Thursday, September 9, 2010

Bringing Sexy Out of the Thyloset

September is thyroid cancer awareness month! Woohoo! To help raise awareness, I'm participating in Dear Thyroid's blog tour: 

What kind of thyroid cancer were you diagnosed with? How many years have you been a survivor?
I was diagnosed with papillary thyroid cancer in 2008. I'm coming up on my two year cancerversary!

September is thyroid cancer awareness month. What does that mean to you? Why do you think awareness is important? How do you spread awareness?
Personally, I think awareness should be spread twelve months out of the year. I don't think we should wait until September to tell people to "check your neck." However, I do think that this month is a wonderful opportunity to stand together with other survivors and organizations to raise awareness with one voice.

I like to spread awareness by telling my story. Awareness is effective when people can connect, when it's real. I am completely comfortable talking about my experience with cancer and am willing to talk with anyone about it. You can read more about my experience with cancer here and here. I write a column for Dear Thyroid that is solely about my experience with cancer. Check out the archives to get a better picture of what cancer has done to me and my life.

Statistics are important, too. Numbers matter. You can read more about the disturbing statistics associated with thyroid cancer here.

Many thyroid cancer patients have been told, "If you have to get cancer, thyroid cancer is the one to get." What do you think of that statement? When you're told this, how do you respond?
I HATE hearing this; I think it's ludicrous and I cringe every time I hear it. Why does anyone have to get cancer? Why suggest that? Cancer is not a choice. I did not choose thyroid cancer instead of some other cancer.

When people say this, I get that they're trying to be encouraging. In case you're still not sure, let me clear things up for you--IT'S NOT ENCOURAGING. You DON'T make me feel better. When people say this, I try to respond calmly and remind the person that cancer is cancer and there is nothing good or easy about it. 

Dear Thyroid is constantly trying to dispel the myth that thyroid cancer is the good cancer or the easy cancer. What other myth would you like to dispel regarding thyroid cancer?
Myth: You just have to take one little pill and you'll be back to normal. It's no big deal.

WRONG! It is a big deal and a pill simply cannot replace the role of a healthy thyroid. It just can't. Even when my thyroid levels are "in range," I don't have the energy I used to have. My body is not the same as it used to be. Yes, that one little pill allows me to function and live, but it's not a magic pill.

What one thing would you tell the world about thyroid cancer?
Thyroid cancer is not good. It is not easy. And it changes everything

What advice would you give to a newly diagnosed thyroid cancer patient?
It's okay to take time off from your "normal" routine. Take some time to focus on yourself. Cancer is a big deal and changes your whole life. Allow yourself time to absorb that and reflect on it. Connect with others who have gone through the same thing you're going through. Surround yourself only with those who are serious about supporting you. This is not a time in your life for fair-weather friends.

Do you have a funny thyroid cancer related story you're willing to share?
I think I've maybe blogged about this before, but I can't remember. If you've already read this story, humor me and pretend you're reading it for the first time.

In February of this year I had to have a lymph node removed. The doctor couldn't get a good biopsy of the node and due to my high initial lymph node involvement, my endo and I decided to get this node out. SO, I'm at the hospital on surgery day. I'm hooked up to the IV and wearing the super sexy hospital gown and sleep socks with grippers on the bottom. The anesthesiologist comes into my room to discuss my medical history, drug allergies, etc. The last question he asks (or at least the last question I hear) is, "Do you have any health problems?" Nah, I just thought I'd stop by for kicks. You know, having my neck sliced and diced is my idea of a good time. My actual response: "Um, you mean like THYROID CANCER?!" He has no response to that, so he turns and walks out of the room. Once he leaves, my mom and I look at each other and die laughing and proceed to make fun of him. Yes, he was right outside my room making notes in my chart, and yes, he could hear us laughing at him, but that's what he gets for asking stupid questions.

Dear Thyroid is a thyroid support community and literary brand. Our goal is to connect patients with each other, to create awareness for thyroid diseases and cancers, and to give all thyroid patients a voice. We come together as a united front to invoke change on behalf of thyroid patients worldwide. Thyroid patients are invited to submit letters to their thyroids, thyroid rants and raves, and other literary creations. Help us to create awareness for thyroid diseases and cancers by wearing your disease on your sleeve and by requesting one of our free awareness bands. Visit to learn more!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

confessions of a cancer patient [part 3]

I don't need your gifts or your cards to feel supported. I just need your presence or your words that acknowledge you have not forgotten me.

