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Hello Health Heroes' Grace Diez on Her Triumph Over Thyroid Cancer

Medically reviewed by John Paul Abrina, MD · Oncology · Davao Doctors Hospital

Written by Fiel Tugade · Updated Jul 15, 2022

    Hello Health Heroes' Grace Diez on Her Triumph Over Thyroid Cancer

    Not all cancers are the same. In this episode of #HelloHealthHeroes, Grace Diez, a public relations writer and 11-year cancer survivor, details her battle with papillary carcinoma, a kind of thyroid cancer.

    Read the highlights of the interview here.

    Kai Magsanoc (HelloDoctor): Hi, everyone. Welcome to HelloDoctor. This is Kai Magsanoc,  country lead of HelloDoctor Philippines. And today for another episode of #HelloHealthHeroes, we have another amazing cancer survivor who has stepped up to share her story para po ma-inspire tayong lahat, whether kung nanonood po kayo, whether – baka tulad ko, nasa lahi po namin ang cancer, gustong iwasan, or iyong pinagdadaanan po ninyo, or baka kayo po ay carer ng isang cancer patient. Pakinggan po nating ang story ni Grace Diez. 

    Grace was my colleague — more than 10 years ago — noong ako ay nasa People Asia Magazine, no’. Pati iyong kasama ko po dito, iyong senior editor kong si Kristel Lagorza. So, we’ve known her for all these years, and honestly po, until a few days ago, I never knew that Grace is a cancer survivor. Hi, Grace. Thank you for joining us. 

    Grace Diez: Hi. Hello, everyone. 

    Kai Magsanoc: Hello. 

    Grace Diez: Sa HelloDoctor, time flies talaga no’. Ang tagal na pala nating magkakilala. 

    Kai Magsanoc: Correct. Siguro para ano lang no’ – since we’re talking and, alam mo diba daming advent naman ng Omicron, diba? Natapos na ‘yung iba-ibang klaseng COVID, ngayon Omicron naman. As a cancer survivor, Grace, what were precautions have you been taking, ‘no? We’re on the third year of COVID, and anong precautions – how have you been taking care of yourself so you don’t get – you don’t contract…

    Grace Diez: The virus?

    Kai Magsanoc: Yes.

    Grace Diez: Thankfully nga hindi ko pa siya na-eexperience ever. Although sumama ‘yung pakiramdam ko, but the antigen test turned out to be negative just this new year, so nakaka-paranoid, because sumabay siya sa surge, diba? But thankfully, it was negative. 

    I did the basic things — social distancing, wearing a mask, syempre ‘yung paghuhugas ng kamay regularly, alcohol. But even before the pandemic, mahilig talaga akong magbaon ng hand sanitizer or alcohol eh. And also, I take my vitamins — sodium ascorbate. I try to eat healthy, ‘yun. But very important, I think anlaki nung role ng getting myself vaccinated. Although I’m about to get my booster pa lang, but I already had my first and second dose. So, I think it really helped.          

    Kai Magsanoc: Of course. Ay ‘di ko pala na-mention ‘no. So si Grace works with PR Firm WSP. She’s also a writer like me, but she’s a PR practitioner. And then Grace actually survived thyroid cancer, specifically papillary carcinoma, and she has been cancer-free for 11 years this year.        

    Grace Diez: Yes.

    Kai Magsanoc: So, not all people, Grace, not all people, patients, or survivors find it easy to share their stories. So just you stepping up and allowing us — to speak with us is already a very courageous step. As a former carer of a cancer patient, I understand. Parang there’s no — it’s not something you wish on your — on someone else. 

    Grace Diez: Yes, yes.

    Kai Magsanoc: So, please Grace – the cancer you had is quite rare, papillary carcinoma. So please share with us your cancer story. And tell us — help us understand that kind of cancer if ever.

    Grace Diez: I hope if there’s anybody watching na nadiagnose din ng thyroid cancer, please feel free to comment and check lang din if you had the same experience.

    But actually, just like I think — just like any cancer nga — parang it just crept up on me without nearly realizing that I already have it. Parang I just woke up one day na umiikot yung paningin ko and it turned out to be vertigo. And then, when I had myself checked, sinabi lang sakin, binigyan ako the usual – is it okay to mention the brand nung para sa vertigo? Nirecitahan lang ako ng vertigo med. I’m sure you’re familiar with serc, mga ganyan. And so – but I didn’t get better until after 3 weeks.

