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)

 

I Made It!

As I reflect on my own life, I am grateful for those milestones that I have reached from when I was very young all the way through adulthood, but the one I want to talk about is the important milestone of being a cancer survivor. Today, marks the day in which I can now call myself a 5-year thyroid cancer survivor. I can’t believe that I made it this far! After being diagnosed with Stage 4 thyroid cancer, I never would have imagined that I would be here 5 years later and still be able to talk about it.

What really defines being called a survivor? There are many different definitions of what it means to survive. Some define it as having the ability to carry on despite hardships or difficulties in your life, others may say it is to remain functional, whereas others may even say it is to remain alive or in existence. So when exactly do you define yourself as a cancer survivor? That is really up to the individual going through it – that exact moment to which they can call themselves a survivor. Some people believe it is from the time of diagnosis, others say it is five years after being cancer free, whereas others believe it is one who remains alive. For myself, personally I view it from the day I was rolled into surgery to remove my cancerous thyroid.

This has been quite the journey filled with many ups and downs and a lot of unknowns. Recently, I was sent a book by one of my surgeons, Brandon G. Bentz, M.D., who is also a very dear friend. The book is called “Love, Medicine, and Miracles: Lessons Learned about Self-Healing from a Surgeon’s Experience with Exceptional Patients.”

Love medicine and miracles

For those who have read my blog before, you may be aware that I have remaining cancer which they have had a difficult time in treating, because of where the location of the cancer is. Any of the treatment options that they can do puts me at great risks that could potentially reduce my quality of life. The remaining cancer is located on my laryngeal nerve. If they were to do another surgery it most likely would cause them to have to sacrifice that nerve as the cancerous lymph node is embedded under very extensive scar tissue that the surgeon just can’t get to safely, because of its small size. The consequences of sacrificing that nerve would cause me to lose the function of my voice. Traditionally, most thyroid cancers are treated with surgery and Radioactive Iodine; however, another added twist to my complicated story is that my body no longer takes up the iodine to absorb it and so it is resistant to that treatment method, which is of no benefit to me. In addition, other less invasive procedures can put my life at great risk as well, something my doctors don’t want to see happen.

The book talks about how some patients just want that quick fix such as an operation and I can see that was totally me. I just wanted them to completely cut this out of me without even considering the consequences of what that would cause.  Reading this book has helped me to gain a better perspective on how I look at my situation. Before, I had a really difficult time understanding how nothing could be done to completely rid my body of this cancer. However, my doctors have been taking a very careful approach of watching and waiting to see how the cancer will progress as it is a slow-growing cancer. If it had progressed at a more alarming rate, they would have taken swifter action; however, the magnitude of what they were trying to do had not really hit home for me until recently. So, at this point, we patiently wait in the hopes that it does not do anything further to spread; at least that is what we are counting on.

The book further describes many cases of cancer patients who took a negative view of what they were facing which ended up resulting in their demise, way before it should have. They simply gave up and lost their will to live. One important principle that the book discusses is about one’s attitude when facing such a life-altering condition as cancer. One piece of advice that my doctors have always tried to get me to understand is that my attitude and outlook on my situation is key. As I reflect on where I have been, I believe that they were exactly right.

I have always thought that there is some type of mind, body, spirit connection, which is what this book depicts and I am beginning to believe that more and more. This book has been a tool to help me to understand that I can be that exceptional patient and take a more positive perspective. One of the important concepts that I took from the book is that we all have the power to heal ourselves from within. I believe that part of the healing process is to be able to heal yourself from the inside out. When a cancer patient or anyone going through an illness can understand that and believe it for themselves that is where change can take place. As noted in the book, love is a powerful stimulant and can be a great healer. Miracles happen every day, something which science just cannot explain. Just as the author described that there was no scientific evidence of what was making his patients get well, but it was the way that his patients viewed their situation that was the change. It was the connection of love and miracles. As the author stated, “when a patient can stand with courage and actually work with their doctors they can participate to influence their own recovery.” Am I saying that I am going to cure myself from my disease? No, not necessarily, but what I have been able to recognize is that healing is not always in the physical outward sense, but the inner as well. I have realized that I needed that healing on the inside too. I highly recommend that cancer survivors and their families read this book, because I believe the principles in it are something every survivor needs to know. Now there may be some people who may not have this view or perspective on their journey and that is fine. Everyone has to come to their own understanding, but it is something that works for me that I wanted to share, and perhaps it could also help someone else.

