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Battle Scars: An Interview with Professor Zenaida Sanjurjo

Zenaida Sanjurjo Rodriguez is an instructor at the University of Puerto Rico at Rio Piedras. Students here might know her as one of the professors in the English Department. But what some don’t know, is that she’s a Thyroid Cancer survivor.

Imagine my surprise when I was asking her a question and she pointed out the scar in my neck, exclaiming, that she too was a thyroid cancer survivor! Our battle scars are what identify us from the crowd, so I was extremely honored to interview her.


Without further ado, here’s the interview:


HCUPR: When were you diagnosed? How did it get discovered?

Zenaida Sanjurjo Rodriguez: Ever since I was a kid I struggled with my weight. In 2012-2013 I started losing weight for no apparent reason. When I went on a trip, I got sick, I got migraines, dehydration… After that, I decided to go to an endocrinologist. I got a sonogram, got all the blood work done. Nothing appeared and everything seemed to be fine. My doctor then decided to do a physical exam and she got worried. I was sent me to get a sonogram and they found out that the nodule was already wrapping around my vocal chords.


HCUPR: How did you feel at that moment? What did you do after?

ZSR: It’s not easy, it’s very scary, but kind of comforting. To know that something you knew was wrong, actually was wrong and that the blood work wasn’t necessarily the indicator. When I saw the results of the biopsy I knew that implied a lot of things.


HCUPR: Did you get your thyroid removed completely?

ZSR: No, I only got half of my thyroid removed.


HCUPR: What about those around you? Were they supportive throughout the whole process?

ZSR: A lot of people were kind of nonchalant, saying it’s not real cancer. Because to them “thyroid cancer isn’t real cancer”, when it is.


HCUPR: How do you feel about your scar?

ZSR: It’s kind of funny, I always find myself staring at people’s necks. It’s a battle scar, it reminds me of a time when I didn’t know what was wrong. Now I do.


HCUPR: What has this experience taught you?

ZSR: It taught me that Thyroid cancer is cancer, that you need to get checked. If you feel there’s something wrong with your body, get checked, be throughout with everything. Don’t leave everything up to the bloodwork.


HCUPR: What would you say to people going through the same thing or that have a thyroid condition?

ZSR: Something important that I really want to say is that I do not take Synthroid. My body doesn’t tolerate it well. I’m taking Armor Thyroid, which is pig thyroid and it’s natural. Doctors usually don’t want to deal with it. It was given a lot back in the day. My endocrinologist, who is stationed in Arecibo, gave it to me upon my request. Synthroid wouldn’t let me get out of bed, I had depression, I would get horrible migraines, it was horrible. Nothing was really moving along for me. So if you have thyroid problems and you want other alternatives, just know that Synthroid is not the only one out there.

Professor Zenaida’s story is one of many here in Puerto Rico. It was an honor to hear her story. If you see her around campus, make sure to say hello! Remember, if you ever feel there’s something wrong with your body, don’t ignore it, trust your gut and go get checked.


Picture credit: 1, 2

A sour patch kid raised in the small town of Villalba, Puerto Rico (she'll argue that she's from Ponce though). She's a total geek who takes everything one fandom at a time. Her major is Creative Writing.
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