In Case You Were Wondering

How things are going 218 days into being cancer-free, here are some not-so-official updates.

Sickness is a way of reminding you to never take your health for granted. Perhaps I was getting a little overconfident. A little slack in my exercise regimen. A little boastful about not getting sick for the past two years. (Besides the cancer of course.) I started down the magical-thinking trail that the removal of my cancer meant the removal of a weak immune system. And the universe laughed. Ah, universe. My husband and I have been through 2 flus and 2 colds this January, which basically spanned the entire month, rendering 2013 my least productive year so far (I'm hoping to catch up at some point). Or more accurately 2 flu-like thingys and 2 cold-like thingys, since neither of us have been officially diagnosed. He doesn't believe in doctors and I can't afford them. Anyway, not a great start.

Especially since this is going to be my year.

Here is my thinking. 2011 won hands down in The Worst Year Ever category, with job loss, cancer, and 3 deaths. 2012 was basically Recovery Year, or the time needed to piece my life back together again. So this is it. The big one. The Year of Accomplishment. And 13 just happens to be my lucky number.

Just so you know, I can see you rolling your eyes. (Not really. But Big Brother probably can.) I get that everyone makes lofty new year's pronouncements and that only 1.27D to the nth ever live up to them. I once read, heard or watched something about a woman who had nothing in her life, so she cut out magazine pictures and made a kind of wish-fulfillment collage and in looking at these images every day and willing them to happen, had her dreams come true one by one. And if you are thinking “what a bunch of malarkey” and now your eyes have rolled into the very back of your head, then my original pronouncement doesn't seem quite so ridiculous, now, does it?

 Let's see, this had a point to it.... Ah, health. Despite being rampaged by various viruses and bacteria of late, I have nothing to complain about. After cancer, the only illness you're really going to throw gloves at is more cancer. And it is 120 or so days until I have to go through the whole radiation rigamarole again. For the most part I feel as human as the next person. My scar has healed incredibly well, to the point where even I forget to notice it. I will say that I used Mederma for at least the first year, though less consistently than I should have, and I usually stay out of the sun or put sunscreen on my neck. As promised by my surgeon, my scar resembles little more than a neck crease.

 My scar as of today:

From slasher film to barely visible:

 But like I said before, I don't want my scar to disappear entirely. While a small selfish part of me would like to forget this cancer debacle entirely, I mostly know that having had cancer makes me far more conscientious about how I take care of myself and about how I use my time. Honestly, if I had to choose between undergoing the knife again and jumping out of a plane, it would be a close call. It freaks me out just thinking about the fact that people were once INSIDE my neck. Also, I somehow got a hold of the original transcripts of my surgery and started to read them, something I recommend to NO ONE. So now, when I think about my surgery, I think about it in graphic Grey's Anatomy thank-God-I-was-under detailed imagery.

The only other cancered aspect of my life is Synthroid. It's not that big of a deal until it is. In other words, I'll take my pill night after night without thinking about it and then I'll go somewhere for a night and realize I don't have it with me, or I'll lose the pill bottle, or my prescription doesn't get refilled automatically and all of a sudden I'm a little bit panicky and the people around me are a little bit panicky because this is the pill that keeps me living. How weird is that? To depend on something man-made, something synthetic, for life? Like leaving a kidney in the wrong pants pocket. You're not going to die right away, but do they add up? As in forgetting one night is okay, but forty-two nights means your done-for? (Sigh.) What I don't know about thyroid cancer fills books.... I guess this dependence is not all that different from diabetics and insulin or asthmatics and inhalers. How many of us are just an idea away from oblivion?

 Everything else is about prevention. About doing what I can to avoid getting cancer again. I realize that this may well be out of my control. But in doing what I can, I am taking back as much control as anyone can expect to have. I still have a long way to go.

 Diet-wise I am still “mostly vegan.” Meaning I eat more fruits and veggies than I used to, but also way too many vegan burritos to the point where I temporarily hate beans, and meat whenever family members cook it and there are no other options. And fish about once a week because I love fish and am still 90% convinced it is healthy when cooked the right way and eaten in moderation. So I am still consuming meat about once a week. Unfortunately the change in diet has not translated into a significant weight loss for either myself or my mother. Probably in part because we were not huge meat eaters to begin with. I suspect bread is the worse culprit in our calorie consumption, but have no idea how to eliminate it from a vegan diet without starving to death. Mom has got it into her head that I need to give up soy now, but for the lactose-intolerant that is ridiculous. Honestly we probably just need to be more rigid about counting calories and exercise.

My exercise goal for the year is to finish the 64 mile ride for Tour de Cure. I finished the 32 mile ride the last two years, which felt pretty good considering I had just taken up cycling and just recovered from my thyroidectomy by the first ride.

My biggest goal for 2013, the one that encompasses and hopefully enables all of the other goals is to get on a schedule. I LOVE being my own boss. But it is hard to be disciplined with your time when you are setting your own deadlines. If I want to accomplish half of what I've set out to do, I need to supercallafragalisticexpialidocious-maximize my time efficiency (probably could have saved a minute not guessing how to spell that word). Did anyone else get whiplash from the new year? It will probably be June before I admit defeat and remember to write 2013 on all my forms.

Whether we are ready or not, here is the new year! Embrace it! We made it, and that alone is no small accomplishment.

 You too have survived another year. What blessings did it hold for you? What great adventure is next?


  1. Anonymous7:19 PM

    What kind of creams or gels have you used on your scar? I'm 6 months out and it looks pretty fresh still. Lots of redness and is irritated at times.

  2. Hello Anonymous:

    I used regular Mederma the first year after my surgery, but you are supposed to apply it three times a day, which I did not. I think I probably applied it three times a week if I was lucky. But it still worked pretty well. Also I put on tons of sunscreen before going outside. Then I switched to Advanced Mederma, which is what I am using now. It is even better because you only have to apply it once a day. It is a bit more expensive though: $15 for a much smaller tube in TX.