I now have a better perspective on not only my cancer situation, but also the way I look at life. Although I know I still do have cancer, I view my life differently and choose to be happy despite my circumstances. How one responds to a situation I believe can play a role in the outcome. For the first time since I began this journey, I finally feel at peace and I am good with where things stand for me. I had to reach this point myself, in my own way and in my own time. I had to come in agreement with the decisions my doctors have made on my behalf. I really do know that patiently waiting this out is the is the decision which is right for me. Being that exceptional patient means you look at your life different and you really live with purpose and meaning until you do die. Having cancer makes you face your mortality much sooner than you want to, as you know this disease is something that could possibly end your life as you know it. Nevertheless, it is also understanding that it is possible to have a full and abundant life as long as you accept each day you have as a true gift and use it to do good.

This has really been such an awakening as I don’t think that I have been really appreciating the time I do have. Nevertheless, another important thing I have learned on this journey is that life is far too short to worry about things you have no control over – something I have to be reminded of frequently. I am learning the importance to really live in the moment and something which is to be treasured and savored. With that I want to share the following song called “One Life.” We have to live as though the moment we are in right now is going to be our last, because tomorrow is never promised!

I am truly grateful for every person who has crossed my path on this journey. Most importantly I have to give the credit to my doctors, for without them I wouldn’t be where I am today. It’s also been those fellow survivors who have taught me what it means to fight for your life and to never surrender! Moreover, a very big thank you to my family and friends who have been there to support, encourage and give me the strength to keep driving on. One last final thought………even though I still do have cancer, in my own mind I feel as though I have already won this battle! As one fellow survivor used to tell me often “when you lose your mental battle…..your body will not be far behind.” That is something that has always stuck in my mind and I believe that to be very true. If I made it to the first 5 years to survive this cancer it is my hope and prayer that I will make it through to the next 5 years and beyond and I wish the same for all survivors!!

survivor1

 

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

Impacts

I was recently asked “what is an unexpected way that a cancer diagnosis has had an impact on your life?” As I have pondered and contemplated over that question here is what comes to my mind:

I never expected that losing many people to thyroid cancer would hit me so hard. I guess the main reason for that is because I’ve had that opportunity to get to know them and some very closely. Although, the majority of them I’ve never met in person as we have only communicated in online forums or on the phone, but yet I feel like I’ve known them my whole life. You get to know them and their families. That is the hard part, knowing the resulting effect of the loved ones that they leave behind. I am feeling this more and more as it seems we have lost so many in the last year and the numbers just keep on climbing. You always have that fear in the back of your mind, am I going to be the that next statistic?

The other reason is because I get to thinking well now who is going to be there and uplift me when I am facing more challenges that happen with this beastly enemy? I guess it makes me feel a little bit lost in a way and then thoughts start rolling in my head and then I start to question everything. Why do things happen the way they do? Why do people have to die from this disease and other tragic events? Sometimes in this life we will never know that answer and have to just go on faith and trust in the almighty, no matter how hard that is sometimes. This is a constant wrestle that I have with God and one day I will have that extended conversation with him face to face and get those answers, as will all of us.

