Lightning Strikes Again

Would you imagine for a minute if lightning were to hit you, what that jolt would do to you. Then imagine if it happened twice! I’m not talking about lightning striking in the literal sense, but we often have events that happen in our life that really feels like such an immense jolt. It makes us scratch our head and think what in the world just happened to me and why? The events that have happened in my own life are related to having that evil enemy we call cancer strike me not just once, but twice. It was bad enough when I learned that I had Stage IV thyroid cancer and the complicating journey I’ve had with that, but then was I was told that I had another possible cancer, that pill was a bit hard to swallow.

Here we go with events that led up to learning about my second cancer journey. Going back to January of this year, is where it all started. I work with an awesome group of special needs students and as you can imagine in any school environment when one kid gets sick, they all do. It spread like wildfire this year and of course I succumbed to it as well. For me, the minute I get the slightest cough it turns ugly into a full-blown asthma exacerbation.  This went on for the next three months. My immunology doctor and I both could not understand why it was so bad this year. So, she recommended that I have a chest CT to investigate further whether there was some other underlying cause. One never wants to hear those words…. I have good news and bad news, but that was the phone call I received from her the following day after that scan. The good news was that the scan didn’t show any underlying reason why my asthma was so bad this year. Unfortunately, my doctor said that it was just a bad season for my asthma to flare up. Incidentally, the scan showed a large tumor on my left kidney. She suggested further testing. So, one ultrasound and another CT scan later, it was still highly suspicious of renal cell carcinoma (kidney cancer), but they could not differentiate if it could also be a benign tumor. This all seemed so surreal, I thought I must be dreaming or something….is this really happening to me? It was a bit hard to digest.

Like always, my doctors at the university took swift action getting me in quickly to quite an awesome urology surgeon, Dr. Nicholas Cost. He explained to me that because the tumor is so large he highly recommends that we remove the kidney. He said the other option would be to just watch and wait to see if it grows further. I’m thinking to myself oh hell no! I’ve already been through the watch and wait with the thyroid cancer. I want this thing out before it has the chance to grow and cause even more problems!  I scheduled the surgery about a month later so that I could complete the school year out. In addition, we had already made plans for my husband to be home from overseas at about the same time.

The surgery went as my surgeon and his team thought it would and my left kidney was removed successfully. I was in the hospital for two days and I could have been discharged the next day, but my oxygen levels kept dropping. Thankfully, it resolved itself quickly. I was glad to get discharged as it seems that you can never get any real rest when you are in the hospital as they are always checking your vitals so often. I understand the importance of that, but sometimes you just want to say enough already! It was kind of a rough ride home from the hospital as we live ninety minutes away. I felt every tiny little bump, but utilizing some pillows helped to alleviate the jerks I felt from each little bump. At least I was riding home in style with my husbands new ride, he had just bought a new 2017 Ford Mustang convertible. At first he had the top down, but that lasted about a minute. It was easier having the top down to get me in the car, but I didn’t feel like getting wind whipped; nevertheless, I was able to endure that ride and grateful to get back home and to be with my family.

Testing after removal of the kidney did in fact show that it was kidney cancer, but the good news is that it was caught early and so the only treatment needed is the removal of the kidney. No radiation or chemo is required!! I am truly full of so much gratitude for the amazing team of doctors I have at the University of Colorado Hospital. I have been blessed beyond measure to have such a stellar team of elite professionals, who truly care about their patients. If my doctors had not been so proactive we would have never known about the kidney cancer. I’m truly lucky and grateful it was caught early. Expressing thanks just doesn’t ever seem to be enough, but I hope that each and every one of those doctors know just how much they are appreciated!

I never imagined that lightning would strike me twice! However, I have witnessed and experienced many tender mercies over the course of my cancer journey. Although, the road has not been an easy one for me, I’ve learned so many valuable life lessons along the way. As my friend Rob, who unfortunately lost his cancer battle said to me many times “we need to embrace our sufferings and adversities if we can, as we will learn the most about ourselves during that time…… we are walking through the refiner’s fire to make us into something better.” His words have always stuck by me and there is such truth to them. I miss that man so much! What I wouldn’t give to have just five more minutes to talk with him.

