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? 

life is a journey

Oh what a journey it has been!  With just a few days left in 2014, I have been reminiscing as most of us do.  I didn’t post on my blog all year!  It isn’t because I’m cured and never think about surviving cancer.  I still go for my follow up visits to the doctor every six months and get blood work and scans. Earlier this year, my scan showed a tiny dot the size of a pinpoint that will need further testing.  It’s too small to biopsy.  I had a choice to focus on the fearful thoughts of “OH NO!! How can this be?! Has the cancer come back? Why oh why?”  Or I could put it in perspective.  If the spot is too small to test, why worry?  Why give such a tiny little spot SOOOO much energy and power?  Nah!  I’ve been down that road on this journey called life before.  That is an old chapter and I’m moving forward.

The new chapter is 2015 and it’s going to be a good one!  No matter what, I will be alright.  This year, I am going to give power to what brings me joy like writing, meditating and hiking!  I’m going to spend more time with family and friends.  I’m going to let go and enjoy the journey!!

How about you?  What would you like your journey in 2015 to look like?  What will you continue doing?  What will you let go of?  What are you ready to change?

At times I wonder if certain cancer treatments are more dangerous or harmful than cancer itself.  A couple of years ago, my cancer treatment made me radioactive for a couple of weeks to kill the remaining cancer cells.  (No, I did not glow.)  But I was isolated from friends and family for over 3 days.  They even gave me a letter to carry in case the radioactivity left in my body set off any alarms in government buildings or airports! That caused me to step back and wonder if that treatment was worth the risk.  It worked, so I guess it was.

I have friends that have gone through chemotherapy and take all kinds of medications with terrible side effects to treat cancer.  The goal is to kill the cancer, not the person.  At times, I wonder if the doctors remember that part.  It seems like the side effects from the treatments drain what little energy is left in our bodies at the time.

I’ve moved on from cancer treatment to cancer follow-up procedures.  My doctor recommended that I get Thyrogen shots and blood work to see if my levels change.  The Thyrogen stimulates the cancer producing cells.  The shots are administered two days in a row.  One shot is the left buttocks and the other shot in the right.  It is literally a pain in the @ss!  I got the first shot this morning.  Ouch!! It hurt and burned.  Now I have a headache and feel a little nauseous from the Thyrogen.  I don’t want to go back tomorrow for the second shot.  I’ve learned that part of surviving cancer is staying positive and doing things that I don’t necessarily want to do.  I will continue to fight the fight!!!

The results should be back next week.  I will do my best NOT to think about it and live my life. (Although every time I sit, my sore butt will remind me of the shots!) There is no point in worrying about it today.  I will need to remind myself of this several times a day.  If the blood work results are high enough to detect cancer, then they will move forward with treatment.  If not, then I will continue going back every six months for follow-up visits and testing.  Either way, I guess this pain in the @ss it worth it.  I am praying that the results are good.  Regardless, I will get through it and continue sharing my journey.

xoxo,

Thyro-Jenn

Part of my mission is to provide useful information to others about the cancer survivor experience.  It hit me today that I have not posted anything about the cancer basics.  Knowledge is power, so let’s take a moment to learn about cancer.  What is cancer?  I am not in the medical field.  So I turned to the experts at the American Cancer Society to answer this question.  Below are the details from the American Cancer Society’s What is Cancer page:

What is cancer?

Cancer is the general name for a group of more than 100 diseases in which cells in a part of the body begin to grow out of control. Although there are many kinds of cancer, they all start because abnormal cells grow out of control. Untreated cancers can cause serious illness and even death.

Normal cells in the body

The body is made up of hundreds of millions of living cells. Normal body cells grow, divide, and die in an orderly fashion. During the early years of a person’s life, normal cells divide faster to allow the person to grow. After the person becomes an adult, most cells divide only to replace worn-out or dying cells or to repair injuries.

How cancer starts

Cancer starts when cells in a part of the body start to grow out of control. There are many kinds of cancer, but they all start because of out-of-control growth of abnormal cells.

Cancer cell growth is different from normal cell growth. Instead of dying, cancer cells continue to grow and form new, abnormal cells. Cancer cells can also invade (grow into) other tissues, something that normal cells cannot do. Growing out of control and invading other tissues are what makes a cell a cancer cell.

Cells become cancer cells because of damage to DNA. DNA is in every cell and directs all its actions. In a normal cell, when DNA gets damaged the cell either repairs the damage or the cell dies. In cancer cells, the damaged DNA is not repaired, but the cell doesn’t die like it should. Instead, this cell goes on making new cells that the body does not need. These new cells will all have the same damaged DNA as the first cell does.

People can inherit damaged DNA, but most DNA damage is caused by mistakes that happen while the normal cell is reproducing or by something in our environment. Sometimes the cause of the DNA damage is something obvious, like cigarette smoking. But often no clear cause is found.