When I was first diagnosed with cancer I was bombarded with people who rallied around me.  It's been a year and a half, and most of those people are gone. They have forgotten, and it hurts.  

I still need support. That need hasn't even started to dissipate, and I don't think it ever will. But I'm okay with that.

I am able to find good in the midst of bad. I know it's the presence of God in the midst of turmoil.

Check out parts one and two here and here

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Let's talk about cancer

Cancer is not something that is part of my life one day but not the next. I can't take it on and off because, whether I like it or not, it's part of me. But just because cancer sucks doesn't mean I can't talk about it. It's something I deal with, so you should learn how to deal with it, too. I know it's hard to find the right words to say to someone with cancer. You don't want to say the wrong thing. You don't want to make things worse. Let me give you some suggestions. If you have a friend or family member with cancer, you might consider saying:

I'm praying for you. And then check back regularly. By regularly I don't mean never. And by regularly I don't mean once or twice. Even after surgery and treatment, the effects of cancer are still very present. So keep checking in and praying month after month after month after month...

I want to help you. If you ask, "Can I do anything for you?" the answer will most likely be no, even if help is needed. If I have to ask for help, I feel like a burden and an inconvenience. If you really want to help your friend/family member with cancer, then you need to think of a way to help and do it. "Hey, I'm going to bring dinner to you. Is tonight a good night?" "Hey, I'm coming over to watch a movie with you. What time should I be there?" "I'm going to go grocery shopping for you. What's on your grocery list?" Figure out how you want to help and do it.

I don't understand exactly what you're going through, but I'm here for you. If you say this, you have to mean it. You can't say "I'm here for you" and only check in once a month. If you say this to your friend/family member with cancer, you need to learn about what they're going through. Do some research. Ask them how they're feeling and how they're dealing with cancer. Make sure you're present for them.

Whatever you do, though, don't ignore it. When you ignore what I'm going through with cancer, you're ignoring me. When you say nothing at all, you're setting me apart, turning me into a leper. And that's what makes things worse. Cancer isn't contagious, you know.

Monday, April 5, 2010

giving thyroid cancer the bird

Stupid thyroid cancer. My dad and my brothers rocking their i[2]y stupid cancer wristbands and giving my cancer the bird, which is completely acceptable and therapeutic, by the way. 

Sunday, April 4, 2010

my beautiful mess

"It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees."
psalm 119:71

The above verse was written for me. It was good for me to have cancer so I might learn more about God, to deepen my relationship with Him. If cancer is what it takes for me to learn all I have and will, then I wouldn't give cancer back if I could. I do not think cancer itself is good. In fact, I hate it. But I love the changes it brought to my life. It has been a long, hard road getting to this point, and I'm sure I'll have a different sentiment another day, but today I love how God has used my cancer for good.  I do not believe God gave me cancer, but I absolutely believe He can turn something as ugly as cancer into something beautiful. He can and He has.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A man named Jake

This is another post I wrote over a year ago. I don't know why I never posted it, but you need to read about Jake. People like Jake make the world a better place.

There used to be this man named Jake. My mom knew him from the tiny mill town in South Carolina where she grew up. As a little girl, she looked up to his teenage daughters. She actually named her dog after his daughter Patsy. (It was a chihuahua. Yes, a chihuahua named Patsy.) That's about the nicest thing a little girl can do for the teenager she idolizes. One day, about five months ago, Jake's daughter (not Patsy) went to visit Jake in the hospital. When she got to his door she stopped in her tracks. Jake was on his knees. Praying. Praying out loud. Praying something along the lines of "God, I have this friend Ray. His daughter Jan has a daughter with cancer. I want you to heal her." He was praying. On his knees. Out loud. For me.
Praying for me to be healed while his own body was being consumed by cancer.

Not long after this, Jake died. I thank God for Jake. He put his own needs aside to pray for me. That's just about as selfless as it gets--to put someone else's health needs over yours when you are dying. I just hope there is a little bit of Jake inside of me, that I might consider others before myself.

I'm thankful for everyone who has prayed for me. If you've uttered even one little prayer on my behalf, thank you. I'm grateful for you.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

can't go back

I wrote this post a LONG time ago but never published it because at the time I wasn't fully convinced the last line was true. But now I know without a shadow of a doubt it is completely true. The only thing that is no longer the same as when I first wrote this post is I don't have cancer-filled dreams anymore. Thank God for that.

