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)

 

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!

Faith & Hope

cropped-life-and-courage.jpg

This cancer experience has been such a faith-building journey that has had many ups and downs, but one that I hold dear to me as I have learned so many valuable life lessons because of what I have had to go through. I have had to learn how to trust and by the grace of God I have come to know that we all have challenges or hiccups in life; it is by exercising that faith that we are able to endure those trials and challenges we are faced with, no matter how difficult.

There is a song by the band, Kutless, which is entitled, “Even if” which is a song about praising God even if we are experiencing difficult times in our life. Sometimes in life the answers to our most heartfelt prayers are simply NO. We just have to put our trust in God and accept what he has planned for our life, even if it is difficult for us to understand at the time. I would like to share the music video for this song which is something that really applies to me:

 

 

There is another song that resonates so much with me with what I have been through and experienced throughout this journey. I believe it has an important message that God is with us during the good as well as the difficult times in our lives and I’m including that music video for this song as well:

 

 

There are some that may even question the existence of God and we are all entitled to our own personal beliefs, but I don’t need tangible evidence to know that there is a higher presence, because I know it in my heart. It really is a freaking miracle that I am here and have a voice to even speak and I firmly believe that God truly guided my surgeon’s hands for them to accomplish what they did. God is the One who is bigger than you or bigger than me and is all knowing.

Although that complete healing just never quite came for me, the lyrics to these songs have spoke volumes to me and have been such a great reminder that God is with me always as I walk in these shoes that have been put before me.  He placed this trial in my life for a reason and is something which has helped me to grow as a person. Even during the darkest moments in our lives, the one thing we can look toward is hope. When we think that we just can’t possibly keep going during a difficult circumstance we can find that hope that can get us through those difficult times. There is another song that I want to share that helps me understand that I can always rely on hope:

 

 

God knows our fears, pains and struggles that we go through. Although at times it may feel as though it is hard to feel his presence, we have to put our trust and faith in Him that he will get us through these difficult challenges and dark days in our lives. Even though it may be difficult to see that light at the end of the tunnel, we can rely on the fact that there will always be better days ahead of us. God led me to this challenge and has been walking me through every step. He is really the true healer and will never forsake us no matter what trials and challenges we face in this life.

 

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.

Anger & Frustration

I have experienced much anger and frustration throughout this cancer journey, but I am now finally learning to let go of the anger, which has been weighing me down for so long. I have been angry for many different reasons – angry at God for allowing this to happen to me, angry that my cancer was not found earlier, angry that my doctors have been put in the position of making these tough decisions and something which has taken me a long time to grasp why these choices were necessary and basically angry at the world, because of my circumstances and everything that has happened. Holding these feelings of anger and resentment is something which is just not healthy for anyone. It has brought me to places I thought that I would never find myself, but yet it had happened, because I allowed it to creep into my life inch by inch which is how negative thoughts tend to take hold of us little by little. I am very lucky to have people in my life to help me to recognize this and assist me in turning things around for the better.

This has been like a dark cloud hanging over my head and now I feel like a weight has been lifted. It has been a long, hard road and I have made things harder on myself than I needed to, but do I ever do things the easy way? I always seem to have to learn those life lessons the hard way, mostly because of my stubbornness and think that I know what is best – I’m a bit hard-headed like that sometimes. Was I ever in need of a reality check and a definite change in attitude!

I have allowed this cancer to literally consume me for far too long. Moreover, I am learning that if you allow the cancer to feed on those negative thoughts and emotions, the cancer wins and to not give the cancer that kind of power! It has played some serious mind games with me and has messed with my line of thinking. I will admit that I am a control freak. I have to be in control of things and I guess that has been the most frustrating part of this whole thing. I have had absolutely no control over this, not knowing what this cancer is doing and where it is going. However, it does me no good to sit and stew over something I have no control over, but I am learning to control the things that I can and everything else will fall in the proper order that it is meant to.

This journey has also taught me a lot about faith and never before has my faith been put to the test as it has been going through this trial. Faith is having belief in those things not seen. Although I can’t see where I am going to end up during this journey, whether I am going to succumb to this cancer or die of something entirely different I don’t know. What I do know is that I have to exercise that faith and put my complete trust in God and that he is doing these things for my benefit so that I can learn and grow from this experience.

I really did rob myself and my family of precious time and enjoying life by thinking of nothing else but the cancer, which is time that I will NEVER be able to get back. I have come to realize that is no way to live; nevertheless, this is all a learning curve and I want to provide a warning to others to not make the mistake that I made by living your life from minute to minute, between each scan and test always waiting and wondering when the shoe is going to drop. I think that it can be something that can eat away at you like an acid which can only lead you on a road to nowhere fast. I truly wish someone would have warned me beforehand, but thankful that I was finally able to recognize and understand that I had to learn to let it go! When my time is up the good Lord will take me when he’s ready.