I was recently reminded of how many of us throughout our lives will be asked to climb mountains and some days it may feel as though we may never reach that top of the mountain. We may ask ourselves how is it possible that I can do this? Nevertheless, it is something which is attainable if we exercise a little bit of faith, patience and belief in ourselves that we can do hard things. I know that this is just one of the many mountains that I have been asked to climb and I am sure it is not the last. Although, life may sometimes knock you down, what matters most is that we keep getting back up. We must make that choice to never give up, to keep going even though it is hard. What can define us is how well we rise when we are knocked down.

A very good friend of mine, who also happens to be the surgeon that took out my thyroid has always given me those reminders frequently that every day is a gift. It is something that took me getting cancer to truly understand just how precious life really is and that tomorrow is never promised. How we choose to live out the remainder of our days is up to us. How do we want to be remembered? What is our legacy going to be? I want to be known as that person that didn’t let bad circumstances such as cancer effect my outlook on life. Also, it is to educate others on the importance to pay attention to your body and health. Learn as much as you can about your disease and pay it forward by passing the knowledge you have on to others. Most important of all, tell the people in your life just what they mean to you, life is just too short not to. Don’t let cancer or anything else that comes in your life drag you down. Grab life by the horns and don’t let anything hold you back. Be your best self. A great and simple truth I have learned is to appreciate every precious moment and live as though today is your last!

I will close this post with the following song which has such a great message that we can rise above anything that comes our way it just takes a little bit of faith!

A Debt of Gratitude

So it is the last day of September for thyroid cancer awareness and I just wanted to take the time to express my gratitude and pay tribute to those who have played a role in my journey. Each person that I have come across has affected me in one way or another. Even that simple gesture from a stranger in the hospital who gave me that smile as I walked the halls of the Huntsman Cancer Institute after my first surgery. It lifted me more than they will even know. Back then my journey had just begun and I know it is not over by a long shot.

Nevertheless, I have much to be grateful for. First, for the warriors who have gone before me and branded me with the knowledge about my disease and how they have taught me to fight and to never give up. They have shown me just how ugly this disease can get as I have watched many of these beautiful souls, my fellow thyca warriors battle this to the end. Although the cancer may have taken their life they have shown me to never let it break their spirit!

Next, my deepest gratitude to my amazing medical teams from my surgeons, endocrinologists, radiologists, nurses, lab and radiology techs and even those who schedule my appointments. Their efforts do not go unnoticed. Every single one of them has played a crucial role in this journey of mine. When my body failed to respond to the standard therapies in treating my type of thyroid cancer, my doctors had made the decision to essentially not treat the cancer, but instead they have closely monitored me for further progression as it is a slow-growing cancer. It took me quite a long time to be okay with that decision as my thoughts were that I just wanted this cancer out of me pronto! However, with a lot of patience on their part they have helped me to truly comprehend why this was necessary in order to give me a better quality of life. I am sure it is never easy on them when they have to make decisions like that, especially when they have a situation where the treatments they can offer could possibly harm their patients even more. I could not even begin to imagine what it must be like to walk a day in their shoes and the decisions they have to make on a daily basis, nor would I even want to try. Nevertheless, I am forever grateful that my doctors did not rush into treatments which could do more harm than good. They have demonstrated to me just how much they truly do care what happens to me. Thanks just doesn’t ever seem to do it justice for everything they have done for me so that I can have the best outcome possible, but I hope they know just how much they are truly appreciated. They are my heroes and without them I wouldn’t be where I am today!