    So, imaginin mo, I haven’t been reporting to work for 3 weeks. And so feeling ko, I still had to get myself thoroughly checked. Kasi nga the doctor also mentioned na vertigo is not actually a kind of illness but it’s actually a symptom of something else. So it’s a symptom. So, yung pinsan ko naman yung papunta kami ng clinic, ewan ko for some reason, napansin niya na merong lump sa throat ko. And hindi siya — ako kasi hindi ko napapansin — I did not have any difficulty speaking, breathing or swallowing. Basta lang nakita niya na may lump tapos parang dalawa.

    So when I consulted a doctor, the first thing that the doctor said was for me to get myself checked and have an ultrasound throat ultrasound. We found out during that ultrasound na – naconfirm na may dalawang nodules but mayroon ding maliliit na tumutubo pa. So, confirmed mayroong nodules, and then the next thing that the doctor wanted to know was – anong meaning ng nodules, is it, parang ano lang ba, certain growth lang siya or is it malignant. So it was very important to find out. Para rin malaman namin ano yung next steps. So what he did was the fine needle-aspiration biopsy. 

    Kai Magsanoc: Right. 

    Grace Diez: So hindi siya kasing – kasi parang the other biopsy yata ano eh – masyadong parang do you have to undergo –

    Kai Magsanoc: Invasive. 

    Grace Diez: Yeah, invasive siya. But ito parang pumunta lang ako sa clinic niya, pinahiga tapos exposed yung throat ko. Tapos mayroong mahabang needle, tapos tinusok lang niya doon sa part na may lump. 

    I mean any person who would be told by a doctor na it’s cancer – parang either mahirap mag sink-in or maiiyak or papaiyak ka na. 

    Grace Diez

    After that procedure, I was asked to come back sa clinic para makuha yung result ng – sige for example Friday, eh di okay – so, I actually don’t remember how I was feeling the whole time. But by Tuesday, tumawag na yung clinic sa akin nung doctor – and they told me that I have to go back to the clinic ng Wednesday because of the result. So it turned out – syempre bad news. Malignant yung nakitang nodules sa thyroid gland ko. And so, he said na it’s papillary carcinoma. Nung nakita niya yatang, syempre diba, I mean any person who would be told by a doctor na it’s cancer – parang either mahirap mag sink-in or maiiyak or papaiyak ka na. 

    Kai Magsanoc: 26 years old at that diba?

    Grace Diez: Yes, I was just 26 years old. So parang naisip ko rin parang – do I have things to live for. Am I allowed to dream pa ba ganyan. Pero alam mo sinalo ako agad nung doctor. Ang unang niyang sinabi sa akin is siguro yung naiiyak na ako sabi niya, “Oh pero Grace it’s one of the ‘friendliest’ cancer types to have.” 

    Kasi daw ang explanation niya sa akin – if you’re diagnosed with that type of thyroid cancer, yung papillary carcinoma. Hindi siya aggressive. Unlike other cancer cells, sobrang tamad daw gumalaw nung type of cancer cell na yon. That’s why they labeled it “friendliest.” 

    Kai Magsanoc: Okay.

    Grace Diez: Tapos maganda, oo, parang usually naman daw maganda yung nagiging – prognosis and ano. I held onto that. Iyong friendliest kind of cancer to have. But you know even when the doctor told me that, habang papauwi na ako ng bahay, naiiyak parin ako. Yung parang, hindi ko alam kung – I don’t know what to feel. Should I just accept what the doctor said na it’s actually a good kind of cancer, na parang if you’re going to have a cancer, this is the type of cancer you’d want to have. Comforting siya at that time but if you go through din the other necessary steps, it’s not as easy as you would initially think of. Kasi parang ang dali eh. 

    Kai Magsanoc: Who is this doctor that recognized – the doctor that helped you through this time? 

    Grace Diez: Actually nakakahiya but it was at St. Luke’s Hospital. I forgot his name kasi when I had na my treatment, I moved to another hospital with another doctor na. Cost-wise lang naman but if I –

    Kai Magsanoc: I understand. 

