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!!

survivor1

 

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

Vicious Cycle

Have you ever been on a ride at an amusement park that just seems like it will never end? That is what I am feeling like right now with this cancer journey. We seem to go round and round over and over and it never seems to end. So here we are again with testing time and I wasn’t even going to worry about what was to come; however, it was as though I was hit with a brick straight in my face again. The latest ultrasound shows yet another pesky suspicious nodule on the same side as the existing nodule that they can’t get to. It appears to be too small at this point so now we wait until it grows big enough that my surgeon feels he can make an attempt to remove it. Even when Dr. Song was explaining this all to me, I didn’t quite absorb it until after I was halfway home from Denver. I just wasn’t myself as I have been battling this nasty bronchitis the last two months and was feeling just downright crappy. This has also caused my asthma to kick into overdrive and so I’ve been having a difficult time with wheezing which they’ve had to put me on more than one inhaler. Now it seems that I also have another sinus infection on top of it as well. I am hoping that this next round of antibiotics kicks this crap to the curb once and for all. My immune system is seriously messed up big time and it’s seems to be harder for my body to fight of these infections!

With the amount of coughing I’ve been doing and how long it’s been going on the thoughts always keep racing in my mind – has the cancer spread to my lungs as well? That has always been one of my biggest fears that I am going to get mets to other areas of my body. Luckily, my tumor markers are stable and not showing signs of an increase which is a good sign. I guess I will take that as a positive step forward. I was really hoping to get on a yearly follow-up schedule, but it’s not in the cards for me and so I guess I need to be watched a little more closely. I know that many of my thyca friends are facing similar situations and it’s always great to know that you don’t have to go through this alone. To know that there are others out there who truly understand what you are going through with the anxiety, the fears, the ups and downs of trying to get your levels right and feeling good. They understand because they are walking those same pathways as you are.

Although us thyca survivors have to experience this vicious, seemingly never ending cycle as you never know when the cancer is going to strike back which is why continuous lifetime monitoring is so necessary. Even with these never-ending challenges I am greatly reminded to stay strong and be courageous and the following scripture quote reminds me of that. I know that I am never alone and although at times I wonder whether God is with me during these dark moments, but deep down I know he’s there. Even though it is difficult to feel his presence at certain times in our life, we have to take that leap of faith and trust in His infinite wisdom – there is a reason for all of this.

Strong and of Good Courage

 

I just have to remember that what doesn’t kill me makes me a stronger person because of it. This cancer has nothing on me; the minute I give the enemy the upper hand and make it believe it will beat me that’s when it wins this war and that simply CANNOT happen! Nevertheless, I would love to get off this cancer ride, but I guess I would rather take this ride with all its twists and turns, than to have the ride of life stop altogether. So I just have to keep pushing forward and do the best with the circumstances I’ve been given – to keep calm and just keep swimming!

 

What doesn't kill you

 

 

Tribute to a Warrior

Rob1

 

Rob3

 

 

 

Rob5

 

 

 

 

People may come and go throughout our lives, but there are those few people that touch our lives in such a way like no other; those extra special stars that put a stamp on our heart so deeply and we are never the same. One such unique individual that I have met through the online cancer support group forums is a wonderful man named Rob Bohning.  As many can attest, the influence this man has had on so many people as he has shared his own journey with Thyroid Cancer, as he has been there to inspire and uplift others in their good days and especially during their darkest of moments with this disease. Despite the many difficulties he was going through himself, Rob’s thoughts always seemed to be towards his fellow thyroid cancer survivors and what he could do to help them. He was the leader of the pack and truly the “one” who always put others needs ahead of his own.

So what exactly defines a cancer warrior? I think that all who are touched by cancer in one way or another are warriors, whether you are the one going through it, family members, friends and even the doctors themselves trying to battle this beast of a disease that sometimes seems to have no end. The struggles of these brave souls are many with what cancer puts them through both physically and emotionally. Those going through cancer each have a story to tell. Although every journey is different, cancer survivors have such a common bond in relating to one another and being able to support each other in this fight, which is why support groups are so important.

