Sunday, January 15, 2012


Alright by Jamiroquai
(I'm a big Jamiroquai fan!!!)

As a follow-up to my last post Things Fall Apart, I got a phone call from the "vigilant" doctor at the walk-in clinic to tell me that my white blood cell and calcium levels returned to normal.

Phew! What an experience! I will continue to follow through with medical tests and follow-up but the critical part is over and now I feel relief. I think the worst thing about it was how quickly I went into panic mode once I saw the doctor. I did not anticipate that. The panic and fear felt debilitating and it hindered me from moving forward. Between my prayers, I found myself thinking about "worst case scenarios". I am glad that is over.

In response to that post, I had a few helpful comments through my facebook friends. My cousin wrote:

u do what u have to do to keep healthy Blue Butterfly. one day my english teacher did an experiment. he asked each person in my class whats their health issue. at first people were like saying benign things like headache or knee pain but aftee a few answers like this people started being real. all of a sudden people were reeling off the various health conditions they suffer from. many were quite serious. what did this tell us? when u think that u r the only one who is seeing doctors and getting tests...u r not. i found it enlightening to remember we all have issues and that its important to remember that those issues do not define us. u r Blue Butterfly and this is just one of the many things that tell the story of ur life.

I thanked her for this comment as it reminded me to put all of this including my cancer experience into perspective. I can and will move beyond this and other experiences. I am not only a "cancer survivor" or a person who gets sick every once in a while, I am a person, wholly human, and like all people, I have issues. I do no need to let "those issues" define me. Thank you Marsha for your words.

Another response came from a fellow cancer survivor Jen:

This sounds very much like post traumatic stress....I have a history of it and was reading up on it a bit more today, trying to familiarize myself with the irritability and my reactions to things - hypersensitivity. Having been through a life threatening illness, it's generally quite a usual reaction to anything that could possibly be. Even five years out now, I'm still paranoid and do my best to write about it, talk about it and am going to book an appointment for professional advice on how to move forward. I hope all goes well with you Nadia. This sounds so much like my search for the "hidden illness" for the first three years post-treatment. Once I came to the acceptance that this was just going to be life and that I needn't frighten myself so much about the little stuff, I found a lot of it went away, or I just didn't notice it as much.

Given my background(I completed my undergraduate degree in Honour's psychology), I was familiar with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). I studied it and knew that it can often affect victims of war, veterans and retired soldiers, rape victims, or anyone who has experienced a traumatic event. Wikipedia defines post-traumatic stress disorder as:

a severe anxiety disorder that can develop after exposure to any event that results in psychological trauma.[1][2][3] This event may involve the threat of death to oneself or to someone else, or to one's own or someone else's physical, sexual, or psychological integrity,[1] overwhelming the individual's ability to cope. As an effect of psychological trauma, PTSD is less frequent and more enduring than the more commonly seen acute stress response. Diagnostic symptoms for PTSD include re-experiencing the original trauma(s) through flashbacks or nightmares, avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma, and increased arousal—such as difficulty falling or staying asleep, anger, and hypervigilance. Formal diagnostic criteria (both DSM-IV-TR and ICD-10) require that the symptoms last more than one month and cause significant impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.[1]

I have learned recently from my readings that PTSD also affects cancer survivors. When I had this health scare, I found myself saying, "Not again." I also relived those weeks and months of not knowing and feeling anxious as tests were administered. Knowing about PTSD did not prevent me from feeling so anxious or my fears from seeming so real.

How did I cope with this situation?

Prayer, meditation, conversations with friends and family, sleeping, and writing. I tried my best to do other things like reading, cooking, and yoga which are all activities I found to be therapeutic. I also spent time with my fiance. By following the doctor's instructions and taking proactive steps to heal myself (eating more vegetables and fruits, napping, vitamins), I think this helped me to "hold it together". I will be alright.

I was asked recently through a family member why am I putting all my business on the internet?

That is an excellent question. After the Things Fall Apart post, I thought about taking it down since it was so personal. However I do feel that it is part of my healing journey and if there is anything that come of it to help another person out, then it is worth it. Plus, I am still grappling with the psychological impact of having had cancer. There is not a lot of information about survivorship especially after thyroid cancer. I hope to expand this body of knowledge.

I am living my life.

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