    Grace Diez: Kasi ang bata ko lang nun eh. I don’t have enough money.

    Kai Magsanoc: Well Grace, cancer and money – or money –

    Grace Diez: Sobra. 

    Kai Magsanoc: For any kind of illness to be honest. Even with COVID, it is a big problem of other Filipinos diba? 

    Grace Diez: Totoo. 

    Kai Magsanoc: But did he ever tell you — so the doctor who eventually took you on no’ — what was the cause, what causes this kind of cancer? 

    Grace Diez: Ayun, ito I can name her. I remember all the doctors that handled after that. 

    My endocrinologist was doctor Stefie Lim Uy at UST Hospital, where I underwent my surgery din. Ang sabi niya kasi sa akin, yung thyroid cancer that I have, dalawa lang yung pwedeng maging reason:  One, genetics, diba parang yun lagi yung kwento ng buhay ng lahat. 

    Kai Magsanoc: Correct. 

    Grace Diez: And then two, I might have been exposed to radiation. Which both parang tinry namin. Iyong radiation parang ang hirap naman itrace diba like where did I get it. Yung bestfriend ko nga jinojoke ako, “Baka kasi photocopy ka nang photocopy.” Yung mga ganong joke kung bakit ako nagkaroon ng thyroid cancer. Kasi diba sa work ganyan. And then, we tried asking family members kung meron bang nagka-thyroid cancer. Alam mo walang malapit, parang I only learned after lang na mayroon akong isang distant cousin na nagkaroon rin ng ganon. Pero walang immediate link kumbaga kung sinong iyong family member yung nakaroon ng thyroid cancer. 

    Kai Magsanoc: Okay. So, what treatment did you have to go to? Anong stage siya nung nahuli, Grace? And diba kasi yung iba minsan like the other survivor story — the ovarian cancer story. She credits her being a hypochondriac for catching the cancer. 

    Grace Diez: Ah, buti pa —

    Kai Magsanoc: Yeah, exactly right?

    Grace Diez: Really.

    Kai Magsanoc: Yeah. So but in your case, you were atoned to how you’re feeling and luckily nagmanifest physically diba – iyong nakita agad. But yeah — so let’s talk about — I have two questions eh. Number one, the way you speak about it now, it feels so light. Diba? But I’m not sure, during that time, if it was like this okay. How did you – how did you pull through it, Grace? And then, what kind of treatment did you get for the stage –

    Grace Diez: That I went through?

    Kai Magsanoc: Yeah.

    Grace Diez: It only looks lighter now but when I look back talaga on it, may times pa rin na naiiyak ako kasi parang I didn’t realize na – feeling ko kasi 26 is still young to undergo. Kasi I was advised to go total thyroidectomy. So that meant kasi –  ang naging medical advice sa akin was to remove not just the nodules but the entire thyroid gland. Para yung chances na babalik yung thyroid cancer,  wala na. 

    Kai Magsanoc: That’s an aggressive decision.

    Grace Diez: Yes. But yun yung ano nila eh advice nila eh. And ako masunurin naman ako sa doctor. I mean I trust my doctor’s opinion. So ‘yun so, total thyroidectomy – ayun din, parang don’t ever take your thyroid glands for granted. Kasi parang feeling ko it’s a master gland eh. Parang siya yung responsible sa metabolism — weight, yung weight mo would have a lot to do with your thyroid glands. Yung hair condition mo, yung skin condition mo. Sobrang ‘yun yung role niya. And so yun, total thyroidectomy.

    And then pala, during the — my surgeons are —  ang pinaka naaalala ko is doctor Michael Alay-ay, who’s also with UST Hospital. I remember when I was being wheeled in sa operating room, tinatanong nila ako – kasi anyone naman eh would be very very anxious kapag ipapasok ka sa operating room. Kasi hindi mo alam yung mangyayari sayo after. Because I was also told na there could be surgical ano — complications are the surgery. 

    So dalawa yung binigay sakin na possible surgical complications. And if –  kung may kakilala kayong thyroid cancer survivor, I think mapapansin din ninyo. I was told na during the total thyroidectomy, I could either (1) lose my voice. Pwedeng maapektuhan din yung volume ng boses mo or basta magiiba yung voice mo or anything just in case na matamaan ‘yung  isang nerve na related sa vocal chords or whatever ganyan. 

