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?

Advertisements

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

Cancer Stories – Remembering my aunt

Submitted by: Tunde Nyarfadi. Tunde is Natural Light Photographer in York Region.
Website: http://tny-photography.blogspot.com/ 
Twitter name: @TNy_Photography
Follow her: TNy on Facebook

“Hi, I am here to share my story of  how I have been touched by cancer. I am lucky, touch wood, fingers crossed, I do not have cancer. I am really blessed and lucky to say this, unlike many other people.

I was about 18 years old when I found my aunt, my father’s sister, had brain tumor. She was only 37 years old, young, beautiful woman. I do not have much memory of speaking to any of may family members about it a lot. It was something really scary to think about, something awful I did not want to deal with in any way. I tried to block it out of my mind and just pretend it is not there. Thinking of it now, I feel like I was a coward.

My aunt was always a bubbly person, she had 2 children she left behind. Those children needed her. She needed them too.

I do not like to go to hospitals, really, who does? I do not like to go to funerals. I actually refuse to go to funerals. You may ask why. Allow me to tell you.

After my Aunt had a few chemo therapies and was taking really hard drugs, she did not look like herself at all. One day I visited her at home after she got out of the hospital and I was shocked, Was it the same person I saw? Was this woman my aunt, I wondered as I stood in the doorway petrified. I did not want to move closer to her. She did not know who we were. She was sitting in a armchair in her living room, with a scarf on her head. She lost all her beautiful hair. The scarf was more than an accessory. It was covering up more than just a head. Her face was all swollen.

She had some sort of a furry thing on the arm of the chair and I remember her calling it a cat…she was delusional. That was the moment when I decided I do not want to see her like this. This person in front of me is NOT my aunt, it can not be. This is when I knew I did not want to remember her like that. I wanted her to be in my memory as when she was healthy. That is all, healthy, not young, not beautiful, not old, not ugly, just a healthy person.

I saw her in my dreams a few times just sitting in her chair, her head covered with a scarf. Shortly after she passed away I went to England to be a Au-pair. I stayed with my father’s godmother who looked very much like my aunt. When I arrived at her house with my uncle, she was sitting in her kitchen. She just washed her hair and had a towel on her head. She looked like my late aunt. When she got up to great me I did not cry happy tears to see her,. I had tears in my eyes because I saw my father’s sister in her.

I did not go to her funeral. I do not go to funerals. It is not a lack of respect, it is a way of protesting against death, that I have no control over, but at least I can remember people the way I want ….they way when they were happy and alive.”

Cancer Stories – Becoming a mom without a mom

Submitted by: Marci Warhaft-Nadler. Marci is the creator of Fit vs Fiction, She travels the country inspiring young men and women to be who they want to be, and not who they think they’re supposed to be
Website: http://www.fitvsfiction.com/
Twitter name: @Fit_vs_Fiction
Follow her: Fit vs Fiction on Facebook

“I was about 1.5 hours into my flight from Montreal to Vancouver, when a flight attendent reached over my lap to grab the”empty” coffee cup from the passenger seated next to me. Unfortunately, the cup wasn’t empty at all and I ended up being covered with spilled coffee! I think the flight attendent was expecting a reaction from me, I just don’t think she was expecting the one she got.Instead of being angry, I started to cry, REALLY cry; actually I started bawling my eyes out! She looked at me like I was a bit insane, my reaction seemed a bit over the top. What she didn’t realize however, was that I wasn’t crying because I’d have to spend the rest of the flight covered in wet coffee or because the coffee had stained the brand new maternity dress I was wearing.

I was crying because I had just come from seeing my mom for the last time before Breast Cancer would her away from me.I knew the Cancer was back and it was aggressive, but she had kept from me just how Bad the situation was, because I was pregnant for the 3rd time, after suffering through 2 miscarriages, and she did not want to risk upsetting me. My mom was a single parent most of my life and we were as close as a mother and daughter could be. She was my hero and my best friend and she wanted so badly for me to experience the gift of motherhood and did not want to upset me.

When she couldn’t keep things from me anymore, I got the call to come home and I left on the first flight available. I had just enough time to tell her I loved her, show her ultrasound pictures of the grandchild she’d never get to meet and tell her he’d be named in her honor. Saying goodbye to her was devestatingly painful and I was afraid that if I let myself truly believe what was happening, it would be too much for me to handle. I feared that if I started crying, I wouldn’t stop and was trying to be as brave and strong for the son I was carrying as I felt I needed to be.

When the poor flight attendent accidentally let the coffee spill from the cup, it was like every emotion just came pouring out of me with it. I was crying for the mother I lost but still needed.

It’s been 13 years and I miss her every day,I have 2 sons now and we talk about their grandmother often, they know how loving and fun she was and how she’s watching them from Heaven during every soccer game they play or Tae Kwon Do match they win.

A friend of mine lost her mom to breast cancer 25 years ago, I lost mine 13 years ago and have a friend battling it now. Still waiting for a cure…..”

Marci and her mom, Shirley