Light and Shadow: The Good and Bad of Cancer Treatments


I am beginning to resurface from hypothyroidism. 

Today I am in love with the world. I would like to say that this is for some lofty spiritual reason, but I have promised to be completely honest here. The real reason is rather material: I woke up PAIN FREE!

Oh, the glory of FEELING healthy! Even for a moment! I think I could tap dance down the street if someone asked it of me (and I haven’t taken lessons since I was five). This simple absence of pain is as dear and real to me as the ecstasy of falling in love. The chirping birds outside my window are no less sonorous than a choir of angels, the sunlight that I have blocked out so tightly is now the fountain of youth, and even this apartment fills my heart with champagne bubbles. I am alive. I am pain-free. I can do anything.

Let me explain. This is actually Day 4 of my confinement and the RAI treatment. It is the first day I have felt like doing anything more than curling into a ball and willing myself to sleep and/or expire. I pray that this is not the case for everyone who goes through this. The truth is hypothyroidism sucks. It turns you into a cranky vampire. Going without any thyroid for six weeks is horrible and painful and life-draining. But in the long run it is only six weeks. During the last few days of my ablation. I have  had the added misfortune of experiencing the negative side effects of radiation that doctors claim to be "rare." I really hate that word. I am always in that 1-10%. Blech.

Before I discuss the hardships of RAI (darkness), I would like to share some light. There is a reason these are the most basic and universal of symbols, at the heart of many religions and attempts at understanding human nature. Light and shadow cannot exist one without the other. But they are not as simplistic as good and evil. They are both indispensable. And while most of us prefer light and would rather never have to face the shadows, it is precisely those moments of darkness that make us truly appreciate and delight in the day. I would have no reason to find such joy in my current state, had I not been in pain for the past four days. The removal of pain is a far more beautiful and recognizable blessing than if it had never been there.

Have you ever noticed how a simple glass of ice water can be liquid ambrosia after a long hot day of exercise? Or how a warm bath can feel almost spiritual after a day in the snow? I am not arguing that one’s life will have more meaning and verve if one seeks pain and conflict. Just that when you inevitably find yourself in a seemingly unending tunnel, imagining how wonderful it will be to drink in the light can help you get to the end of it.

When you have Cancer, there is nothing so wonderful as support from loved ones.

On that note, I would like to share some of the beautiful gifts that others have shared with me.
Here is the sign my friend Meredith made for me, my initials spelled out in thyca ribbon:

The beautiful roses my husband brought home on our one-year anniversary (other people have sent me equally beautiful flowers, most of which are still alive, but a bit camera-shy):

Gifts from a friend and roommate I lost touch with five years ago:

A prayer shawl knitted for me and notes of love and cheer from my church:

The huge stack of books and movies my parents gave me to get through isolation:

My first bottle of Synthroid!!!!

My neck scar, healing nicely (about 5 wks post-op):

“There's no disaster that can't become a blessing, and no blessing that can't become a disaster.” –Richard Bach

But it’s best to focus on the blessings.

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