    And then, the other one, magkakaroon ka ng hypocalcemia.

    Sorry ang haba ng kwento dito. 

    Kasi sa thyroid gland natin, mayroon paring nakakabit na parathyroid glands. So ‘yung parathyroid glands naman, sila yung responsible for calcium metabolism. Eh sobrang sensitive pala ng parathyroid kapag yung – alam mo yung parang ginalaw mo siya or parang nasugatan siya, para siyang nagtatampo. So ‘yung function niya daw naaapektuhan. So after the – ay ayun pala, during the thyroidectomy mayroong ding – I think it was a 4 hour procedure.

    And then mayroong time na magb-break sila. They will leave the open, pagkatanggal nung nodules tapos itatakbo sa laboratory to confim. Kasi they still need to confirm even after the fine needle aspiration biopsy that it’s really cancerous. So my best friend, Cherry, she was there during the surgery. She was the one who brought the removed nodules sa laboratory. I remember kinukuwento niya, binubulungan niya daw “‘Wag ka na babalik sa katawan ng best friend ko,” ganyan. And then – but the laboratory also confirmed that it’s really cancer. 

    Kai Magsanoc: Cancer.

    Grace Diez: Oo. So doon, ang ginawa ng surgeons — when it was confirmed by the laboratory it was cancerous. Doon na nila tinanggal lahat. 

    Kai Magsanoc: Okay.

    Grace Diez: Ah yung thyroid glands. And then, ang — I remember doon sa recovery room, unang una ginawa nung nurse was nung medyo — “Grace, Grace,” kinakausap nila ako. ‘Kamusta ka na?’ because they wanted to find out how my voice was doing. Thank God, may boses naman ako.  

    Kai Magsanoc: Correct.

    Grace Diez: So ‘yun, I can imagine din yung – to be fair, magagaling yung doctors but I can relate din siguro yung medyo anxious din sila what happens after the surgery.   

    Kai Magsanoc: Yeah.

    Grace Diez: Yeah.

    Kai Magsanoc: Syempre they wanted to preserve what they could preserve diba?

    Grace Diez: Oo. And it’s very ironic ha kasi I’m a – imaginin mo I’m a broadcast major graduate. So alam mo yung I’m passionate about broadcast and all tapos biglang sasabihin sa akin “Uy ha, two things can happen.” Ayun, pero ano while the voice – while my voice was saved, thankful pa rin naman ako. So ang nadale ay yung ano ko diba, hypocalcemic na ako ngayon. Although imagine ang – okay din naman yung progress kasi after the surgery grabe alam mo kung ilan – familiar kayo sa calcium supplement diba? Diba malaki yun?

    Kai Magsanoc: Yeah.  

    Grace Diez: Alam mo ang reseta sa akin after the surgery tapos ilang months after that, eight. Eight supplements. Eight calcium supplements in a day. 

    Kai Magsanoc: A day?

    Grace Diez: In a day. Tapos kapag it-test nila yung calcium levels ko, borderline normal lang. 

    Kai Magsanoc: Oh my god! So yung nabibili nating bote nauubos mo sa apat na araw? ‘Yung pang isang buwan.

    Grace Diez: Oo, grabe. 

    Kai Magsanoc: Oh my gosh!

    Grace Diez: Parang when I look back — hindi pero ano naman — fast forward, two times a day nalang ngayon. 

    Kai Magsanoc: Ahh, oh that’s good. 

    Grace Diez: Oo. For two times a day na lunch and dinner ano naman, little above borderline normal. Kasi masama din yung diba, parang sobrang daming calcium sa katawan.

    Kai Magsanoc: Yeah. Mayroon din siyang – ang hirap noh? 

    Grace Diez: Oo.

    Kai Magsanoc: Pero Grace where did you get the strength – where did you get the mental and emotional strength while you were going through all of these?

    Grace Diez: Ayun. I’m glad you asked kasi it was a very trying time because when I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, 4 years earlier my mother passed away. So I have no mom to lean on. Tapos panganay pa ako, so I’m the ate and the rest of my siblings are younger. And then my Papa was working overseas, so alam mo, the whole time – ang meron lang ako, mga pinsan ko. Pero sobrang na-appreciate ko sila, and then my spiritual family — my churchmates.