I met Rob through the Light of Light Foundation Facebook support group. Through these online forums I have been able to gain more knowledge and understanding about thyroid cancer and its effects. As I have mentioned in previous blog posts for the first year after my diagnosis I felt like a little lost puppy not knowing how to navigate my way through this disease. However, when I stumbled upon these online support groups I felt as though a weight was somehow lifted and that I could see a light at the end of the tunnel after all. The knowledge gained through these forums has taught me what questions I need to be asking my doctors and the skills necessary in learning how to advocate for myself. I am truly grateful that I have been able to have that support from someone who gets it as they are living through it and walking in similar shoes.  I have been able to develop many lasting friendships with those in the online support groups; although I have never met many of these people in person we are uniquely bonded together by similar circumstances.

With that being said what I want to do with this blog post is to pay tribute to one of these true warriors who has had such an impact on me as I have traveled this path. Unfortunately, Rob lost his very lengthy battle with Thyroid Cancer. He always shared his wisdom and honesty and was always straight forward about it. I think what I loved most about Rob is his testimony and faith in God. He was a man of enduring faith and was an instrument in God’s hand spreading his message of love and hope even amidst the darkness that this disease can put on a person. Here are a few lines of what Rob spoke about in our discussions that I want to share as they have such great meaning to me and are pretty powerful.

“Cancer is a hard diagnosis. But many have lived with it as a chronic illness for years. Even a stage 4 diagnosis is not a death sentence. ( I really thought that I did receive a death sentence with my Stage 4 diagnosis, but Rob has taught me to see things in a different light)

“I will tell you that fighting cancer begins in the mind. If you lose the mental battle with it, your body won’t be far behind. So wake up each day and be determined to live your life to the fullest.. and choose to beat it. I know there are bad days of pain, new things that pop up, and new things that can worry you every single day with this cancer. But take it a day at a time, and do not let it control your life. Remember, you have cancer, it does not have you.”

“ I do what I always do–I choose to pray. I know this battle ultimately resides with God. It’s His to fight in the end. All of us are merely renting these bodies and they will all break down over time………

Ecclesiastes 3:1 says:” there is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens”

If you are in a healthy season, enjoy every minute of it. If you are not healthy, embrace that too. Because in these deep furnaces of affliction, God will infuse you with iron and you will be able to withstand anything. “

“It matters when you are put into the fire, because it withstands despite the heat. So embrace your sufferings if you can.. you will learn the most during this time about yourself, and God does His most precious works in you when you are being refined in the fire.”

 

One other amazing quality that Rob had was his talent and passion with photography and here are a few pictures of how he captured nature’s beauty. The first is a favorite of mine and words that I now live by which Rob taught me.

 

Rob

 

 

 

 

 

Every season

Be Still

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunrise

 

Pier

 

 

 

 

 

Rob would often speak about the things that just stick with you forever and how serving in the Marine Corps helped to prepare himself to have the fight and attitude to win the battles of life. Without a doubt those marine experiences did prepare him for this war and battle with cancer.

 

Rob4

 

Another important quality that Rob demonstrated was the deep love he expressed for his wife and beautiful children. It was very obvious in the way that he spoke of them and proudly shared pictures of them with us. He taught his children well and I was so impressed when his son Andrew, wanted to do his part in helping his dad fight this disease when he did a triathlon last year to raise funds for research and had raised over $7000. The apple surely doesn’t fall far from the tree there. The impact of one small little boys’ wish was great and I am sure that Andrew is going to do great things and make an impact on the world, just as his dad has.

Rob was there for others sharing his love for God and his testimony of faith through his actions. Here is a short clip of of how he shared his cancer journey and his faith which was done about a year  ago and and I will let this video speak for itself.

 

One song that comes to my mind when I think of Rob is by Kutless entititled “Even If” which is a video with lyrics that I want to share:

 

 

Although the healing just did not quite come for Rob and yet in the midst of all the suffering he went through, he still knew who God was and chose to have gratitude even with the trials and challenges he was facing. He was one extraordinary man teaching others what it means to endure to the end.

It just seems so surreal and I can’t believe I will not be able to have conversations with Rob again. He was there providing such wise words of wisdom and I could always count on Rob to lift me up  and give me encouragement when I was feeling down. The ThyCa community has been greatly affected by loss of this amazing individual and his death is greatly felt among us.

