I’m trying. That’s all I can do. Sometimes I try so hard to be positive that I succeed in convincing myself that I am. Well, I’m not. Not all of the time.
I have thyroid cancer. I have cancer, period, end of sentence. It’s something that I hoped to never have to face at 35 years old, let alone ever.
A little over a year ago I began my journey with cancer. It wasn’t cancer then, at least I didn’t know it was at the time. I attended a routine check-up with my family doctor who noticed that my thyroid looked enlarged. Fast forward to July, less than a year later and I was in surgery having my thyroid removed. Two weeks after that I awoke to a new reality – I had cancer and worse yet, I had to wait until January 2013 to have it treated.
January 2013 seemed like a lifetime away. What would happen In the meantime? Would the cancer (that might remain) grow or spread? I didn’t want to wait, but I had to. While I waited I did my best to be positive but in reality I was just distracting myself from the question that clouded my thoughts daily; “What could be?”
I ceased living in the moment.
The moment existed in 2013 and I wondered if I would ever get there. I was apprehensive, scared even, but I couldn’t let anyone know that. I didn’t want to bother anyone with my silly worries. There were more important things that needed attention. There were bills to pay, Christmas presents to shop for and my Mom to look after (she has Hodgkin’s Lymphoma). I took my feelings of doubt and worry and locked them up in that place that everyone seems to have. That place that always responds, “I’m fine” whenever someone asks how you are.
How am I? I’m fine. Well, mostly. Things could be worse. I made it to January and I have had my treatment. Now I await my results with eager anticipation and a little apprehension. That’s normal. I think anyone, no matter how good their cancer prognosis, would be a bit apprehensive.
The treatment for thyroid cancer is easy, as far as cancer treatments go. All I had to do was drink a dose of radioactive iodine, then sit in isolation for two days. In isolation I read and dreamed of eating a cheeseburger. When I got out, I did just that. I felt no nausea, or any other side-effect I was told I might. That is, until now. I have been out of the hospital a week or so and now I can’t taste many things. My nose bleeds often and, I’m exhausted. I hate that most of all. I feel like I don’t deserve to be so tired. Ask pretty well anyone if they are tired and they will tell you they are. There are plenty of people out there who deserve to be tired, people like my Mom.
Her cancer forces her to fight severe exhaustion everyday. She has fought long and hard; she deserves a break. She has the right to be tired.
Thyroid cancer for some, including me, is a mild cancer. Despite the minor side-effects I have dealt with, I feel like I will be okay. I have not suffered from days, weeks or months of time consuming and painful treatments like some with other cancers do. My doctors have told me that I have the “good cancer.” I find that to be an oxymoron. However, at the moment, I get their point. I hope it stays that way and I wish cancer could be as “good” for everyone.
Cancer takes on as many forms as there are people who suffer from it. Cancer is sneaky and evil. Over the last year I have decided that I will not honor the word cancer by capitalizing it in a sentence, unless it begins that sentence. It is otherwise undeserving. Likewise I have also decided that I will not contribute to any “campaign” in the name of any cancer that markets and brands itself with anything more than a simple ribbon to be worn on the lapel. I have grown cynical of the “business” of cancer. Cancer needs to be battled yes, but not through million dollar branding campaigns that steal from the ultimate goal – finding a cure.
I have grown comfortable with my cancer and I talk about it with ease. I have learned more about myself and about what it is that I can handle. I also know what it is that I cannot handle. No longer will I work for any cause that I am not truly committed or passionate about – this is a lesson I learned the hard way. While on leave to deal with my health problems, I found myself in receipt of a letter from work notifying me of my termination. Instead of crying myself to the unemployment office, I skipped.
Everything happens for a reason and instead of struggling against the new realities of my life, I am going to move forward optimistically. The positive side being that I now have the time to really focus on being well. I have the time to figure out what I really want out of a job and most importantly I have been able to spend time with my Mom. I appreciate the time I have and I am grateful.
In the year and a half that has passed since I began my journey with thyroid cancer I have learned that the tools I need to survive are optimism, hope, knowledge and humor. Humor being one of the most important. I mean really, the word “goiter” is hilarious – and I had 6 of them! I have also discovered that it is okay to be apprehensive and scared, it’s a normal reaction. Couple this with love from friends and family and I am truly blessed. I am fine.