5 Year Survival

11 Aug

Five years.

Today is my five-year cancer-free anniversary. Most cancer survival statistics are given in five year increments. My cancer was low risk enough that I never had to think about five years as an “if.” Yet my life has changed drastically since the day I lost my thyroid. I miss it every single day. I’ve grieved for my pre-cancer body. I’ve denied the inevitable and felt really, really sorry for myself.

Over the last five years, I have:

  • Gained 28 pounds twice – once with a pregnancy, once without
  • Lost 15-20 pounds three times, only to gain it back
  • Lost handfuls of hair only for it to grow back gray
  • Entered perimenopause…in my 30s
  • Had anxiety and heart palpitations
  • Been exhausted and depressed
  • Pushed my doctor to listen and change my treatment
  • Been passive and let my doctor direct my treatment based on TSH
  • Had my blood drawn 42 times
  • Changed my thyroid medication 12 times

Did I survive five years? Yes. Did I do it with grace? Absolutely not. Every time I gained weight or developed a new health problem I completely melted down and scrambled to restore to “normal.” I have been to the ER twice in the past four months due to side effects of what were supposed to be remedies. I have avoided mirrors and photos and outings. I am missing out on being happy because I can’t imagine a real life at this size.

I have wonderful, wonderful things in my life. I have a beautiful, amazing family. My daughters are healthy, happy and well-adjusted. Both my husband and I have good jobs. I haven’t had even a glimpse of a cancer recurrence. But my focus has been on the aspects of my life that aren’t what they used to be. I don’t feel good, I don’t look good and I don’t like it. I am writing this blog post as a vision statement for the next five years post-thyroid cancer. The next five years can’t be just about surviving. It’s time for me to start living again. I want to focus on my health. I want to put my energy toward things that energize me, not drain me. I want to eat to fuel my body and exercise to be stronger. I want to live longer and feel better, not just look better.

Swimming - Olympics: Day 4

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – AUGUST 09: Michael Phelps (L) of the United States leads Chad le Clos of South Africa in the Men’s 200m Butterfly Final on Day 4 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Aquatics Stadium on August 9, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

Like the rest of the internet, I am inspired by this photo of Michael Phelps and Chad le Clos. But for me it’s not about winning. In fact, it’s about taking myself out of the competition. I am not going to compare myself to other women or other thyroid cancer survivors anymore. I am not going to miss out on happiness and health because I keep looking over my shoulder at pre-cancer Sarah. I am looking straight ahead at the rest of my life. I’m moving on.

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One Response to “5 Year Survival”

  1. christina October 18, 2016 at 2:37 am #

    I found you by happenstance and am so eternally grateful for doing so. I am approaching my two year mark of my TT and to be honest? I would be lying if i said i wish I had never known about it. I just washed my hair (something i only do once a week now) / and i just crWl in a ball on the shower floor at all of the hair loss. I am horribly depressed because i am a shell of who I was. I, too, avoid outings and photos because i can never sleep, I am all the more self conscious, much more than prior to my TT, & I know o have to force a smile these days. My medicine has changed so much as well but not one side effect has diminished. The surgeon said, “you’ll be fine” and i’m not. My weight yo-yos between 5-10 pounds and it’s like living with ‘locked in syndrome’ of your own body. I see people like Sofia Vergara and wonder how she does it. I’m sure her hair is not her’s but i’m jealous because she appears like someone that beat this. Too many doctors treat us like someone with a sluggish thyroid as opposed to being without and after fifteen endos, /9’e naturos, and an internist, I have lost options. I’ve accrued tinnitus from going so hypo prior to RAI and that just adds to this. The hospital put it on me when going hypo or being hypo can lead to that as a side effect. I just hate this. I don’t even know where my labs should be by now but all the praying and wishing on falling stars has helped. I love that i found this because for a moment i thought that maybe i had penned a blog in my sleep, but someone else strikes a chord with me.
    I hope your hair has stopped and i hope you are well. Thank you for this.

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