Identifiable Word

 

Some cancer patients are fortunate enough to be deemed cancer free and I think that is absolutely fantastic for them. However, depending on your cancer type recurrences can and will happen. For those with thyroid cancer, it seems there are a different set of rules as it is something which requires lifetime monitoring, because you are reliant on a tiny little pill for the rest of your life and they have to ensure that you’re getting the proper amount of thyroid hormone. Sometimes you may not get enough of the hormone and at other times you get way too much, which is why it is so necessary for continuous monitoring. In addition, with thyroid cancer the incidences of recurrences are very high. In some instances, it can recur years down the line up to 20 or even 30 years after initial diagnosis. I am nearing that 5-year mark since that pivotal moment of being told that I have Stage 4 thyroid cancer. No matter how long I have been at this, I still have those moments of anxiety. Those negative thoughts tend to creep in my head and it usually begins a month before the next scan.

Here is a bit of a recap as this past year the cancer had grown some with some increased calcification and discussions were thrown around on what to do about it. I thought that this was my chance to be rid of this enemy out of my life. However, that chance was short lived. After many doctors and experts looked at my case from every angle possible with discussions of repeat surgery, to other less invasive procedures it was decided that none of those choices were in my best interest. Surgery poses too many risks to my laryngeal nerve which would in turn affect my voice, other less invasive procedures such as alcohol ablation, or even radiofrequency ablation poses other risks as well. Essentially, because of the location of my cancer on my laryngeal nerve if they were to try those less invasive procedures it would put a hole in my trachea as there are no surrounding structures to absorb the alcohol or radiofrequency beams. My quality of life would surely go downhill mighty quick! Is that something we really want to do? I think not. It’s like you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t. There have just not been any good answers to my difficult situation and so now we are back at square one with watching and waiting. Even though the watching and waiting is hard at times, I know I will be thanking these doctor’s years down the line for preserving my life and doing what was necessary to ensure that I would have the best quality of life as possible. I have truly been so fortunate to have such excellent medical teams who are really looking out for me!

Recently, another survivor came up with the perfect word to describe what I feel every time I get close to the next scan. He penned the term “Scanxiety” and I think it is the perfect word to describe what I feel like prior to a scan. I am glad that someone came up with a word that I can identify with. There is anxiety, but for survivors like us Scanxiety is much different. Can you imagine what it is like to feel on edge not knowing if your scan is going to be good, or whether the cancer is spreading and exactly to what extent? It can be compared to watching a football game on T.V. with your favorite team and it is down to the wire in the 4th quarter or even when the game goes into overtime. You are literally on the edge of your seat waiting to see what your team is going to do. Are they going to make that touchdown and bring your team to victory or is the opposing team going to get the upper hand and beat you? Just as with the cancer are you going to rise above this, or is the enemy going to make you believe it has you in its clinches to which you cannot recover from? For me sometimes I just wish this would all be a bad dream that I would wake up from. However, this is real life for me and something I will be experiencing for the rest of my life. I’ve been living that 4th quarter play and will be for quite some time. It is my hope and prayer that with more advances in medicine that they can and will come up with better treatment methods, or even better a cure!

Usually it is about a month prior to my scan that my anxiety level starts to kick into high gear. I guess the not knowing is the hardest part and even when you finally get the scan done then there is more waiting for the results. The technicians who take your scans and bloodwork and the doctors themselves, literally hold your life in their hands. Not worrying about what is going to come up is easier said than done. Nevertheless, it helps knowing that other survivors are experiencing the same things and can relate. Here is the blog post from the survivor who penned this term Scanxiety and I want to share it:

https://medium.com/@barryhollander/scanxiety-9e9a7fe2ee53#.5gbrm2wst

My latest scan and my thyroglobulin level (which is the tumor marker) shows stability with no further growth and I will take that as a victory! The bloodwork does show my TSH level being very low and nearly non-existent which explains why I have not been feeling great, but that just means we need to do another adjustment in my dosage. Just when I thought we reached my magic number something gets thrown off, but we will just have to keep working at it to get it right. Nevertheless, I know that my situation could be a lot worse than it is right now. I know that eventually, I will reach that point when the cancer will progress further and then some very tough decisions will need to be made on what will be the best course of action. Another thing which makes my anxiety increase further is that I have had to watch a lot of friends lose their battle to this enemy this past year and I just don’t want to be that next statistic.

Nevertheless, I am grateful for those fellow survivors who know what it is like to experience these feelings and to have someone that I can talk to who can relate. However, I know the only way to beat this cancer is to fight until the end. If you give the enemy one little inch into thinking it has the upper hand, then it wins this war! It has been through the example of other survivors who have showed me what it means to fight, to give it your all until your body literally cannot fight no more. As we face the many facets of what cancer does to us physically and mentally I am often reminded of words spoken by survivors who have been through this battle and some who have lost the battle, but their words are forever on my mind and in my heart. It is of great importance that each one of us embrace the challenges and the suffering, because that is when God does his precious work of refining us in the fire. Having said that, my cancer journey has taught me many things and I have become a stronger person because of it and would not trade this journey for anything.

I will close with the following quote and I have posted it before, but it is a favorite of mine and I believe it speaks volumes and I hope it can provide hope and light to those facing their own cancer journey as it has for me.

 

 

You beat cancer

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.

Introduction

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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!