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:
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.
Throughout November and December 2012 I have been in the process in joining the Patient and Family Care Council (PFCC) at UCH (University of Colorado Hospital). It has been a process, but I am so grateful to Tommy Stewart for getting me involved and wished that I could have been involved a lot sooner. Tommy is another thyroid cancer survivor that I have met while going to the ThyCA meetings in Denver, Colorado. It has been so refreshing being able to have a voice and to collaborate ideas with other members of this council that can benefit cancer patients and make their experiences better. In addition to serving on this council, I have been involved in assisting in other areas of the Cancer Center as well. By focusing on others whose cancer situation is a whole lot worse than mine, I see this as an opportunity in giving back to those who have helped me in my journey and I hope that I can help others in theirs.
When you lose yourself in helping others your own problems seem so minor and in some respect you also find yourself and know what you can accomplish with the right perspective. This really has been a turning point for me in my journey; it has allowed me to leave the adversity I have faced behind and to move in a more positive direction. My hope is that if I can persevere and move on, that anyone facing a similar situation can do the same and I hope that it provides inspiration and encouragement to others that there is life after cancer. Just because one receives that cancer diagnosis does not mean the end. What matters is how we face these trials and that we not only endure them, but to endure them well and remember that we are NEVER alone in this fight. There is always hope and that has what has helped me to continue moving forward.
I started attending meetings in Denver to the ThyCA support group (Thyroid Cancer Survivors Association) since February 2012 and they have been such a source of strength for me. I need to recognize the wonderful facilitators of this group – Carol Condit, JoMarie Bushell and Denise Rivera. These ladies have been so wonderful and welcoming. They have helped me to know the right questions to be asking and all the complex effects that this cancer has on a person. They have provided such great insight and recommendations and I am really glad that I started attending those meetings.
We are so fortunate to have one of the endocrinologist from University of Colorado Hospital, who is able to attend the meetings every few months discussing different issues and that has been so helpful to me. I know that it is a bit of a distance but it is only one day per month and I have been fortunate to schedule appointments around the same day and so it works out for me. I know many people wonder why I would travel that far just to attend a meeting, but for me it is well worth it, because I really needed that local support system to have people who can relate to what I am experiencing and to know that I am not alone in this!
I have also been online to some other support sites as well and have been able to tell others about the wonderful doctors at UCH. Such sites as Inspire, Light of Light Foundation Facebook group, and others as well and have learned so much from everyone there. It has been so wonderful to have a community of people whom you have never met, but yet they understand exactly what you are going through. Many of these individuals have been such a positive light of insight and inspiration for me. I have had to learn a lot about this disease on my own, because doctors simply don’t have the time to tell you everything. These support groups have been such great facilitators in helping others to know what is a normal thing or not and things to be asking your doctors. We inspire one another to keep up the fight and to not let cancer win!
We have lost many members to this awful cancer and yet through all their challenges and trials they continue to be such a positive influence pushing us to keep moving forward and their circumstances never weighs them down. Some of these warriors have literally been to hell and back with all that this cancer has put them through draining them physically and emotionally. Nevertheless, even in their last moments they continue to provide support and hope for others and it is my hope that I can be a light and inspiration like that for others. These support groups have been such a lifeline for me. I feel so privileged to be a part of these groups and appreciate each and every member, because we are uniquely bonded by similar circumstances; support groups are such an important component in dealing with cancer.