In the last few days, I have been reminded of who I am to the outside. That in itself is an immense gift. Being called a “Warrior” and “Mack truck” are my personal favorites. No other time except when facing cancer is being called a large Mack truck appropriate. Never. But today, I know my friend sees me as tenacious, driven, strong and capable of moving anything that gets in my way. He is right.
ok, so I actually haven’t kicked thyroid cancer’s ass yet, but I will. Just around the corner. Doc assures me that “if you are going to have cancer, this is the best kind to have.” LOL! Those are words I never expected to hear, much less typing them in a blog I didn’t plan to write until 20 minutes ago. I also must acknowledge that once I kick this, cancer can always come back. No worries. I’ve had my share of ups and downs and always land on my feet.
Know that song by Blue October, “Jump Rope”? If not, get it.
That being said, if you read, “Get a goiter, grow a goiter”- this would be part 2. You see, that goiter that Ms. Crazy Aunt Delilah designed for the work costume contest and actually became one two years ago, was checked and found benign. But over time and with repeated ultrasounds that never showed cancer, it was time for surgery to remove. Mostly it was cosmetic and sometimes I would feel pressure on my vocal cord (perhaps a gift to my friends, as I do possess the gift to gab). Me? I was just happy to get rid of that word in my vocabulary. Seriously, who named that thing a Goiter anyway…… “gooooooiter”? It just says, “make fun of me”. (And Seinfeld did nothing to help those of us with the curse of the “goooooiter”.)
Regardless, I conceded and took on the surgery when it fit my schedule. When the doc came back in after discharge to tell me they found malignancies, even he didn’t expect to give me this news. It wasn’t seen on the previous ultrasounds, and no one seems to know for how long I had been growing the cells. Again, no worries, I get some radioiodine and a total body scan and soon enough I’m back to being a bad ass marketing professional.
But here’s what I’ve learned along this ridiculously insane journey:
– Many folks have thyroid issues, but unless they “get the goiter”, they may not be aware of the cancerous cells. Ask your doc how you can be sure you are safe.
– Laughter heals. So too does investing in a good therapist.
– My 11-year-old daughter has a capacity for amazing resilience and understanding. We haven’t yet used the “c” word (not that word, you goof), but I am transparent about needing much rest and meds that will make me radioactive and need to keep me alone for a few days while she stays with her dad.
– “Ask for the order”. Social networking has a completely new meaning for me this week- beyond a buttload of professional experience. (oh dear, I may have to rate this blog differently). An insane amount of emails, notes, personal stories, public thoughts, encouragement and kindness continue to come my way from people I haven’t seen in years. And it took me weeks to admit to folks even outside my closest six girlfriends what was happening in my life. Suddenly, I am flooded with white lights, love and healing from around the globe. Just with a touch of a button and a polite request to have my back.
– Never allow anyone- a sibling, parent, spouse (!!!!), friend, family member, colleague to hear the diagnosis alone. Partially, b/c they are likely loopy on Vicadin or Morphine, as I was and only heard one word, and partially b/c we need to be holding a hand or taking notes or something….and for me, I was still in the hospital gown, arse hanging out, connected to tubes and hair looking rocking hot. I was in shock and there was no one to hold my hand.
– Some folks you think will come to your side will not. And that is ok. Not everyone is comfortable and knows what and how to be there for you. Accept that this is not easy for anyone and move forward with folks who will not pull from the positive energies you need in reserve.
– Toxic people are bad news. Move on.
– I have always been good with “asking for the order”. (Daughter of a psychotherapist and attorney.) But, I’m not great at asking for help. Too damn type A and like to believe I can do it all. This time, I couldn’t. And you know what, asking wasn’t hard and the return has been the best investment of all time. 🙂
– Next time you enter a hospital, consider that every patient – you, your friend, your parent, etc…this is their story. It is not just a visit from you. It has a beginning – when they first call the doctor knowing something is “amiss”- to the end diagnosis or worse. Everything else in between is the plot. You are part of that plot and can make it even the smallest bit easier- even offering an ice chip or calling the nurse or a trip to the bathroom with someone other than a stranger means something. Be there and be present. And know it’s their story, not yours. Even if dinner needs to be made, or the kids have homework, or the laundry isn’t done. They are scared and need you to be with them.
– Touch. People need human contact. We need to be loved. Ask to hold a hand or give a hug, or frankly, just let me cry without solving my problems or telling the story of iodine radiation that your uncle bob had. I am not Bob.
– I don’t need you to tell me you are sorry. Of course you are, you are my friend. Instead, just be there and remind me of all the things you know me to be. Because in that vulnerable moment, I don’t recall who I was before the diagnosis.
– Nurses run a hospital. I can be the lead for the marketing department, but I am nothing but support to the men/women who have (as my smart, loving, nurse based CEO says) “the privilege to touch the patient”. She is right. It is a privilege, and nurses deserve incredible respect.
And finally, Crazy Aunt Delilah may not have been just karma, she may have just saved my life.
Just imagine this next Halloween when she reappears with a new look, a fancy scarf to cover what appears a neckline intruder incident and a rockin’ story about being a cancer survivor. Probably wearing the survivor card on a tiara……(note to self).