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?

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Shouldn’t I be happy?

I can’t sleep. I feel ashamed of myself. I’m hurting emotionally and I have no reason to be.

I know that the fact that I am cancer free is still fresh news, but I think I should feel happy. But I don’t. I feel everything but happy. I feel sad, scared, depressed, anxious, and angry. Everything BUT happy. 

WTF is wrong with me? Am I broken? Who finds out their battle with cancer is finally over and spends 4 solid days crying? Me. Why? No idea.
I have kept this emotional upheaval a secret from everyone but then my mom called me and I completely fell apart on the phone. Granted there were other factors involved that had me feeling a bit emotional, but for the most part it was all over my confusion from being cancer free. I bawled while I talked to my mom, and she didn’t sound the least bit surprised that I was feeling this way. She was very kind and supportive of me, explaining that it was going to take time to sink in. 
All I know is I feel horrible for not being anything but happy. I’ll talk to my therapist about it and see if I’m normal or not. 
The honest truth is that I just don’t know what to do now. How do I move forward? Cancer has consumed my life, my calendar, my medicine cabinet and so much more, and now it’s just gone. So what now?

I’m a Survivor!

Wow, Yesterday I had my follow up appointment to find out the status of my cancer. As I wrote in my last post I was scared to death of metastasis. I felt quite certain it had spread. I don’t even know that I have grasped what the Dr. told me yet. After meeting my mom, who was kind enough to come with me in case I got bad news, the Doctor go down to business explaining my cancer marker levels at each interval from the past two and a half years. Basically while my level is still not a zero it was low enough that I am safely considered:

CANCER-FREE!!!

Yes! That’s right I am finally over this shit! I don’t know how to react. I think I’m still kind of numb. I had to ask the doctor 20 times “are you sure?” She was please to tell me she was sure and she commended me on sticking it out, acknowledging that it was a longer battle than the majority of thyroid cancer patients endure. She also encouraged me to go see my family doctor so that we can discuss the pain and other issues that were causing me such concern. She said that it’s great that it’s not caused by the cancer but that it still needs to be checked out. I will certainly follow up with him, but really who cares about all that? All I know is I have a new lease on life and 2012 is my year!!!

I am a survivor!