A Debt of Gratitude

So it is the last day of September for thyroid cancer awareness and I just wanted to take the time to express my gratitude and pay tribute to those who have played a role in my journey. Each person that I have come across has affected me in one way or another. Even that simple gesture from a stranger in the hospital who gave me that smile as I walked the halls of the Huntsman Cancer Institute after my first surgery. It lifted me more than they will even know. Back then my journey had just begun and I know it is not over by a long shot.

Nevertheless, I have much to be grateful for. First, for the warriors who have gone before me and branded me with the knowledge about my disease and how they have taught me to fight and to never give up. They have shown me just how ugly this disease can get as I have watched many of these beautiful souls, my fellow thyca warriors battle this to the end. Although the cancer may have taken their life they have shown me to never let it break their spirit!

Next, my deepest gratitude to my amazing medical teams from my surgeons, endocrinologists, radiologists, nurses, lab and radiology techs and even those who schedule my appointments. Their efforts do not go unnoticed. Every single one of them has played a crucial role in this journey of mine. When my body failed to respond to the standard therapies in treating my type of thyroid cancer, my doctors had made the decision to essentially not treat the cancer, but instead they have closely monitored me for further progression as it is a slow-growing cancer. It took me quite a long time to be okay with that decision as my thoughts were that I just wanted this cancer out of me pronto! However, with a lot of patience on their part they have helped me to truly comprehend why this was necessary in order to give me a better quality of life. I am sure it is never easy on them when they have to make decisions like that, especially when they have a situation where the treatments they can offer could possibly harm their patients even more. I could not even begin to imagine what it must be like to walk a day in their shoes and the decisions they have to make on a daily basis, nor would I even want to try. Nevertheless, I am forever grateful that my doctors did not rush into treatments which could do more harm than good. They have demonstrated to me just how much they truly do care what happens to me. Thanks just doesn’t ever seem to do it justice for everything they have done for me so that I can have the best outcome possible, but I hope they know just how much they are truly appreciated. They are my heroes and without them I wouldn’t be where I am today!

I am so fortunate and grateful that I have had such competent teams, because I know many out there who struggle to find such good medical care. You need to be on the same page with your team, and yes you should be part of that team effort in making decisions. I have been so lucky to have such good medical teams that have that kind of mindset and work together as a collective team to find solutions to issues that arise. Throughout my journey I’ve had to travel many miles to get good care. First, I had to be sent oceans away from my family in order to get the proper care I needed. I was living overseas in Japan at the time of my diagnosis and was sent back to Utah, to the Huntsman Cancer Institute to get properly diagnosed and treated. Then, when we moved to Colorado, I had to travel again to get the best care possible and it has been so worth the time and expense to do so.  My advice to those just starting their journey, do your homework to find the doctor that is right for you, especially your surgeon. It is so imperative to have a surgeon that has a lot of experience and is well versed in thyroid cancer. Find a support group, as they can give you recommendations and can help you to tap into your resources, for there are many!

Next, a thank you to all of the researchers out there who are tirelessly working around the clock to find a cure for this disease that affects so many people! It is so important that we support research and why funding is such a necessary component. We don’t get funding from big pharmaceutical companies because we are a small population and they don’t have a big monetary gain from us. Most of our funding for research comes from organizations such as ThyCa – Thyroid Cancer Survivor’s Association Inc. or Light of Light Foundation and other private donors . We need everyone’s help to support in those efforts so that we can find a cure for all!

Last of all I want to express my gratitude to my friends and family who have stood by my side as I have faced the biggest trial in my life in facing cancer. They have kept me grounded and give me the reason why I continue in this fight against this relentless enemy.

My final message is this, I encourage everyone to develop an attitude of gratitude and take the time to thank those who have helped you in your life, whether you have faced a trial such as cancer or even when you are just trying to do those little day to day things. We can all do our part and pay it forward in thanking someone today. A simple gesture of saying thank you could make someone’s day seem a little bit brighter. You can be the difference!

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As this thyroid cancer awareness month comes to a close it does not stop there, we still keep on fighting this battle and continue to raise awareness for a disease which is becoming more and more prevalent. We as survivors are forever grateful for those who keep us going and motivated to keep driving on, never giving up hope and praying for a cure for all one day!!

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Moving On

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:

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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.

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.