I look forward to the day, as do many others when we can see and talk with Rob on the other side to tell him face to face just how much he influenced our lives. Rob was such a true warrior in every sense of the word and fought this fight to the finish; this brave soul may be gone, but he will never be forgotten!

gone-but-never-forgotten

One More Year

When you think about it there are different milestones we experience throughout our lives. Some of the common ones you think of could be starting school for the very first time, learning how to ride a bike, going on that first date, attending and graduating high school and college, starting your career, getting married and having kids.  The last four years has been another important milestone for me in remaining a cancer survivor. Today, February 22nd marks the day I consider myself to be a survivor. Many cancer patients use different ways in which they recognize that they became a survivor. Some may use the day their doctor gave them that fateful news that they have cancer; others may choose to use the day that they were declared cancer free. For me, I use the day that my cancer laden thyroid was removed for good and how I recognize my survivorship. Many call this their cancer anniversary and something which should be celebrated and accumulated every year you reach that milestone.

Having the opportunity to celebrate another year of survival and reaching yet another birthday, especially when you are at Stage 4 is something to be valued. I feel so very fortunate for still being here; however, then those thoughts start swirling in my head and sometimes I wonder why I am here when others have lost their battle? I have pondered over this so many times, especially over the last year as I have had to watch some friends lose their cancer battle.  Moreover, I’ve watched other close friends lose people who didn’t even stand a chance, because they had cancers and other deadly diseases which spread so rapidly that resulted in their demise in only a few months’ time. Their life was cut so short way before it should have been.  It has been a struggle coming up with an answer as to why my life has been spared, but their life was not. So far the only thing that I can figure is that God must have a higher purpose for me and maybe there is something that I still have yet to accomplish; although, I’m not sure exactly what that is. Perhaps it is just to be there for people who are experiencing cancer whether they are a survivor or a caregiver. Knowing there is someone out there that understands what you are experiencing and can share their knowledge just might be what that one person needs. When we can begin to have an understanding of things that just don’t make sense, I believe that is the ultimate test of our faith. There is a music video from Kutless that I want to share about faith:

Never before at one point in my life has my faith been tested more than it has been by going through this cancer experience.

When I was first diagnosed I really thought my days were going to be very numbered as I didn’t understand that it was possible to survive a Stage 4 cancer. I allowed all of those doubts and fears to overtake me. The thing about fear is that it can paralyze you, if you allow it. It can prevent you from moving forward and living life as you should. I know just how crippling that fear can be; it was as though I was at a standstill for the longest time. I am truly grateful for the people in my life that helped me to realize that I had to learn to let it go; I needed to change my mindset and how I look at things. However, sometimes those fears can somehow seem to sneak back into your life when you least expect it. With the challenges I am still facing, I just have to constantly remind myself to let it go as I don’t want to go down that road again in letting it control my life.

Nevertheless, I am grateful for my fellow cancer survivors who have shared their experiences and insight helping me to really understand that I can be a survivor. Some of these survivors have literally been to hell and back again with what cancer has put them through, but yet they are continuing to stay in this fight and are winning this battle, some even 10 years, or more down the road. Being able to relate to someone else who is walking these same lines and knows the dark valleys I have experienced has been so imperative for me. My cancer support groups both local and online, have been that lifeline that I have been able to cling to. Many of them I have never met in person, but yet we have cried, prayed and laughed together through a digital world; we are all uniquely bonded by similar circumstances.

I want to express my deepest appreciation and gratitude for my outstanding medical teams who have always had my best interest at heart, even when I haven’t always understood the reasons for some of their decisions. I could not have had a better team of skilled doctors, nurses and other professionals who have dedicated their lives in the service of others. God certainly put the right people in my path who have provided me with such excellent care, but yet so much more; some of them have become such close and dear friends to me.

Being a cancer survivor has really helped me to understand and appreciate that our time here on earth is so limited and why we need to savor every moment that we have. I now place my focus on those things and the people in my life that make it worth living. One quote that truly stands out for me is this:

What matters

 

It is not about those material possessions we have in life, but what matters most is the people in our life. My family and friends are my most precious jewels in my life that I no longer take for granted. The piece of wisdom that I would like to pass on to others is with the following quote:

 

 

Opportunities

 

You never want to leave words left unsaid. Sometimes you may think you have time and then that precious commodity we call time is swept away from you, because of cancer or other situations that is something beyond our control.