Nevertheless, I am realizing now that it is up to those of us survivors who are left to keep the driving force going and to be the ones who are there to uplift and encourage everyone else and even more importantly to those newbies – those who are just now facing cancer and need that direction in understanding about this disease. Those that I have lost were my guiding light, because when I started this journey four and a half years ago it was as though I was flying blind, not knowing anything or where to turn. I have to say how truly grateful I am for those that were there for me and so now it is my turn to pay it forward and be someone else’s guiding light. Each and every person I have met along this journey has helped me in one way or another, whether it be the many doctors, nurses and other survivors; each of them have played such a crucial role in where I am today. I want to encourage my fellow survivors to do the same and to be the difference as you never know the impact you can make on someone else’s journey! I will continue to make it my life’s mission to be that difference! If I can make someone’s journey a little easier, I want to do that because someone did it for me!

In addition, as I have been facing losing people in my life over the last few years, I have been reminded that life can and will go on. If anyone has faced loss or heartbreak in their life perhaps the lyrics from this song can provide you some comfort. It is a song entitled “Tell you Heart to Beat Again” by Danny Gokey and it has a powerful message that I want to share; I hope it helps you as it has helped me to have a better understanding about loss and that we can move beyond the bad things that happen in our life. I’ve also come to that realization that I’ve had to mourn that loss of a life that I once knew, the life before the cancer happened. Nevertheless, we can all come to an understanding that there is purpose even in our darkest moments as we face the many challenges in our lives.

 

Having cancer has helped me to truly understand what is important in life and that each moment is precious and something I’ve learned not to take for granted! Another great principle I’ve learned is to be sure to tell the people in your life how much they mean to you and that you love them, because you never know when that opportunity will come knocking again. No one wants to have regrets, so seize those opportunities when they come. We have to live life to the fullest extent possible, because tomorrow is never promised! I really like this quote and it speaks for itself:

tomorrow never promised 2

When those opportunities arise to be the difference to someone else we need to grab it and run with it! You never know the impact and imprint you can have on someone else and something which I will always strive to accomplish, as I said before someone did it for me and I want to return the favor!! I want to end with this important quote on how one can make an impact. It doesn’t have to be something big and it’s those small little things that have the greatest impact. You can make a difference in the life of someone else, so be the one!!

be the difference

 

 

Vicious Cycle

Have you ever been on a ride at an amusement park that just seems like it will never end? That is what I am feeling like right now with this cancer journey. We seem to go round and round over and over and it never seems to end. So here we are again with testing time and I wasn’t even going to worry about what was to come; however, it was as though I was hit with a brick straight in my face again. The latest ultrasound shows yet another pesky suspicious nodule on the same side as the existing nodule that they can’t get to. It appears to be too small at this point so now we wait until it grows big enough that my surgeon feels he can make an attempt to remove it. Even when Dr. Song was explaining this all to me, I didn’t quite absorb it until after I was halfway home from Denver. I just wasn’t myself as I have been battling this nasty bronchitis the last two months and was feeling just downright crappy. This has also caused my asthma to kick into overdrive and so I’ve been having a difficult time with wheezing which they’ve had to put me on more than one inhaler. Now it seems that I also have another sinus infection on top of it as well. I am hoping that this next round of antibiotics kicks this crap to the curb once and for all. My immune system is seriously messed up big time and it’s seems to be harder for my body to fight of these infections!

With the amount of coughing I’ve been doing and how long it’s been going on the thoughts always keep racing in my mind – has the cancer spread to my lungs as well? That has always been one of my biggest fears that I am going to get mets to other areas of my body. Luckily, my tumor markers are stable and not showing signs of an increase which is a good sign. I guess I will take that as a positive step forward. I was really hoping to get on a yearly follow-up schedule, but it’s not in the cards for me and so I guess I need to be watched a little more closely. I know that many of my thyca friends are facing similar situations and it’s always great to know that you don’t have to go through this alone. To know that there are others out there who truly understand what you are going through with the anxiety, the fears, the ups and downs of trying to get your levels right and feeling good. They understand because they are walking those same pathways as you are.

