Cancer Care

Finding Her Voice


O say can you see by the....

Liz Pettinger, Cancer Survivor:   After being diagnosed with thyroid cancer, everyone says to you, oh that's the easy cancer. You think how could cancer possibly be easy but you know you keep hearing that up until my surgery everyone says, "Well, thank God it's thyroid cancer." OK.

As I got closer to my surgery I was getting more nervous because I had been put to sleep in a long time I was just nervous about the whole experience. Do you worry if I don't wake up. You know like it's it's scary thinking about all these things that could happen when with small kids.

You know the thyroid removal, I think for a lot of people is an easier situation because it is just the thyroid's removed and usually a lot of people have no complications.

Well, in my situation and it was my body reacting to the surgery I had many complications and Dr. Lydiatt kept telling me you keep drawing the wrong cards.

I was getting very tingly all over to the point where my muscles were starting to cramp up, my hands are cramping up, my face is shutting. At the same time because of my surgery I also had paralysis of my right vocal chord so I couldn't speak. I could barely speak. It was a very pathetic whisper.

My shoulder was immobilized because another one of my nerves is actually stunned as well. So I couldn't use my arm, so I couldn't again, couldn't pick up my kids, I couldn't lift them, I couldn't reach for things, I couldn't put my own clothes on myself.

My ability to speak for myself was taken away, my ability to dress myself was taken away. I mean I was snapping at my children because I couldn't, they wouldn't look at me because they couldn't hear me. And so it was it was just strange to go in feeling healthy and then coming out being like...

I couldn't take of my children.


That was really hard. Coming home, going in healthy, and then coming out and they couldn't take care of my kids.

I couldn't...go more than like an hour and half without taking calcium. It was just like what happened to me? What the heck? You know like this is...why did I get all these cards drawn?

But you have to mourn your old life. And again I know that sounds dramatic but I think it really is true. You have to say goodbye to one thing and hello to whatever this new is and you have to make the best of it. But I never had that perspective before the surgery. So, what I said was,"like what I'm having a surgery, no big deal." And it was a huge deal.

The thing that helped me a lot was I was able to call my doctor and everyone was very helpful. And that was what at least got me through that point. But it was not fun for sure.

I'm one of those people that brings a notebook with me to every appointment with about 16 to 20 questions, every single time. But I just kept firing questions at him and he stayed and kept answering the questions he never made me feel like he had to be anywhere else.

I think that's what I appreciate the most about Dr. Lydiatt is that he never makes me feel like he has somewhere better to be.

It's been about seven or eight months since my surgery. I am finally starting to feel normal again which is a relief.

I do sing. I sing in a lot  of different events around Omaha and I was actually able to sing at the Bellevue University graduation a couple of weeks ago and that was a scary and exciting moment at the same time because I had not sang publicly since I was unable to speak.

And so being able to do that I can't tell was...I felt like me again.

O'er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming? 

I got done singing in front of you know 15000 people and it thought, "I'm me again!" Like I just, I finally needed that final piece to like make everything feel good again and now that my body was feeling better and you know my incision, my scar, and medicines. I needed the singing piece to finally kind of click and I am able to chase my kids again which is nice and I'm able to pick them up. Much to their dismay that I can pick them up and take them somewhere.

So I'm still not back to my push ups yet but I'm getting there, but I'm able to work out to be able to function in my jobs again. So, I feel like I've gotten back.

So much has happened and so many people have helped me get back to where I'm at that it does feel like a long time ago. Because so much has changed and gotten better.

O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave

Full article published in "The Meaning of Care Magazine" | Fall 2017

About the Author

Hailing from Charlotte, Michigan, Daniel Johnson joined Methodist Health System in 2016.  He currently works as the Marketing Multimedia Specialist.  Dan brings more than a decade of professional image making experience to the team.

See more articles from Daniel Johnson
Photo of Daniel Johnson