You Have Cancer {Repost} 2 comments


September is Thyroid Cancer Awareness Month. Here’s my story:

You Have Cancer {Living Outside the Stack

A friend of mine was diagnosed with breast cancer today. I listened to her cry on the phone. Wishing I could reach across the miles and hold her hand. Hug her. Physically be there with her. Let her know that I understand. I’ve been there. She’s a wife and a mother. My heart aches for them. My heart aches for her. But her story is not mine to tell, so here’s my story:

Am I going to die? Will my kids remember me? Does Tony know how much I love him? How long do I have left? Will I go peacefully? 

Why me?

Those were just some of the thoughts that tumbled through my head as I stood there holding the phone. Did she really just tell me that I have cancer? Over the phone? To read about how I was diagnosed, click here. I couldn’t deal with that right then. At that moment, I had to start preparing for the possibility that I might die. That I’d leave my husband to raise 4 small children alone.

My husband stood there looking at me. I told him what the doctor said: “I have ‘a little bit of cancer’.” Her words: “You have a little bit of cancer…” What does that even mean? Don’t deal with that right now. You’re going to die. He grabbed me in his arms and held me tight. So tight that it hurt to breathe. But I wanted him to hold me tighter. Squeeze the tumor out of me. Smash it. Squish it. Just don’t let it kill me…

I went into “Mom Mode”. I grabbed a floppy disk {a bright orange floppy disk, the color of the sun, the color of life, something I was going to lose} and wrote letters to my kids, I made a list of songs I wanted them to hear, movies I wanted them to watch, books they needed to read. The pens they should use. The only pen they should ever use: Pilot Precise V~5. I wrote stories about my life. I wanted them to know me. To see me as more than a picture or a vague memory.

I organized their closets. I washed everything and hung them on color coded hangers so the hubs would know which clothes belonged to whom. I arranged their drawers in birth order. I didn’t think about what he’d do when their clothes got dirty and were washed. He’d have to hang them on his own.

I bought their favorite shampoos and foods in bulk. I made sure he was fully stocked with laundry detergent. I made lists of everything. I, the woman who hates lists, became obsessed with lists. All of this in less than a week’s time.

I cried.

I stared at my babies and cried.

I held my husband and cried.

The hubs saw the desperation in my eyes. “You’re going to live.” He talked to his aunt, a Surgical Head Nurse, and she was able to get me in to see an oncologist at her hospital. They calmed my nerves. They told me I was going to live. I was going to live. I had to have surgery and radiation therapy. I was going to live.

It’s been nearly 13 years since I was diagnosed with cancer. I had a total thyroidectomy {removal of the entire thyroid}. My parathyroid and lymph nodes: gone. “Diseased” tissue was removed from both breasts. Cancer gone.

In that time, I’ve watched my children grow into adults. I’ve become a grandmother, completed two Master’s degrees, run several 5Ks, and started training for a 10K.

I lived.

I continue to live.

I’m not sharing my story because I want sympathy for what I went through or praise for surviving. I’m sharing my story because I want you to understand that there is no “normal” reaction to a cancer diagnosis. Some people fall apart. Some people go into fight mode. Some go into denial. Everything that you feel is real and it’s normal. But don’t wallow. Find a reason to fight. Hold the people you love close to you.

Update:

Last week, I met with my endocrinologist and for the first time in 13 years my hormone levels are exactly where they need to be. After my next 6 month checkup {in March ~ my birth month}, if all looks well, I’ll be able to switch to once a year visits. I attribute my good report to faith in God and a change in lifestyle: HEALTHY EATING AND EXERCISING RULE!

If you’ve never received that diagnosis, be aware of your body. You know when something is “off” or doesn’t feel right. And even if nothing feels wrong, do your breast examines every month. Go to your doctor for yearly check ups. Do what you can to stay healthy.

You have to take care of you in order to be able to take care of everyone else.

 

Daenel T {Living Outside the Stacks}

 

 

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  • Your story is poignant and inspirational at the same time, Dani. I am so very glad you shared it – it will help many others. You are a survivor!

    • Thank you, Paulette. My goal is to encourage women to trust their instincts. We know when our bodies don’t feel quite right; we need to advocate for ourselves and our families.