30 Stories in 30 Days
September is Thyroid Cancer Awareness Month. For the next 4 weeks, we will post stories written by thyroid cancer survivors, caregivers and friends for our 30 Stories in 30 Days campaign. We hope their perspectives and insight will help others along their journey.
In a strange twist of fate, my thyroid cancer was found after a random hit to the neck during a high school basketball game my sophomore year. After 7 months of consultations and second opinions, I still remember receiving the diagnosis of advanced Papillary Thyroid Cancer (PTC) and thinking that it was “good news.” I was told that it could have been a lot scarier. Yet when my surgery lasted 3 hours longer than expected and the surgeons were forced to remove over 100 lymph nodes, we realized that the disease was far more advanced than my doctors had originally believed. However, 7 years, 3 surgeries, and 2 radioactive iodine treatments later, I can finally say that my disease is stable.
This journey could not have come at a more difficult time, as I was diagnosed just before my junior year of high school. Already dealing with the stresses of college applications, school work, and sports, a cancer diagnosis was a huge weight to bear. Nevertheless, during my 7 years of treatment, I was able to graduate high school and college, earn certification as a NYS teacher, and work towards a Master’s Degree. I think that I grew a lot as a person throughout my treatment. When I entered college, I adopted a new outlook on life. I decided to own my disease, accept my experience, and stop allowing my cancer to define me in a negative way. With this choice, I became more sure of myself. I looked in the mirror and was amazed at the tough, strong, brave, and accomplished person that I saw. I had stuck to my goals and refused to let my disease derail my plans. I felt proud of, not sorry for myself, for all I had been through and achieved.
During my treatment, someone said: “attitude is the difference between an ordeal and an adventure.” The attitude that I adopted towards my experience with thyroid cancer allowed me to grow and change in amazing ways. I learned to focus on the positive in every situation, to let go of the minor setbacks, and to make every day as good as it can be.
To anyone else going through a similar experience, I hope to assure you that you are not alone. Know that there are other people going through similar struggles. Take ownership of your situation, and learn to make the best of it and to search for the good in every experience. When diagnosed with cancer, there are many things that are out of your control, yet your attitude and your reactions are in your hands, and they have a far greater impact than you may think.