Although us thyca survivors have to experience this vicious, seemingly never ending cycle as you never know when the cancer is going to strike back which is why continuous lifetime monitoring is so necessary. Even with these never-ending challenges I am greatly reminded to stay strong and be courageous and the following scripture quote reminds me of that. I know that I am never alone and although at times I wonder whether God is with me during these dark moments, but deep down I know he’s there. Even though it is difficult to feel his presence at certain times in our life, we have to take that leap of faith and trust in His infinite wisdom – there is a reason for all of this.

Strong and of Good Courage

 

I just have to remember that what doesn’t kill me makes me a stronger person because of it. This cancer has nothing on me; the minute I give the enemy the upper hand and make it believe it will beat me that’s when it wins this war and that simply CANNOT happen! Nevertheless, I would love to get off this cancer ride, but I guess I would rather take this ride with all its twists and turns, than to have the ride of life stop altogether. So I just have to keep pushing forward and do the best with the circumstances I’ve been given – to keep calm and just keep swimming!

 

What doesn't kill you

 

 

No Action

So I have been on this cancer journey for a while now, four years exactly and it has been one very bumpy ride full of many different twists and turns. Today is no different as another twist is added to the story. Most cases of thyroid cancer can be treated with removal of the thyroid, radioactive iodine treatment and then a pill for the rest of your life. It seems simple enough, right? However, it has been somewhat more of a challenge in my case as I have had continuing persistent disease despite going through all the traditional treatment methods.

So this pesky cancer still remains on my laryngeal nerve which is under some fairly extensive scar tissue. Trying to make a second attempt at removing it surgically poses risks of causing injury to the nerve, which in turn could have a drastic effect on my voice; this is something that my surgeon doesn’t really want to do as he is not sure that he can get to it safely at this point. My case has also been reviewed recently by a multi-disciplinary team of doctors that included endocrinologists, endocrine surgeons, and interventional radiology and other folks to determine if other less invasive procedures such as ethanol alcohol ablation or radio-frequency ablation could be utilized. However, those procedures pose an even greater risk as it could potentially paralyze my vocal chords and put a hole in my trachea. So now the decision is pretty much to do nothing but wait. Knowing that I still have these cancer cells housing and residing in my body has been very difficult to say the least and I would do just about anything to have this cancer gone.

I don’t know if you have ever lived in the south and with the heat and humidity comes along with it all kinds of pests. One particular kind that I just absolutely loathe is the cockroach. When I lived in Louisiana it seemed like they were everywhere. It is really disgusting when they invade your house and they seem very hard to get rid of and just when you  think that you have zapped them all, another one appears. That is what this cancer kind of feels like; we’ve tried pretty much every method known to rid my body of this disease, but it just doesn’t want to leave!

So we have done this waiting and watching for the last three years and I was hoping that with these changes in the appearance of the nodule that these other additional options would be able to be utilized. I am a very action oriented person and if I see a problem I find a way no matter how, to find a solution to that problem and just plain fix it! To play this waiting game and not doing anything has been very challenging. However, sometimes the reality in life is that there are simply no clear answers, which appears to be what is happening in my case. Maybe perhaps then the real answer is that NO action is the best one of all! After talking it over with a very good doctor friend he’s made me see this with a different set of eyes by thinking in terms of the bigger picture.  He raised the following questions and something I had to think long and hard on.

  • Do you want to kill some cancer cells and assure yourself you will paralyze your vocal chords?
  • Are you willing to accept the resulting effects of what could happen?
  • Are the risks really worth it?

My entire medical team has answered a resounding NO, that they do not feel that these other non-invasive procedures are going to be of any benefit to me and it is most likely not going to extend my life by any means. Even if they did try these procedures there is still the likelihood it could come back again, especially given the fact of the aggressive tumor that I had. On the other hand, this remaining cancer could sit dormant for many years and possibly forever, so why not wait this out and save myself some heartache and grief?  The resulting effects of what could happen would make my quality of life go downhill mighty quick and why put myself in that situation? Now I think the light bulb has finally come on for me to realize the magnitude of what could happen and I am not sure that I want to expose myself to such great risks. The way my luck has been in this journey, I simply would not have a good outcome. If I am getting the same feedback from all these medical experts, it would be wise of me to listen and heed their advice.

