cancer survivor


“Cancer is not a battle that we win or lose. It is not our fault or a sign of weakness. We are not responsible for our cancer outcomes. The crapshoot of cancer and recurrence can NOT be controlled. Celebrate yourself for each time you, despite all the trauma of cancer, treatment, and the mindfuck of “survivorship”, choose to love, live, lust, laugh… We are not a success story based on our cancer progression or not. We succeed when we are courageous enough to keep walking forward even with missing parts, severe pain, addled brains, and broken hearts.”  ~Dr. Erica D. Bernstein

These profound words by Erica Bernstein really hit home with me.  I’ve been in remission for over three years.  The more time that goes by, the less I think about cancer.  But I will never forget what the journey was like.  Whether it’s a cancer survivor’s story on the news or hearing about a friend newly diagnosed, I seem to be reminded quite often of what it was like.  Yesterday, I was with a friend who just found out that she had cancer.  She was so scared and cried as she talked about her fears.  I got chills as she shared about it.  Her battle is just beginning.  She will know more about it tomorrow.  I have been keeping her in my prayers.

Listening to her took me back to that initial fear and racing thoughts I had when the doctor told me that my tumor was malignant.  I didn’t know how to process the words.  I couldn’t believe it.  But deep down, I had a sense of serenity and I knew that I would survive.  I connected with that power.  I re-discovered my courage and strength.  I kept walking forward.  There were times when I wanted to wave the white flag and give up, but I kept walking forward.  Through the doctors appointments, treatment, medicine, tears, nausea, depression, physical weakness, and more, I got to the other side. 

Cancer changed the direction of my life.  I am grateful for the experience because it led me to where I am today.  It made me aware of how strong of a woman I am.  It gave me a chance to get in touch once again with what matters in life.  And I hope that my friend finds the gifts that I found.  I pray that she connects with her strength and is courageous enough to keep walking forward.

As a cancer survivor, it would be nice to hear people wish one another a “Healthy” New Year instead of the common “Happy” New Year.  Think about it.  Happiness is a choice.  I can wake up each day and set my intension on being happy and attracting positivity into my life. 

When it comes to being healthy, I don’t have the power to be healthy.  Don’t get me wrong, I can focus on being healthy.  I can do things like watch what I eat, not smoke, exercise and more to stay healthy.  But I could not control getting cancer.  It was not a choice.  What was a choice was my attitude towards it all.  I made a choice to be a cancer survivor.  I decided to fight the fight.  I did what I had to do to beat it!  You can to!!

May 2012 bring you HEALTH and HAPPINESS!

As soon as I read “What Cancer Cannot Do” I felt my inner cancer SURVIVOR come out.  We tend to give cancer a lot of power.  It is part of the process to start blaming changes in our lives, relationships, outlook, attitude and choices on cancer.  The real deal is that each one of us has the power and inner-strength to focus on what we CAN do and what cancer CANNOT do.  It is a powerful exercise. 

I started thinking about what else could be added to the list.  I’m sharing it with all of my blog readers and asking you to add to the list as well.  Here is my version:

Cancer is so limited…

It cannot turn my world to darkness.

It cannot make the beauty of nature disappear.

It cannot take over my being.

It cannot drain my creativity.

It cannot silence my voice.

It cannot prevent me from spreading awareness and hope.

It cannot come between my connection with a Higher Power.

It cannot stop me from laughing and smiling.

It cannot take my will power.

It cannot make me give up.

It cannot take away my joy.

It cannot change my purpose in life.

I’m sitting in the waiting room at Labcorp listening for my name to be called.  Another “post-cancer follow-up” tour has begun.  I’ve been doing this tour twice a year now for three years.  The first stop on the tour is at Labcorp where I get my blood work done.  This is the stop where I begin to notice the worry and thoughts about “what if” come into my mind.   The second stop on the tour is at the radiologist’s office where I get a thyroid ultrasound.  The tour ends at my endocrinologist’s office where we go over the results and go from there. (They just called my name.  I need to go back to the next waiting room now!)

Ok, I’m back.  I must say, that was an uplifting experience.  The lab tech who drew my blood greeted me with a smile.  She was upbeat and has a positive attitude.  This is usually not the case.  I noticed a box on her workstation of Crayon Bandages.  I asked her what they were.  She walked over, took out a red one, stuck it over the gauze on my arm and said, “Here you go.  Let’s make this fun!” 

As I left Labcorp, I thought about how attitude goes a long way in life.  It is so easy to get caught back up in the cancer attitude and feel down when going back for medical treatment of follow-up procedures.  I tend to forget that there is a choice.  It doesn’t have to be a negative experience.  It all starts with my attitude. 

