To view files, you need Adobe Acrobat Reader.
by Suzanne Laurent
Wearing thick red wool socks and a vest over his shirt, Ric Blake sits on the deck of his Londonderry home. It's a beautiful sunny Saturday afternoon. A perfect day -- a dry, windless 80 degrees. Blake, however, is cold. Diagnosed three years ago at the age of 50, with thyroid cancer, Blake has stopped taking his medication, Synthroid, two weeks ago in preparation for a trip to the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland to take part in a research protocol for thyroid cancer. While there at the end of August, he will have three sets of bone scans and a radioactive therapy treatment.
Each time a
thyroid patient has scans done, the patient has to be off medication
for six weeks. Being hypothyroid,without the medication, Blake's
Over the past
three years, Blake went from denial (hiding the disease from those
close to him), to anger, to as he calls it becoming a "cancer
Blake went on to say that unlike breast and prostate cancer, thyroid cancer does not affect many thousands. "Only 12,000 to 15,000 are diagnosed with thyroid cancer each year," he continued. "We are so few, that unless physicians specialize in thyroid disease or surgery, they may go through their entire career treating only a handful of 'thyca' patients."
Thyroid cancer treatment requires taking daily medication and for the rest of the patient's life undergoing periodic diagnostic procedures and sometimes radiation. "Learning to live with the disease is much more difficult if you never have the chance to meet others with 'thyca'," said Blake.
Blake had surgery in October, 1995. What was supposed to be a two hour operation became six hours. His vocal chords were paralyzed and he had to have an emergency tracheotomy after a week of being in severe respiratory distress. Blake soon realized that there was no written material available for a patient going home after a tracheotomy. Blake, who is the director for the Office of Public Information at the Greater Lawrence Health Center, was terrified. Much of his job involved public speaking.
Anger at lack
of medical information about his disease increased when he tried
to find support and to cope with living with this particular form
Help came over
the Internet. Blake located a weekly thyroid cancer chat room organized
by Karen Ferguson, a resident of Charlotte, North
the chat room particularly helpful to guide someone through what
he calls "your worst nightmare." When Blake needed to
Thyroid patients must starve their bodies for iodine by going off the Synthroid for six weeks, and eating a special iodine-free diet for two weeks before a scheduled bone scan. During the scan, iodine is used to target cancerous cells. If cells are found the patient must go through the radiation treatment.
a sense of humor about life. His perennial garden has whimsical
objects here and there to make him smile. "Most people have
Having the support
group on the Internet helps, but Blake wanted to make the ordeal
of surviving thyroid cancer more personal -- to have survivors