The 20 most important things I’ve learned so far in my journey with thyroid cancer

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I have been wracking my brain for some blog ideas recently (since I’ve been really slacking over the past couple of months) & in my infinite wisdom (lol)…I wanted to end this year on a positive note, and I finally decided that I should just share with you all what I’ve learned (so far) in the my journey with thyroid cancer.

DISCLAIMER: It may not all seem positive, but it has truly been a learning experience; and to me… anytime you can learn something (even if it seems like you had to learn it the hard way), growing from what you’ve learned IS positive.

1. Don’t let ANYONE tell you “At least your cancer is the “good” kind”… It’s no big deal.” They are idiots.
Cancer is hard. It is scary at any age, with any type, at any staging. No it doesn’t HAVE to be life-threatening, but it will almost certainly be life-changing. It may “only be a pill you have to take” every day for the rest of your life, but that is still a change that you will have to adapt to. If I could tell people one thing about thyroid cancer specifically, is that it has the ability to change your life, just like any other condition out there… I only start out with this one because I want anyone that is going through this (or anyone that knows someone that is going through this) to know that the thyroid (or lack of) affects a lot more than you realize. Some days I feel great; ready to take on ANYTHING! Other days, I don’t leave the couch and I feel like I got hit by a bus… and it changes day-to-day. For some people, this can last for years (although I’m hoping that’s not the case for me). Your feelings, fears and journey are YOURS. Try not to allow the thought of “This isn’t a big deal” to go through your head. Sometimes you have to be realistic & deal with it however you need to.

2. Take time for yourself.
Manicure/pedicures/facials/massages/concerts/vacations/hobbies & naps all apply. Do what you have to do to help get yourself to a happier place. It isn’t selfish. You can’t be any good to anyone else if you’re cranky all the time because you’re depriving yourself of what YOU want. I still struggle with this (although my friends all say I’m on the go all the time…) I feel like I’m trying to still find my balance with this because I’ve always wanted to take time for my marriage, my friends, my family, my dogs & myself… You have to put yourself first though!

3. Your true friends will understand.
Maybe not “understand” every little pain you experience, but they will at least hopefully respect your need to take care yourself first.

4.Focus on the people that are around, not the ones that aren’t & put your efforts into those friendships.
Your efforts will be noticed AND appreciated more by the people who don’t truly expect anything from you. In turn, your friendships will grow even stronger because they aren’t one-sided.

5. Reach out to people when you’re having a bad day or need something. Be specific about your needs & people will usually be receptive. The ones that aren’t: DUMP THEM, REMOVE THEM FROM YOUR LIFE, DO WHATEVER YOU HAVE TO DO to keep them from sucking the life out of you. The best thing that has happened to me in recent years is that I decided to be myself. Of course, I’m still a self-conscious, worried, easily excitable rambler, but the ones who love me for me are still around. The ones who only wanted me around for their convenience, CONVENIENTLY disappeared from my life (thankfully most of them before my diagnosis)… I’m pretty sure that was God’s way of protecting me and helping ME to realize that I had the time finally to take care of myself and that’s exactly what I needed to do! No need to apologize, no need for excuses. It is what it is. People either accept it or they don’t. That’s their problem, not yours.

6. Share your experiences (if you’re comfortable with doing that)
It might help someone.

7. Embrace your passions

8. There WILL be HARD days, but then again there WILL also be GREAT days that trump any of the hard days
*The day I was diagnosed, 2 surgeries, the 2 weekends surrounding my RAI radiation, and the days that I’m in tears and feel like I can’t get out of bed because I’m in pain: those are are the hard days…
*The day I completed my 2nd Half Marathon this past October, the day I got hired on as an intern in the music industry, the days that I got to meet/interact with Keith Urban, my birthday weekend this year, and the many dates with my amazing husband: those are the GREAT days! The great days, even if they seem like there are fewer at times, still easily outweigh the hard days.

9. If there is something you always wished you had done in your life, DO IT
It doesn’t matter if these are your last days or you’ve got years of living left to do. In the long run, as long as it isn’t at the expense of hurting someone else, you usually don’t regret doing things that make you happy.

10. STOP apologizing for “letting people down”/It’s okay to let someone help YOU. You’re not letting anyone down
You did not ask for a cancer diagnosis, so that you could purposely not see your loved ones. That’s ridiculous and so is apologizing for things that are BEYOND your control. (As a type-A, control freak with OCD tendancies… I’m still working on this one).

