I hope this finds you all in good health.  It’s been quite some time since I’ve posted. Happy belated New Year and early Spring!  

January 2017 marked 8 years since I went into remission from Papillary Thyroid Cancer. It changed the course of my life in many ways. 

When I was diagnosed with cancer I searched for information and could hardly find anything. It was one of the reasons I started this blog. I also wanted to share my journey and connect with other cancer survivors. It is comforting and healing to have other people to relate to when cancer comes into the picture. I also learned that cancer is cancer regardless of what “type” you have. We all go through a range of feelings and can lean on one another to get to the other side. 

For me, the biggest change through this journey was internally. Being diagnosed with cancer brought me closer to my Higher Power and gave me the chance to do some soul searching. I discovered how much it feeds my spirit to help others. 

With my new found courage, I became open to other career options that gave me a chance to fulfill my passion. I discovered coaching. It sounded like it was right up my alley. So I started the process to become a certified Life & Business Coach. I began working with clients in 2009 and got my ACC designation from the ICF in 2012. And I’ve been doing it ever since!

The fear and uncertainty of cancer pushed me beyond my comfort zone. When I’m faced with a challenge, I remind myself of this experience. It gives me motivation to overcome what comes my way. I am grateful for the experience. 

HOW HAS CANCER CHANGED YOU AND YOUR LIFE? 

I’m going for my ThyCa ultrasound scan later today. The cycle of fearful thoughts are waking up in my mind.  They overpower me at times.  I wish there was a volume button, so I could put the negative ones on mute!  The thoughts are spinning around over and over.  The typical ones are…What if the cancer came back? What if it spread? Will I need another operation? I don’t want to go through the LID and RAI again. When will this end? Will I be able to get through the cancer battle again?  Am I a burden on friends and family?  When will I get the results?
One after another, the thoughts pop into my mind.  The reality is that I am taking care of myself and going for my regular follow-up visits, blood work and scans. I’m taking my medicine.  I talk about how I feel good and not so good. I blog about it, which helps.  I get helpful comments from my readers and that fills my spirit.
At this moment, I am a cancer SURVIVOR!! All of the thought are simply thoughts.  They are not reality.  I don’t have to give them power. The rest is unknown, fear of the unknown. So for now, I will stay in the present moment.  Yeah, that feels much better. I just needed to adjust my mind.  Ah, a sigh of relief. Calmness washes over me.

“Cancer comes into a life and worms its way in. It’s the unspoken presence every day of the person’s life—‘the cancer’s back’ or ‘in remission’ are common references in the life of the person with cancer. However, it continues to be the people who can fight it that make the whole disease seem beatable and worth fighting.” ~Anonymous

I was so touched by this inspiring quote, that I had to share it with all of you.  There were so many thoughts that came up for me when I read it.  As a cancer survivor, I can look back and see that it was a fight.  There were so many times that I wanted to give up, but I kept on going.  I am grateful to be in remission.  There is an “unspoken presence” ever since I was diagnosed.  I don’t feel it most days, but it is there.  It is something that I have accepted.

My hope is to stay in remission.  There is a recurrence rate of about 30% with my type of cancer.  But percentages don’t really mean much to me.  When they found my tumor, I was told that there was a 95% chance that it was non-malignant.  Regardless of the percentage, I knew in my gut that it was cancer.  When the results came back, it was confirmed that the tumor was malignant.  I was one of the people in the 5% category.  Those were not odds that I was happy about beating.  But it did teach me not to give percentages too much power.

I also learned that my health and well-being were worth fighting for.  Surviving cancer was worth the fight.  I was worth the fight!  It changed me.  I discovered my inner-voice and spoke up instead of staying silent.  I asked doctors all of my questions, instead of filtering the ones out that didn’t seem important.  I made the calls to my insurance company many times to resolve issues with coverage and billing instead paying the first bill I received.  I didn’t pay the price for the disconnect within the healthcare system.  I opened my mouth and talked about how I felt and didn’t pretend that everything was alright all of the time.  I prayed and prayed and had faith that it would all work out.  I created this blog to share my experience and help others.  In turn, I was able to get my virtual voice heard.  And to my pleasant surprise, I have gotten back so much love and support in return.

We are all worth the fight!

After lots of prayers to the insurance coverage gods, I got my answer.  Melanie from BioScrip pharmacy called to let me know that my insurance (United Healthcare) WILL cover the thyrogen shots at 100% once my $250 deductible is met.  What? What? YAYYYY!!! WOOHOOOO!! Paying $250 is much better than having to pay $2,400 which is what it would have cost for two thyrogen shots without insurance coverage.  What a relief!

