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Focusing on the New Me After My Thyroid Cancer Diagnosis

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When people first meet me, a few of them ask, “Are you afraid?”

Normally I say, “No, it’s OK. We all have battles.” I do believe this, but I’m afraid I’ve met very few people who can really handle the fear for dying.

When I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer they told me one of the tumors was almost 5 centimeters in length, and there were even a few small tumors outside of the thyroid. They also think I had cancer many years before I was actually diagnosed.

The irony is knowing this has been one of my biggest comforts since I got diagnosed. If I had found out I had cancer before then, I would have had RAI treatments, and I would not have been allowed to have children. That means my two beautiful babies might not have been born.

But I also never really felt it was unfair to be told this because the alternative is so much worse.

Shortly after I was diagnosed I joined a lot of Facebook groups for people who have thyroid cancer. I quickly realized some people acted like they had given up hope. I don’t blame them — it’s a hard uphill battle. Many people rarely acknowledge thyroid cancer as a “real” cancer. I’ve seen other people look so relieved when they realize it’s “just” thyroid cancer.

After two years of treatment and self-pity, and constantly fighting with my husband and other people, I finally understood — I will never be the person I was before I got sick. The more I tried, the more I felt defeated because I had already changed too much.

From that point on I started embracing every challenge set before me by developing the new me. When I couldn’t run for a long period because of double ankle surgery, I started swimming. When I couldn’t swim because of nerve damage and muscle spasms, I started biking.

By giving myself a good and stable routine I managed to lose weight (despite getting hormone treatments and thyroid supplements). The days I don’t have the energy to exercise I just walk. Sometimes I put a movie on and step for 30 minutes.

But I move every day — no exceptions.

My friend, who is also going through some health problems, told me she feels the worst part is the waiting and not being able to plan. I think that’s a mistake a lot of people make when they get sick or go through hard times. They often wait to start living after they are diagnosed, and they even expect to come back to “normal.”

But there is no “normal” anymore. We change too much and we can´t wait to live until after. Instead, we have to grab life even more now and make sure to get the fullest and most of it.

I’m 40  and I admit up until now, I have spent a lot of time seeking other people’s approval. I no longer seek it anymore. I decided to start doing all the things I found interesting — I started working with fashion again, I started studying and I exercise every day. My low self-esteem has been replaced with energy, and I have — ironically enough — finally started living.

When I lost my voice last year because one of my vocal cords was severely damaged, I got depressed. A big part of my personality was talking. But I gave myself a voice online, and when I started relaxing, my voice came back.

The anger and mental struggling I have felt most of my life has been replaced with joy and optimism.

I don’t know what the future brings. At my last check-up the tumor marker had increased, and it looks like it spread to my arm. I already had one surgery there, so there is some numbness, and they told me I could loose more mobility in it.

But if that happens I will find a way to write about it with one arm. Or maybe I’ll start a video blog.

No matter what, I will find a way.

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Thinkstock photo by bersigns

Originally published: September 5, 2017
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