11. Find a doctor that gives your the care that you deserve
If you feel like they aren’t, do your research… and MOVE ON.

12. Seek out alternative medicine if you feel that’s what is needed
Again, do your research. I’m not here to persuade you in one direction or the other on that. Figure out what works for YOU!

13. Rest
The world won’t end just because you missed a few social gatherings. In fact, if you have the right people in your life, they will find a way to make you feel like you didn’t miss anything at all, but they also will probably let you know that they genuinely missed your presence & ask if you need anything. I’ve been very blessed with a seemingly infinite amount of support in my journey. I have missed dinners, family gatherings and birthdays… but almost always, someone will FaceTime me, send me a pic with a “We miss you!” sign, or at least send me a text saying “We missed you tonight!” (I missed one of the Christmases with Wes’ family this year and nearly every family member contacted me to let me know they missed me!) It immediately made me burst into tears, but it was nice to know that they understood my need for rest.

14. Listen to music, read a book, talk to friends & be open-minded when you do. You may gain some insight on something you never thought about.
I’ve done a lot of reading, and even more talking to people and listening to music. I feel like it all helps me process what I’ve gone through, and it makes it all a little easier.

15. Pray, pray, pray (or meditate or exercise, write it down and then burn it or WHATEVER & try not to look back too much…just keep moving forward… Free your mind.
Do your best; even if it’s for a few moments every week and just think about your life, how far you’ve come and think about what’s ahead & take the time to process everything you have to be thankful for in your life. I still struggle with this one, but doing some of these things helps make the hard days a little easier… and no, I’m not a pyromaniac… I promise. 🙂

16. Change your lifestyle.
I still struggle with aspects of this one, but I’ve made improvements and they have been very helpful… I’m still a night-owl, but because I chose to go after a job that I enjoy, it forces me to get up earlier at least 3 days a week and be busy with something else other than feeling under the weather. On one of my other days, I go to a lymphadema specialist for about 45 minutes, come home, do a few things around the house and then I go meet with my personal trainer for 30 minutes. Health issues inevitably come up during my lymphadema & training sessions, but I try to view going to these things as part of my solution to my problem, which helps keep me motivated to not get (too) lazy about them. Basically, if you’re feeling miserable, you NEED to get out of your environment, even if it’s only for an hour and a half a week.

17. Do something nice for someone else.
Whether they’re going through tough times themselves, or you just feel like being randomly charitable. It will at least briefly make you forget your troubles & help put things into perspective for a moment.

18. Sometimes you just need to escape.
This goes along with freeing your mind & taking taking time for yourself. I randomly decided to go see one of my best friends in VA, as part of a long girls’ weekend… partly because Keith Urban HAPPENED to be playing near her, partly because I had the time & it was close to my birthday, but mostly I just missed her and thought I could use the break… I came back home to my husband a much happier person. He didn’t have to worry about me, because he knew I was in good hands… and it probably gave him a chance to play XBOX, go to bed earlier, or do whatever it is that men do. Your loved ones need a break from all the craziness that comes from a cancer diagnosis as well. It’s okay to be apart. The hardest part was leaving home and being away from him that long, but I think in the long run… It was good for both of us & it turns out, my friend was starting to go through a break-up after a 5-year relationship with a guy, so God definitely showed me pretty quickly that as random & impromptu as that trip was, it was MEANT TO BE!

19. If you don’t feel like you have the support system you need, GO GET ONE!
It can be that one friend that you were never that close to, but he/she reached out to you. It can be the local support groups or national conferences. It can be family. It can be the internet. Whatever you’re most comfortable with. I chose to reach out to anyone & everyone that would listen or could relate. It’s your journey!

I’m sure I will think of more later, but lastly…

20. Don’t forget to BREATHE!!! (I always forget to do that)… You will get through this. 🙂

Here’s to a happier & healthier 2015 for everyone! Thank you for taking the time to read my words. I can’t fully express how much it means to me that you all take the time to be a part of my journey. I love you all!

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    • Wes
    • December 31, 2014
    Reply

    Everyone needs to read this! It's not just stuff that only apply to a cancer diagnosis, but anyone that feels like something is off or missing. I hope that everyone can take something out of this that can help them in their everyday life. 🙂

  1. Reply

    I pray that everyone learn these lessons without having to experience something as traumatic as cancer. We all need to slow down in our daily lives and see the world around us. So glad I met you and Wes this year – Happy New Year to you both!

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