(Another) Cancer Update

I kind of debated whether to post this for about an hour before I actually decided “what the hell..” and just posted it. Who knows, maybe my own experiences can help someone else. We all have our own stories and our own battles and they are all different and unique. If I can help someone in some small, tiny way, I’ll do it. So after much deliberation, I pressed “publish.” This is probably the most open I’ve been about how cancer has changed me… ever, which isn’t easy.

I’m rather amazed by my internet community. I’ve been very open about my cancer battle these past two years, and today I finally, after much deliberation and plenty of fear, have scheduled my cancer treatment. I announced this on Twitter, and I’ve been inundated with well wishes, and a few emails which have truly touched me. The thing is, I’ve always been a writer. Writing has always been how I deal with things and process them fully, so it’s only natural that I turn to my blog to deal with my cancer and all the twists and turns it has presented me.

You guys always humble and amaze me, and I must admit that all the well wishes, and kind words keep me incredibly upbeat and motivated when times are tough.

Anyway, most of the treatment is actually preparation for the treatment, if that makes sense. I have to be off of all of my medication for roughly six weeks and do a special diet before I drink radiation and go into quarantine for a week. This is all in an effort to kill all of my thyroid cells and all the suspicious cancer cells floating around in my lymph nodes and the rest of my body. My doctor is hoping that doing this treatment ASAP will kill everything suspicious before it (might) turn into malignant tumors, which is what happened in my neck. It was suspicious, and suspicious turned into malignant, and here I am… two years later, still dealing with it.

The good news is that the biopsies came back suspicious, not malignant. While I’d prefer it to come back as benign, we can’t look all gift horses in the mouth. I hope this strategy works. I’m willing to put up with six weeks of pain and sickness to have a healthy, cancer free, and full life.

I’m going through a myriad of emotions right now, from anxiety to excitement. It feels good to finally have hope and see a light at the end of the tunnel after two damn years. I’m anxious because treatment will be hard, and I’m fooling myself if I think anything but that. The truth is, as I said on Twitter, six weeks of hell/hope starts today. I don’t think you can truly have hope without walking through a little hell – and you can’t fully appreciate hope until you’ve experienced a little hell.

So, if this treatment works, I might be cancer free by March. If it doesn’t work, we’re talking potential surgeries and another round of this in six months. However, my doctor is extremely hopeful and positive that this will be it. No more scars on my neck.

I’m going to be a bit open here. I’m feeling a little nostalgic at the moment as I look back over my journey and how it might be ending very soon.

Cancer has really changed me. While the mortality rates for my kind of cancer are low, you can’t really hear “you have cancer” and not be changed somehow. Life looks a little different after you live with a disease that could kill you – and since I’ve joined an online support group a few months ago for this kind of cancer, two people have passed from it. That really humbles me and puts things in perspective. I’m not even thirty, but I feel like I’ve really had to stare my own mortality in the face and decide what I want to make out of my life. However, I must admit that I feel like my fight with cancer has been deeply emotional more than anything else.

Some things don’t matter anymore – like small stuff. Who cares? Life is precious and I have a much easier time “letting it go” if I need to. I also enjoy time with my friends and family more, because that’s what’s really important. My tiny 16 month old daughter, fought cancer with me while I was pregnant, and against all odds was born completely healthy. She’s watching me fight cancer now, and I always want her to remember that her mom overcame something horrible, and was strong. My kid amazes me. She’s a baby still, and she fought against all odds to be here – healthy. She’s a huge source of inspiration and strength for me.

What cancer has really done for me, however, is made me want to “control” my own health. While I realize that you can’t really ever control health, you can reduce risk factors, which is why I’ve worked hard to lose 50 pounds (10 more pounds to be in my healthy weight range. I want to lose 10 more on top of that so I’ll be right in the middle of my healthy weight range.) in the past year (currently I’m down 100 pounds from my heaviest weight, which is depicted in the picture below. I lost 50 pounds a few years ago, and then just kind of stopped until last year.). This reduces risks for heart disease, stroke, diabetes and tons of other stuff, and that empowers me hugely. I doubt I ever would have lost the rest of this extra weight if not for the cancer motivating me to be in the best health I can possibly make myself be in. Furthermore, I would feel like a real ass if I got the “all clear” and didn’t take full advantage of that by being as healthy as I possibly can be.

You see, the thing is, there’s always a reason to hope. Maybe that’s what I’ve learned most through this journey with cancer. Without hope, I’d be standing still, watching the world pass me by, probably lost in a fog of deep depression. Instead, I look at my daughter, who beat all odds without even realizing it, and think that I want her to remember her mom being full of happiness and hope, not sadness and pain. I look at the world around me and I can’t help but take a ton of pictures. In fact, cancer has made me even more obsessed with photography because the world truly is a beautiful place, and I don’t think I fully realized that until I was diagnosed with a disease that could kill me. Cancer has also motivated me to be as healthy as I possibly can be, so I’ve lost a massive amount of weight and became far more active.

Yeah, six weeks of hell. It will suck. It will be hard, and my blog and reviews will probably roll in slower due to it, but I finally see an end to this journey, which is wonderful. No matter how shitty it’s been and how emotionally challenging, cancer truly has changed me. While I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy, I’ve learned that there’s always beauty and wonder, and I am far stronger than I ever, ever thought I’d be. There’s never any reason to give up, so keep on fighting.

6 Responses

  • A very courageous and inspiring post – full of hope and positive energy, which can only help you on this journey. Best wishes for a full and speedy recovery!

  • Keep on fighting, Sarah. Never give up, never surrender.

    • I’ve wanted to on occasion. It’s hard to keep going sometimes… but sooooooo worth it.

  • My Dad was diagnosed with prostate cancer a couple of years ago, had the horrid diseased thing taken out, had radiotherapy and yet he still has a few of those pernicious little cells swimming around somewhere. He is now on a variety of hormone treatments, which seem to be keeping them in check, but the ever-present worry is terrible, so I know a little of how you feel . . . it’s almost as if the cancer isn’t playing fair!

    I have so much admiration for your strength, and your willingness to be open and honest about how you feel and what is happening. I have my fingers and toes crossed that your treatment is successful and that you do not feel too bad during it . . . at least you won’t get the “ring of fire” that my Dad had from his radiotherapy! 😀

    Good luck and try to stay positive: you can do it! 🙂

  • Mark T

    Good luck
    That was an inspiring post.

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