    Iba rin ‘yung pakiramdam na while I was going through surgery, they would message me that they are praying for me. The whole group is praying for me, mga church members praying for me. So parang, imagine ‘yung feeling na parang I’m not going through this battle alone, even if feeling ko walang magulang sa tabi ko, diba. And then you know, parang, sorry if I need to speak about this but I think it would really help din kasi ‘yung mga diagnosed with cancer e parang, some people may belittle the influence or impact of faith, but ‘yung spirituality mo would really help you in – not just in the happy times, but most especially sa trying times.

    I remember nung whiniwheel-in ako sa surgery, paulit-ulit ko lang ni-rerecite ‘yung Isaiah 41:10, so it’s really about God promising that he will be with you whatever you are about to go through. And so paulit-ulit na ‘yun hanggang sa, alam mo ‘yung nawalan na ako ng malay because of the anesthesia. So ‘yun lang ‘yung paulit-ulit.

    I think it’s one of the biggest factors, and ‘yung support ng maraming tao, and then one of the things that I also realize — when you’re that young kasi, ang iniisip kong blessing, usually ang unang-una kong naaassociate monetary blessing e, diba? But the experience taught me that not all blessings are primarily monetary, sometimes it’s just you meeting people — meeting the right people, meeting the right doctors who will help you out

    Grace Diez

    So, I think it’s one of the biggest factors, and ‘yung support ng maraming tao, and then one of the things that I also realize — when you’re that young kasi, ang iniisip kong blessing, usually ang unang-una kong naaassociate monetary blessing e, diba? But the experience taught me that not all blessings are primarily monetary, sometimes it’s just you meeting people — meeting the right people, meeting the right doctors who will help you out and do the surgery or the treatment nang maayos, diba? That’s enough blessing — people who are praying for you and rooting for you to get better. So ‘yun. That was total thyroidectomy.

    Akala ko ‘yun na ‘yung major, actually na pagdadaanan ko sa treatment, diba? Kasi parang, hello mabubuhay ka na walang thyroid gland while the rest of the people are living with thyroid gland, parang “hmmm” ‘yan. So habang nagpapagaling ako after the surgery, which sa totoo lang sobrang mahina ako, ta’s feeling ko tumaba ako agad — moonface.

    After two months, I need to go through radioactive iodine therapy naman. So ‘yun na ‘yung kumbaga, sa action movie, ‘yun na ‘yung tatapos talaga sa mga natitira pa, kasi hindi naman natatanggal ng surgery lang ‘yung cancer cells e. So ‘yun, radioactive iodine therapy.

    Surprisingly, when I was doing my research before sa radioactive iodine therapy, ‘yung mga nabasa ko, wala namang masyadong side effect, so I didn’t really expect na merong mangyayari sa akin. In fact, I was looking forward to a “staycation” sa hospital, kasi I have to be isolated for three days eh. As in wala akong kausap, wala akong dalaw, bawal akong puntahan kasi nga radioactive pa ako. Bawal.

    And alam mo, ang interesting din ng experience na ‘yun although difficult siya kasi parang – nung pinasok na ako sa hospital on the first day and they administered the radioactive iodine, it was via a tube. Naka – alam mo ‘yung nakikita nating PPE ngayon sa battle against COVID? Naka-PPE ‘yung ano – ‘yung mga taga-nuclear medicine.                                                                    

    Kai Magsanoc: Iniisip ko nauna ka na e. Oo nauna ka pala doon sa panahon ng ano diba isolation, PPE, yeah.  

    Grace Diez: Oo, grabe. 

    Kai Magsanoc: Ganun pala.

    Grace Diez: ‘Yun. Mukha silang astronaut kasi hindi rin sila pwedeng basta-basta ma-expose dun sa radiation because the radiation might be good for me, but not for them.  

    Kai Magsanoc: Right.

    Grace Diez: So they administered the medicine — the glowing medicine, via a tube, and then iniwan na nila ako sa hospital after that. So parang inopen ko na ‘yung TV. I was  expecting na ano I was looking forward to a restful 3 days, kasi akala ko wala naman talagang major side effect e. But then, parang in the afternoon, I started noticing na ‘yung kinakain kong food — well wala ka rin namang masyadong expectation sa hospital food, diba? Pero it was just bad. Alam mo ‘yung ampanget ng lasa. So akala ko bad lang talaga ‘yung pagkain. And then I realized, lahat ng kinakain ko — whether the hospital food or ‘yung baon kong snacks — ganun ‘yung lasa.

