Thyroid diseases and thyroid cancers are fun, right? Unfortunately not; they deeply affect us as patients and our families, indelibly leaving an imprint on our minds, bodies and souls. None of it is easy. If we’re going to bring awareness to this disease, we have to come together as a family. Our collective voices have the power to invoke change. Because the holidays are a time of celebration with the people we love and a time to reflect, what better way to ignite change, and move our stories forward, oh and have a laugh along the way, than to connect with each other?

Questions from Dear Thyroid:

1)       Have the holidays and your experience of them changed since you’ve been diagnosed?  I was diagnosed a year ago.  I’ve now had a chance to experience all of the holidays over the past year since the diagnosis.  I have found that my attitude has changed to an “attitude of gratitude” on a deeper level since I was diagnosed with having thyroid cancer.  Being able to spend time with friends and family during the holidays really is a gift.  I don’t take it for granted anymore.  At Thanksgiving we go around the table and share what we are grateful for one by one.  The top things on my list were “surviving cancer” and “family that supported and loved me through my journey.”

2)       What is your favorite holiday food/dish from childhood?  What is your favorite dish now? (Did you have to change your diet at all since being diagnosed?)  My favorite holiday food from childhood was mashed potatoes.  Now it’s changed to stuffing, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes and string bean casserole (during Thanksgiving).  I like the sides better than the turkey.  Oh and pumpkin pie is one of my all time favorite desserts anytime of year.

I did have to alter my diet to a LID (low-iodine diet) to prepare for the RAI (radio active iodine) treatment.  The good news is that it was not during a holiday and I’m thankful for it!

3)       Off the top of your head, is there one comment from friends or family that sticks out in your mind as a what-were-they-thinking kind of thing that brought your disease front and center for everyone at the holiday function to hear about?  Nothing comes to mind for this one.  I’m very close with my family, so everyone knew that I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer during the holidays last year.  This year they all knew that I was a cancer survivor.  There are certainly tons of “what-were-they-thinking” things said during holiday dinners, but that’s as much a part of the holidays as overeating.

4)       How do you get through the stress of the holidays, paired with a disease? What are your coping strategies?  I focus on being grateful for all of the blessings.  We all have a choice of what we spend time thinking about, so I give power to the good thoughts.  It’s easy to feel pity for myself or negative about life at times, but that just adds to the stress.  I talk about how I feel with the people that are closest to me.  Verbally processing it with someone else always helps relieve the stress and put things back into perspective for me.

5)       Do you feel the need to enlighten and educate your loved ones about your disease when you get together for holidays, as people are often curious about our illnesses?  If so, how do you educate them?  This usually happens in side conversations if someones asks me.  I don’t have the need to just talk about it when we’re together for the holidays.  However, they have become supporters of my thyroid cancer survivor blog.

6)       Has your disease ever showed up at the wrong time on a holiday and ruined the day or moment?  My voice has been affected since the thyroidectomy.  Over time, my speaking voice is pretty much back to normal, but when I talk loudly or try to sing, it is very noticable.  It is upsetting to me.  I am looking into some options to strengthen my voice.

7)       Have you thought about submitting a letter to Dear Thyroid? If so, would your letter be a love letter or a hate letter? Would it be to your thyroid or from your thyroid?  Of course I have!  I could write many letters including a love letter, hate letter both to and from my thyroid.  I’m still on the thyroid cancer survivor “journey” and will be for the rest of my life.  So as I think about it, I believe that all of the different thyroid cancer phases and experiences have given me reasons to write a variety of Dear Thyroid letters.

8)       If you could tell the world one thing about thyroid disease (or thyroid cancer) that you feel they don’t understand, what would it be?  Thyroid cancer is cancer.  Through my experience, I was so surprised at how many people minimized thyroid cancer by calling it the “little C” instead of the “big C” or compared it to other cancers.  It made me feel like my cancer wasn’t good enough.  I was even told that if I had to have cancer, this was the “best kind of cancer” to have because it is so treatable.  I have learned that cancer is cancer.  

Education and information about thyroid cancer will help.  People need to understand more about thyroid cancer, early detection, symptoms and treatment. I don’t think many people realize the impact that it has on the life of the person diagnosed with cancer.  So it does not help to minimize it to the person that was just diagnosed.  The treatment and mortality rate might be different with certain kind of cancers, but it does not mean that the person diagnosed with cancer feels any different.  We are still human.  We all have the same feelings in common.  We all need support, love, compassion and positive motivation in our lives.  I’m thankful to have people that have given me these things.  I started my thyroid cancer survivor blog to give back, promote awareness and information about thyroid cancer and give everyone touched by cancer a common place to connect.

9)       What is the greatest misconception regarding thyroid disease and thyroid cancer?  Many people don’t think you can die from thyroid cancer. I also found that people believe once the thyroid is removed, the cancer is gone.  The fact is you can die from it and it can come back even if after a thyroidectomy.

10)    What is the stupidest thing someone has said to you regarding your illness that, to this day, still makes you laugh or makes you angry? Some people seriously asked me if I glowed in the dark after my radio active iodine treatment.  That one still makes me laugh. 🙂

Dear Thyroid is a literary thyroid support community and blog. Thyroid patients are invited to submit Dear Thyroid letters; love letters and hate letters, among other thyroid literary things, such as Thyrants, Thygraphs, Thykus, Thyetry and Thysongs, etc. Our goals are for all of us as a community of patients to connect with each other and our diseases, and to bring awareness to thyroid diseases and thyroid cancers, we need and deserve a face and a voice. For our non-literary crew, we have monthly Flickr pools. Recently, we launched Dear Thyroid Local Meet Ups for offline support. Dear Thyroid Forums are forthcoming in December.