One hard lesson I’ve had to learn throughout this journey is that I don’t always have control of things and learning to let go of some things has been a bit of a challenge. I will admit that I am a total control freak, and it has taken me quite some time to understand and embrace the fact that I am not always the one in control. However, what I have learned is to control the things that I can and the rest is in God’s hands. We may not always understand why things have to happen, but there is always a reason or purpose for it.

Just as precious metals are refined in the fire, so are we being refined as we face trials and tribulations. I think that is when we learn more about ourselves; at least that is what I am finding out for myself. This turbulent journey has also been one of self-discovery in realizing who I am, where I am going and just what I am capable of accomplishing. Just because I have cancer does not mean I can’t continue to live out my dreams and to see those dreams become a reality. I have come to understand that you just have to keep pushing forward and live life day by day. You do your best with the circumstances you’re given, as the attitude you carry truly does play a role in determining your destiny!

 

attitude

 

No matter what challenges that lie ahead as I continue on this cancer journey, this is something that I would not trade for anything.  I have learned so many valuable life lessons and it has helped me to be a stronger person because of it. I have met some of the most wonderful people along the way, who have truly touched my life more than they know. Moving forward, I am very appreciative of being afforded one more year of being a cancer survivor and will continue celebrating each year of survivorship as an important milestone in my life!

Here we go again!!

It is very true that anything can change on a dime. I thought I would be in the clear for the next six months at least that is what I kept hoping for. However, those hopes came crashing down when I was told that the appearance of my nodule on my laryngeal nerve they have been following the last three years was starting to change in ways which were not good. The nodule started showing changes with more and more increased calcification, which is pretty much just a fancy word they use to mean suspected malignancy. I knew before I had the recent neck ultrasound that deep down in my gut something was just not right and trying with all my might to brush those bad feelings aside, but it was a nagging feeling that just wasn’t going away. I knew the day would come I would be treading these waters once again, but was just hoping it would happen much later down the road.

So, here it is the month of January which is when my initial diagnosis took place four years ago. Makes me wonder if this could this mean a bad omen that history is starting to repeat itself once again? We have been dancing around this for the past three years watching and waiting to see what this suspicious nodule was going to do. With these changes on the ultrasound, my surgeon, Dr. Song felt that we needed to take action and repeat the FNA to determine if the cells were positive for malignancy and if so, we would discuss making another attempt at trying to remove this nodule for good. On 29 January I was in the Ultrasound Department at University of Colorado Hospital once again prepping for biopsy #3. Since my husband couldn’t be with me during the biopsy, because he is on deployment, I had my youngest daughter with me for moral support. My husband and I have traveled this road before in which we have been separated oceans apart and you’d think I would be used to this as we’ve done it before; however, it is difficult nonetheless. It has been so challenging the last few weeks knowing what is in front of me and not having my biggest supporter around me. However, the most positive thing is that my better half and best friend will be back from his deployment by the end of this day which makes me one very happy girl! So when you talk of peaks and valleys of your day, for me most definitely the return of my husband is my peak, whereas my valley is having this biopsy.

I am so fortunate to have the same doctor who performed the last biopsy; in fact I actually requested her specifically. It was Dr. Kristen McKinney, who is an interventional radiologist who is truly fantastic and really knows what she is doing.  Just like the last one it is done using ultrasonic guidance so that they can pinpoint the location of the nodule accurately in order to withdraw out the suspected cells. So then, the million dollar question of the day is going to be whether or not the cells are positive for malignancy. I just have to cross my fingers and say a prayer that it is not, but I know that it could be a real possibility.

So they prepped my neck with that ugly brown betadine to sterilize the field. Here it goes again with the first stab where they inject the numbing medicine to ease the pain.  Then the next needle goes in directing at the targeted area. The radiologist goes back and forth to draw out the cells in the nodule and I feel a lot of pressure like someone sitting right on top of my windpipe. So then I just try to breathe my way through it, the best I can. She does 1, 2 and then 3 passes to get adequate tissue placed on the slides for pathology. Dr. McKinney asked me before she left the room if I wanted to know the results to which I replied a resounding yes! So all the medical personnel leave the room and we wait…and wait… and wait. Then when Dr. McKinney returns and I see that look on her face, I know immediately….it is POSITIVE. She said there was no question that it was very clear cut that it was PTC (papillary thyroid cancer).

