Survivor Story: Mary

Read stories of survivors who are thrivers, right here in our community. Green for Pink Survivor Stories show how cancer patients are creating a vibrant life after cancer by changing the way they eat and live. As you will see, each journey is as unique as the person who takes it, yet they all lead to a healthier way of life. Meet Mary, a Medullary Thyroid Cancer Survivor who has found a good support system and is ready to begin her journey to a healthier lifestyle in earnest. 



Name: Mary

Age: 58

My Cancer History

I was diagnosed in May of 2015 with Medullary Thyroid Cancer after a fine needle aspiration at the Cleveland Clinic. Medullary Thyroid cancer is rare. On June 8, 2015, I got my total thyroid out with nodules, ten lymph nodes and two parathyroids. I had to make sure I had a specialist in Medullary to do this surgery – something that I did not know until later. Thankfully my doctor was a specialist. I was blessed with that. With Medullary there are not treatments, just surgery if it comes back. Some chemo drugs slow it down. They take blood tests to watch for the markers called Calcitonin and CEA. I am on Thyroid medicine now for the rest of my life. After my surgery I had to be on very high doses of Calcium and Vit D. A couple of days after surgery my face hands legs went numb I could not do anything. My hubby called the doctor for me and they said that sometimes the parathyroids get stunned and you have to take a lot of Calcium to help them until they wake up again. That was scary but after about half hour after taking it I felt better. I just had to keep taking high doses of calcium for a while. I get checked every six months and this is a very stressful time for me.

What did your diet/lifestyle look like before diagnosis and during treatment?

I ate pretty healthy before diagnosis. I had three other surgeries before for other reasons, so my body was weaker. I was going through menopausal symptoms. Since the only treatment I had so far was to take out my thyroid and other parts I just have to watch and wait and pray that this cancer does not come back in my blood work.

How did cancer treatment affect you physically and emotionally?

Cancer has changed my life. I get very tired I believe this is my new normal. Sometimes I get emotionally drained. Especially the times when I have to go to the doctor for my blood work or if I find a lump somewhere that is not supposed to be there. I eat very slow now since my surgery – my kids say that is a good thing. It is just sometimes hard to swallow but that is ok as long as my blood work is good. If I think about or read about how long I could live with this rare cancer I get depressed but I try not to. I wake up every morning and say Thank you God for another day! Then I live my life.

What was your silver lining?

My silver lining was the fact that I found the lump. My sister-in-law helped explain things to me. My doctor explained things to me. And I had surgery very fast in two weeks after they figured it out. I have been very blessed to find it early. My family has been with me every step of the way! I could not have done it without them.

What was the biggest unexpected aspect of the cancer process for you?

When the doctor called me on my cell phone and said good thing we took the FNA because it is cancer. I thought WHAT? How bad is it? His nurse called and schedule surgery which happened in two weeks. Also one of my good friends that I have known for years disappeared when she found out I had cancer she could not handle it but that is okay, I understand. My family has been fantastic! I have been blessed with my support group!

How long did it take you to feel like yourself again?

I do not think I will ever be the same again. Tired is my new normal. Cancer has changed my life.

What changes have you made post-cancer treatment?

I am trying to eat better. I need to educate myself on medullary thyroid cancer because a lot of people in the medical field (doctors and nurses) are not educated in it so I have to drive my own bus to make sure I get the proper treatment. I am on a site on Facebook that has helped me a lot when I have a question they are just people like me that have Medullary thyroid cancer. They are my second family and they are wonderful! I have learned more about this than I ever thought I would.

Tell us about your life now.

When I got the news of cancer I was not sure what was going to happen. Would I see my grandson, would I see my daughter get married? The answer is yes I saw both and cried each time. My life has changed totally. I had to get genetic testing to see if my family had to get tested. I am sporadic so they do not have to worry it is non inherited. Thank goodness! My life now is I am thankful to wake up in the morning and live my life. I pray the markers stay low. And I keep learning more about this cancer I am still new but I have wonderful people to help me. I just wish there was more research on this rare cancer.

Favorite sayings/power quote:

With God anything is possible.
Wrinkles mean you laughed, gray hairs mean you cared
and scars mean you lived!
Always remember that you are braver than you believe,
stronger than you see, and smarter than you think.

Are you an area cancer survivor who is finding strength in a whole foods diet and active lifestyle? Would you like to become involved with Green for Pink and encourage others to do the same? You can start by sharing your story! Contact us at for more information.

Green for Pink is an Akron area based 501c3 non-profit dedicated to promoting nutritional support to cancer patients and their families. We advocate a healthy diet for quality of life through diagnosis, treatment, recovery and beyond.

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