One Year After Thyroid Cancer Surgery and Divorce: One Mile High Mama’s Story
posted by: Guest Blogger
One year ago, on June 12th, I underwent a thyroidectomy (complete removal of the thyroid) surgery, and a neck dissection to remove almost all of the lymph nodes in my neck, because I had cancer. (You can read more about the surgery here, After Thyroid Cancer Surgery. I have posted some other pictures at the end of this post, I thought may be helpful to others who are facing a similar surgery.)
A lot has happened during the past year. At the time it was my biggest challenge. Cancer is a big deal. Even thyroid cancer, which most every doctor will say is the “best” cancer to have is a major, life changing event. I haven’t talked to one thyroid cancer survivor yet, who hasn’t experienced some type of problem, or issue with their recovery. For me, it was a mistake the endocrinologist’s office made, and I ended up without any thyroid replacement hormone (usually synthroid) for three months. I developed severe hypothyroidism. There were some days, I could not physically get out of bed, and I felt like I was 100 years old. I had extreme pain from the surgery still, and I was confused, exhausted, and I could barely function. A year later, the left side of my neck is numb, and I still have shoulder pain.
I receive e-mail’s weekly from other thyroid cancer survivors who are on synthroid, but the dosage is wrong, and they are experiencing hypothyroidism. It paralyzes your life, and for me, the surgery ended up being the “easy” part. When any organ is removed from your body, and a drug has take over the function, there are going to be complications. Fortunately for me, when I finally was able to take synthroid, after radioactive iodine (RAI), my dosage was correct the first time. I felt better hours after I took it. One year later, I still have not had to have an adjustment in the dosage. My doctors tell me this is extremely rare. However, I still feel like I lost three months of my life. Time with my boys, I will never get back.
Four months after my surgery, I started running. I was going to run in one 5K race- the Race for the Cure for breast cancer. I enjoyed it, and it gave me a new appreciation for my health and fitness. I think it is very important to become active as soon as you can. It helped me get out of a “cancer patient” mode, and on to the next stage, which is a new life- cancer free. Running made me strong again, physically and mentally. I could not have known at the time, how strong I was going to have to be, in the very near future.
At the time I was diagnosed with cancer, I had been separated from my husband for three months, and in the process of divorce. It was not an easy divorce to say the least. There was a small “break” if you can call it that, while I was recovering, but after the RAI treatment, the divorce continued, adding an enormous amount of stress to my life. I had a friend tell me after cancer, getting divorced would seem like a vacation, but this sadly, was not the case. There wasn’t anything I could do, except plow through it until it was over. The divorce was finalized last month, at the end of May. Divorce was far harder emotionally than cancer had been.
But the hardest thing- harder than cancer or divorce- was the unexpected death of my mother in February of this year. It is the most devastating thing to lose a parent. My mom came out last July (she lived out of state), a few weeks after my cancer surgery, to help me recover. At this point, I had hypothyroidism, and she took care of me, and Ryan and Cole during my parenting time. It was one of the last times we had together. I saw her for a few days at Christmas, and then I watched her die.
Her friends all came to visit her, and they told me how utterly worried and scared my mom had been over my cancer. My mom had never let on to me she felt that way. She had always been so strong- always telling me I was going to beat cancer, and I was a very healthy person. Her friends also told me how distressed she had been over my divorce-over the tactics that were being used, and the high stress I was under. Again, she never let me know she was feeling like this. She gave me strength and encouragement to keep going. She told me all the stress the divorce was bringing to me was like cancer itself. I could let it consume me, or I could fight, and beat the stress- knowing there would be a bright future when it was all over.
I had seven days with my mom, while she died. A day and a half later after I had returned home from her death, I had to jump right back in to divorce mode, and meet with a child family investigator (CFI) and a forensic psychologist for interviews and psychological testing. These interviews and tests would result in parenting recommendations for the judge in the divorce case to consider. This was in March, and cancer seemed like it happened a million years ago.
Now it is a year later from that day. A year ago, I thought having cancer was one of the worst things that could happen to me. Over the last year, I have learned-harshly-there are worst things than cancer.
I remember thinking if I could get through this cancer, I could get through anything. In a way I was right. It turns out, cancer was the “easiest” of the three things I faced during the past year.
I would not have gotten through any of this without my family and friends. I hope I tell you enough how much I appreciate and love you all. You are the ones who got me through this past year. From the moment I checked into the hospital a year ago, to just the last few days- thank you for being there for me when I needed you.
For anyone who is reading this, who has just found out they have cancer, is going to have to have cancer surgery, or is recovering from thyroid cancer, there will be good days and bad days. Don’t let the bad days devestate you. Cancer changes a lot about your life, but you also have an opportunity to really see a lot of love and support around you. It teaches you to let go of the small stuff, and to just enjoy the days you are given.
Some of these days will be dark. Some of these days you are going to have to fight with every ounce of strength you have just to get to the next hour. Some of these days you will have to let other people help you, because you won’t be able to do it all. Some of these days, you will have to let things go, and be okay with just being. Some of these days you will question if it is even really worth it. When you realize, without a doubt, yes it is- then the clouds start to fade away. Instead of feeling weak, you feel strong. Instead of feeling sorry for yourself, you feel grateful you are alive. Instead of feeling guilty, you feel content. Then you will know in your soul you have beaten cancer, and it is far from the end- it is your new beginning.
Guest Blogger Heather is a one-year thyroid cancer survivor, and a single mom to two boys. She lives near Longmont, CO, and has blogged extensively on her cancer diagnosis, surgery, and recovery at her blog, A Mama’s Blog. This is her third guest post at Mile High Mamas. Heather enjoys spending time with her sons (ages 6 and 4), running, cycling, hiking, and gardening.