I am so fortunate and grateful that I have had such competent teams, because I know many out there who struggle to find such good medical care. You need to be on the same page with your team, and yes you should be part of that team effort in making decisions. I have been so lucky to have such good medical teams that have that kind of mindset and work together as a collective team to find solutions to issues that arise. Throughout my journey I’ve had to travel many miles to get good care. First, I had to be sent oceans away from my family in order to get the proper care I needed. I was living overseas in Japan at the time of my diagnosis and was sent back to Utah, to the Huntsman Cancer Institute to get properly diagnosed and treated. Then, when we moved to Colorado, I had to travel again to get the best care possible and it has been so worth the time and expense to do so.  My advice to those just starting their journey, do your homework to find the doctor that is right for you, especially your surgeon. It is so imperative to have a surgeon that has a lot of experience and is well versed in thyroid cancer. Find a support group, as they can give you recommendations and can help you to tap into your resources, for there are many!

Next, a thank you to all of the researchers out there who are tirelessly working around the clock to find a cure for this disease that affects so many people! It is so important that we support research and why funding is such a necessary component. We don’t get funding from big pharmaceutical companies because we are a small population and they don’t have a big monetary gain from us. Most of our funding for research comes from organizations such as ThyCa – Thyroid Cancer Survivor’s Association Inc. or Light of Light Foundation and other private donors . We need everyone’s help to support in those efforts so that we can find a cure for all!

Last of all I want to express my gratitude to my friends and family who have stood by my side as I have faced the biggest trial in my life in facing cancer. They have kept me grounded and give me the reason why I continue in this fight against this relentless enemy.

My final message is this, I encourage everyone to develop an attitude of gratitude and take the time to thank those who have helped you in your life, whether you have faced a trial such as cancer or even when you are just trying to do those little day to day things. We can all do our part and pay it forward in thanking someone today. A simple gesture of saying thank you could make someone’s day seem a little bit brighter. You can be the difference!

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As this thyroid cancer awareness month comes to a close it does not stop there, we still keep on fighting this battle and continue to raise awareness for a disease which is becoming more and more prevalent. We as survivors are forever grateful for those who keep us going and motivated to keep driving on, never giving up hope and praying for a cure for all one day!!

thyca-awareness-final

Never Quit!

Those fellow thyca warriors can relate to that familiar feeling of scanxiety. That feeling of fear and anxiety that sets in as one simple test can determine your fate. Are you are going to be sweating bullets, or can you actually be breathing a sigh of relief? Is your cancer going to be stable, or does it go to the next level of sheer panic as the cancer is spreading? It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been at this, whether you are newly diagnosed or even an old pro at this, these feelings just never go away and it surely hit me hard at my most recent ultrasound. You know something is suspicious when you have three separate ultrasound techs that come into the room to scan your neck over and over. I don’t know, maybe they could have been training someone; I always have two techs, but never three! I guess I am fortunate to be at a facility that is very thorough. Sure enough, test results revealed yet another questionable nodule that has appeared that was not seen previously. They can’t be one hundred percent certain that there are calcifications in there, which can be a good indication that there are cancer cells present. The size of this nodule is too small to even biopsy and so now here we are once more, playing this continuous waiting game! My Tg, which is the tumor marker is slightly up and TSH levels are above levels that both my doctors and I are comfortable with. It puts me at greater risk of not being suppressed as I should be and maybe that is why this new node has appeared.

Before these tests I thought to myself that I wasn’t going to worry about what the results were going to show. However, this enemy we call cancer can strike at any given time and for people like me who have persistent disease, we simply cannot afford the luxury of not being on guard. Although they can’t prove there are cancer cells in there right now, my gut instincts tell me otherwise and it’s only going to be a matter of time before it will be proven. I have always been able to rely on my gut instincts and very rarely has it ever been wrong.

