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A Letter to Myself Before My Husband Was Diagnosed With Thyroid Cancer

Dear Mandie,

I wish in October 2020 someone had given you this advice.

What you don’t know is that your husband is not struggling with a mental illness, he is in fact showing the signs of thyroid cancer. Don’t assume anxiety, anger, depression, and mood swings are just caused by mental illnesses.

I know you are a mental health campaigner and have been for many years, but it
turns out lots of people don’t know that thyroid cancer can present in the same
way.

So do trust your gut instinct and tell the cardiac doctor and your GP there is something wrong. That action saves your husband’s life.

Next, I’d like to remind you that you are going to need to be very resilient and kind to yourself. I know that through lupus you’ve learned to listen to your body and you are rarely floored despite the severity of your illness due to your mindset, working hard, and resting just as well.

You will do the right thing by learning about DBT (dialectical behavior therapy) to go with your CBT, CAT, NLP, psychology, and coaching skills. It will help you on those dark days when they tell you that your husband has had a TIA (transient ischemic attack), a blood clot, a partial lung collapse, heart failure (only working at 15% to 22%), and thyroid cancer. In their view, “He is not a candidate for surgery, he can’t be moved or released from hospital and unfortunately the situation is rather hopeless.”

People don’t tell you that not all doctors are equal and that through your tenacity and never giving up, you will find hospital teams that will repair his heart and get rid of his cancer.

Mandie, it really is not you; it really is them. People won’t tell you that after the first few shocked months people will stop calling and offering to cook your meals. It’s not your fault. It’s because people don’t know what to say so they say nothing at all. Your life is a reminder of how bad life can be and people don’t want to be around that. Unlike your postman who says “Mand, your life reminds me that I’ve not got it so bad after all,” and always makes some time for you.

Don’t keep trying to talk to those who love you if they don’t want to listen, find someone who will listen and be there for you without judgment. You can’t dump it on your husband because stress could make him worse and kill him as he waits months for his surgeries and procedures. Charities like Carers First have great resources where you can offload and chat when you want and need to.

Don’t forget to laugh. In dark times you are going to feel guilty for laughing, everyone does, but you shouldn’t. Laughter will keep you going. Your Postie Jamie doesn’t realize how amazing his couple of minutes chat will be to you. He is the one who reminded you that people will forget that you are struggling, too. He is the one who will tell you when his own dad had heart failure it was very hard on his mum and him, and no one ever thought to ask, “How are you?” They only ever think of the person who is ill.

So that leaves me to remind you that you’ve got to help yourself. Keep busy but not too busy. Find some new hobbies. I know you just want to hide from the world since you will spend your life sorting medication and going to appointments or driving to hospitals, but you must make time for fun, too.

It’s going to be really hard to process all that. Learn, Mandie, that you can’t give in just yet. Write down all the awful thoughts so you can start to process it all, but the real healing starts after your husband is out of danger. Then let your mind process every thought. Don’t try and control them, like passing cars on the road, let them come into view and leave again.

Remember nothing stays the same, so no matter how dark it feels, the light will return. I promise you that.

You will never be so happy to be a coach and author, you will turn to every resource and strategy you know, and you will get through this.

Getty image by Tim Robberts

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