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Actress Katee Sackhoff Discusses Her Battle with Thyroid Cancer
What is thyroid cancer and how is is different from thyroid disease? Actress Katee Sackhoff discusses her battle with thyroid cancer with Progressive Health and how she manages to live normally. Read her fascinating story below.
When actress Katee Sackhoff went in for a routine check-up at age 27, she had no idea she was about to be diagnosed with thyroid cancer. Find out how this surprising disease changed her life and what steps she took to control her health after her thyroid surgery as well as the role of the thyroid and how you can detect thyroid problems in your own life.
Katee Sackhoff was already a famous actress when she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer at age 27. She discovered her condition with no previous knowledge or symptoms from the disease. During a routine check-up, her doctor felt a small lump and suggested a blood test. Within a few weeks, Katee had undergone surgery and underwent full treatment for the cancer.
Today, she is cancer-free and uses a combination of healthy living practices and traditional medicine to keep her hormones regulated despite the absence of a thyroid gland. She has found that with the right balance of holistic and traditional medical approaches, she is able to life a happy, healthy life.
Now, Katee keeps busy by starring as deputy Victoria “Vick” Moretti on the A&E series, “Longmire”. She also recently starred with Vin Diesel in the film “Riddick.” Progressive had the privilege of interviewing Katee Sackhoff in-person through video interview about her experiences with thyroid cancer. You can view the text of the interview below or watch the video to view Katee’s responses.
What were the first symptoms that you noticed that make you suspect you had a medical condition? Were you surprised by your diagnosis, or did you suspect something was seriously wrong all along?
It did [surprise me], yeah. I was so lucky to be raised with a very safe environment and really didn’t have anything health-wise or emotionally go wrong in my life for so many years. And when I was 27 I went in for my routine check-up with my gynecologist and she felt a lump in my neck in the thyroid, which is a little butterfly-shaped gland that’s at the base of your neck, and through a bunch of blood tests after that realized that I had thyroid cancer. They took out the thyroid and I had a complete thyroidectomy at 28.
Did having thyroid cancer change your perspective on life?
I think the thing that changed my life so much was just the idea that life is very finite and cancer had touched me at what I thought was a very young age. Since then, I just take my thyroid medication on a daily basis and live a full, happy, healthy life that is relatively smooth at this point.
What health changes did you have to make as a result of your disease? Who was your biggest support during your illness and treatment? What support methods would you recommend to others facing thyroid disease or cancer?
During my treatment, my finance, who was my boyfriend at the time, was incredibly helpful. I would go into these appointments and not hear a word that the doctor was saying to me. I would walk out and we would go to lunch right afterwards and he would have all the information written down on a legal notepad that we had learned in the appointment.
And we would go over it again. And the thing that I learned during that process is that you really have to be your own advocate; you have to search for the answers that you are looking for, because a lot of times you need things explained in layman’s terms actually, which I did, and it seems less daunting and it makes a lot more sense. So he was a tremendous help during that process.
But also, having and finding a good endocrinologist- I went through at least 2 to find one that actually spent time with me and made me feel safe.
Does your past condition impact your day-to-day life?
It did [in the beginning]. I tried to go to the support groups and see how people were doing and how not having a thyroid was affecting the function of their life. And then it was really hard for me to find a positive outlook after having a thyroidectimey, and I was so worried that I was going to a), be exhausted all the time or b), gain a substantial amount of weight- and I was really worried about that.
And what I found was that as long as I take my medication at the same time every day- within reason, I give myself a bit of a buffer- and go and get my blood tests quite a lot (I go about every 3 months just to make sure that my thyroid is functioning properly), then I really don’t feel the fallout of not having a thyroid.
I’ve been too high and had massive panic attacks- that’s how it presents itself in me; everybody is different- and then being too low and I could barely get out of bed, so it really is crucial to find that sweet spot, if you will.
What advice can you give to others facing thyroid disease or cancer? Was there any piece of advice that was particularly helpful to you during your treatment?
The thing that I want people to understand is something that was explained to me so many times, but I don’t know if I quite heard at the time. Thyroid cancer is very treatable and you can live a full-functioning, happy, normal life without a thyroid. And you can actually do the same thing being hypo and hyper as well with the help of your endocrinologist and medication. But mostly that it doesn’t have to be this massive change in your life and you can live a long, happy, healthy life with a thyroid disorder, for sure.
What would you tell people who think they might have a thyroid problem?