Naturally, this finding was upsetting to me. Why does this seem to keep happening to me? It’s like they appear out of nowhere. I’ve come to the conclusion that this is something which is going to continue to hang over my head. I am not going to lie, always being told “no we can’t do anything with this,” has certainly taken its toll on me. Nevertheless, I know how I choose to react to the situation can definitely make a difference in its outcome and where I go from here. I was going through some old messages and emails and just happen to come across a message from my friend, Rob who went through his own cancer battle that he unfortunately lost. I have mentioned Rob before in my blog. That message was one in which Rob told me that “when you start to lose your mental battle, your body will not be far behind.” Why did I happen to come across that message at this particular time? That message was something I really needed to hear; even from the grave Rob is continuing to support and give me encouragement. Thank you Rob, message received!!

I love this quote and it rings so true…….

We dont meet people by accident

People come and go throughout our lives and they are put in our path for a reason. There are many angels among us and are all around us; sometimes we don’t even recognize it. Nevertheless, I believe it is God’s way of taking care of us. I have much gratitude for those angels who have been put in my path on this journey. Rob has been one of my many angels in disguise and still continues to inspire me even though he is no longer with us. I never had an opportunity to meet Rob in person, only through online communication; however, I do look forward to the day I can see him on the other side and thank him for his part in helping to guide me through my own cancer journey. Other guardian angels include all my other fellow thyca warriors and most especially my doctors and I thank God every day for them. They are the real heroes and without them I wouldn’t even be here!

One thing is for certain, I know I have to be vigilant and keep a positive attitude throughout this whole experience. It is the one weapon I do have control over against this enemy, because if I don’t the cancer wins! If you are going through your own struggles and trials in your life, whether it be going through cancer, loss of loved ones or other difficult challenges, please know that there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. It might not seem like it right away, but it will happen, it just takes a little patience and leap of faith! The message I want to get across is simply this…. that no matter what challenges you face in this life you must never, never give up! I want to close with the following poem which I came across that says it all!

Dont-Quit-poem (1)

 

I Made It!

As I reflect on my own life, I am grateful for those milestones that I have reached from when I was very young all the way through adulthood, but the one I want to talk about is the important milestone of being a cancer survivor. Today, marks the day in which I can now call myself a 5-year thyroid cancer survivor. I can’t believe that I made it this far! After being diagnosed with Stage 4 thyroid cancer, I never would have imagined that I would be here 5 years later and still be able to talk about it.

What really defines being called a survivor? There are many different definitions of what it means to survive. Some define it as having the ability to carry on despite hardships or difficulties in your life, others may say it is to remain functional, whereas others may even say it is to remain alive or in existence. So when exactly do you define yourself as a cancer survivor? That is really up to the individual going through it – that exact moment to which they can call themselves a survivor. Some people believe it is from the time of diagnosis, others say it is five years after being cancer free, whereas others believe it is one who remains alive. For myself, personally I view it from the day I was rolled into surgery to remove my cancerous thyroid.

This has been quite the journey filled with many ups and downs and a lot of unknowns. Recently, I was sent a book by one of my surgeons, Brandon G. Bentz, M.D., who is also a very dear friend. The book is called “Love, Medicine, and Miracles: Lessons Learned about Self-Healing from a Surgeon’s Experience with Exceptional Patients.”

Love medicine and miracles

For those who have read my blog before, you may be aware that I have remaining cancer which they have had a difficult time in treating, because of where the location of the cancer is. Any of the treatment options that they can do puts me at great risks that could potentially reduce my quality of life. The remaining cancer is located on my laryngeal nerve. If they were to do another surgery it most likely would cause them to have to sacrifice that nerve as the cancerous lymph node is embedded under very extensive scar tissue that the surgeon just can’t get to safely, because of its small size. The consequences of sacrificing that nerve would cause me to lose the function of my voice. Traditionally, most thyroid cancers are treated with surgery and Radioactive Iodine; however, another added twist to my complicated story is that my body no longer takes up the iodine to absorb it and so it is resistant to that treatment method, which is of no benefit to me. In addition, other less invasive procedures can put my life at great risk as well, something my doctors don’t want to see happen.

