Dr. Coomer: Crossing Cancer Off My ‘To-Do’ List

I’m a list maker. I feel a real sense of accomplishment when I can cross daily tasks off my list.

• Get new tires for car
• Follow up with post-operative patients
• Pick up baby’s medicine
• Meeting at Fox News

My newest task: beat thyroid cancer. This is one I won’t be able to cross off for some time, but I’m working on it.

Since my surgery on January 6 I’ve pretty much returned to business as usual. I’ve performed surgery on breast cancer patients, launched a new website, rocked my baby, Olivia, to sleep every night and e-mailed many of you who’ve reached out to me. The soreness that I felt in my chest is gone, and I no longer have a scratchy throat. But I do have a scar on my neck and more treatments ahead of me.

When I had my thyroid and lymph nodes removed, they were sent off to a lab for testing. The pathology report found I have Stage II papillary carcinoma. There are only two stages of this type of cancer.

My lymph nodes were negative, which is great news. That means the cancer has not spread. Thyroid cancer tends to spread to the lungs and the bone. But with this disease – even if your lymph nodes are involved, there’s still a very good prognosis.

My surgeon told me the 4-centimeter tumor broke through the capsule of my thyroid in one spot, so that means I’ll have to get radioactive iodine. This treatment is unique to thyroid cancer and basically kills off any remaining thyroid cells or tissue in my body. Hopefully, it will spare me from recurrence.

In February, I’ll take a pill containing the radioactive iodine and be isolated from people, including Olivia, for 7 days. That’s because the pill makes you radioactive! I guess my seclusion will give me time to catch up on my reading. Anyone know of any good books?

I’ve been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support I’ve received since announcing my cancer diagnosis. Hundreds of viewers, patients and friends have written e-mails, Facebook messages and Tweets wishing me well and sharing their own experiences. Thank you.

One of the questions sent most often is, “How can you live without a thyroid?” Well the answer is simple – you can, but your life would be miserable. Your thyroid regulates several functions in your body, including how you metabolize fats, your ability to feel hot and cold, and your mood.

Without a thyroid, I would probably gain a lot of weight, fly off the handle and drive my co-workers nuts because I’d constantly be adjusting the thermostat in the office. Thanks to modern medicine I’m taking Synthroid, which is a thyroid hormone replacement therapy. I haven’t had any side effects, but I know many of you have written in saying it took a while to get your dose regulated, so I guess only time will tell.

Another question that popped up is whether or not my pregnancy played a role in my diagnosis. Let me be clear: Pregnancy does not cause thyroid cancer. However, hormones are raging through your body when you’re expecting – and that most likely sped up the growth of the tumor.

I’ve already admitted that I’m the worst patient and I’ve decided I must change my tune. But here's the truth – I really have no choice. I’m going to be a patient for the rest of my life. I’ll follow up every year with my primary care doctor (never had one of those before) and get a neck ultrasound and blood test. The blood test will check my thyroglobulin levels, which is used to track recurrence. I'll also have a periodic iodine scan.

Luckily, my prognosis is 80-90 percent and that’s amazing compared to other types of cancer. But no matter how good your chances are, no one wants to battle cancer. I’d like to be able to cross “beat cancer” off my list sooner rather than later, but as a physician, I know I have to let the radioactive iodine do its thing and continue being the patient.

FoxNews.com's Paula Rizzo contributed to this report. 

Dr. Cynara Coomer is the Chief of Breast Surgery & Director of The Comprehensive Breast Center at Staten Island University Hospital. She is also an assistant clinical professor of surgery specializing in breast health and breast cancer surgery at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City. She is a FOX News Health contributor providing medical expertise on a variety of topics in cancer research with a focus on women’s health, breast diseases and tips for healthy breasts at any age. Email her at drcoomer@foxnews.com and visit her website:www.cynaracoomermd.com