My Million Dollar Match
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My Million Dollar Match
Where it all started..
My name is Candace Miller and in September of 2019, I woke up in the middle of the night with a very strange and concerning feeling on the right side of my head. My husband took me to the Emergency Department (ED) at London Health Sciences Centre’s Victoria Hospital.
At first, the ED doctors and nurses suspected a stroke. They performed a CT angiogram to check my blood vessels for blockages and then referred me to a neurologist at the Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA) clinic for further tests. No signs of stroke showed on the neurologic scans but they did detect a nodule on my thyroid. They ordered a followup ultrasound, though I wasn’t worried because I had been diagnosed with hypothyroidism in the past — a condition where your thyroid glad doesn’t produce enough of certain hormones.
Fast-forward to December when I was preparing to host my extended family and stepsons over the holidays, my health scare a distant worry. The day before everyone was expected to arrive, my husband returned from the mailbox with a letter for me. I tore it open and the words cancer immediately jumped off the paper, causing my heart to sink to my stomach. It was a referral letter to the Head and Neck Cancer Clinic at LHSC. The ultrasound had revealed that the nodule was “highly suspicious" and needed to be biopsied through a procedure called a fine needle aspiration.
My appointment was on January 31, so from December 20 to January 31 were some of the darkest days of my life.
The holidays came and went under a cloud of anxiety. In January, I found solace in my work until the day of my biopsy and follow-up appointment. Dr. Kevin Fung delivered the news to me on a cold, mid-February afternoon. I had thyroid cancer.
He assured me it appeared to be in early stages and was highly curable through surgery, which would be scheduled within three months so they could remove the mass before it spread.
A few weeks later, the world as we know it was turned upside down as COVID-19 spread through the population and led to mass lockdowns. Fearing major delays in surgeries, I knew I’d have to advocate for myself then more than ever.
I was so scared because, looking back, my thyroid issues started in 2018, so I’m counting in my head of how long I could have had this and just wondering how much it’s growing by the day.”
I remained in frequent contact with the clinic and, thankfully, got a call in May — my surgery was booked for May 29 — just 11 days past the three-month window, which was like winning the surgery lottery.
Dr. Fung removed the nodule and was pleased to inform me at my follow-up appointment that they had removed all the tumour tissue. I was a cancer survivor.
Paying it forward..
Though I am grateful that my cancer journey was a short one, the experience has changed me profoundly. At each one of my appointments, I would sit in the waiting room staring at the Million Dollar Match fundraising poster until I felt compelled to ask Dr. Fung how I could help.
Sometimes I think you have to go through some really terrible things in your life to realize what you're meant to do and how you're supposed to live your life moving forward to be able to do things right.
I feel that there's power and strength in sharing even the most common stories. I was lucky because it was caught early, but that’s not the case for everyone.
There was something special about the ED nurse who cared for me last September. The nurse had flagged my case and ensured I got further testing.
Had I not gone to the ED that day, I’d probably still be sitting here not knowing I had thyroid cancer. So I would love to see there be more awareness of these kinds of cancers so people can know what to watch for, go to their doctors and advocate for their health.
I am channelling this passion into giving back by donating my time and business acumen to help the clinic write grant proposals, fundraising through events to support head and neck cancers, and pouring my normally well-guarded heart out to share my story in hopes of inspiring others.
The Million Dollar Match..
London Health Sciences Centre's head and neck physicians have pledged to match all donations to head and neck cancer research up to $50,000 - for a potential total of $1 million.
A chance visit to the Emergency Department led to life-changing news for me and that is why I am raising money for the Million Dollar Match campaign at LHSC. Join me as I raise money to close off the Million Dollar Match campaign. We can do this together!