The book talks about how some patients just want that quick fix such as an operation and I can see that was totally me. I just wanted them to completely cut this out of me without even considering the consequences of what that would cause.  Reading this book has helped me to gain a better perspective on how I look at my situation. Before, I had a really difficult time understanding how nothing could be done to completely rid my body of this cancer. However, my doctors have been taking a very careful approach of watching and waiting to see how the cancer will progress as it is a slow-growing cancer. If it had progressed at a more alarming rate, they would have taken swifter action; however, the magnitude of what they were trying to do had not really hit home for me until recently. So, at this point, we patiently wait in the hopes that it does not do anything further to spread; at least that is what we are counting on.

The book further describes many cases of cancer patients who took a negative view of what they were facing which ended up resulting in their demise, way before it should have. They simply gave up and lost their will to live. One important principle that the book discusses is about one’s attitude when facing such a life-altering condition as cancer. One piece of advice that my doctors have always tried to get me to understand is that my attitude and outlook on my situation is key. As I reflect on where I have been, I believe that they were exactly right.

I have always thought that there is some type of mind, body, spirit connection, which is what this book depicts and I am beginning to believe that more and more. This book has been a tool to help me to understand that I can be that exceptional patient and take a more positive perspective. One of the important concepts that I took from the book is that we all have the power to heal ourselves from within. I believe that part of the healing process is to be able to heal yourself from the inside out. When a cancer patient or anyone going through an illness can understand that and believe it for themselves that is where change can take place. As noted in the book, love is a powerful stimulant and can be a great healer. Miracles happen every day, something which science just cannot explain. Just as the author described that there was no scientific evidence of what was making his patients get well, but it was the way that his patients viewed their situation that was the change. It was the connection of love and miracles. As the author stated, “when a patient can stand with courage and actually work with their doctors they can participate to influence their own recovery.” Am I saying that I am going to cure myself from my disease? No, not necessarily, but what I have been able to recognize is that healing is not always in the physical outward sense, but the inner as well. I have realized that I needed that healing on the inside too. I highly recommend that cancer survivors and their families read this book, because I believe the principles in it are something every survivor needs to know. Now there may be some people who may not have this view or perspective on their journey and that is fine. Everyone has to come to their own understanding, but it is something that works for me that I wanted to share, and perhaps it could also help someone else.

I now have a better perspective on not only my cancer situation, but also the way I look at life. Although I know I still do have cancer, I view my life differently and choose to be happy despite my circumstances. How one responds to a situation I believe can play a role in the outcome. For the first time since I began this journey, I finally feel at peace and I am good with where things stand for me. I had to reach this point myself, in my own way and in my own time. I had to come in agreement with the decisions my doctors have made on my behalf. I really do know that patiently waiting this out is the is the decision which is right for me. Being that exceptional patient means you look at your life different and you really live with purpose and meaning until you do die. Having cancer makes you face your mortality much sooner than you want to, as you know this disease is something that could possibly end your life as you know it. Nevertheless, it is also understanding that it is possible to have a full and abundant life as long as you accept each day you have as a true gift and use it to do good.

This has really been such an awakening as I don’t think that I have been really appreciating the time I do have. Nevertheless, another important thing I have learned on this journey is that life is far too short to worry about things you have no control over – something I have to be reminded of frequently. I am learning the importance to really live in the moment and something which is to be treasured and savored. With that I want to share the following song called “One Life.” We have to live as though the moment we are in right now is going to be our last, because tomorrow is never promised!

I am truly grateful for every person who has crossed my path on this journey. Most importantly I have to give the credit to my doctors, for without them I wouldn’t be where I am today. It’s also been those fellow survivors who have taught me what it means to fight for your life and to never surrender! Moreover, a very big thank you to my family and friends who have been there to support, encourage and give me the strength to keep driving on. One last final thought………even though I still do have cancer, in my own mind I feel as though I have already won this battle! As one fellow survivor used to tell me often “when you lose your mental battle…..your body will not be far behind.” That is something that has always stuck in my mind and I believe that to be very true. If I made it to the first 5 years to survive this cancer it is my hope and prayer that I will make it through to the next 5 years and beyond and I wish the same for all survivors!!