So now we know for sure that there is still remaining cancer in my body that I have lived with the last 4 years and now I have to prepare myself to discuss this hot mess with Dr. Song and the rest of my medical team on how we move forward. That is going to be the most dreaded conversation I have ever had with Dr. Song, but these decisions will be something that we will do together as a collective team and hope that we can come up with a solution that we can all live with.

Some very wise words of wisdom that I would like to share from Scott Stuart, a longtime Sportscaster who unfortunately lost his cancer battle, I believe the truth of this statement says it all in how we fight this foe:

 

Scott Stuart wisdom

 

 

Simply put, there are no guarantees in life and what I have learned is that you just have to keep rolling with the punches, to which this cancer has surely given me a fair share of! No matter what keeps coming my way I have to remain positive and push forward as I CANNOT LET CANCER WIN!!!

Courage & Strength

I have endured a lot throughout this journey and I have a favorite quote that I would like to share about having courage:

Courage

Despite the circumstances that I have had to face with this cancer, I have been able to discover that I have much more courage than I thought possible and have picked myself up in spite of it all. No matter what problems and challenges that we encounter in life it is by facing our fears that we truly gain the courage to move forward. When life knocks you down the important thing is to make that choice to get back up and move on.

For those who are just starting on your journey, it is one that will no doubt present many challenges to you which will test your courage, strength and faith. Just know that there are others out there who have been there and done that and that you have support systems out there to help you along the way. You just need to reach out and find them or in some cases they find you! This journey has really helped me to realize that if I can face this cancer with the courage and determination that I have experienced, I can conquer and overcome anything with the right frame of mind. I know that there is nothing that I can’t accomplish. It really is all about attitude and how you approach it; however, it can drag you down to places you thought you would never find yourself, if you allow it. I can attest to that I am grateful that I have had people placed in my path to rescue and save me, mostly from myself.

Cancer does suck, but together we are stronger and we will not let cancer win. I refuse to allow this cancer to define me. The scar on my neck is a battle scar that I feel has been earned and one that I wear with pride. Some survivors that I have talked with bring up the question of whether or not to cover their scar; some have and some haven’t. I have never tried to cover that scar, even though mine is barely visible now, but that is because of the talented surgeons I’ve had. I know it is there and it is a reminder of what I have been through and experienced. I know that I am going to be ok; I am a fighter and know that I will come swinging out on top.

There is a plaque that I have in a few rooms in my home which states the following about cancer and I want to include this in my story. I have them on my walls as a daily reminder to me of what cancer CANNOT do to me:

What cancer cannot do

— Anonymous

When life gets tough some people may pull within themselves. However, I want to rise above and take the higher road and not allow those negative thoughts and emotions to drag me down, and why staying positive throughout this fight is key. I am so grateful that I’ve had people in my life to assist me in learning this principle. There is great power in positive thinking!

Writing this blog has almost been another journey in itself as I have expressed my thoughts and feelings about my experiences in dealing and living with this cancer. Being able to live with a Stage 4 cancer which still remains inside my body has been difficult to deal with. I had felt my faith being shaken and had so many doubts on whether or not I was going to survive this. Nevertheless, I have learned to accept the hand which has been dealt to me. It is something that took me a very long time to come to terms with and accept, but I have finally reached that point. This really could have crippled me if I allowed it to and I have seen that happen to many others and truly not a place I want to find myself; however, as I have stated before it really is all about the attitude in which one takes. When I adjusted the way that I looked at my situation and changed my attitude, my outlook on life changed for the better and grateful that I have had people in my life to help me to recognize this.

Moreover, as bad as being diagnosed and living with cancer is, this is an experience that I would not trade for anything in the world. I have learned a lot about life and have learned so much about myself that I probably wouldn’t have known otherwise and it has refined me to become a better person. Perhaps that is the reason or purpose on why I have had to endure this cancer experience. Difficulties or challenges in our life can be but a small bump in the road that can give us experience for our own good and something we can learn from.