Wednesday, July 19, 2017

" at first i was afraid, i was petrified...i will survive. as long as i know how to love, i know i'll stay alive... i've got all my life to live, and i've got all my love to give. and i'll survive, i will survive." i will survive by gloria gaynor

i started this blog back in april, 2010, when i was first diagnosed with thyroid cancer. it has served several purposes, i think. writing about my experiences has been therapeutic for me. it has helped me work through my feelings about having cancer in a positive way. also, it has always been my sincere wish that my blog posts will let people know that they are not alone in this cancer journey. for me, not knowing what might happen- and that includes medical as well as emotional issues, is the worst thing. if i can help someone who is afraid of the cancer road ahead of them cope a little bit better by knowing how things were for me, well, then i am  happy. i feel like i have accomplished something, albeit small.

one of my most treasured possessions is a book of my blogs, starting from may 8th, 2010 ( my first blog post )  through december 6th, 2010. my daughter had the book made  as a Christmas present for me. she put a picture of a beautiful butterfly on the front cover, a picture of our home on the back, and an inscription inside the front cover that still brings tears to my eyes when  i read it. it says, just a minute while i get a kleenex, " for mom, who has dealt with her thyroid cancer with humor, grace, and self-reflection. i love you!" i certainly hope that i have done a good job with that. adding a second cancer, breast cancer, in 2015, changed the tone of my blog a bit. while i still try to add humor whenever i can, i think my blog is now more reflective.

the way that i usually write my blogs is that a song pops into my head that i can not get rid of. from those lyrics, i start to think about what i would like to write about. occasionally, the subject matter comes first and then i match it up with song lyrics, but usually the music comes first. music has always been an important part of my life. it affects  my mood in a positive way and makes dealing with difficult issues, such as treatments, surgeries, outcomes,etc, easier for me . being outside in nature runs a pretty close second to music , though. i think that it is important that everyone decide for themselves what are  the best coping strategies - be it music, being out in nature, writing about cancer experiences,etc.and try to incorporate those things into your life as much as you possibly can. music, nature, and writing make me have a happier life. it might be bingo and margaritas for someone else, but whatever it is, my best advice is to go with it.

i recently read about an extremely talented mathematician, from iran, who recently passed away from breast cancer. her name was maryam mirzakhani, and  she was the first woman to win the math world's nobel prize ( it is called the fields medal ) for the first time. one of her co-workers said this:" a genius? yes. but also a daughter, a mother, and a wife." this made me think about the quality verses the quantity of life. certainly, i want to live as long as possible, but the quality of a well lived  life is immeasurably important. only a small percentage of us will be able to do things that are globally important and meaningful. the rest of us should do what we can on a " regional level" you might say to improve the lives of others. i feel that our actions do not have to be on a grand scale. what if all of us did just a few positive things? that certainly  could change the world for the better. or at least in our little part of the world.

it is important to survive. we should all do the best that we can, and all that we can,  to take care of ourselves. but i think that it is more important to actually live a good life .  none of us knows how much time we have here on earth. we can not control the quantity of time that we have, whether  we have a serious disease such as cancer or not . what we all can control, though,  is the quality of our life. help someone, love someone.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

" you, who are on the road, must have a code, that you can live by. and so become yourself, because the past, is just a goodbye...teach your children well..." teach your children, by crosby, stills, nash and young

i happened to skim over an article on facebook the other day, on a fairly popular cancer survivors website. the crux of the article was basically what lesson(s) cancer can teach us. the author of the article said something that resonated with me. this person said that one of her oncology nurses, and this was a no-nonsense, very professional, business like person ( i am describing the nurse here) asked the cancer patient what lesson(s) cancer had to offer them. the cancer patient said that she was surprised to hear this type of statement coming from a non "woo-woo" health care professional,  i believe her words were. i suppose she meant that this nurse was not of the new age persuasion. not that i think this topic is new age or any other age for that matter.

the article stated that this cancer patient had " beat cancer". i take issue with those words. first of all, i did not beat cancer, cancer beat the absolute stuffing out of me. it is sort of like when the flying monkeys got finished with the scarecrow from the movie " the land of oz.". do you remember when the poor scarecrow said something like, " well, that is just me all over!" and was picking up the straw and trying to put himself together again. that was what cancer did to me. i am still trying to put that darn straw back  where it belongs.

that said, i did indeed learn a few lessons from having had cancer. i always thought that i had things pretty well figured out in my life. go to work and take care of my family. once a year, my husband and i took a vacation somewhere, and vowed to take more time for ourselves going forward . this went on for absolute years. wash, rinse, repeat, as the saying goes. i knew that stress was getting the best of me, and that i needed to do some things that i had always wanted to do. but how? how could  i possibly  get off of the hamster wheel that was in charge of my life? well, when you get sick, your whole world changes. at first, and i think this applies to almost every cancer patient, you are just focused on the diagnosis, treatment, just the medical issues and your survival. as i have said before, your brain goes on auto- pilot and you are making medical decisions at a frantic and frightening pace.

when that part of your adventure is over, and you are in the recovery phase, also known as the what in the world do i do now phase , you begin to think seriously about your life. you managed to get off of the darn hamster wheel, but what now? i had some serious questions for myself at this point.one question was  how did i get cancer- two cancers that no one else  in my entire family had ever had. was it something that i was exposed to? something i ate? stress? i had no risk factors for either one of those cancers. although, in the spirit of full disclosure, several members  of my family had and still have thyroid disorders. no cancer, though, until me. i am almost positive that i will never be able to answer this question. the second question was where do i go from here?

 let me say now  that i enjoyed my work. was it stressful? yes, very. but sometimes i think that we are too quick to blame stress for a lot of our unfortunate health conditions. however, i did not want that level of stress in my life anymore. i found it hard to concentrate on my work after all of the surgeries and chemotherapy that i had to have. i could do it, it just took too much of my energy to do it well. so i had to decide what i wanted to do with the rest of my life. learning that i was mortal ( jeez, i could actually die from this!) was also a lesson for me. of course, i know that i will die at some point, but let's just say a cancer diagnosis is a not so friendly reminder of this fact.

i really like the words to "teach your children" that go:" you, who are on the road, must have a code, that you can live by. and so become yourself. " bingo. as oprah would say, that was my " aha " moment in my cancer adventure. i am becoming myself. it is a gradual process. i am doing the things that i love- writing, doing crafts, spending time with my husband,, spending time with my children and grandchildren. things that i did not have very much time for before i had cancer. i realize that i am very lucky to be able to retire now and do these things. i know that some people are not as fortunate as i am. they get their diagnosis when they are younger- when they can not disregard the demands of work, and when they have family obligations that make it impossible to do everything that they would like to be doing. even so, i think that there is a shift in thinking. cancer patients, for the most part, decide pretty quickly what things are important, and what things are not.

so, to wrap this up, cancer is teaching me ( remember, i am a work in progress) to become myself. to be true to myself. to be grateful, and appreciate even the small goodies in life. and thankfully, hopefully,  the  past will be " just a good-bye".