    My taste pala is starting to get metallic na. So metallic taste na siya kasi nga nagtatake-over na ‘yung radiation sa katawan ko. So ‘yung lasa ng mga kinakain ko, ampanget. And then, biglang naramdaman ko na ang stiff na ng pakiramdam ko, and then bumibigat ‘yung pakiramdam ko, so I’ve been calling the nurses’ station nga e, na “hindi po maganda ‘yung pakiramdam ko, baka you might want to check on me” kahit actually delikado for them na lapitan ako. I think they were still advised yata na hindi muna, kasi delikado, mataas pa ‘yung eto. Minemeasure ng Geiger counter ‘yung radiation levels ko ha, ng mga taga-nuclear medicine.                 

    Kai Magsanoc: Hiroshima? Ganung levels?

    Grace Diez: Oo! Hindi pa ako wala pa ako sa safe levels para lapitan so usually ‘yung food iniiwan lang nila sa door, kukunin ko ganyan. Or if the doctor visits me, hanggang dun lang sila sa door. But alam mo, there was one nurse who really risked his life for me, kasi talagang ‘di ko na magalaw ‘yung katawan ko.

    And, sorryI really threw up the food I ate nang nakahiga ako. Nakahiga ako nun sa hospital bed, ta’s nakikita ko nag-goglow ‘yung mga sinuka ko, so you can really see ‘yung particles ng radiation and I couldn’t clean up myself. So naka-full gear siya, nililinisan niya ako, ganun. And then, when the doctor finally had to check, it turned out, bumagsak pala ‘yung potassium and sodium levels ko — that’s why I feel stiff and mabigat.

    So ‘yung mga hindi nangyayari sa mga na-radioactive iodine before, biglang nilagyan na ako ng dextrose para ma-up yung sodium levels ko. Tapos may binibigay na medicine na equivalent daw sa saging kasi yung isang saging mataas naman yung potassium eh. So yun I really thought I was gonna die on the first day. Kasi wala hindi ko na siya magalaw — but thankfully the hospital reacted naman agad. But it was a very lonely 3 days. It actually felt so long. Wala akong kausap. Hindi naman uso yung mga phones noon when I was just 26 years old 2008 ano. Hindi naman siya kasing smart ng mga smartphones ngayon diba.      

    Kai Magsanoc: Yeah.

    Grace Diez: So I was just by myself, pitying talaga myself. Ayun, and then ayun on my third day, when they measured me naman, okay naman na ako. My biggest problem then was — my legs felt heavy like lead like para talagang bakal yung legs ko. So hirap na hirap akong maglakad. And then yung metallic taste, ang tagal magwear-off like mga 1 month pa yata. So ang struggle din for me to find joy in eating, but I have to eat diba parang I can’t just rely on the goodness of the taste of the food para lumakas.

    Ayun, surprisingly I found it more mas nagstruggle ako during the radioactive iodine therapy. Because that was also the time na binigyan na rin sa akin yung gamot to replace my thyroid. And so ang daming balancing act na ginagawa ng katawan ko — adjusting to the meds, adjusting to a body without a thyroid gland, adjusting to the radiation inside of me.

    So I really quit my job back then, as in it took 6 months. Umuwi muna ako sa province to learn how to walk properly again. Ayun, as in talaga I practiced walking — how to battle yung fatigue, yung feeling of stiffness. When I asked my doctor kung ano explanation doon sa bakit ang weird ng pakiramdam ko, either ma — parang sasabihin ko — ito yung nakakainis, winarningan niya yung family members ko ng isang nurse, na pwede ko daw sabihin na hindi ko maigalaw yung isang part ng body ko pero kapag ipapagalaw ko daw, magagalaw ko naman.

    So it was a struggle. May ganun akong feeling na hindi ko yata magalaw yung elbow ko. Pero nagagalaw ko siya so parang hindi ko alam if it’s the meds but ‘yun, the doctor chalked it up to kasi your body is still adjusting to the levels of ‘yung tinatake ko kasi is thyrox. Part of your recovery from thyroid cancer is titimplahin ninyo ng doctor with your doctor kung ano yung dosage yung pinakacomfortable yung katawan mo, where you would feel normal again. But there is a lot of adjustment and body pain that you have to through go before you reach that comfortable stage.    

