biopsy because of how hard COVID had hit her hospital system.
I spent weeks trying to learn the ins-and-outs of the healthcare system. Finding the right type of doctor, transferring records and test results, appointments, getting the biopsy, then the surgery. The results weren’t great:
- I found that the mass was malignant, and I needed my entire thyroid removed.
- The 3cm tumor on the left side had also spread to the right side.
- In surgery, they found it also spread to the surrounding lymph nodes, thus requiring radiation.
- After radiation, scans revealed a new mass in my throat that we’re watching.
Before cancer, I was racing ultra (50k/32+ miles) obstacle races, including the Tri-State New Jersey Spartan Ultra (36 miles, 60+ obstacles, 15,000ft elevation) – I was second to last at 14:17:36. That race was life-changing – I have the elevation profile tattooed on my forearm to remind me that I can do the most difficult of challenges.
Since starting cancer treatment, it’s another challenge as I climb out of the hole surgery and radiation has put me in. Cancer changed my body and how it feels to just move. Since about four days after surgery, I’ve been walking regularly. I’ve been running for about a month. Now I’m up to three days a week, building up using run/walk intervals.
Surgery left me exhausted, nauseous, dizzy, lightheaded, having joint pain, bone pain, and more. Today as I write this, I’m still sick on a daily basis – I have nausea, joint pain, bone pain, and headaches. Radiation burnt out my entire GI tract lining, so even just eating is laborious. But I decided to register for the 2020 California International Marathon. 2020 has been insane, and cancer has been overwhelming, but I’m taking back control.
Thank you Julia for sharing you story with us and inspiring us to take back control!