Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Cancer Survivor Playlist #1

Destiny's Child with Da Brat - Survivor

I remember singing this song to myself in 2001 when I was working for the Francophonie Games in Ottawa and Gatineau. The reason? I was 23 years old and had moved to Gatineau, Quebec, a new city by myself where I knew no one. Since I was hired on Friday and had to start Monday, I had to find housing fast. The first place I found, I stayed for only three nights in what I learned was a rooming house in the rough side of town. (I will never forget the first night I got there when after I bought groceries, I ran onto the bus since there were three guys approaching me, catcalling and whistling at me.) There were a bunch of creepy looking dudes who lived there. (The landlord was a mess.) My room reaked of stale cigarette smoke and I slept with a chair against the locked door to reinforce my safety. Plus there was no air conditioning and I lived on apples, box juices, and peanut butter sandwiches because I had very little money. I had to move. One night, I found a much safer place where I lived in Gatineau with a single mom and her pre-teen daughter. She took my word for it that I would pay after I moved in. She trusted my word that I would giver her part of the rent as soon as I got paid and the rest at the end of the month. Imagine that? I moved in quickly (much earlier than she had planned to have tenants). My new place which was the top level of her house was hot like a sauna (no airconditioning) and smelled like cat pee (she did not have enough time to shampoo the carpet before I moved in. Plus, I worked and lived in an all-French environment which is not my first language. I was forced to adapt, maintained my faith, and I survived as things did improve-- I had fans to cool the rooms slightly, shampooed carpets to alleviate some of the cat pee smell, and an awesome work experience in which I improved my French and worked with talented world musicians.) This Destiny's Child song was really popular at the time and became my anthem for overcoming that adversity.

On another note: I did get the results of my 2 whole body scans and 2 blood tests. Yesterday, I went to see Endo #4 (my endocrinologist) and asked him if I was in remission. He said, "No. It's a cure." Yes! I thought. I see him again in 6 months for blood tests. I asked him if I would need to repeat the radiation again. He said no, but I will need to do blood tests. (I know about the blood tests. They will be a regular part of my life. I'm pretty rehearsed in them now.)

I'm a little hyper ("hyperthyroid", that is) though, according to the results. After this bottle is done, I will have to start a slightly lower dose of thyroid hormone. I have been feeling a lot more energy lately. I asked if that would change. Endo #4 told me that I should not notice any difference.

Nevertheless, I am still processing this whole experience. (Naturally!) Cancer. Survivor. Cancer survivorship.

Was that it? I am reading Everything Changes by Kairol Rosenthal and I actually felt a little guilty since I did not experience all of the difficulties that other young adult cancer patients often experience-- chemo, lengthy radiation program, months in the hospital. I was not single during this process. I have a fiance. I have a job and career. I have lived some and achieved many of my dreams before cancer. I did not deal with cancer through self-cutting or drug abuse or sleeping around... I also did not win 7 tour de Frances like Lance Armstrong or run a marathon (yet, anyway). My experience was very different.

My whole body scan report said "unremarkable" about the residual focus in the neck and "no evidence of metastic disease". That's the clincher.

Yet, I am thrilled to be "on the other side" of my diagnosis. I have learned so much and will continue to learn. I am also thankful to God and my faith has sustained me through this. I am so thankful for the wonderful programs at Young Adult Cancer Canada (YACC), Wellspring, Princess Margaret Hospital (PMH), and Gilda's Place. I will continue to take advantage of them because I understand that cancer-free is still a journey. I am also thankful to my fiance, friends and family who have been supportive and responsive and "there" for me. I am thankful to the many cancer survivors and patients who I have met who have inspired me to live better and more courageously. Thank you so much. Lastly, thank you to all of the readers of this blog (all 8, 765 of you). When I began my blog on April 8, I was so unsure about putting my thyroid cancer story out there yet I was willing to share it with you. Thank you to those who have left comments and others who reached out to me. I am so glad that you are inspired by my journey and even happier it has helped many survivors. I assure you that the blog has helped me too. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

I am deciding today to do a Cancer Survivor Playlist for the next few days as I process my survivorship.

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