    Kai Magsanoc: So after the diagnostic, the removal of the thyroid gland and then the radioactive therapy, was it just once? Or they have

    Grace Diez: Once lang. 

    Kai Magsanoc: Ah okay. You didn’t have to go through cycles?

    Grace Diez: Yeah. Yun din yung difference nung ano diba kapag sa ibang cancer types chemotherapy and then may cycles sila.  

    Kai Magsanoc: Right.

    Grace Diez: Ito once lang. Thankfully after naman nung test after the surgery and the radioactive iodine therapy. And the succeeding years of annual check-up, wala nang nakitang traces of thyroid cancer cells. So, thank God I’m cancer free. 

    Kai Magsanoc: Correct. So what are you thankful for, Grace? About you know, having to go through that. Right? We all go through bad parts bad episodes in our life and then when we look back, we kinda think going through that time, it was hard maybe to be grateful. But I wonder if it changed you for the better. Did it?

    Grace Diez: Yun nga parang normally, if you’re diagnosed diba one of the questions you’ll ask from God, if you’re really a spiritualist, “Why me?” But at that time kasi parang before I was diagnosed I was already a Christian, a Born Again Christian, two years earlier. So ang biggest question ko kay God was “Why not me?”

    Ang question ko talaga sa kanya is “Lord, I became a Born Again Christian so I can tell good things about you. But how can I tell good things about you if “oh naging Christian nga yan nagka-cancer oh.” Parang diba   ang sabi ko pa nun kay God, I remember “You make it difficult for me to say good things about you.” But diba it turned out hindi pala ganoon. Actually, God would make it easier for me to tell to tell good things about Him. Because after that He really blessed me with ayun, ang pinakamalaking blessing sa akin would be people. Mga tao talaga.

    I really appreciated my doctors ayun, ito kayo, my endocrinologist, Dr. Stefie Lim Uy, na naging Facebook friend ko. Sasabihin niya ako kasi hypocalcemic ako diba. Mahina yung calcium ko. “Bakit ka nagbabakasyon sa malalamig na lugar? You should be going to the beaches at magpaaraw. Kailangan mo ng araw.” My surgeon doctor Michael Alaia and my doctor sa nuclear medicine, Dr. Joe Ryan Agga, I’m especially thankful sobrang guys, i-appreciate niyo ‘yung doctors niyo. Mahirap ‘yung magbasa-basa ka lang sa internet. You really have to trust their     

    Kai Magsanoc: Correct.

    Grace Diez: Medical plan and treatment for you. ‘Wag tayong pasaway sa kanila. And alam mo ‘yun, ‘yung parang lahat ng nararamdaman natin, we really have to consult dun sa doctor, kasi they have naman answers for that. ‘Wag tayong matakot, kasi ako I understand na nakakatakot talaga makipag-usap sa doctor minsan. But they will guide you, and explain things to you in a way na mas maiintindihan mo.

    Like, for example, I was so frustrated kasi parang feeling ko, sabi ko Doc, bakit sa internet sabi, as early as two weeks you will feel normal na after radioactive iodine?” Sabi niya, sabi sakin ni Doc Joe Ryan Agga,  “Grace, iba-iba ang katawan ng tao,” sabi niya. “And you have to forgive yourself for not recovering quickly because ‘yung katawan mo, dumaan naman sa giyera. Hindi naman simple ‘yung pinagdaanan mo na total thyroidectomy and radioactive iodine. So, you will heal according to the timeline that your body feels like.”

    ‘Yun din siguro. ‘Wag niyong madaliin ‘yung pagpapagaling, pero gawin niyo lang ‘yung mga dapat gawin — doctor’s orders, eating healthy. And also one of the things din, apart from recognizing that people are blessings, and not just money to surround yourself with positivity, not to stress yourself a lot kasi ang laki rin ng tulong nung magaan lang ‘yung paligid mo while you’re battling something.                      

