On this episode of The Project Kuwait podcast, Meg and Mahdi are joined by Hala Mahrous, a thyroid cancer survivor who came on to tell her story. She discusses her symptoms, her interactions with doctors along the way to her diagnosis, and her workouts before and after her surgeries.
2:21 – Hala, a thyroid cancer survivor, describes her symptoms and the timeline of her diagnosis: she felt something weird in her throat but assumed it was nothing so she didn’t do anything until several months later when her aunt saw her from across the room and asked what was wrong with her neck. She went to an ENT who did an ultrasound and sent her to Kuwait Cancer Center to have a biopsy done. That very day, she went straight back to work where she is a behavior therapist for kids with special needs because she still assumed that everything was alright.
8:00 – When she got the results of her biopsy, the doctors were not sure what it was, but they recommended that it be removed so they could determine if it was cancerous. It turned out to be a 4.5 cm tumor.
10:52 – Before the operation, Hala did enough research to know that she wanted the doctor to remove her whole thyroid to avoid the chance of cancer returning if they only removed half of it. After the operation, she learned that the doctor had only removed half of her thyroid and she was not happy because she knew they would probably have to do another surgery to remove the other half.
16:45 – After this first operation, Hala posted on Instagram about her situation, her frustrations, and her worries for the future, and she received a lot of encouragement and support. She was surprised to learn that her doctor has seen an influx in young Kuwaitis developing thyroid cancer, and he thinks it is due to their presence in the country during the Gulf War.
20:15 – Meg explains that the thyroid controls everything in the body in terms of metabolism and its effects. Before her diagnosis, Hala was training twice a day to try to lose weight and not seeing any results, and it was likely because of the issues with her tyroid.
22:21 – Hala was sent to a consultant after her first surgery, who confirmed that the tumor was cancerous and that the other half of her thyroid should be removed.
23:36 – Hala’s first surgery was in February, and her second was in September. She is now focused on just being healthy when she works out.
25:55 – After her second surgery, Hala had to take radioactive iodine to kill any remaining thyroid and cancer hormones. She had to go on a low sodium diet for 3 weeks and avoid meat. After taking the iodine, she was not allowed to be close to anyone – friends or family – for 2 weeks, and she couldn’t go to work because of the adverse effects it could have on those around her.
31:33 – The final step in her journey was a full body scan to confirm that all of the cancer was gone.
32:50 – Many people told Hala that thyroid cancer is “the best kind of cancer to have”, and Hala, Meg, and Mahdi discuss the insensitivity of that statement.
34:00 – Hala describes her husband’s journey of supporting her so soon after losing his own father to cancer.
37:45 – Meg talks about the benefit of allowing yourself to feel and release your emotions during the cancer journey, as she has walked this road with her mom this year.
40:30 – Hala was unable to work out for a month after her final surgery because of the healing of her wound. She still hates working out, but she knows that she needs to do it for her health, and she does enjoy pilates and yoga. She thinks that even having a light workout is good for her psychological health and it helped her recover faster after her surgeries.
45:46 – After taking the radioactive iodine, Hala wa