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?
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
The beginning of 2012 began with finding out I am in remission. I struggled a bit after that news. Not quite sure what to do with it and how to move past it all.
One of the ways I began, once I was ready, was to set some goals. They were essentially items from my bucket list that I really wanted to see myself achieve. In no particular order here are the ones I’ve put my focus into for now.
- Allow myself to begin to get past having cancer: I am doing much better with this now. It’s still on my mind a lot but mostly because I’ve adopted a much louder voice as an advocate. I don’t believe I can ever go a day without thinking about it so this allows me to put a more healthy spin on it.
- Speak about relevant aspects of my life at an event where the audience is filled with people I appreciate and admire: I think about this often and while the opportunity has not presented itself yet I will actively pursue it if/when it does. I will not allow my fear of public speaking to hinder this goal. I know I have much to be said should I find the right avenue. If you are looking for speakers, hit me up, I’m interested!
- Find a way to prove to myself that I worthy of being called a writer: I’ve been blogging a very long time but for some reason it doesn’t feel like I can say I am a writer until I write something outside of my own blogs. I’m proud to say that I applied for something that was perfectly fitting for me. I heard back recently that I got the position. Soon enough I can proudly announce to the world that I am in fact a full-fledged writer!
- Be a better mother to my children: I don’t feel like I was a bad parent before. More like my focus was spread out and they suffered for it. I have dedicated more time to them and their needs, I’ve seen a huge difference in them, and in how I feel about myself as a mother. This one is a definite win!
Sometime just sitting down and thinking about the things you want to achieve is enough to light the fire needed to make it all happen. I encourage you to do the same thing!
It is a cause that is very close to my heart because I was diagnosed in June 2009. I spent nearly 3 years of my life fighting it and I’m repairing the damages it did to my body and my family. But rather than tell you about my cancer (you can read it here) I want to dedicate this post to awareness. I want YOU to know what you need to do to be proactive.
I know what you’re saying… “But I’m already busy buying daffodils, planning a ‘stache for Movember, Hosting a Girls Night In, Running for the Cure, and feeling my boobies, and the list goes on.”
I completely agree! With so many people being diagnosed with so many kinds of Cancer it’s really hard to keep on top of all the initiatives to keep us safe. Cancer awareness can be a full time job, but I promise you this; as someone who has had it for over two years, spending time on awareness and self checks is NOTHING compared to how much of your life you can lose if you yourself are diagnosed. Sadly if you ignore your health and choose not to play a proactive role in your well being the only alternative is playing a reactive role, and dealing with it when it might be too late.
Beause my story is one of Thyroid Cancer I am urging you to please do this for me:
The third is to help me bring awareness by sponsoring me! $10 will buy you one day with my hair pink! The money will go to the Thyroid Cancer Survivors Association. You can read more about this fundraising effort here at Team Thyroid. To make a donation contact me and I’ll tell you how!
Well… I won! I have no idea how but I am not going to question a good thing. I am just telling myself that the universe is making up for some tough times that I’ve gone through recently. I am proud to be able to display This badge on my site!
The whole point of this post is to say a HUGE thank you to everyone who took a couple of minutes out of their day to help my get there. So here it is:
When I think about my life, I know it is abundantly full. I have a great husband with whom I share two incredible children. We live in a modest but happy home in the suburbs. My husband has a great job which we are thankful for every day. In September both of our children will be in school. I could go on and on about all the amazing things my husband and children are up to however, I fall a bit short in that area myself. I’ve been a stay at home mom for over 4 years now and a good chunk of that time I was quite ill. The focus was on me but somehow while all that was happening I got lost. I became disconnected, unmotivated and very depressed. In January I finally found out I was well again. It was time to build my strength and get into the world. I couldn’t wait to dive head first in to life again. Only I found I was scared, unsure of what to do next. So I decided I needed a spark, something to set my creative fuel ablaze once again. I instantly thought of BlissDom Canada Where so many women have had their creative juices boosted.
Even my friends think I should be there! Here’s why they think I should attend BlissDom:
Thank you from the bottom of my heart!