For the longest time I always kept thinking to myself, why are the doctors doing this and not taking any action? The fact of the matter is that their inaction was indeed the best action of all! My medical teams have always done what is in my best interest  and I just didn’t even realize it until now. They have probably saved my life, or in the very least have saved me from more complications that I just don’t need; in years to come they will most likely be saying to me “ I told you so.” Sometimes it is hard to accept those tough decisions in life as we want what we want. They were giving me that tough love just like a parent has to do from time to time, no matter how painful. I am sure it is just as hard on the doctors who have to make these tough decisions and I honestly don’t know how some of them do it. One thing for sure is that having a competent team that looks out for you is so imperative; I have been so fortunate to have such caring and compassionate doctors who are concerned with helping me to survive this disease! The doctors on my medical teams are truly among the elite and pretty much the best doctors in the country, in my opinion. All I can say is that God put the right people, in the right place and at the right time, specifically for me.

So in this case, NO ACTION is the best course of action after all! As I reflect on this, I have been reminded once again of the following quote, which there is so much truth to.

 

Scott Stuart2

 

This principle was taught to me by my very good friend, Rob Bohning, who recently lost his very lengthy battle with thyroid cancer. He lived this very principle as he did not let a bad set of circumstances drive him down; instead he used it for good to help others in their path by showing others that you do beat this disease by how you live your life and the example you set. What I can do to pay it forward to honor him and what he taught me is to follow his shining example to uplift, inspire and encourage others in their journey. It doesn’t matter if you are just starting this cancer journey or have been at it for a while, you will come to appreciate the importance of having someone you can lean on for support, those who have and are walking this same road and can share with you their experiences and insight on what they have learned along the way. Moreover, you have to continue to move on and drive on with your life even when circumstances in this journey try to drive you down, because as Rob told me many times that “you have cancer it does not have you.”

I want to end this post with the following quote:

 

Get back up

 

Sometimes it takes getting knocked down a few times to stand taller than you ever have . For me the choice is very clear to “ALWAYS GET BACK UP and FIGHT ON!”

 

Tribute to a Warrior

Rob1

 

Rob3

 

 

 

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People may come and go throughout our lives, but there are those few people that touch our lives in such a way like no other; those extra special stars that put a stamp on our heart so deeply and we are never the same. One such unique individual that I have met through the online cancer support group forums is a wonderful man named Rob Bohning.  As many can attest, the influence this man has had on so many people as he has shared his own journey with Thyroid Cancer, as he has been there to inspire and uplift others in their good days and especially during their darkest of moments with this disease. Despite the many difficulties he was going through himself, Rob’s thoughts always seemed to be towards his fellow thyroid cancer survivors and what he could do to help them. He was the leader of the pack and truly the “one” who always put others needs ahead of his own.

So what exactly defines a cancer warrior? I think that all who are touched by cancer in one way or another are warriors, whether you are the one going through it, family members, friends and even the doctors themselves trying to battle this beast of a disease that sometimes seems to have no end. The struggles of these brave souls are many with what cancer puts them through both physically and emotionally. Those going through cancer each have a story to tell. Although every journey is different, cancer survivors have such a common bond in relating to one another and being able to support each other in this fight, which is why support groups are so important.

I met Rob through the Light of Light Foundation Facebook support group. Through these online forums I have been able to gain more knowledge and understanding about thyroid cancer and its effects. As I have mentioned in previous blog posts for the first year after my diagnosis I felt like a little lost puppy not knowing how to navigate my way through this disease. However, when I stumbled upon these online support groups I felt as though a weight was somehow lifted and that I could see a light at the end of the tunnel after all. The knowledge gained through these forums has taught me what questions I need to be asking my doctors and the skills necessary in learning how to advocate for myself. I am truly grateful that I have been able to have that support from someone who gets it as they are living through it and walking in similar shoes.  I have been able to develop many lasting friendships with those in the online support groups; although I have never met many of these people in person we are uniquely bonded together by similar circumstances.

