Twists and Turns

In life we may experience some unexpected twists and turns and this journey has been no different. There have been circumstances that I never expected and I’m sure neither did my doctors. I never expected that I would ever get cancer let alone such an advanced stage, never thought that my doctors would not be able to completely contain it, never thought I would have a recurrence especially in such a short amount of time, and yet my docs still couldn’t contain it, and I never thought that the standard treatment options with RAI therapy would not work either. Although my case has been anything but the norm, what I have learned throughout all of these turns of events is that you have to continuously keep rolling with the punches. No matter what downright nasty blows that cancer or any difficult circumstance or challenge can give you, if you allow it to control your life or continue to live in fear that is truly not living, because that can steal so much of your inner peace.

As it has been said by many survivors, “I have cancer, but it doesn’t have me!” This disease may have invaded my body but that does not mean it has to invade every aspect of my life. It is about making the choice to learn from this experience rather than having those negative thoughts overtake you. When I finally came to terms with my situation I made the decision to turn this into something positive, by showing others that they can conquer and overcome and to not let this monster we call cancer to defeat you.

This has been my own personal triumph in overcoming impossible things and I hope that it provides encouragement and inspiration for others that anything is possible with the right frame of mind and attitude. There truly is life after cancer and even an advanced stage. I have bounced back and I am finally back doing what I love working with special needs children again, which is something that truly makes me happy and fulfilled. I hope one day to be among the living when cancer will be eradicated so that no one has to face this monster ever again! I think it rings true as the saying goes:

Strongest soldiers
– Unknown.

This is a battle that I intend on winning as I will NOT allow it to defeat me and I will fight until the finish! I will continue pushing forward and live my life to the fullest extent possible, no matter what is thrown my way.

Top-Notch Medical Teams

Of the numerous amounts of people on my care teams, those which have had the greatest impact on me throughout my journey would have to be my wonderful surgeons. They have not only strived to heal my body physically, but have helped me in so many other ways. From the moment that I walked into Dr. Song’s office, he has shown such genuine concern for my well-being and progress and what he can do to help in the process. He has never wavered in ALWAYS, ALWAYS giving me the encouragement and support that I so desperately needed, especially during those times when things have just not been in my favor. He has consistently given me one-hundred and ten percent and beyond and I feel so privileged to have him as my doctor. I am very grateful to him for his persistence and patience. I believe it must have had to take a great deal of patience on his part when he was faced with the myriad of challenges in trying to find this cancer during my surgery. I can imagine that he must have been frustrated; however, I believe that he was persistent and did absolutely EVERYTHING in his power to find this blasted cancer! His tireless efforts are to be commended and I appreciate him more and more each day for all that he has done and continues to do for me.

In addition, my daughter has benefited from his expertise as well. She was having some thyroid issues of her own; we were not really happy with her current doctor and felt as though they were not taking a very proactive approach to this, especially with our family history. However, I knew bringing her to Dr. Song for a second opinion was the right choice. He has been very instrumental in helping us get to the bottom of what was really going on with her thyroid and has always consistently ensured that her condition is being continuously monitored very closely. He is one incredibly intelligent and wise man who never ceases to amaze me with his knowledge and talents!

Moreover, Dr. Bentz has always been such a positive influence on me and I can always count on him to lift me up. He has really taught me about always having a positive attitude even amid the circumstances and challenges that I have faced with this cancer. After all, attitude is everything, especially for a cancer survivor! The medical community has not only benefited from Dr. Bentz and his excellent surgical skills, but more importantly by his huge and caring heart. He really cares about his patients and it shows in the way in which he interacts with them. This is a doctor who takes his job seriously and shows such dedication to his patients and will do EVERYTHING he can to help you. Anyone who is fortunate enough to come in contact with him benefits a thousand times over, because of his knowledge and the compassion he demonstrates consistently for people, as he truly has a heart of gold. I am so thankful to have had him as my surgeon and I appreciate his continual advice and wisdom!

I really did hit the jackpot with these two impeccable surgeons as I know many people have not been so lucky and have had their surgeries not turn out so favorably. Having surgery in the neck area is very delicate and you need to have a skilled, experienced surgeon to ensure that you can have the best outcome possible. I am so fortunate and count my blessings every day to have had two of the best surgeons around.

What sets these two exemplary doctors apart from other doctors is that they never make you feel like you are just another number passing through the system. I have felt like that with some doctors and others I’ve talked with whose doctors just dismiss them as though they are not important and just push them out the door. With these doctors you immediately feel like you are being treated as though you were a family member, rather than some random stranger because of the great concern and care they show towards you and make you feel as though you do matter.

I want to give these doctors the recognition that they are so deserving of; they are truly gifted doctors that use their God-given talents and abilities to the fullest extent possible in helping and providing hope to others. They are the epitome of what it means to show compassion for people and are making their mark on the world. I thank them both for being the phenomenal doctors and unique individuals that they are; truly they are a rare breed and we need more doctors like them in our healthcare system. I really respect and admire what they have to do on a continual basis, day in and day out; they are men of great integrity and character and I feel so fortunate to have them on my side.

Both of these exceptional docs have been such an integral part of my journey and have played such a key role in my outcome. Words just cannot express the gratitude that I have for these two wonderful men, who have taught me much. One of the most important and lasting things that I have learned from them both is that there is ALWAYS hope which has truly been the guiding force that has seen me through this whole ordeal. They have always encouraged me to NEVER give up no matter how bad my situation has seemed and that I can and will conquer this! Encouragement goes a long way and sometimes what helps you the most to get through whatever challenge you are facing. Medicine is so much more than just the physical healing of the human body, and for me it has been the support and encouragement that these doctors have provided which has meant the world to me. You treasure those who mean the most to you and these two outstanding docs are definitely at the top of my list. To me they are my heroes as they have saved my life and have helped me in many more ways than they even realize; I would not have made it through this journey without either one of them!

I have had the BEST medical teams available to me and they are some of the most impeccable professionals I have been so fortunate to know. These amazing doctors and nurses on my care teams have helped me to understand and recognize that I need to be in constant fighting mode and that giving up is simply NOT an option, even though it would have been the easy thing to do. This has helped me to realize that my life is definitely something worth fighting for and I will do whatever it takes to kick this cancer to the curb! I will say that all of those on my care teams have played such a vital role in my journey and I consider myself extremely lucky to have so many people looking out for me.

Patient and Family Centered Care Council (PFCC)

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.