In most cases the cancer cells form a tumor. Some cancers, like leukemia, rarely form tumors. Instead, these cancer cells involve the blood and blood-forming organs and circulate through other tissues where they grow.

How cancer spreads

Cancer cells often travel to other parts of the body, where they begin to grow and form new tumors that replace normal tissue. This process is called metastasis. It happens when the cancer cells get into the bloodstream or lymph vessels of our body.

How cancers differ

No matter where a cancer may spread, it is always named for the place where it started. For example, breast cancer that has spread to the liver is still called breast cancer, not liver cancer. Likewise, prostate cancer that has spread to the bone is metastatic prostate cancer, not bone cancer.

Different types of cancer can behave very differently. For example, lung cancer and breast cancer are very different diseases. They grow at different rates and respond to different treatments. That is why people with cancer need treatment that is aimed at their particular kind of cancer.

Tumors that are not cancer

Not all tumors are cancerous. Tumors that aren’t cancer are called benign. Benign tumors can cause problems – they can grow very large and press on healthy organs and tissues. But they cannot grow into (invade) other tissues. Because they can’t invade, they also can’t spread to other parts of the body (metastasize). These tumors are almost never life threatening.

How common is cancer?

Half of all men and one-third of all women in the US will develop cancer during their lifetimes.

Today, millions of people are living with cancer or have had cancer. The risk of developing most types of cancer can be reduced by changes in a person’s lifestyle, for example, by quitting smoking, limiting time in the sun, being physically active, and eating a better diet. The sooner a cancer is found and treated, the better the chances are for living for many years.

Knowledge is power. One important thing I’ve learned during my journey down the cancer road is that I am my advocate for my health.  I am the one responsible for asking the questions and doing my homework.  There is no such thing as too much information and knowledge when it comes to cancer.

The medical field is constantly making changes to guidelines, procedures, recommended medications and more. Our doctors should be up to date on this information, but many of them are not.  Find the ones that are current on what is going on in the medical field.  As a patient and cancer survivor, it is also my responsibility to make sure that I learn all that I can about my medical condition.

As a thyroid cancer patient, I read things like the Revised American Thyroid Association Management Guidelines for Patients with Thyroid Nodules and Differentiated Thyroid Cancer and tried to stay awake while doing it.  There is a lot of good information in there.  I suggest you skim over it if you have been touched by thyroid cancer.

This is just one example.  There is a world-wide web of information out there.  Be sure to do your research on reputable sites.  Unfortunately there is a lot of bad information and fear-based opinions out there as well.  I found that when I stay on professional sites, I get the beneficial information that give me the knowledge that I need.

I met with my doctor yesterday afternoon.  He went over the results of the blood work and neck ultrasound with me. My levels look good!!  There were a couple of lymph nodes that we are watching, but they look normal on the scan.  Once again, I am cancer free!!!

My levels of calcium and vitamin D were a little low.  I should be taking calcium and vitamin D pills daily.  My doctor smiled at me and said “Take the damn pills.”  So this is something that I will start doing on a regular basis.

My doctor also told me to get Thyrogen shots and blood work to make sure we are not missing anything. Hmmmm…what? This caught me off guard.  I got Thyrogen shots during the low iodine diet to help my body prepare for the radioactive iodine treatment, but I did not know that it could also be used to further test my levels My understanding of Thyrogen is that it tricks your body into thinking that you have gone off of your thyroid medication.  This sure beats actually going off of your thyroid medication for a couple of weeks.  (I have not had to do this, but know many people who have done it.  More power to you!)  Anyway, when I got my Thyrogen shots in May 2009, I was amazed to find out that my insurance company covered it.  Each shot is around $1,200!  Two are required to get the job done.  So I was extremely grateful to my insurance company for covering the shots.  Now, I am supposed to get the shots again?

What a great topic to blog about!  I am going to do some research to learn a little more about Thyrogen.  I plan to write another post about my findings soon.  This opened up the door in my mind about the Thyroid Cancer SURVIVOR blog.  There are still many topics that I would like to write about here.  I’m going to do a “brain dump” to name a few.  Here is my random list:

  • Life beyond cancer
  • Preparing for tests and doctor visits
  • Affirmations and Mantras for cancer survivors
  • Being an advocate for your health – Ask questions, Speak up, Second Opinions, Feel heard
  • Health insurance coverage
  • Thyrogen
  • Calcium and Vitamin D post thyroidectomy
  • Swallowing food post thyroidectomy
  • Voice post thyroidectomy
  • Hot and cold flashes
  • Fertility with RAI (Radioactive Iodine)

That is all that comes to mind for now.  I would really appreciate your feedback, experience and input on any of these items.  What has your experience been?  What other items would you like to see posted on this blog?

Thank you!!!

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.