    Kai Magsanoc: Right, right. Okay. Maybe my last question, Grace, because although you kind of answered it already, diba ‘yung nagging support group mo or people. But in particular, did you find thyroid cancer support group? Or is this something that we, as Filipinos, diba, with loved ones who may be going through thyroid cancer treatment is it something that we need to, parang consciously put together so that we can help more people? What do you think?      

    Grace Diez: I am 100% standing by dun sa sinabi mo na there really has to be a support group. Kasi when I was diagnosed back then, I don’t know anyone na going through the same experience. I only found them, parang after being a patient at UST Hospital back then. Kinausap din naman ako nung I think one of the medical staff, na they’re planning to hold a group convention sa auditorium of all those, na naging pasyente talaga ng thyroid cancer. I attended, actually. Parang ano, umattend kami sa auditorium ng UST Hospital, and then after that, “shocks, this will really take me.” And then after that, since they collected our email addresses, meron kaming wala na ngayon kasi, yahoo groups.          

    Kai Magsanoc: Malay mo ma-revive. Malay mo ma-revive ang yahoo groups, you know.

    Grace Diez: So I was wondering actually, sana meron nang available readily available support group for thyroid cancer patients, because after din naman my diagnosis after I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, there were two people I know na, since alam nila, nakikita nila sa social media posts ko na I went through it, they messaged me na, “Uy, na-diagnose din ako ng ganito ganyan,” so yes. I’m really hoping na merong official group and official advocacy na sana ma-suportahan ng pharma companies or various groups just so people can talk more about this, because it’s not easy eh I mean, for any kind of cancer, how to bounce back. Ang dami mong pagdadaanan. Mentally physically, mentally, emotionally. Financially pa nga ‘yung iba diba, kasi sobrang mahal nung ibang cancer types.         

    Kai Magsanoc: Correct. And we’re talking about your perspective, diba, as a patient. We’re not yet talking about the carers, diba, who also need, you know, mental and emotional support e.   

    Grace Diez: Yes. May carer burnout din kasi, diba? 

    Kai Magsanoc: Compassion fatigue. Exactly. So, Grace, thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to share your story with us. I’m so grateful that you kept your voice, alam mo ‘yun? Alam mo ‘yun, ‘yung graduating voice. That is,we are benefitting.      

    Grace Diez: Yeah, thankful din ako. 

    Kai Magsanoc: Right? We are benefitting from that. 

    Grace Diez: I hope I’m able to share something ano, helpful.  

    Kai Magsanoc: Of course. I learned something – I learned something new today. So thank you for teaching me something about this particular form of cancer. Thank you ulit, Grace. For everyone who watched this interview, if you have any questions, maybe you want to ask Grace personally about something that you’re going through, let us know so that we could connect you with Grace I’m sure she’s more than willing to ano, kasi nga wala ngang support group, diba, so tayo-tayo muna magtutulungan.    

    Grace Diez: Halika, magtayo tayo ng group with HelloDoctor.  

    Kai Magsanoc: Oh sige. Sabi mo ‘yan ha. On the record po ‘yan. So, thank you po. Ang world cancer day ay para sa hindi lang sa mga may sakit na cancer, kundi para rin po sa mga carers, at para po sa atin na nabubuhay, na alam natin genetically predisposed tayo to cancer. Actually, it’s for everyone, diba, Grace? Kasi anyone, whether you’re genetically predisposed or whatever, all of us can have cancer, you know – can develop cancer, I mean.        

    Grace Diez: Lifestyle factors.

    Kai Magsanoc: Correct. So sana po, nakatulong ang interview na ito. Please continue to read medically verified articles on cancer, use our cancer screeners, punta po kayo sa website, upper right corner, click on our tools, use the cancer screeners, so you can decide today after getting the result from the screener, “I need to talk to my doctor.” Alam niyo po ‘yun? Take your health in your hands, you know. We believe in God, He is giving us all of this wisdom, so we can help one another. Okay? So until the next #HelloHealthHeroes interview po. Thank you again, Grace.          

    Grace Diez: Thank you.

    Kai Magsanoc: This has been Kai Magsanoc of HelloDoctor Philippines, please be happy and stay well.


    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Medically reviewed by

    John Paul Abrina, MD

    Oncology · Davao Doctors Hospital

    Written by Fiel Tugade · Updated Jul 15, 2022

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