With that being said what I want to do with this blog post is to pay tribute to one of these true warriors who has had such an impact on me as I have traveled this path. Unfortunately, Rob lost his very lengthy battle with Thyroid Cancer. He always shared his wisdom and honesty and was always straight forward about it. I think what I loved most about Rob is his testimony and faith in God. He was a man of enduring faith and was an instrument in God’s hand spreading his message of love and hope even amidst the darkness that this disease can put on a person. Here are a few lines of what Rob spoke about in our discussions that I want to share as they have such great meaning to me and are pretty powerful.

“Cancer is a hard diagnosis. But many have lived with it as a chronic illness for years. Even a stage 4 diagnosis is not a death sentence. ( I really thought that I did receive a death sentence with my Stage 4 diagnosis, but Rob has taught me to see things in a different light)

“I will tell you that fighting cancer begins in the mind. If you lose the mental battle with it, your body won’t be far behind. So wake up each day and be determined to live your life to the fullest.. and choose to beat it. I know there are bad days of pain, new things that pop up, and new things that can worry you every single day with this cancer. But take it a day at a time, and do not let it control your life. Remember, you have cancer, it does not have you.”

“ I do what I always do–I choose to pray. I know this battle ultimately resides with God. It’s His to fight in the end. All of us are merely renting these bodies and they will all break down over time………

Ecclesiastes 3:1 says:” there is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens”

If you are in a healthy season, enjoy every minute of it. If you are not healthy, embrace that too. Because in these deep furnaces of affliction, God will infuse you with iron and you will be able to withstand anything. “

“It matters when you are put into the fire, because it withstands despite the heat. So embrace your sufferings if you can.. you will learn the most during this time about yourself, and God does His most precious works in you when you are being refined in the fire.”

 

One other amazing quality that Rob had was his talent and passion with photography and here are a few pictures of how he captured nature’s beauty. The first is a favorite of mine and words that I now live by which Rob taught me.

 

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Every season

Be Still

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunrise

 

Pier

 

 

 

 

 

Rob would often speak about the things that just stick with you forever and how serving in the Marine Corps helped to prepare himself to have the fight and attitude to win the battles of life. Without a doubt those marine experiences did prepare him for this war and battle with cancer.

 

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Another important quality that Rob demonstrated was the deep love he expressed for his wife and beautiful children. It was very obvious in the way that he spoke of them and proudly shared pictures of them with us. He taught his children well and I was so impressed when his son Andrew, wanted to do his part in helping his dad fight this disease when he did a triathlon last year to raise funds for research and had raised over $7000. The apple surely doesn’t fall far from the tree there. The impact of one small little boys’ wish was great and I am sure that Andrew is going to do great things and make an impact on the world, just as his dad has.

Rob was there for others sharing his love for God and his testimony of faith through his actions. Here is a short clip of of how he shared his cancer journey and his faith which was done about a year  ago and and I will let this video speak for itself.

 

One song that comes to my mind when I think of Rob is by Kutless entititled “Even If” which is a video with lyrics that I want to share:

 

 

Although the healing just did not quite come for Rob and yet in the midst of all the suffering he went through, he still knew who God was and chose to have gratitude even with the trials and challenges he was facing. He was one extraordinary man teaching others what it means to endure to the end.

It just seems so surreal and I can’t believe I will not be able to have conversations with Rob again. He was there providing such wise words of wisdom and I could always count on Rob to lift me up  and give me encouragement when I was feeling down. The ThyCa community has been greatly affected by loss of this amazing individual and his death is greatly felt among us.

I look forward to the day, as do many others when we can see and talk with Rob on the other side to tell him face to face just how much he influenced our lives. Rob was such a true warrior in every sense of the word and fought this fight to the finish; this brave soul may be gone, but he will never be forgotten!

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