I have thyroid cancer – part 3

It’s been 6+ months since I was diagnosed with papillary thyroid cancer. You can’t begin to understand the emotions, thoughts, fears, doubt, and struggle that follows a cancer diagnosis until you experience it first-hand. Many of our closest friends don’t know how far into hell and back we came, particularly in the first 6 weeks after the diagnosis.

I was very fortunate to learn about antiangiogenic therapy as a possible form of treatment for my cancer. With the help of medical observation from our doctors, we proceeded to self-medicate according to this treatment method. I say self-medicate because in the US (being the highly litigious society that we are) MD’s expose themselves to a large liability risk if they prescripe or recommend a treatment method that, while effective, has not yet passed the rigors of research required by the standards bodies to pass as a standard treatment option. Our experience has really opened our eyes about this system, its limitations, and its strengths.

I’m writing today for two reasons:

  1. because last week we were dropped by our endocrinologist because of the risk of liability that has become prominant in the American health care system and
  2. because in the 6 months that we’ve been undergoing this treatment, the tumor has not responded fast enough the treatment and we honestly can’t be sure that any amount of progress made is attributed to my self-treatment.

I’ve had to learn some hard lessons this last week:

  • In the eyes of the American medical system, I’m a liability first, a patient second (a very hard fact to swallow).
  • At this period in history, there is no reliably accurate means of measuring a thyroid nodule’s growth. Ultrasounds appear to be so limited in their ability to measure a nodule’s size that they can be up to an entire centimeter off base. All an ultrasound can reliably confirm is that a tumor exists in a certain 2 dimensional space within your thyroid and it is X cm in size, give or take 1 cm. For our purposes, this is entirely unhelpful.
  • The above being true, I have no reliable means of measuring the possible progress of my cancer’s gradual demise. I also have no measurable way of determining a causal relationship between what I’m doing to kill the cancer and what I’m seeing in an ultrasound. For all intents and purposes, I’m flying blind.
  • All of the above being true, I have less visibility into my self-treatment, it’s results, and the damage my cancer may be doing to me than I have thought for the last 6 months. The risk factor of experiencing grave consequences is unmeasurably higher than I’ve known as well.

So what does this all mean? It means that I’m scheduled to remove my thyroid on 16 October. The worst-case scenario that I’ve seen in my mind is coming true (granted, not the ultimate worst-case scenario, but my own imagined worst-case scenario).

I’m angry. I’ve gone back and forth between being angry at the US, being angry at our health care system, being angry at my old endocrinologist (for other reasons), and being angry about living in a period of time where this angiogenic treatment is still too new. I have to remind myself that things could be worse; I could be living in a time where chemotherapy was the primary method of treatment for this cancer (as my old endocrinologist said repeatedly, “Chemotherapy is worse than death.”) . It still makes me angry that I live in a time before a better treatment method can be validated and now I have to live without a thyroid gland permanently. If you want to know how angry I am about this, feel free to ask me about it. Be prepare for an expletive-filled conversation too, cause I won’t be in the mood to hold back (I’m not intending to be snarky, I’m just warning you where my head’s at right now ;-) ).

Some good things have come from this, regardless of the circumstances (e.g., I’ve gone from weighing 240 pounds at the beginning of 2015 to weighing just barely under 200 pounds now). More than ever before, the changes that I’ve made to my lifestyle will have to remain permanent to avoid exacerbating the effects of my impending hypothyroidism and risking the return of my cancer.

Thanks to everyone for keeping up with all of this. I have the best family and friends around the globe that anyone could ask for. You’ve all been patient with my complaints, my (sometimes) inappropriate use of humor to cope, and my occasional withdrawals and anti-social behavior on the low days (which have been fewer as time has gone by). Thank you for the dinners, watching my son while we go to doctor appointments, and the nights of fun activities meant to distract us from reality. I love and appreciate you all.

