Author Archives: tdillenbeck

Dear Family and Friends,

We have had an interesting week with some trial but mostly a week of MIRACLES. We are now ready and want to share all of the wonderful blessings and challenges we have been processing during this time. We wish we could talk to each of you personally, but this will have to do so hold on tight and most importantly, remain calm and positive!

***So this is a LONG post, as we were writing it we tried to cover all the important information without being boring.  It was also extremely important to us that all the correct information come from us with a source you could reference that is accurate and that we approve of.  As you read this long post take breaks if you need to. :)

On Thursday, October 13th I, Julie, had my entire thyroid removed following years of related issues. The surgery went perfectly and my recovery has been wonderful!! I have felt better in the last 10 days then I have in years. On Monday, October 17th I went to my post-op appointment. The surgeon sat down, asked a few questions, opened my chart and said “Oh, good your pathology report is here, I haven’t seen it yet…”. He paused, looked up, then proceeded to read the report. That’s right folks, the… C word… they found THYROID CANCER. Papillary carcinoma to be exact, a 1cm tumor, with clear margins and all lymph nodes are clear. Whoosh, it did NOT spread outside of the 1cm tumor and the great part is we found out about it after it was gone.

So, you might ask at this point how we are doing or how we reacted? The truth is Tom and I just quietly listened to him, nodded, asked a few questions and said, OK. We were enveloped in such peace that all we could really think was “Wow, that is great that it is already out, NO WONDER you haven’t been feeling well!” It didn’t feel awful to hear the diagnosis. We were surrounded by angels that day and they absorbed all the shock for us and we were able to focus on what we can actually do about it instead of panicking. We were, and still are, very calm, peaceful, and cannot describe the joy and happiness we are experiencing.

The good news is the thyroid and the cancer are out. The BEST news is this is 100% treatable and curable. Because there were cancer cells I do need to do a little clean up work. I will have radioactive iodine therapy. I met with my Endocrinologist that afternoon and immediately stopped all replacement thyroid hormones and began a diet of no iodine to deplete my body of iodine. The thyroid is what absorbs and manages iodine. By being deficient the treatment can target and kill off any remaining thyroid cells without harming the rest of my body because the thyroid cells will soak up all the poisonous iodine. To top it all off during this time I will be radioactive! I have to be in isolation and maintain a 6 foot distance from living things. All my body fluids will be radioactive for a few days so it’s important that we are cautious because if I sneezed or coughed or kissed someone the fluid would target their thyroid as well. I can also expose them to radiation just by being in the same room if they sat near me. My parents have been so generous and are letting me stay in their basement apartment where they will set-up camp for me. The kitchen has a bathroom off the side and doors that shut that entire area off from the rest of the basement. They are setting up a bed, tv, and lazy-boy rocker for me to use while I hibernate as a radioactive mutant :).

In comparison to some cancer treatments this will be a walk in the park. I will not go through endless nausea or sickness, I will not loose my hair, I will only experience fatigue and probably a little boredom. I plan to video chat with Tom and the kids everyday and Tom may stop by a few times and wave at me from across the room. I feel so blessed that this was discovered and was successfully removed before anything was out of control.

So back to that Monday we got the report. We came home feeling total peace. Tom took Josh to school, put Miriam down for a nap and I finished watching a movie and was happy to rest. Tuesday we called family members. After hours on the phone and lots of crying with them I did start feeling down about the situation. I didn’t sleep well and felt discouraged. Wednesday I felt low and worn out. The Lord was very comforting that day and by afternoon I started thinking that feeling sorry for myself was kind of a lot of work. It was wearing me out. I was much happier on Monday when I didn’t feel sad. So I decided to finish my pity party and never look back. We have chosen happiness and let me tell you it is MUCH better!!! I encourage all of you join us in our happiness and let the Lord fill your hearts with peace and joy. Faith will always conquer fear.

Thursday, October 20th Caleb had his tonsils removed according to plan. He needed the tonsils removed following repeated cases of strep throat. (Since Tom was taking time off to be with me we figured we’d do both at once.) While we spoke to our family members we ask them all to keep our news quiet so we could focus on Caleb and his recovery before we addressed my situation publicly. His surgery went very well, he’s enjoyed mountains of popsicles, cream of wheat, pudding, and ice cream and by the end of this week he will be all patched up.