I started asking Melanie some questions so I could update my blog readers.  She was more than happy to give me some of the “inside scoop” and I am happy to share it with all of you.  I hope it saves many other people thousands of dollars and many phone calls to the insurance company.  (Please read my last post Thyrogen Shots and Insurance Coverage – Not? for information about thyrogen and to to hear about my first round of calls with the pharmacy and insurance company.)  My conversation with Melanie from BioScrip went a little bit like this:

Me: Is BioScrip pharmacy part of ThyrogenOne?

Melanie:  We are one of the approved pharmaceutical companies that supplies the doctors with thyrogen.

Me: How did you manage to get it covered by my insurance company?  Last week I was told it was not covered.

Melanie:  I went through the medical side of your insurance coverage.  It is not covered under your prescription plan.  So when your local pharmacy called it into the prescription side of United Healthcare, the coverage was denied.   It has to be called in and billed through the medical side.

Me: Ohhhhh. That is good information Melanie.  Thank you!  It really upsets me to think about all of the people who are trying to beat cancer or stay in remission and are told that the thyrogen shots are not covered by insurance simply because it was put through on the prescription side instead of the medical side.  It is tiring enough to live with cancer and go through all of the time-consuming, energy draining things we need to do to fight cancer.  If more people knew about ways to get their treatment covered by their insurance company, then it would make a positive difference.  I’m gonna blog about this!

Melanie:  I understand.  That is a good point.  I hope it helps other people when you blog about it.

Me: I hope so to.  I really appreciate you taking the time to talk with me.

There you have it.  That is how my conversation went with Melanie from BioScrip.  She was very knowledgeable and took time to explain things to me.  But I also asked the questions.  It is so important to speak up.  I didn’t go to school and take Cancer 101 classes.  This is not something that I had planned for my future a couple of years ago. There is a lot to learn and it all starts the moment we are diagnosed with having cancer.  So learn all that you can.  Make sure you get your information from reliable resources.  Ask all the questions you want to.  If something is not covered by insurance, fight for it.  This is your body, your health and your life.

As a cancer survivor, I get to go back for follow-up doctor visits, blood work, scans and more every six months.  Here we go again!  I got the blood work done yesterday.  Tomorrow I go to have my ultrasound scan after work.  Then I have an appointment with my doctor to go over the results at the end of next week.  Deja Vu!!

I’m getting the hang of it now.  The fear seems to lessen each time.  I’ve learned that worrying and negative thinking does not do me any good mentally, spiritually or physically.  (It reminds me of this quote I found.  “Worry is a huge waste of time; it doesn’t change anything, except maybe your blood pressure!” ~Author Unknown)

Trust me, I can list many other things that I would rather do with my time then getting more tests, scans and sitting in doctors offices.  But the reality is that I need to continue to be responsible for my health be doing these things. In turn, I am able to live a healthy life and free from cancer.

How ironic.  A little over a year ago, I didn’t know if my speaking voice would ever be the same after my thyroidectomy.  Now I got asked to be one of the honorary speakers at the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life at JHU!  I’m blown away by it.  It is crazy in a very good way.  I keep going back and forth in my mind, thinking about when I was first diagnosed with cancer and how I was consumed with fear. I couldn’t really talk about it because there were not words to describe how I felt. But today, I’m a cancer SURVIVOR! I’m going to use my cancer-free vocal chords to let everyone know during my speech to never lose hope.  Fight the fight. Never give up because we never know what the future will bring.  

During my cancer treatment, I was in isolation and not allowed to have anyone within three feet of me during my radioactive iodine therapy.  I felt so alone.  There were days where I didn’t have the energy to get out of bed.  I didn’t know how I was going to face the world.  I was emotionally and physically tired.  I had to fake it until I made it.  I put one foot in front of the other and got better.  As I’m writing this, I’m overwhelming with gratitude thinking about standing in front of over a thousand people, as a cancer SURVIVOR, giving a speech about my journey.  It is an amazing feeling.  One I wish for everyone touched by cancer in some way.

I admit it.  There were times after my diagnosis when I wondered if I would ever be able to enjoy life again without the word “cancer” in the back of my mind.  Then I got in touch with the power of the present moment where life happens.  The fearful thoughts about the surgery, treatment and tons of test were all part of the future.  Life happens in the now! 

Of course the thoughts about “what if…”, “when will…” and “why did I…” still popped up, but I didn’t entertain them.  Those thoughts were unwelcome visitors in my mind.  So I let them pass through and leave without giving them a reason to stay.  Instead I focus on the fact that at this moment ALL IS WELL.

Today I am a cancer SURVIVOR who is living each day to the fullest.  Sure the occasional thought about cancer still visits me.  I think once a person is diagnosed is takes a long time to fully digest the impact of the cancer experience. But the reality is that at this moment…Life is Good!