Their story, in Kym's own words:
So around this time last year I got diagnosed with the dreaded c-word (cats, jk, actually cancer). Which cancer? Stage I Papillary Thyroid Cancer to be exact. It's a bit of a weird cancer in that you're automatically Stage I as long as you're not middle aged and it stays in your neck. Weird!
My cancer was caused by an inherited autoimmune disorder (Hashimoto's) that my surgeon called one of the most advanced cases she had ever seen. In a very gross, yet descriptive, post-surgical visit with her, she described my thyroid as having "the texture of a Rice Krispie treat when it's supposed to feel like a marshmallow". I discovered that I had this disorder at the same time I found out that I had cancer, which is a bit like finding out that not only are the brakes on your car bad, they're also on fire.
They ripped my thyroid (and a handful of lymph nodes) out and I got a dope scar, which looks like I got in a cool knife fight. I started taking my new thyroid pills, and I was recovered in a few weeks and back to work! For a bit, life was back to normal! Until suddenly I started feeling much, much worse. "What the fuck is this shit," I thought to myself, so back to the doctor I went.
Over the next few months I checked and re-checked my thyroid hormone levels, my adrenals, and pretty much any other blood test they could think of - at one point I was going to get my blood drawn so frequently that the nurses and I were on a first name basis. All the while, new symptoms kept cropping up - first came fatigue so extreme that just lifting my arms over my head to shampoo my hair would wipe me out for the day, then came the joint pain, mouth sores, facial rash, and so on, until I was a walking Biblical plague. At one point, I randomly couldn't shit for two weeks and had to take some medicine that I lovingly called "diarrhea potion".
Luckily I have an awesome PCP, and she suggested that I see a rheumatologist. It turns out that once you've had one autoimmune disease (the dreaded Hashimoto's) you're much more likely to develop another one, and the stress on your body of surgery can trigger it. Unfortunately, diagnosing autoimmune disorders is a very, very tricky business - some people who I've spoken to who have also been through similar nonsense have told me it can sometimes take YEARS to figure out exactly what's going on. I'm now going to an awesome rheumatologist (the first one I went to was, sadly, garbage), and he's got me on some medication and a gluten-free diet which seems to help, but I'm still far from recovered.
Throughout all this, my job was a rockstar - they let me work from home when the fatigue was too extreme, and gave me way more paid time off than any one person deserves. However, as May was rolling around, they let me know that while I would always have a job with them if I ever recovered my health, they would need to find a replacement for me. They told me that I could apply for short term disability, which I then set about doing, and I received my last paycheck from them at the end of May.
As it turns out, having "fatigue related to maybe cancer and maybe an autoimmune disorder??" isn't covered under their insurance policy, so we've been living off of my husband's retail wages ever since. We've tightened our belts and tried to make it work, but in the end, we've decided to move back into my Dad's house until we can get back on our feet, or at least knock out some of the medical debt we've accrued. We're going to have to break our lease to do so, wiping out any savings we might have left over, but it'll allow us to save money in the end, so it's worth it!
This past year has been one of the hardest of my life, but above all things, I am so so so grateful for all the support and help my friends and family have shown me. Geeklies, in particular, have been there above and beyond for both me and Ben, and I don't have enough words to thank you all for everything you've already done for me. You guys have honestly been a big part of why I haven't completely lost it - your love and kindness means the world to me.
- Ryan Santos
- Nyssa Mackinnon
- David Rotondo
- Jonathan Serritos
- Tyler Watts
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