Taking Charge of Her Health
- 18-year-old “Jordan R” experienced years of fatigue before finally finding her thyroid cancer at age 21. After finding a lump in her neck, doctors initially thought it could be tonsillitis and weren’t concerned enough to order more tests.
- Knowing something wasn’t right, Jordan advocated for her health and kept pushing, and is thankfully now a survivor because of it. Though she admits life is still a bit difficult as she recovers from treatment, it’s all about perspective, and learning how to adjust.
- Taking care of your mental health while you are going through cancer is certainly a process. People may turn to many different avenues to help them cope, such as traditional therapy, support groups, meditation, and sometimes medical intervention such as antidepressants.
- When going through cancer, it’s important to make sure that these coping mechanisms you have to care for your mental health continue to work throughout the process.
Now the inspiring health hero is sharing her story with Teenage Cancer Trust to help raise further awareness about the disease. Early detection comes from awareness and knowledge, and by learning other people’s stories, it can help us to make better choices with our own health, which is exactly what Jordan has intended to do.Read More
Jordan said she found a lump on the top of her neck, behind her ear. “I was seen by different doctors and nurses, but I’d had glandular fever and tonsillitis as well, so they thought the lump might have been caused by that.”
When Jordan turned 21 in November of 2020, she was beyond frustrated after years of fatigue and recently getting put off by doctors. She decided to push harder.
“The lump was still there, and I knew it wasn’t normal, so I was getting frustrated that they weren’t checking it,” she said.
She talked her doctors into checking her blood every month. In March, her primary care doctor finally referred her over to a hospital.
After finally getting an ultrasound of her neck and undergoing various other tests, Jordan’s worst fears were confirmed: she had thyroid cancer.
By this time, Jordan had been paired up with a Teenage Cancer Trust Clinical Nurse Specialist to help her navigate through this difficult time, and learn more about what she was facing. For example, just having someone there with you thinking of more questions to ask than you typically would—given the fact that you are likely distracted and understandably a bit emotional—is huge, especially if the person is an expert.
Several months later, Jordan had her surgery, thankfully with her mother by her side, and Amanda checked in on her as well.
“I had to take the radioactive tablet the day I went into hospital, and I had two injections each day prior,” she explained of her treatment. “I was then highly radioactive, and I had to isolate for five days in a lead-lined hospital room and that was horrible.”
‘I was in the same four walls, and I couldn’t see anyone. I had to isolate at home for a further four weeks, so I was up in my room alone,” she added of the scary time.
Jordan admitted that she then found herself struggling.
“I’d been so positive, but I felt like there was no reason for me to get up.”
By that time, the holidays were coming up fast, and she just “didn’t feel celebrating.” Like many other cancer patients facing the unknown, Jordan felt drained and not sure how to adjust back to normal life.
“Again, Amanda was there for me. She suggested that I set my self-little tasks for the day, even if it was just getting up, making the bed, washing my face and changing my clothes. I bought myself a planner and it helped me to tick things off, even if it was just taking my medication.”
Luckily, shortly after, Jordan’s scan showed that her treatment was working. She was getting a bit more of a bounce in her step.
“Going back to work got me back into a routine and gave me a purpose again,” she shared. “Because I work with kids, I can’t sit and overthink things, I have to get stuck in.”
Although her life still isn’t back to “normal,” Jordan has been embracing what her life is now. though she says she will still experience tiredness for one year after treatment, not to mention the fact that she has to be on “various” medications.
“Without the support from my outreach nurse Amanda and my psychologist, I would have really struggled and been at a loss the whole time,” she said. ” Giving back to the charity and showing how grateful I am means the world to me, she says of her latest calling of helping to raise funds for Teenage Cancer Trust.
Many cancer patients and survivors feel helpless and a bit out of control when this disease knocks them off course. Finding a new purpose to give back is very common, whether it’s through advocacy, fundraising, or both.
Jordan felt cared for during her time of need and she knows how that feels, therefore she wants to provide that for others as well, which is a beautiful thing.
We hope that Jordan continues to have good news with her health, and continues to feel fulfilled down this new path, while helping others along the way.
What is Thyroid Cancer?
Thyroid cancer is a disease that begins in the thyroid gland, which is at the base of the neck. Oftentimes, the cancer will present itself as a large bump (tumor) in the neck. Symptoms of thyroid cancer can sometimes be hard to detect yourself, as they can often mirror the common cold. These signs may include difficulty swallowing, changes to your voice, and a consistent cough. Since these symptoms can be confused with a cold, it’s important to be vigilant about your health and speak up if they continue without explanation.
In Jordan’s case, she knew the lump in their neck was something to be concerned about, and pushed the doctor to take it more seriously. It’s important to remember that you know your body better than anyone else, and if you feel like something might be wrong it’s never a bad idea to speak up and push for answers.
Staying Positive During Cancer Treatment
Staying positive during cancer treatment has a bigger impact on results than you may expect. Studies prove that patients who are able to stay upbeat and positive often have better treatment outcomes, and that’s why mindset and attitude can be extremely valuable tools. For those battling cancer, doing activities you love can sometimes bring some much-needed positivity into your day. Whether it’s a picnic with friends, hike in the great outdoors, or in van Reen’s case sharing some lighthearted TikToks, it’s so important to find those special pockets of joy.
“We know from good studies that emotional health is associated with survival, meaning better quality of life is associated with better outcomes,” Dr. Dana Chase, a gynecologic oncologist at Arizona Center for Cancer, told SurvivorNet in a previous interview. “So working on your emotional health, your physical well-being, your social environment [and] your emotional well-being are important and can impact your survival. If that’s related to what activities you do that bring you joy, then you should try to do more of those activities.”
Taking care of your mental health while you are going through cancer is certainly a process. People may turn to many different avenues to help them cope, such as traditional therapy, support groups, meditation, and sometimes medical intervention such as antidepressants. When going through cancer, it’s important to make sure that these coping mechanisms you have to care for your mental health continue to work throughout the process.
“I think flexibility is really a core of how to manage it,” Dr. Samantha Boardman, a New York-based psychiatrist and author, tells SurvivorNet. “Are your coping strategies that you’re using now, are they helpful in the way that they were in the past?”
Dr. Boardman encourages people who may be struggling with their mental wellbeing to take stock of their belief system and ask themselves the following questions:
- Could these beliefs be harming me (like feelings of self-doubt or negativity)?
- Is my mindset holding me back from positive steps forward?
Dr. Boardman suggests working to recognize any negative thoughts that may be making the process of cancer treatment more difficult, and trying to dismantle those to be more “realistically optimistic.”
As with Jordan, being realistic is accepting where she is right now, and knowing that she will feel stronger in the future, which is what we all must continually strive for—and take it day by day in the meantime, living each moment in gratitude.