The day I learned I had cancer was a day that my changed my life. Changed. I have been waiting since October to feel like myself again. To think as clearly as I used to. To have as much energy as I used to. To interact with my friends the same as I used to. To not be tormented by cancer-filled dreams at night. To go a single day without being reminded that I have cancer.

But I've come to accept that I will never be that person again. I can't go back. I am forever changed.

And I think the change is for the better.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Zac's Story

This is one of the most inspiring stories I've ever heard. How does it resonate with you?

The Story of Zac Smith from NewSpring Production on Vimeo.

Monday, February 15, 2010

shut yo mouth

Over the past year and a half since diagnosed with thyroid cancer, I've heard some dumb things. Now, before you go and get all offended, I am NOT calling YOU dumb. Just the stuff you've said. :) Seriously, though, I know I'm just as guilty of saying stupid stuff at the worst times. I'm still not a pro at knowing what to say, but I'm getting pretty good at knowing what not to say. And I thought I would share with you in efforts to keep you from shoving your foot in your mouth in the future.

Do not tell people they are so fortunate to have the cancer they do because it is so curable. Do not tell them they have the good cancer. Do not tell them that, if they had to choose a cancer, this would be the one. 
Really? I did not choose cancer. I do not like to think about choosing cancer. There is no such thing as a good cancer. So if this is something that is about to burst out of your lips, just shut your mouth.

Do not tell someone everything is going to be OK. 
You do not know if that is a true statement. All types of cancer can kill. So don't let this slip out of your mouth.

Do not provide unsolicited medical advice. 
Unless you are my doctor, I don't want to hear it. So if medical advice is the only thing you have to offer, just keep your mouth shut unless you are asked for your opinion.

Do not say God does not and will not give us more than we can handle.
This is a flat-out lie. If this was a true statement, why would we need God at all? Now, if you have said this before, I am sure you did not mean to tell a lie. But you did. The truth is God will not give us more than we can handle WITH HIS HELP. Please be aware of the distinction. And stop telling lies.

This is just the tip of the iceberg, but what would you add to the list?

Sunday, February 7, 2010


People too often tell me how strong I am. Strong for fighting cancer. Strong for making it this far.  Thank you for the compliment. But I must tell you: IT IS NOT TRUE. I am weak. Weak as water. Any strength you see in me is not from me.  It's God, showing up right on time to carry a feeble soul who cannot make it on her own. So when you see strength in me, what you're seeing is Jesus, displaying His perfect power, His strength. His power is made perfect in our weaknesses. His power.  My weakness. If I had to walk this road on my own I absolutely could not do it. The fear alone would kill me.  It's Jesus that makes me strong.

I just wanted you to know that.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Sunday, January 17, 2010

This is not your neighbor's cousin's mom's friend's cancer

I hear a lot of stories about other people who have experienced thyroid cancer.  They go something like this:

"Oh, you have thyroid cancer?  Well my aunt had that about thirty years ago and she is doing just fine."

"You know, my brother's girlfriend had thyroid cancer several years ago and she hasn't had any other problems."

"My grandmother had thyroid cancer a looooong time ago.  She's dead now, but it wasn't the cancer that killed her.  You are going to be just fine."

OK, so the stories may not go exactly like that, but that's pretty much the gist.  Let me say that I truly truly appreciate the encouragement.  However, I need you to understand that this is my thyroid cancer.  And I don't mean that in a jealous, possessive way.  I mean that everyone experiences cancer differently.  No two people deal with cancer exactly the same.  And while it is encouraging to hear the stories of so many people who have overcome thyroid cancer after a single surgery or one dose of radiation, don't assume that my experience is going to go so smoothly.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

confessions of a cancer patient [part 2]

My battle did not end when my thyroid was removed.  That was only the beginning.

The fight against cancer doesn't get easier.  It just becomes more normal.

When I was first diagnosed with cancer I was bombarded with people who rallied around me.  It's been a little over a year, and most of those people are gone.  That still hurts, but it doesn't sting anymore.

I've found new people to support me.  You can meet some of these awesome fighters here.

I still don't want your pity.  And I only want your support if you really mean it.

I have the best family.  Ever.

Check out part one here

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

how old is old enough?

I'm not too young to drive.  I'm not too young to vote.  I'm not too young to drink.  I'm no longer too young to rent a car.  However, I have heard many times over the past year that I am too young to have cancer.  But I've been wondering, who isn't too young to have cancer?  Is there a certain age where you are suddenly old enough to have cancer?