In life it’s not so much about where our final destination is, but about the journey itself and how we arrive there, and by being able to find that joy and peace as we travel along that path. There will always be bumps along the road that we may feel at times are impossible to navigate through, but we have to reach deep down within ourselves and realize that we are much stronger than we give ourselves credit for and that we can overcome these difficult challenges. Although I have had my share of those bumps in this journey, I am extremely grateful for this experience and the many lessons I have learned along the way. This journey has helped me to truly understand what hope really means; this experience has helped me to be more optimistic and to always look for the good in every situation, no matter how difficult or unpleasant it can be.
Throughout this journey I have learned that any circumstance that happens in your life, the way in which you react to it can play a major role in your overall health and well-being. When I had a poor attitude about my situation, I really believe it did have an effect on my physical health as well. We can choose our own happiness and where we are headed in life by the attitude that we carry even when we are faced with difficult situations and circumstances.
When we have a positive mindset, we are able to turn those challenges into successes and accomplish things we never thought would be possible. I believe that body, mind and spirit are truly all interconnected; when we can find and maintain that balance it can only lead us on a road to a happy and successful life.
Cancer has truly changed my life. I am loving life and happier than I have been in such a long time. I now have the courage to embrace my fears and to always keep walking forward with my head held high with the confidence that I can accomplish whatever I set my mind to. I know that the sky is the limit and if I can survive cancer NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE!
When I first heard those words Stage 4 cancer, I thought that was a death sentence, but yet here it is three years later and I am still alive and kicking. My success in being able to survive this thus far is really owed to the skill and talents of my brilliant surgeons, endocrinologists and other medical professionals who have provided the needed encouragement for me to drive on. My fellow ThyCa warriors have also been there as well cheering me on and helping me to know that just because you have a Stage 4 cancer that it is NOT the end and that we continue to live our lives no differently, other than we cherish each breath we take and consider it a privilege to do so.
Having cancer has been the worst, best thing that has ever happened to me. Is that really possible to have something so bad happen, but yet so good at the same time? I have learned so many valuable life lessons along the way throughout this journey about having true courage, strength, hope and faith during this trial of my life. Now, I can say that I look at life in a much different light. I don’t sweat the small stuff and don’t let trivial things bother me so much anymore; I let things come as they may and I am no longer afraid of the uncertainties that lie ahead of me. Instead, I focus on what truly matters to me, the important people in my life, my wonderful family and friends who have been there to support me as I have waged through this battle. What is important and I have to remind myself is to live in the moment and not focus on the, what if scenarios that often play in my head. The key is to appreciate the moments we are given. This makes me think of another favorite quote of mine:
I have shared a few quotes throughout my story and it helps me in dealing with and understanding life and what I have experienced throughout this cancer journey. Life is all about gaining the right perspective and persevering despite the trials that we each have to go through in life. Some experiences are good, while others really test us to see what we are truly capable of. It is about believing in yourself that you can overcome obstacles that come your way. I hope that others who are going through challenging times can know that one is NEVER alone in any battle that we encounter. There is always someone who has been where you are and knows what you are going through as they have been there and done that. It is by sharing our stories and our life experiences that we can lift and support one another and I hope that I have accomplished that. I will continue to share my story so others know they are not alone in this war against cancer and in other battles we face each and every day.
I have talked about the medical professionals who have assisted me in my cancer journey; however, the people who I have the utmost gratitude for as I have gone through this experience are my family. They are truly the glue that holds me together! First and foremost, is my wonderful husband, Jerome who has stood by my side, as I have gone through all of the ups and downs of this cancer experience; he keeps me grounded. He has been the constant in my life and is my rock that I rely on the most and I don’t think I would have made it through this cancer ordeal without him!
The separation while I was being treated was difficult especially during the Tsunami and Earthquake not knowing what was going to happen and wondering if and when I would see my husband and children again. However, the separation I looked at it like a deployment. That was not new to us as we have been through that before when Jerome was sent to Bosnia years before, but it had been such a long time. I really admire the men and women in the Armed Forces and the sacrifices that their families have to face on a daily basis.
This experience has made us take a step back and really appreciate each other that much more. It has made our marriage stronger than ever as we appreciate and know that life is so fragile. I am extremely grateful that I have someone in my life that puts my needs ahead of his own, which is the way it should be and sadly it doesn’t always work that way for everyone as I know many people who have walked out on their better half at a time when they need them the most.
Next, I want to express my appreciation to our wonderful daughters, Chelsie and Chandra who were there to support my husband during the Japan tragedy being that I was not able to be there, and to ensure that our home was well taken care of; I’m sure that it was quite a learning experience for them as well. If anything, we have learned as a family to really rely on one another and we have come out stronger, because of this experience. I reflect many times on the song by Kelly Clarkson, “Stronger.” If it doesn’t kill me, this cancer WILL make me stronger and I know that to be true! When cancer strikes, it doesn’t just affect that individual it really does affect the entire family and can turn your whole world upside down. It makes you appreciate each other so much more and every moment you have together is priceless!
I am so grateful to my wonderful parents who have taught and raised me to always give my best efforts in everything that I do. They have taught me to work hard and have molded and shaped me into the person I am today and I feel so fortunate to have them in my life.
Just a few days before my two-year mark of being without my thyroid, I have now learned that Dr. Bentz is leaving the Huntsman Cancer Institute. He is moving on to another position with Fremont-Rideout Health Group in Yuba City, California. It will be a sad day for the Huntsman to lose such a dedicated professional, and I am positive that he will be greatly missed! In the same right, those at Fremont-Rideout Health Group will quickly know just what a huge asset they are gaining. I really wish him all the success in his new position and all his future endeavors.
Today, February 22, 2013 marks the two-year anniversary of having my cancer laden thyroid removed. It has been quite a ride and I have learned many lessons and I am sharing my story to benefit others who can learn to avoid the mistakes that I have made. In addition, I want to pay tribute to those who have helped me along the way and I can honor them by paying it forward in providing a ray of hope to those just starting their journey and others who are in the middle of theirs.
Why are we all here at this exact moment of time and do we each have a divine destiny? Life is a journey that affects each person differently and is filled with many lessons, hardships, and joys and moments that lead us to our final destination. There are many roads which one travels in getting there – sometimes it is easy and other times we will encounter many difficulties and challenges. These challenges will test our courage, strength and faith.
I have had my share of challenges throughout my life, but the one which has had more of a lasting impact on me is the challenge of facing cancer. Everyone’s cancer journey is different, but by sharing your experiences you just never know how it may help someone down the line. I am here to share my story and hopefully it can help someone to know that they are not alone and that others are out there who have been where they are in their journey, those who can provide a ray of hope and know that they can get through this and be called a survivor!