Throughout November and December 2012 I have been in the process in joining the Patient and Family Care Council (PFCC) at UCH (University of Colorado Hospital). It has been a process, but I am so grateful to Tommy Stewart for getting me involved and wished that I could have been involved a lot sooner. Tommy is another thyroid cancer survivor that I have met while going to the ThyCA meetings in Denver, Colorado. It has been so refreshing being able to have a voice and to collaborate ideas with other members of this council that can benefit cancer patients and make their experiences better. In addition to serving on this council, I have been involved in assisting in other areas of the Cancer Center as well. By focusing on others whose cancer situation is a whole lot worse than mine, I see this as an opportunity in giving back to those who have helped me in my journey and I hope that I can help others in theirs.
When you lose yourself in helping others your own problems seem so minor and in some respect you also find yourself and know what you can accomplish with the right perspective. This really has been a turning point for me in my journey; it has allowed me to leave the adversity I have faced behind and to move in a more positive direction. My hope is that if I can persevere and move on, that anyone facing a similar situation can do the same and I hope that it provides inspiration and encouragement to others that there is life after cancer. Just because one receives that cancer diagnosis does not mean the end. What matters is how we face these trials and that we not only endure them, but to endure them well and remember that we are NEVER alone in this fight. There is always hope and that has what has helped me to continue moving forward.
I started attending meetings in Denver to the ThyCA support group (Thyroid Cancer Survivors Association) since February 2012 and they have been such a source of strength for me. I need to recognize the wonderful facilitators of this group – Carol Condit, JoMarie Bushell and Denise Rivera. These ladies have been so wonderful and welcoming. They have helped me to know the right questions to be asking and all the complex effects that this cancer has on a person. They have provided such great insight and recommendations and I am really glad that I started attending those meetings.
We are so fortunate to have one of the endocrinologist from University of Colorado Hospital, who is able to attend the meetings every few months discussing different issues and that has been so helpful to me. I know that it is a bit of a distance but it is only one day per month and I have been fortunate to schedule appointments around the same day and so it works out for me. I know many people wonder why I would travel that far just to attend a meeting, but for me it is well worth it, because I really needed that local support system to have people who can relate to what I am experiencing and to know that I am not alone in this!
I have also been online to some other support sites as well and have been able to tell others about the wonderful doctors at UCH. Such sites as Inspire, Light of Light Foundation Facebook group, and others as well and have learned so much from everyone there. It has been so wonderful to have a community of people whom you have never met, but yet they understand exactly what you are going through. Many of these individuals have been such a positive light of insight and inspiration for me. I have had to learn a lot about this disease on my own, because doctors simply don’t have the time to tell you everything. These support groups have been such great facilitators in helping others to know what is a normal thing or not and things to be asking your doctors. We inspire one another to keep up the fight and to not let cancer win!
We have lost many members to this awful cancer and yet through all their challenges and trials they continue to be such a positive influence pushing us to keep moving forward and their circumstances never weighs them down. Some of these warriors have literally been to hell and back with all that this cancer has put them through draining them physically and emotionally. Nevertheless, even in their last moments they continue to provide support and hope for others and it is my hope that I can be a light and inspiration like that for others. These support groups have been such a lifeline for me. I feel so privileged to be a part of these groups and appreciate each and every member, because we are uniquely bonded by similar circumstances; support groups are such an important component in dealing with cancer.
I tend to not let the outside world see when difficulties and challenges way me down as I don’t want to expose my weaknesses. I do try and not let things get me down, but at the same time a person can only take so much! I try to put on that brave face and keep it together, but at times it feels as though I am just not coping with this very well. Nevertheless, we are given weaknesses to help us to become stronger. It is by experiencing trials and tribulations in our life that we truly discover within us just how strong we really are! There is a favorite quote regarding strength that I want to share:
True strength comes from within each one of us; I believe it is something that we already have naturally and we just have to reach deep down within ourselves to find it. We need to have belief and faith in ourselves to realize our own potential and what we are capable of accomplishing. It is by overcoming the things that we once thought were impossible that we realize our own true strength. This cancer experience has helped me to know and understand the depths of my own strength, and that I am much stronger than I ever thought would be possible!
So how does one go about in dealing with a cancer diagnosis and not let it affect you drastically? Everyone deals with frustration in many different ways. For me, what has been such a stress reliever in dealing with all of this is being able to go to the gym. It really has been very therapeutic for me as a way that I can release and work out all my frustrations. As I push through my workouts each day, I try to just picture myself kicking cancer head on and that gives me great satisfaction! That has been a great avenue for me! For those who are at any stage of your journey, my advice is to find something that helps you to relieve that stress as you don’t need any more added stress on your body and mind than you already have when dealing with this awful disease. Whatever that may be do something that you enjoy – running, painting, reading or some other hobby to get your mind off of what you are experiencing, a distraction to focus on something else besides the cancer that has invaded your body and your life. It will do you a world of good to just do it and you will thank yourself in the long run as I know it has helped me tremendously!