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Looking Forward

Every year we are given the opportunity to have the chance to start over fresh at the beginning of the year. To learn from the past year, things we should have done and what we can do better. This past year has certainly been one that has been filled with some challenges. I’ve lost a few people in my life……..mostly to thyroid cancer and to other circumstances; also, I’ve had some challenges with the cancer, but I won’t go into that as you can read about that on my previous blog-posts. In addition, having my husband deployed has been something that has weighed a lot on my mind as I am concerned for his safety, but very grateful and proud of him for his willingness to serve alongside those who are protecting our freedoms. Nevertheless, I am looking forward to good things happening. However, as I have faced the many challenges in my life one thing that comes to my mind is that I have seen how the grace of God and his tender mercies are working in my life. We are all going to have rough patches at one point or another in our life when we think to ourselves “how can I handle one more bad thing happening in my life?” Nevertheless, something that I have realized is that when we experience these times of sadness that we are actually alive and there is a song that I want to share that describes that. The song is called, “This is What It Means,” by Danny Gokey. Music has been another avenue for me in dealing with life’s challenges. It has also been a great tool I’ve been able to utilize that has provided me encouragement as I have experienced the challenge of facing cancer and other difficult times in my life. I am grateful for the wonderful friends in my life who have helped me to learn and appreciate the power of music.

We are going to experience joy, pain, fear, faith and loss in our lives and I believe that this song depicts it perfectly. It is through experiencing these various emotions that we know we are alive. When we can no longer feel these kinds of emotions that is the point when life stops. The grace of God is what gets us through those difficult times; he makes up the difference when we think we cannot do no more. We can see the hand he plays in pulling us through those tough times, but we have to take that leap of faith and trust in his almighty hand. He works in very mysterious ways by placing circumstances and people in our path to help us in our journey. I have seen it firsthand in my own cancer journey the many people which have been placed in my path to help me and guiding me through, to which I am truly grateful. Nevertheless, we will not be free of sadness and sorrow as that is a part of life, but it is how we react to those situations in our lives can that can determine where we are going. Something that I heard a long time ago and not sure where it exactly came from, but it is something which has often popped into my head is that “our decisions can determine our destiny.” We don’t always know how we are going to react to a situation, but this is a bit of wisdom that we can always remember. Sometimes you have to sit and ponder a situation before you do react.

As I ponder and reflect on this past year, it makes me understand that maybe perhaps I didn’t react the way I should have to some situations. Life is surely a big learning curve and the important thing is to learn from our mistakes. The beginning of each year is a fresh start that allows us to reflect and hopefully make changes if necessary. I hope that we can each look forward to the coming year and for me personally I see this as an opportunity for growth and development, to improve and make myself better. It is important that as we do face challenges in our lives that we embrace them fully. It is through those challenges where we can be strengthened and it can also help us on our path to become the person we were meant to be.  I will close this post with the following quote which I really like and believe it to be very true:

 

Challenge quote1

Identifiable Word

 

Some cancer patients are fortunate enough to be deemed cancer free and I think that is absolutely fantastic for them. However, depending on your cancer type recurrences can and will happen. For those with thyroid cancer, it seems there are a different set of rules as it is something which requires lifetime monitoring, because you are reliant on a tiny little pill for the rest of your life and they have to ensure that you’re getting the proper amount of thyroid hormone. Sometimes you may not get enough of the hormone and at other times you get way too much, which is why it is so necessary for continuous monitoring. In addition, with thyroid cancer the incidences of recurrences are very high. In some instances, it can recur years down the line up to 20 or even 30 years after initial diagnosis. I am nearing that 5-year mark since that pivotal moment of being told that I have Stage 4 thyroid cancer. No matter how long I have been at this, I still have those moments of anxiety. Those negative thoughts tend to creep in my head and it usually begins a month before the next scan.

