One year—and my heart swells with only GRATEFULNESS. I’m still alive today, and more than alive—I’m healed and still cancer free! I had my tumor marker test recently and the results were NEGATIVE. Hallelujah!
It’s been exactly a year ago since I had my surgery. I feel like several years have gone by after everything that has happened, yet I can still clearly remember the roller coaster ride of events and emotions.
What a journey it has been from June 2016 until now. It wasn’t a smooth ride especially at the start. Things wavered, even my own faith at times (I had another scare a few months ago) yet one thing remained and still remains constant—God’s love and faithfulness to me. I don’t know where I’d be now without that along with the tremendous support and love from the people I chose to surround myself with.
Higher than the mountains that I face
Stronger than the power of the grave
Constant through the trial and the change
One thing remains,
Yes, one thing remains.
Your love never fails,
It never gives up
It never runs out on me
– One Thing Remains by Jesus Culture
Yes, I said ‘chose’. One of the things I realized is that to overcome cancer is a choice. For me, to overcome is a combination of choices—
It is a choice to access healing and it is a choice to believe that it will work. I know a very young cancer victor who got totally healed from a Stage 4 rare type of cancer.
It is a choice not to succumb to depression, especially post-surgery.
It is a choice not to give in to the mental garbage of self-pity and paranoia of endless “what ifs” and fears.
It is a choice to remain productive despite the initial months of feeling inadequate and helpless (primarily due to the effects of hypocalcemia and hypothyroidism).
It is a choice to continue loving and caring for others despite your own personal need for the same.
It is a choice to fight to live for something bigger than yourself.
It is a choice to keep on believing that this WILL pass. And it did.
There are also other things that greatly helped me in overcoming this battle:
- Being busily productive
I’m blessed to have a very flexible work schedule because I’m a part-owner of a business and I do freelance work too. As soon as I was physically able, I jumped back to work as I couldn’t stand being idle. Idleness is the worst thing you can do to yourself. It gives you more time to dwell on those unnecessary thoughts that make you go the downward spiral.
- Finding a new hobby
I found two new hobbies during my recovery period that bring me so much happiness: gardening and taking care of my adopted puspin!
There’s something about taking care of another life with your own hands. (I don’t have a child yet so I guess this is somehow my preparation for having one.) It does wonders to my soul that I couldn’t explain. I guess these infographics sum it up.
The gardening started with cacti and succulents, and when they survived, I started growing herbs and other plants. Getting into all that dirt, replanting and seeing new growth brings me so much joy! (Well, except for the occasional appearance of earthworms and millipedes—I hate those creatures! But they are beneficial to the soil so I just tolerate them…)
And my new pet. She’s a stray cat who loves visiting our yard (a.k.a. looking for food). There are other strays who would frequent our house but we usually drive them out. However, this furry one somehow tugged at my heart strings (maybe because of those big round eyes). I started feeding her but she was afraid to come near me at first. She would wait until I leave before she ate the food I left for her. She would also get scared every time I tried to pet her. It took a while before I earned her trust and she finally allowed me to touch her. Because of this show we watch in the evenings, we named her ‘Baby Girl’. It’s such an irony because I found out later on that she’s pregnant! So Baby Girl is now a mom with three kittens. Apart from gaining her trust, another accomplishment is making her domesticated—she learned how to eat and drink from her dish, and to use the litter box. It might sound so mundane but if you experience and witness firsthand the progress we’ve made, it is really something.
- Living and eating healthy
It’s a known fact among thyroid-less people that it is so much harder to lose weight because the thyroid plays a big role in metabolism. I haven’t reached my ideal yet but I’m working towards that goal.
I practice yoga whenever I can. Gardening is also a physical activity so that’s a form of exercise too.
Eating healthy takes a lot of discipline. I don’t have any diet restrictions but because of the metabolism issue, I still need to watch what I eat. I don’t go on any fad diet. I learned through a friend that it’s all about the right portions—you don’t have to starve yourself. For the past months, I’ve decreased my carb intake and increased my portions of fruits and veggies, which is the age-old-recommendation for eating healthy anyway. Here’s a good guide for it:
- Not spending too much time on the illness
What do I mean by that? When I first got diagnosed, I did A LOT of research, and it was very helpful at that time. However, post-surgery and RAI, I found myself too concerned about every single thing I felt—it was crazy! I also joined a US-based thyroid cancer support group which was very helpful initially, but I got too engrossed in it that when I saw posts by other patients who felt this and that, either I felt sad too or I got paranoid about whether that could happen to me as well. At one point, I just knew not to spend too much time on the feed and only checked posts that were helpful. I’ve learned that every patient is different. Somebody who had exactly the same diagnosis as you does not necessarily have exactly the same treatment outcomes and prognosis. Yes, the labs and procedures we undergo might be the same, but how our bodies respond to treatment and our mindsets are different. It is indeed helpful to search the internet for credible sources about anything and everything related to your illness, but if it makes you paranoid, worry or sad, it is not helping anymore so just STOP. You know your body more than anyone else so take charge.
- Doing my due diligence
It found it crucial to regularly see my endocrinologist (I see her every 3 months) who adjusts my dosage until we get the right balance. I’m happy with the combination and dosage of my meds now because I’m able to function normally. I’m currently on Levothyroxine sodium (150mcg on weekdays, 100mcg on weekends) and Calcium + Vitamin D supplements. I’m very thankful I’ve got health insurance through my company which is such a huge help in covering expenses for consultations and labs.
- Surrounding myself with good vibes
This means two things: the people I choose to surround myself with and my internal vibe (what I let into my heart and thought space).
You want to be around people who uplift and supply you with good vibes. I’m beyond blessed to have super friends who are more than family to me. Sometimes, we have well-meaning friends or relatives who unintentionally release negative vibes of pity or sadness towards us—and that’s the last thing one needs when on the road to recovery.
Keeping my internal vibe in check is also important. I catch myself whenever I’m getting sad or worried. As I mentioned earlier, it really helps to stay active and productive because being idle does no good at all.
As I celebrate this milestone, I look forward to many more years of health, happiness and fulfillment. If you’re reading this, I wish the same for you too. If you’re also suffering from a chronic disease, I hope that what I just shared from my personal experiences helps you in any way.