I kept the red crayon bandage and put it in a place where I would see if everyday.  It will now serve as a reminder for me to check my attitude.  It’s the little things like a red bandage that can deliver a big message and lesson in life.

For years, I have shared my cancer survivor journey on this blog.  In turn, many of you have left comments in response to many of the blog posts.  (Thank you!! You all rock!) I’d like to magnify that by opening the stage for all cancer survivors to use their voice by commenting at the end of this post.

You can voice anything through your comments, as long as it is relates to your cancer survivor journey.  This is your space to connect with others, help others, vent, inspire, and give back.  For many of us, cancer can drain our energy, darker our spirit and quiet our voice.  Fight the Fight!! Speak up and use your voice by sharing your comments!  If it helps, here are some questions to get your minds going:

  • Where are you in your cancer survivor journey?
  • What lessons have you learned from having cancer?
  • What gets you through the fear and difficult times?
  • Are you putting off any kind of medical follow-up like a doctor visit, scan, blood work?
  • How has your outlook on life changed?
  • Has cancer had an impact on your relationships with your spouse/partner, children, family, friends, co-workers, self?
  • What would you tell someone who was just diagnosed with cancer?
  • Did you find an inner-strength and or stronger connection with a higher energy, spirit or source during your cancer survivor journey?
  • What have you done to give back and help others fight the fight?
  • Has your cancer survivor journey inspired you in some way?  If so, what did you do with that inspiration?
  • Do you still feel stuck in a “cancer mindframe” even though you’re in remission?
  • Are you living life beyond cancer?

If you would like to comment on one of the questions or more, then go for it! If not, please voice your own thoughts.

Thank you!!

June 5, 2011 marks the 24th annual National Cancer Survivors Day.  I feel so grateful to be one of the estimated 12 million cancer survivors in America.  Today is a day that I reflect on my journey.  According to the National Cancer Survivors Day Foundation site, ” Hundreds of communities worldwide will host events on this day to celebrate life and demonstrate that life after a cancer diagnosis can be meaningful and productive.  National Cancer Survivors Day is a treasured annual celebration of life. Joy and hope, camaraderie and faith, and triumph over adversity will be on full display. It is a day for everyone, whether you’re a cancer survivor, a family member, a friend, or a medical professional. This day provides an opportunity for cancer survivors to connect with other survivors, and recognize the healthcare providers, families, and friends who have supported them along the way.”

So many people, organizations and groups come together on this day to unite.  LIVESTRONG created a page with Stand Up to Cancer that allows survivors to express themselves.  There is a space on the page that links to your facebook status showing the answer to the question, “What Do You Want to Say to Cancer?”

“How are you going to honor this day?”  That is my question to you.

A couple of weeks ago I had a painful reminder from my salivary gland that the RAI (radioactive iodine) treatment is starting to take a toll.  Almost two years ago, I took RAI (I-131) to kill any remaining cancer cells lurking around in my thyroid tissue.  This was done a couple of weeks after my thyroidectomy.  I didn’t have any issues with my salivary glands during that time.
If it’s not one gland, it’s another.  Instead of my thyroid gland being diagnosed with cancer, now my parotid gland has been diagnosed with sialadenitis.  Oh joy!  At this point, it is hard to say if my sialadenitis of the parotid gland is a direct result of the RAI or not.  There is not too much research on the long-term effects of RAI to date.  However, I did find a case study in the JADA called Salivary Gland Injury Resulting From Exposure to Radioactive Iodine that was very informative.  According to this study, “In the majority of cases, when a patient receives therapeutic doses of 131I, the patient develops an asymmetric radiation sialadenitis. Obstructive symptomatology is to be expected. Oral dryness occurs less often and is related directly to high dosages and the passage of time. Clinicians should be aware of the condition to avoid unnecessary diagnostic and therapeutic measures.”
Back to my story…
The pain and swelling continued for several days.  I finally went to the Otolaryngologist (Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) doctor) last week and was told to drink a lot of water, suck candies, massage the salivary gland area and put a warm compress on it. The goal is to keep the saliva flowing and wash away any blockage. I did all of those things and it got better. I went a couple of days without swelling or pain. Then this morning I had a few bites of breakfast and the pain came back with the swelling. Nooooo! Not again!! I took Advil, massaged the area and put on a warm compress. It helped. But a girls gotta eat, so by lunch time I tried again.  It didn’t go too well. I called and left a message for my ENT and am waiting to hear back. This is very frustrating. I’m trying to keep it in perspective. Things could always be worse. I’m grateful that the thyroid cancer is in remission. Since that is the reason the RAI was even done, I need to remind myself that it did work.
My life is really good! However, eating is kind of important, so I’m hoping my parotid gland gets better soon!  Until then, I will be massaging away, chain chewing gum and sucking candies, drinking lots of water and sharing my journey with all of you.

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