That brings us to TODAY – Tuesday, October 25th – We are all mending and doing well, my scar looks AWESOME and in a few months we won’t even see it. My health has only improved since the surgery and I feel vibrant, energetic and I feel GOOD.

The MIRACLES and the Plan

Right now I need to have a radioactive scan to determine the number of thyroid cells, even the microscopic cells, that were left behind after the surgery. Then they determine the size of the dose for the radioactive therapy that will kill those remaining cells. To prepare my body for the scan and the treatment not only do I need to be iodine deficient but I also have to be EXTREMELY hypo-thyroid. Under normal circumstances my Dr’s keep my Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) levels between 1- 2.5 using thyroid replacement hormones which keeps me running smoothly. As the TSH drops to 3 or more it’s considered hypothyroid. To help give you a reference point in all of this, the lowest I have ever gone is 6 during the first few weeks of pregnancy with Josh and some of my family may recall I was worthless during that time. No energy, extreme fatigue and sleeping easily 15 hours day. In order to be scanned and receive the treatment my TSH has to be at least 30. It typically takes 3-4 weeks to get that hypo-thyroid and it is a miserable process slowing getting to 30.

This is where my MIRACLE steps in and takes over.

Monday, October 24th, just 11 days after my surgery, my blood work came back and my TSH is already at 30.4 and I am scheduled to have the scan this coming Monday, October 31st. We are in a state of joy and awe that I am even walking around. By all medical standards I should be flat in bed and sleeping all day but I am not. I am full of energy and busily making preparation for my family while I will be away from them. I thought I would have 3-4 long weeks of going down hill but the Lord had other plans. He hurried it along and I will be back home and regaining strength in about 2 weeks instead of 6 weeks from now.

So this is the PLAN

  • This Friday, October 28th at 7:00am I will swallow a pill with enough radioactive iodine to “light up” any remaining thyroid cells.
  • I will go straight to my parents house and stay isolated from others.
  • Monday, October 31st they will perform the scan and count the cells.
  • Tuesday, November 1st my Dr’s will receive the report and determine what strength of radioactive therapy will be needed.
  • A day or two later I will go back to the Dr and be given a treatment large enough to kill any remaining thyroid cells. At that point they will tell me how long I need to remain in isolation based on the strength of the treatment. I also plan to stay away from my little family a few extra days just to be extra cautious. My little 21 lb. Miriam just loves to give me hugs and kisses and I want to protect her and the boys by staying away until I am completely done “cooling down”.
  • Tom will be with the kids while I am gone.  He had the wonderful blessing of a 4 week sabbatical from work that he needed to use sometime in the next 20 months.  With both surgeries we decided to use it now and boy are we glad.
  • Our family has jumped into action and have been a wonderful support all taking different assignments that are making this possible.
  • Our ward will be bringing dinner for the next three weeks, and we will address any changes in needs as they come.

Our Heavenly Father has been carefully watching over us and preparing us for this trial. Looking back over the last 6 months we can see all the guidance and love that we have received that was all in preparation for handling this.  There are so many miracles and blessings carrying us through this that I need to give  credit where the credit is due.  The atonement is real and infinite.  Our Savior has absorbed all of our heartache this week and has left us with a greater capacity to love and endure.  Please don’t hold any heartache because of this trial.  Give it to our Savior and you too will feel the peace that we do.  Heavenly Father is managing this far better than humanly possibly and we are eternally grateful for his love and tender mercies.  I am so grateful for Tom and our good marriage.  I’m so humbled to be the mother of our three children and I am honored and confident that I will be here to see them grow and succeed.

We love you and thank you for all your support.


Julie and Tom

Ways to contact us:

  • Leave comments here on this blog.
  • Either of our facebook or email
  • Please avoid phone calls where possible, all parents know it is hard on kids when their parents talk on the phone, we need to focus on keeping our time with them precious.  Please use other forms of communication as much as possible, thanks!