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Embracing the Pink Ribbon for my Daughters
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Losing My Hair, Gaining New Perspective
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Cancer: It's Never An Easy Journey

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.
BY Carly Flumer
PUBLISHED July 02, 2019
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:
  • The American Cancer Society
  • The National Cancer Institute
  • The National Institute of Health
  • Mayo Clinic
  • Cancer Support Community
  • CancerCare
  • Cancer.Net
  • Any organization specific to your type of cancer
Above all, remain strong and keep fighting. Self-care is never selfish.
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