Here is a bit of a recap as this past year the cancer had grown some with some increased calcification and discussions were thrown around on what to do about it. I thought that this was my chance to be rid of this enemy out of my life. However, that chance was short lived. After many doctors and experts looked at my case from every angle possible with discussions of repeat surgery, to other less invasive procedures it was decided that none of those choices were in my best interest. Surgery poses too many risks to my laryngeal nerve which would in turn affect my voice, other less invasive procedures such as alcohol ablation, or even radiofrequency ablation poses other risks as well. Essentially, because of the location of my cancer on my laryngeal nerve if they were to try those less invasive procedures it would put a hole in my trachea as there are no surrounding structures to absorb the alcohol or radiofrequency beams. My quality of life would surely go downhill mighty quick! Is that something we really want to do? I think not. It’s like you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t. There have just not been any good answers to my difficult situation and so now we are back at square one with watching and waiting. Even though the watching and waiting is hard at times, I know I will be thanking these doctor’s years down the line for preserving my life and doing what was necessary to ensure that I would have the best quality of life as possible. I have truly been so fortunate to have such excellent medical teams who are really looking out for me!

Recently, another survivor came up with the perfect word to describe what I feel every time I get close to the next scan. He penned the term “Scanxiety” and I think it is the perfect word to describe what I feel like prior to a scan. I am glad that someone came up with a word that I can identify with. There is anxiety, but for survivors like us Scanxiety is much different. Can you imagine what it is like to feel on edge not knowing if your scan is going to be good, or whether the cancer is spreading and exactly to what extent? It can be compared to watching a football game on T.V. with your favorite team and it is down to the wire in the 4th quarter or even when the game goes into overtime. You are literally on the edge of your seat waiting to see what your team is going to do. Are they going to make that touchdown and bring your team to victory or is the opposing team going to get the upper hand and beat you? Just as with the cancer are you going to rise above this, or is the enemy going to make you believe it has you in its clinches to which you cannot recover from? For me sometimes I just wish this would all be a bad dream that I would wake up from. However, this is real life for me and something I will be experiencing for the rest of my life. I’ve been living that 4th quarter play and will be for quite some time. It is my hope and prayer that with more advances in medicine that they can and will come up with better treatment methods, or even better a cure!

Usually it is about a month prior to my scan that my anxiety level starts to kick into high gear. I guess the not knowing is the hardest part and even when you finally get the scan done then there is more waiting for the results. The technicians who take your scans and bloodwork and the doctors themselves, literally hold your life in their hands. Not worrying about what is going to come up is easier said than done. Nevertheless, it helps knowing that other survivors are experiencing the same things and can relate. Here is the blog post from the survivor who penned this term Scanxiety and I want to share it:

https://medium.com/@barryhollander/scanxiety-9e9a7fe2ee53#.5gbrm2wst

My latest scan and my thyroglobulin level (which is the tumor marker) shows stability with no further growth and I will take that as a victory! The bloodwork does show my TSH level being very low and nearly non-existent which explains why I have not been feeling great, but that just means we need to do another adjustment in my dosage. Just when I thought we reached my magic number something gets thrown off, but we will just have to keep working at it to get it right. Nevertheless, I know that my situation could be a lot worse than it is right now. I know that eventually, I will reach that point when the cancer will progress further and then some very tough decisions will need to be made on what will be the best course of action. Another thing which makes my anxiety increase further is that I have had to watch a lot of friends lose their battle to this enemy this past year and I just don’t want to be that next statistic.

Nevertheless, I am grateful for those fellow survivors who know what it is like to experience these feelings and to have someone that I can talk to who can relate. However, I know the only way to beat this cancer is to fight until the end. If you give the enemy one little inch into thinking it has the upper hand, then it wins this war! It has been through the example of other survivors who have showed me what it means to fight, to give it your all until your body literally cannot fight no more. As we face the many facets of what cancer does to us physically and mentally I am often reminded of words spoken by survivors who have been through this battle and some who have lost the battle, but their words are forever on my mind and in my heart. It is of great importance that each one of us embrace the challenges and the suffering, because that is when God does his precious work of refining us in the fire. Having said that, my cancer journey has taught me many things and I have become a stronger person because of it and would not trade this journey for anything.

