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Cancer: It's Never An Easy Journey

Carly Flumer

A scar on my neck, twice slit to remove the disease within my body – a disease I never thought I’d have. I didn’t know what to expect during or after my multiple surgeries and radioactive iodine therapy. I had considered myself lucky not having any symptoms before going into all of this. After all, my tumor was found on an ultrasound for another lump my doctor had felt – a diagnosis made by “mistake.”
           
However, working in health care (specifically in a hospital), seeing and talking to patients with cancer showed me just how strong they were in a time where their livelihood was being torn down. I witnessed their agonizing pain, felt their weakness as their bodies fought with every ache. I could only hope to continue to feel okay, to feel myself, as I took this journey on the road to my “new normal.”
           
But wait… I was told I had the “good cancer,” so I should be okay, right? As I approached each hurdle, it was not physical pain or anguish that I felt, but anxiety. I had already been diagnosed with depression and anxiety when I was young, and the degrading thoughts and sadness grew a little bit stronger. “Why me?” I thought, “What did I do to deserve this diagnosis?”
           
However, I had a strong support system, including family and co-workers who reached out to help in any way they could. I learned who my true friends are. I also tried to remain active by going to the gym, which truly helped me mentally. At times though, I would say, “It never ends,” and I came to accept whatever came my way, and I still do.
           
Cancer doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t care what race, gender, ethnicity, sexuality or even age you are. It takes no prisoners. And it certainly did not take me. I continue to remain resilient despite what I’ve been through and despite what still may be on the horizon. I see what it’s like for others; I attend a variety of support groups to share my story and provide support for other fighters. Having cancer is probably one of the worst things that can happen in someone’s lifetime, but I believe half the battle is the mentality one embraces. I chose to embrace a positive mentality, even though I was and still am very sad at times. But I’ve given myself the permission to feel that way.
           
I continue to have survivor’s guilt, wondering why I was given the chance to live, why I was given an “easier” cancer journey. However, I realize my journey isn’t over. Cancer is something I will face for the rest of my life, even though I’m a survivor. My body continues to remind me of that, especially since I had thyroid cancer (a small gland that controls a lot). My body temperature can be at opposite extremes, my metabolism can become slower or faster. My libido is absent, and I consistently lose hair, spending a good amount of my showers pulling it out and watch it go slowly down the drain. I don’t expect my life to ever be the same, but I know I can try and make the best of it.
           
If I could give any advice to other cancer warriors, I would say to remain headstrong. Find something positive every day, even if it’s something small. Have a support system and fall back on them when you need to. Ask for help – you are not a burden. Find groups on Facebook where you can freely and openly talk about your experiences and ask questions. You’ll feel a sense of belonging, knowing that you’re not going through all of this alone. Do research on your diagnosis in order to become more self-informed and so that you may bring questions to your doctors.

Trusted sites that I used and still use include: Above all, remain strong and keep fighting. Self-care is never selfish.
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