Alright, confession. When I received the phone call that I had papillary thyroid cancer, I wept like a baby. How dare they say I have cancer?! Thats such an ugly word. I didn’t immediately jump into my positive pants, and start proclaiming to the world I would beat it. In fact, the night of my diagnosis I was clinging to my husband in bed telling him how I would haunt him forever if he ever remarried. Dramatic much?
Wow, am I irrational. Take comfort peeps, here are the facts on cure rates. Now can we all take a deep breath?
My point in telling you just how much of a hot mess I was, is so that you can understand its totally possible to turn that boat around. And I did.
In a matter of days, I went from being terrified borderline psychopath, to being an absolute BOSS at facing my cancer. Apply these tips and daily actionable steps and you will be too!
The buddy system
This is my non-negotiable step. You don’t go to any doctor appointments alone. ever. Especially, if you know you are receiving a diagnosis.
This helps for emotional support, but in my case it means having a second brain in the room advocating for me. If you’re like me you may draw blanks with the doctor walks in, and start to do the zombie head nod. I can’t tell you how many times my husband has saved me in that situation, by stopping the doctor and asking an intellectual question.
If you so happened to receive your cancer diagnosis via the phone or all alone at an appointment. Make it your goal to take someone with you from there on out. Your mom, your aunt, your boyfriend, your bestie, your barista. I don’t care who you take, just so long as they have your best interests in mind. The doctors office can often times be a hole we get sucked into of pure exhaustion. You gotta have that person to slap you across the face, and tell you its ok.
Talk with Dr. Google
This may seem very backward to some. And my husband particularly is shaking his head while reading this. I have been dubbed the google queen. Can’t figure out why my dryer is making a funny noise, google. I need a baking powder replacement for my cake, google. My knee is throbbing, google. My skin is itching, google.
Yes, you get it. I google 5 million new things a day.
When I received the news that I had suspicious cancer cells, I tried real hard all day to not google. But I gave in late at night once my husband went to bed. And guess what happened? I felt relieved. Knowledge really is power.
We get it in our head that cancer automatically translates to death. And in some cases that is true. But unveiling the boogey man of the word cancer meant I could rest easy.
Inform yourself, and I would even say do it before you have to meet with your doctor. This is permission to google your cancer. Find out:
- Where exactly is the cancer
- What TYPE of cancer
- Is it likely to spread
- What are the typical treatments used (surgery, chemotherapy, radiation)
- What are the side effects of treatment
- Is a second opinion a good idea
Daily actionable tip #1: When I would find myself feeling a smidgen overwhelmed, and you likely will with some of this information. I would keep a bottle of lavender near me. I rub lavender essential oil on my wrists and neck. And all of a sudden I don’t have cancer. Ok fine, I still have cancer but my my coping abilities are sharpened, and I have a calm and clear mind again. And that greatly reduces my stress!
Cancer can be an ugly son of a B. It’s known to go in and wreak all kinds of havoc. Your body is loaded up with the bad guys (free radicals) and has a shortage of the good guys (antioxidants). You can bet your once normal body is now going to go through some changes, and that may even mean some painful ones.
The first thing I noticed was my fatigue was through the roof. HOLY COW. I have needed at least one nap a day. As someone who hates naps, and is go-go-go, that has been a hurdle for me. I have learned to accept that I’ve got a cancer inside me, and its taking a lot of my energy. A nap is needed.
And this is not even including the changes that come from the treatment of cancer. I won’t touch on that one so much now. I will write a blog post on that once my thyroidectomy has taken place.
But it is completely normal to experience:
- trouble swallowing (I felt as if there was a golfball in my throat)
- a hoarse voice
- TIRED as a mother
- hair falling out
Don’t be upset that these changes are coming about. I was initially totally freaked to see a tumor growing on my neck. But I could relax knowing that this wasn’t permanent. Raise the roof for modern medicine. So keep your cool, girl.
Daily actionable tip #2: Cancer has made feel a little out of control of my body, but one things has brought me back to my center every time and that is yoga. Restorative yoga to be exact. It is a softer genre of yoga, that focuses on joint friendly flows and keeping the mind relaxed. Doing this daily keeps me grateful for my body, and in the right mindset.
This is my favorite youtube video that I use for restorative yoga but you can also get a much more in depth DVD which is yoga specifically for those going through cancer!
Be a picky patient
This one is H.U.G.E. And in the past it has been the hardest one to implement.
It is just my nature to be pretty freakin’ passive. The past 4 years of my life I have been seen by a doctor at least every couple of months due to my arthritis. And if it was solely up to me, I would still be seeing my same cranky old rheumatologist who so delicately told me to prepare for a life of pain and expect to have trouble bearing children. He was so kind, I miss him (eye rolls for DAYZ)
I call it passive but it just may also be lazy. Now that you have thyroid cancer, please oh please don’t be lazy. And do not give two craps about hurting the doctors feelings when you ask for a second opinion or the dreaded, dun dun dun…referral to different ENT or Endocrinologist.
If you went on a date with someone who had a lame jokes and bad breath you would’t go on a second date. It would be a waste of time. And this is SO much more serious than a measly second date with a second rate guy. There are zero free meals coming out of that visit.
Your ENT doctor should be top of the line. Do your research. Talk to friends and family, find out who people have used and liked.
God bless social media and all its capabilities. I posted a picture on instagram at my first ENT appointment to discuss surgery options, and tagged where I was at. And one of my followers messaged me right away and told me what a terrible experience they had with a doctor at that practice, and guess what?! That was who I saw. Hello, switch-a-roozee.
Again, cut that passive crap out. Yes, thyroid cancer has a high cure rate. But we are still talking about cancer. Get the best of the best, you deserve that.
Use Healthgrades.com to search for doctors credentials and complete experience. And say you find a doctor that looks great on paper, but still does not make you feel 100% comfortable at the appointment, SWITCH! You are entitled to that.
Own this experience
Thyroid cancer is still cancer. I think the majority of the responses I got and I’m willing to bet you did too, was “Oh thats the good kind, you will be fine”. And That hurt. They didn’t know that I had just spent my entire morning bawling because I felt my body was defective.
Do not let others minimize your experience. But use that frustration to fuel your fight. I hated being diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis 4 years ago, but through it I became a more educated woman. Let that same thing happen with you and your cancer. Learn as much as you can on thyroid cancer through books and blogs. And again my favorite, join a supportive facebook group, these two are great, Thyroid Cancer Support Group and Thyroidectomy Group. Check in often in these groups, there are so many connections to be had when you go through something like this.
And on this site you can become an advocate for thyroid cancer. Let your friends start to refer to you as the thyroid guru. Find ways to make this a positive journey.
Daily actionable tip #3: Find a hobby and carry on as normal. Acting as if nothing has changed is what keeps smiling. This is not saying you don’t acknowledge that you have cancer, but do the things that bring you joy, and do them often.
A friend suggested “adult coloring books” to me as a way to cope with the stress, and I have been hooked ever since. I found adult coloring books at most retail stores or you can get this particular coloring book that has been my personal fave, a little irreverent but there was something fulfilling about coloring a page with swear words on it. Spoke to my soul.
And lastly, please, oh please, remember that you are the boss. Cancer isn’t.
Comment below and tell me what your experience with Thyroid Cancer has been?! Did you handle it like a boss?!
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