One Year Follow Up

The following is a post written and published on Facing Cancer’s website where I am honoured to be a writer. You can find the original post here.

The ticking of the clock is getting louder as the days pass. This week it will be 10 months since I found out I am in remission from advanced Thyroid Cancer.

I was diagnosed in June of 2009. I sat the doctors office in shock, even though I had already self diagnosed, and knew in my gut it was Cancer. But even though I told myself I was prepared to hear bad news, it was still a devastating blow. It was explained to me that if I had to have cancer, this was a good one since most people are treated and recovered very quickly. What I didn’t know until much later was that My entire thyroid was swallowed up by the disease and that I had lymphatic metastasis. So my journey was much longer than any of us could have expected. I lived in a chronic state of illness for 2.5 years. Until the day I sat in the doctors office, once again expecting bad news. My mom was with me for the first time ever, so I grumbled through obligatory introductions. My doctor looked at my mom and shook her hand politely and said something to the effect of; it’s nice to meet you, but we won’t likely have another opportunity for about a year. I felt immediate panic, thinking she was about to announce she would be taking a leave from her practice, leaving me in the lurch, as my previous doctor had. She asked me to have a seat and then went over the numbers from my recent labs and my whole body scan. I sat there, blinking slowly, trying to understand all the numbers, when my mom, seemingly understanding my confusion, piped up asking what it all meant. “It means we’re finally at a low enough level to consider Coleen to be in remission”. That happened on Jan 3rd 2012 and was the best belated Christmas gift I could have received.

I’m thrilled that I am counting it and remembering every month. I’m not sure that I’ll ever forget how significant the 3rd of each month is. You’d think I would feel more at ease the further I distance myself from that date, but for me it’s quite the opposite. I live with the fear of recurrence in the back of my mind, gnawing at my happiness like a termite. It’s happening one thought at a time, but collectively the thoughts frighten me. The what ifs, and the panic every time a new “symptom” pops up. I can’t be the only one who feels this way, can I? I know it’s not healthy but it’s not a conscious choice I make.

Right now I’m in the countdown to my one year follow up. I have heard variances among fellow thyroid cancer survivors of what one year testing involves. So to be honest, I’m not really sure what to expect. This lack of knowledge adds to my fears. I have just reached out to my doctors to book an appointment to review my last set of blood tests and to discuss what we do now that the one year mark is nearly here. So I guess Until then it is simply a waiting game.

Can you relate?

Unknowingly Unprepared

I have never really spoken much about death on this blog. Odd considering it’s something that was on my mind a great deal while I was ill. Those dark thoughts stuck with me secretly for such a long time. Recently I was in attendance She’s Connected 2012. The sessions had broken for lunch and I joined some dear friends in the boardroom for a quick meal. My friend Ann sat across the table from me chipper and vibrant, despite having lost her husband the past year, she seemed to be really flourishing at the event. Then a woman takes the stage for an impromptu chat. She was representing an author who penned a book about her experience after loosing her husband suddenly. Instantly I felt a bit sick and turned to look at Ann, only to find that the ENTIRE room had just awkwardly done the exact same thing.  I worried for her, I felt for her and I saw tears welling up in her eyes. This woman I thought was coping so surprisingly well was right back in that moment, immersed in her pain all over again.

I know the speaker had no idea the weight her words would hold for some of us who have grown to love and admire Ann. Nonetheless, I sat stone faced listening to her speak about how the author was so deeply unprepared. There was much she hadn’t done and much she had no idea how to do. My own situation bubbled up and I was then crying too. No longer out of sympathy for my friend, but out of anger towards myself because I had convinced myself that I was prepared in th event that I lost my fight with cancer.

In my guest post on Anns website I recount how terrible my situation was, and how selfish I was to have had cancer and not have taken care to properly plan for myself and my family.

You can read my post here: Unknowingly Unprepared

Journalling

Last Christmas I was given a gift by a woman I don’t know terribly well, though I wish that wasn’t the case. Despite that fact she seemed to know just what would easy my troubles at a time I was very low. For no other reason that pure unselfish kindness, she and her familysent my family a gift filled with many comforts. We appreciated them more than I could have expressed. When we opened the items I actually wept. It was if this woman had been living in my brain. For me the stand out item was a beautiful pink embossed journal and a pen with gorgeous smooth pink ink. I still had cancer and was experiencing a great deal of physical pain. While I’ve been blogging for many years I had never really taken pen to paper in that way before. I was certain that I would never journal since I blog, but I quickly came to realize that while suffering insomnia, that journal became my new best friend. Instead of going to bed with a brain full of worries, I was taking some time to disconnect from everything electronic and just write out what was troubling me. The deep stuff. Things most likely to not make it to my blog. I also began using it as a way to record my daily successes and goals for the next day even if they were as small as pushing myself to leave my house.

This gift has become my lifeline. As I draw near the end of the blank pages, their predecessors having been filled by my nightly unloads, I know I can’t let this end. I’m begining to feel a  sense of loss knowing that this one is coming to an end. So I will be out looking for a journal for when this one is finally finished. This one gift has given me something no other gift has. Release. Release from stress, and release from a life of insomnia. I can’t claim that I don’t experience those things on occassion still, but the first week after I began journalling, I could see an immediate shift.

To you, the giver of this gift, I hope you realize your kindness changed me. I thank you for that.

Has technology made journalling a dying art?

Have you even given or received a gift that made a difference?