Go to thyroidawareness.com, which is an incredibly helpful website- all the information you need is there; and definitely if you don’t feel well and you haven’t felt well for a long period of time and there is really no other reason why, go and ask your doctor for a little [thyroid] blood test. A blood test can tell you if the function of your thyroid is right where it should be.
Many Americans are confused about what the thyroid actually does in the body. It is far more than simply a regulator for the metabolism. In fact, the hormones that the thyroid makes are involved in regulating nearly all organs and cells in the body. The thyroid controls body temperature, brain function, heart rate, bone strength, muscle health, and regulation of digestion. Clearly, the thyroid is one of the most important parts of the body- which is what makes thyroid disorders and thyroid cancer like Katee’s so dangerous.
Experts are not sure how many people have thyroid problems- since many people can go for years without realizing they have a problem. However, it is estimated that about 30 million Americans have some kind of thyroid disease and that about 60 percent of cases are undiagnosed. As Katee pointed out, anyone who feels sluggish, tired, or simply “off” for no explainable reason should have their thyroid function checked.
Thyroid cancer is a fairly rare form of cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, about 60,000 Americans are diagnosed with thyroid cancer each year. About 1,500 people die from thyroid cancer each year. Thyroid cancer is highly treatable, because it is easy to detect in the early stages just like Katee’s doctor was able to find her cancer early.
The reason thyroid cancer is easy to detect early is because one of the first signs of cancer is a swollen thyroid. Most doctors check the thyroid gland during well visits, which means that if you get regular well check-ups, you can easily detect any problems before they become major.
There is a difference between thyroid cancer and thyroid disease- although the two conditions are related. Thyroid cancer is a type of thyroid disease, but the key difference is that cancer is the uncontrolled growth of cells in the thyroid that can spread to other areas of the body. In other forms of thyroid disease (hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism), the thyroid may swell and malfunction, but the disease is localized to the thyroid itself and will not spread.
While many people live for years with thyroid problems without even knowing there is a problem, there are serious health risks that thyroid diseases can cause. Thyroid cancer, for example, can spread and infect other areas of the body like the lymph nodes and brain. Other thyroid diseases can cause problems such as: increased bone density loss, cardiovascular disease, infertility, osteoporosis, stunted growth, mental diseases, infertility, hair and nail loss, and more. The best way to determine if you have a thyroid disorder is to have your thyroid tested with a simple blood test.
If you test your thyroid and you find that you don’t have thyroid cancer- just a sluggish thyroid (far more common than an overactive thyroid), then there are many natural steps you can take to try to regulate your hormones on your own without using synthetic hormones. Synthetic thyroid hormones carry risks and side effects that can be damaging and unhealthy. Katee has faced some of these side effects herself.
Luckily, with the following three treatment methods, you can help regulate your thyroid hormones without taking synthetic thyroid hormones (or at least, for less time).
Exercise can boost your thyroid function. According to a 2005 study published in “Neuroendocrinology Letters,” exercise benefited the production of T3 and T4 hormones. The researchers found that exercising at 70 percent of the maximum heart rate was the most beneficial for thyroid functioning.
You may be able to improve both overproduction and underproduction of thyroid hormones with diet. A thyroid diet simply reduces the amount of foods that interfere with hormone production and adds more foods that help regulate hormones.
Foods to avoid include: vegetable oils, sugar, processed grains, starches, and basic junk foods.
Foods to add include healthy fats like olive oil, omega-3 oils, and coconut oil; organic sources of protein; probiotics; and a wide variety of fruits and vegetables.
Many people who have thyroid disorders are deficient in B vitamins, minerals, and amino acids. By supplementing with these ingredients you can help boost your thyroid function and restore natural production levels without synthetic hormones. Try adding the following supplements to your daily routine: B Vitamins: B6, B1, B12, B5, B3, B2, B9. Minerals: Zinc, magnesium, selenium, iodine, copper, manganese. Amino Acids: Acetyl L-Tyrosine, L-Phenylalanine.
It is easy to get a simple blood test to check your thyroid. If you have a thyroid malfunction, like Katee Sackhoff, early intervention is key to finding the best treatment methods without harsh side effects. If you catch a thyroid disorder early enough; natural methods like exercise, supplements, and a healthy diet can reverse the condition and help you live a healthy, happy life.
If your condition goes on without diagnosis, however, it may take harsh synthetic hormones to restore balance in your body. There is no reason to delay. If you suspect a thyroid malfunction, get tested as soon as possible and do not wait to implement the above natural thyroid boosting methods to restore hormonal balance to every cell in your body and improve you overall health.
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