I can’t think of a better way to end this post by asking: does anyone know a good endocrinologist in Utah County? I’m in the market for one ;-)

Professor Beatty

About 8 years ago I was an undergraduate student at Brigham Young University (BYU) in Provo, UT. I was taking the LING 480 course on translation technology and my world was opened to this new realm of technology and an industry that I had really not known to exist before. It was enthralling! At the time, I distinctly remember daydreaming into the distant future, toying with the strange idea that I could one day teach this course. Call it a premonition…

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Language learning philosophy

I love languages. Since I was young and in elementary (primary) school, I’ve been fascinated by them. The first time I realized there were other languages in the world was when I was in my school’s library and the teacher was reading a book about Ireland to us. I learned about Irish Gaelic and immediately began looking for any books I could find there about the language. Sadly, but not unsurprising, there were no dictionaries or other books on learning Irish in my elementary school in Roy, UT, USA or even in my middle and high (secondary) schools Rawlins, WY, USA. I did, however, come to embrace Spanish while in school, as I felt there would certainly be a reason for me to learn the language and I would have many opportunities in the future to use it.


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I have thyroid cancer — part 2

It’s been almost exactly three months since my post about having thyroid cancer. It’s also been almost exactly four months since receiving my diagnosis. I’ve been happy to update people as they’ve asked me about my status. Since it’s been a while since my first blog post, I figured it was also time for a more public update. Here are some of the common questions I answer when giving an update about my cancer’s status:

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(Non-alcoholic) True American

If you’re a fan of the American TV show New Girl, you’ve likely seen the episode titled Normal and been introduced to what looks like the craziest/funnest looking game ever imagined, True American (here’s a clip). I thought that this was some game that they made up specifically for the show. Boy, was I happy to be proven wrong last night when I found the rules to the real True American drinking game! Now, those of you who know me well know that I don’t drink. Being that this is an awesome game, from an awesome show, I imagine that I’m not the only non-drinker who thought this game looked crazy awesome and wanted to play it. I figured I would benefit that segment of humanity by adapting True American for non-drinkers like myself.

So without further ado, here is how to play the non-alcoholic version of True American!

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Ancestry Passion

If you couldn’t already tell from the fact that I’m very white and very blond (hence the name mero güero), my ancestors came from the Nordic countries, primarily Sweden. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve made a sincere effort to learn more about my ancestors who took the long trip from Sweden and immigrated to the US.

My great, great grandfather, Lars Magnus Olson, was born in Arvika, Sweden and raised between Arvika and Kristiansia (Oslo), Norway after he and his siblings were orphaned at a young age. In Kristiansia, Lars met missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon), converted to the Mormon faith, and left his homeland in search of a better life in Zion (Utah). I learned that in making the trek West after reaching the US, the train at the time only ran from the East as far as Laramie, WY. This meant that to reach Salt Lake City, he had to walk the remaining distance. Thanks to Google Maps, this is what that looks like.

141 hours of walking, ugh!

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“What do you do for a living?”

My career is non-traditional. By non-traditional I mean that stating my job title does not give anyone the faintest idea of what I actually do (e.g., you say, “Engineer,” everyone gets it). As you can imagine, this has caused me some problems whenever people ask me what I do for a living. I’ve had to practice many 30-second explanations of what I do. Want some examples? Maybe some of you have heard one or two of these at one point:

  • “I help make Firefox available to people all over the world.”
  • “I help global volunteers produce a regionally appropriate version of Firefox for users in their countries.”
  • “Have you heard of localization? It’s the process of taking a product and adapting it to meet the needs of consumers in a particular region of the world. I do that for Firefox.”
  • “I drive a variety of projects that allow Firefox and other Mozilla products to be available in over 90 languages around the world.”
  • “It’s my responsibility to make it easy for global volunteers to adapt Firefox to meet their local needs.”

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(Vegan) Chicken Tikka Masala

I get asked for this recipe all the time, and have even had to refer to it in local Indian markets from time to time. Here’s the original, with the vegan substitutions.


1 med. red onion
1.5 lbs cubed chicken breast (or tofu)
1 c hung yogurt (milk, almond, or soy)
1 pt heavy cream (coconut milk)
2 lg. tomatoes
2 T garlic ginger paste
1 T lemon juice
2 T turmeric
4 T MDH brand Tandoori BBQ Masala mix
1 T Tandoori paste
2 T salt
2 T red chili powder
2 T melted butter (coconut oil)

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