A Change in Course: Student’s Diagnosis Reveals the Importance of Family, Friends

August 27, 2013


Photo By Mario Andreatta Briana Hendrix's senior year has changed since her diagnosis.

Photo By Mario Andreatta
Briana Hendrix’s senior year has changed since her diagnosis.

Editorial By Briana Hendrix

— It’s crazy how fast things can change; no one expects to be diagnosed with thyroid cancer at the age of 17. Three months ago, the biggest upcoming event in my life was my 17th birthday, but now, it’s my approaching surgery date. My life went from one type of crazy to another; I was looking forward to a senior year full of high school, CNM, and work. Now, I am waiting for the next doctor’s appointment and for more answers. It’s hard to take it all in, and sometimes it doesn’t seem real.

I found out the news the day after my 17th birthday while I was celebrating with my cousins. My mom had taken me in for a checkup with our family doctor a few days before, and she brought my enlarged thyroid to his attention. My doctor decided that I should get an ultrasound of my thyroid and blood tests to find out what was going on. Within four or five hours of the ultrasound, my parents got the call with the news. When they told us, I was in shock; it felt like the world had stopped. After the diagnosis, my family immediately found me an endocrinologist, which is a doctor who specializes in conditions affecting the endocrine system. My endocrinologist then decided to have my thyroid biopsied. The biopsy consisted of eight needles inserted into my thyroid tissue during an ultrasound. The needles were shaken in order to aggravate the tissue.  From there, the tissue was tested to determine exactly what type of thyroid cancer it was. Once we knew exactly what we were dealing with, my endocrinologist referred us to a surgeon.

We got in touch with the surgeon and she decided that my surgery would be done on September 3. At that moment in time, we had no idea what the surgery would entail. It wasn’t until we had a meeting with the surgeon that we found out exactly what to expect. We were informed that they would make an incision just under my right ear, down to my right collar bone, and then all the way across my neck to the other collar bone. From there, they will remove the entire thyroid, and every lymph node in my neck and upper chest area. The severity of the surgery hit me when they informed me of the risks. Because they have to remove all the lymph nodes they will have to go all the way around my vocal cords, tendons, veins and arteries. This means if they make even the smallest mistake I can lose my ability to talk, move my shoulders, and possibly my life. Although my surgeon has never seen lasting negative effects of the surgery in previous patients, it is still nerve-racking to think that one small mistake could be devastating.

This time in my life has been an emotional roller-coaster for my family, friends and me. Not knowing what is happening is the worst feeling in the world. I have struggled in understanding why this is happening to me, but now I see that everything happens for a reason. I might not know what good this will bring now, but when I look back at this moment in my life, it will show me so much about myself and the people around me.

When all this started I felt so alone, but my friends and family stepped up and showed me what true love is. They have stood strong by my side and given me more strength than they will ever know. I could not get through this without my family and friends.

Every person will go through struggles in his or her life. No matter how big or small they may be, you are going to need people to help you through the hard times. When difficulties come along, your real friends will step up and stand by you through anything. You may only have one or two true friends in these hard times, but that’s all you need. If they can stand by you and love you, they are worth more than a thousand friends.

No matter what you are going through in life, I know you can get through it. Don’t be afraid to speak up and say you need help. Just because you need help does not make you weak – it means you are human. Life is hard, and no one should have to face it alone.

Go here for Part II of Briana’s Story.

The opinions, beliefs, and viewpoints expressed by the various authors and columnists in this section do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs, and viewpoints of The Catalyst.



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3 Comments on “A Change in Course: Student’s Diagnosis Reveals the Importance of Family, Friends”

  1. Cynthia Says:

    Stay strong and trust in the experts you and your family have surrounded your young life with. Your article was wonderfully written and felt. Every word rang true. I have been going through breast cancer – two surgeries and many radiation treatments later I am almost on the other side of it, and life is more precious than ever.

    I send you my very best wishes. Keep writing as you go through this – will you?


  2. Ashley Elizabeth Burke Says:

    It’s amazing to see you smiling again. A girl so young with cancer made my mom so sad. You are strong, just keep smiling girl!



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