CANCER. A year ago today I was headed into hospital to have half my thyroid removed. Having done a biopsy, they were sure the lump on my thyroid was cancer - not yet sure what kind or how bad. It was a very grown up sort of day.
The lump turned out to be a ‘medullary thyroid carcinoma’ and so they had to go back in and remove the other half of my thyroid, making me fully dependent on hormone replacement pills for the rest of my life. I think that may still be the most terrifying part of my story so far. Without these pills, I will die. I have no control over that. Unless I grow back a healthy thyroid. Hmmm. For the next eight months there were tests and scans and oncology appointments. An awful lot of hurry up and wait. After all these tests and scans I have been very lucky and surgeries seem to have removed all the cancer. Though I have to have regular tests - forever, I am cancer free.
Doctors and friends said how well I handled the whole process. For a while I was a bit concerned that maybe I just didn’t get the full gravity of my situation. Was I not accepting all the facts? I simply took each phase of the journey as it came. I can’t take much credit for it, it wasn’t as though I was being brave. I simply could not look past the next test or scan. I dealt with the time from one test to the next surgery or scan. Confirming with my doctor that the next surgery would be to remove the second half of my thyroid just in case there was more cancer. Ok, so just deal with that. After that, when the second half of the thyroid was clear I had to wait for the Oncology appointment and tests to make sure there was no sign of cancer in my lymph nodes. I did not ask what would happen if there was cancer in my lymph nodes. I did not google medullary carcinoma of the thyroid. I googled, ‘how to cure cancer at home’, ‘Cure cancer with diet’ ‘Natural healing for cancer patients’ I had to do something for myself. I asked the doctors if there was anything I should or could do so long, that could help. They told me 'no', I was just to carry on as usual. I refused to sit back and wait. DON'T tell me I can't do anything about it! Each appointment or test was at least a month apart. So I had a month to calm myself and listen to my body. My body told me that the cancer was gone after the first operation. I was sure of it. Mostly.
This is not to say I did not have dark moments. So dark. After the second surgery, I took longer to recover as it was less than a month after the first. All the medication and anesthetic from the surgery got me really low. That night, lying awake in bed, I made all the promises to the universe. If I was well I would do so many good things. I would make a difference. But I could not think of anything I would be useful for. What was the point of me? Why should I be allowed to live when so many good people aren’t. I had no answers that night. It was a dark, dark night as I could not come up with one reason I should be kept alive. I got up the next day though and I was not going to let my head get in the way of healing and what I knew to be true about my health. I believe negative thinking to be toxic so I had to clear my mind and begin again, because I was not going to give in.
During the ‘hurry up and wait’ months I went through so many phases. I became acutely aware of my environment and the people around me. So many beautiful people. Even those you don’t know. I was hyper aware of everything for a while. Snippets of conversations that made life changing sense to me. A friend popping in with a cup of coffee and a chat about the weather. The people who listened to my updates as I spoke of them in a factual manner. Some people were already good friends, others were people I hardly knew. People who passed me in the street and smiled, for no reason. I was so grateful to everyone who supported my business during this time, whether they knew of my health or not. I learned that we are all so important to one another. It can change someone's day - sometimes even their life if you speak the compliment in your mind when they pass by. Sometimes it is all that person has to hold on to that day. Do it. I learned that everything really is connected.
Along the way I started to remember who I was. I grieved for the time wasted in a sleepy haze as the tumor quietly grew and affected my body. It’s funny how we just accept tiredness. For years maybe? I knew I wasn’t well. I couldn’t put my finger on it. Maybe I was just tired, like everyone is tired all the time. I pushed my body to carry on, work harder when it was saying please, please stop and listen. There were days when I told my husband, ‘I’m just tired, I feel like my body is fighting something. I just hope it wins.” I was thinking of the flu. There were nights I lay away and the word cancer drifted into my mind, I pushed it away, chastising myself for being melodramatic. When the diagnosis came I think maybe there was a moment of relief. Relief that we knew what was happening and we could move forward. Forward was scary, in the beginning we had no idea how bad it might be, but forward was forward.
Now it is a year since it all began. In October last year I had the last big scan that proved I was properly cancer free. For the rest of the year I coasted along. I had to get ready for the Christmas season, get enough product ready for markets. I had so much catching up to do and I needed to make some money after a year of little work and a lot of expense. As I slowly came down to earth after the last results I could start to really look at what happened. Deal with the experience on an emotional level and find a way forward. I can’t just go back to life as it was. That life has cancer in it. I needed to take the time out. To stop and breath. But I'm getting restless. I'm not sure what I want to do next. I have gone through a phase of tidying out. Getting rid of so much of my material collections and unnecessary stuff. I am hoping if I clear out enough space I will be able to make room for something new. Something important. Something helpful. Because I believe everything happens for a reason. So what will my next great adventure be?