Back in January 2018, my life took a turn I didn’t see coming.
I went to the doctor feeling like my usual exhausted self and my endocrinologist said my thyroid nodules had grown. That’s never good news. So we scheduled a biopsy and the biopsy came back suspicious for thyroid cancer, which led to a complete thyroid removal. Crazily the pathology came back with papillary thyroid cancer in both sides. While the cancer is all gone, my doctors watch me more closely now.
My health has taken some crazy turns the last few years. I went through 2 years of infertility, finally got to have my sweet babies, and then had more surgeries related to all of the pregnancy hormones in my body. In October 2017 I became really tired and hit a brick wall with my energy. I attempted to work on some projects, but it went nowhere, causing me to be on the couch while my kids watched TV. Little did I know severe fatigue is a sign of cancer.
The words ‘you have cancer’ shifts your focus to what’s important. When you are walking through any illness, it’s critical to recognize what’s happening with your kids. They feel the weight of the situation too. Below are some ways I learned to help navigate this hard path.
- Sit down and explain what’s happening to your kids. My kids have been to so many doctor appointments and have been such troopers. I’ve had to explain to my 5 and almost 4 year old that, “mommy will be okay, but the doctor needs some more blood.” My situation turned out well, but always be sensitive to those little ears. They pick up on more than we know.
- Spend time being present with your loved ones. This has definitely taken top priority since we are only given so many days on earth. We aren’t guaranteed tomorrow, so my goal is to be present with my family and friends everyday.
- Say I love you. No matter where we are I’m always saying I love you. It can be in the doctor’s office, at the park or on the couch. My favorite words to hear are when my kids tell me they love me.
- Refocus on your passions. Instead of putting things off, I’ve decided to do things now. This is very hard with limited energy, but each day I try to do to the things I love. Sometimes it’s having a cup of coffee in the morning by myself, but whatever it is, our passions are worth it.
- Savor the small moments. I appreciate those little moments of joy in life, like laughing with my kids, kissing my husband, or driving with the car windows down on a beautiful day. Colorado has such amazing places to explore, and we love our family hikes and camping trips. Being grateful for where we live and the life we’ve been given is something I cling to.
- Focus on working out. The fatigue took a toll on my workout routine, but I’m back to my regular workout schedule now. Our bodies take time to heal after severe illness, and it’s important to give yourself grace.
One of my favorite books I read this past year is by Kate Bowler, ‘Everything Happens For a Reason (and the other lies I’ve loved)‘. Kate is a professor at Duke University and is currently battling Stage IV cancer as a mom of a precious little guy. Her wit, expertise,and plain candor help you see inside what it’s truly like to battle cancer with a sense of humor. At the end of the book is appendix 1 telling you what not to say to someone walking through suffering, and appendix 2 is what to say to help. Several of the things in appendix 1 were said to me (please don’t ever tell someone they have the ‘good kind of cancer’), and by golly, I will make certain I do what Kate references in appendix 2.
You see no matter the illness or circumstance, you have the chance to speak kindness, put on a smile and tell someone you love them. Trust me when I say, ‘cancer sucks’, but our kids make this hardship so worth it in the end.