I will close with the following quote and I have posted it before, but it is a favorite of mine and I believe it speaks volumes and I hope it can provide hope and light to those facing their own cancer journey as it has for me.

 

 

You beat cancer

Impacts

I was recently asked “what is an unexpected way that a cancer diagnosis has had an impact on your life?” As I have pondered and contemplated over that question here is what comes to my mind:

I never expected that losing many people to thyroid cancer would hit me so hard. I guess the main reason for that is because I’ve had that opportunity to get to know them and some very closely. Although, the majority of them I’ve never met in person as we have only communicated in online forums or on the phone, but yet I feel like I’ve known them my whole life. You get to know them and their families. That is the hard part, knowing the resulting effect of the loved ones that they leave behind. I am feeling this more and more as it seems we have lost so many in the last year and the numbers just keep on climbing. You always have that fear in the back of your mind, am I going to be the that next statistic?

The other reason is because I get to thinking well now who is going to be there and uplift me when I am facing more challenges that happen with this beastly enemy? I guess it makes me feel a little bit lost in a way and then thoughts start rolling in my head and then I start to question everything. Why do things happen the way they do? Why do people have to die from this disease and other tragic events? Sometimes in this life we will never know that answer and have to just go on faith and trust in the almighty, no matter how hard that is sometimes. This is a constant wrestle that I have with God and one day I will have that extended conversation with him face to face and get those answers, as will all of us.

Nevertheless, I am realizing now that it is up to those of us survivors who are left to keep the driving force going and to be the ones who are there to uplift and encourage everyone else and even more importantly to those newbies – those who are just now facing cancer and need that direction in understanding about this disease. Those that I have lost were my guiding light, because when I started this journey four and a half years ago it was as though I was flying blind, not knowing anything or where to turn. I have to say how truly grateful I am for those that were there for me and so now it is my turn to pay it forward and be someone else’s guiding light. Each and every person I have met along this journey has helped me in one way or another, whether it be the many doctors, nurses and other survivors; each of them have played such a crucial role in where I am today. I want to encourage my fellow survivors to do the same and to be the difference as you never know the impact you can make on someone else’s journey! I will continue to make it my life’s mission to be that difference! If I can make someone’s journey a little easier, I want to do that because someone did it for me!

In addition, as I have been facing losing people in my life over the last few years, I have been reminded that life can and will go on. If anyone has faced loss or heartbreak in their life perhaps the lyrics from this song can provide you some comfort. It is a song entitled “Tell you Heart to Beat Again” by Danny Gokey and it has a powerful message that I want to share; I hope it helps you as it has helped me to have a better understanding about loss and that we can move beyond the bad things that happen in our life. I’ve also come to that realization that I’ve had to mourn that loss of a life that I once knew, the life before the cancer happened. Nevertheless, we can all come to an understanding that there is purpose even in our darkest moments as we face the many challenges in our lives.

 

Having cancer has helped me to truly understand what is important in life and that each moment is precious and something I’ve learned not to take for granted! Another great principle I’ve learned is to be sure to tell the people in your life how much they mean to you and that you love them, because you never know when that opportunity will come knocking again. No one wants to have regrets, so seize those opportunities when they come. We have to live life to the fullest extent possible, because tomorrow is never promised! I really like this quote and it speaks for itself:

tomorrow never promised 2

When those opportunities arise to be the difference to someone else we need to grab it and run with it! You never know the impact and imprint you can have on someone else and something which I will always strive to accomplish, as I said before someone did it for me and I want to return the favor!! I want to end with this important quote on how one can make an impact. It doesn’t have to be something big and it’s those small little things that have the greatest impact. You can make a difference in the life of someone else, so be the one!!

be the difference