April 30, 2015
Events in life can serve as an excuse for only so long. In 2014, I sustained a severe concussion and was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. Everything in my life seemed to be put on pause while I struggled with my physical and mental health. They weren’t all bad days and I developed a bunch of coping strategies which helped me get through it.
On May 6th – next week – I finally get the results from the full body scan I did back in February. However, regardless of what it says, it’s likely I won’t be having any more treatment, at least for a while. The radioactive iodine is essentially still working inside me for the next few months and is supposed to wipe out all the cancerous thyroid cells wherever they are in my body. So next year, when I go through the prep for scan/scan again is when I’ll have a better idea of where I’m at for the long-term. This means I don’t really know what part of the whole cancer process I’m at right now. What I do know is that my energy levels still aren’t fully back to pre-thyroidectomy. So that’s going to be the next thing to figure out. Here’s a short video on why it’s tough to dose thyroid hormone replacement.
In the meantime, I’ve been trying to set short-term goals and have been working at a pace that feels comfortable. Some days are good days, and I then I make use of it and get quite a few things done. Other days aren’t as good, and I’m learning to just accept that, listen to my body and take it easy. If I need a nap, then a nap my body shall have.
I am excited to say that I finished one course this spring semester and am now officially only 0.5 credits away from getting my MPH degree. The plan is to take on a short practicum this summer and get this degree done. It may be a little premature but I got my graduate photos. However, convocation won’t be until November. I am going to do it – it’s been tantalizingly close for too long.
I have been slowly working on some outstanding projects and applications. A manuscript here, a grant application there. I went for an interview which was a good step for me. There’s some research on returning to work after cancer and other health issues which is interesting. At the 20s and 30s support group, we discussed disclosure and to what extent employers might make accommodations. It can be tricky thing to navigate.
Physio / Rehab
I’ve been seeing a chiropractor and acupuncturist. It’s been helping with my joint pains and migraines. I’ve been doing exercises for balance and to improve my reaction time. Then the plan is to focus on getting my strength back. You know all those really inspiring people who came back from bad prognoses and then ran marathons and went to the Olympics? I think there’s a new level of determination that comes from going through something like cancer, so now I need to harness it.
I was accepted to present at the Public Health 2015 conference in Vancouver at the end of May and thankfully, also got a bursary to cover some of my travel expenses. I’m looking forward to that because I’ve never been to the other side of the country. I do want to travel more this summer and I hope I can make it happen. As much as I love and appreciate that I have a roof over my head, I feel like I’ve been stuck at home for too long.
In the beginning, it was very difficult for me to accept that I had to slow down, take medical leave and focus on getting better. My concussion and my cancer are legitimate reasons for taking time to heal. But there is a point at which they can become excuses. A couple of weeks ago, I had a bad fall at home while I was alone. I didn’t hit my head but it was a jarring experience. I was on the floor in pain for a while before I literally had to pick myself up. It was terrifying because all the emotions from the last year just surfaced again. It reminded me of how my whole world just changed in an instant and that it is possible for that to happen again. It’s a deep fear and a legitimate one. But strength is acknowledging that I don’t want my fears and past experiences to dictate how I want to live my life. I need to keep moving forward.
It’s time for me to start figuring out my life aside from cancer. Cancer forever changed me, it was inevitable. But it can no longer be an excuse for not achieving what I want, it should only be a reminder of what I can overcome.