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Severine

Severine's Post-Cancer Comeback

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Oh, hey there. I've been gone quite a while, not only because of cancer but also definitely because of cancer. The very short version: I was diagnosed with papillary thyroid cancer, and at the beginning of February my entire thyroid was surgically removed. There were no indications that the cancer spread beyond the thyroid, which is obviously good news, but there will always be a chance of the cancer returning so I will need to spend the rest of my life getting regular scans and also having my blood tested for the characteristic protein that thyroid tissues release into the body. I also now take artificial thyroid hormones every day to compensate for having the organ removed, and I will be on that medication for the rest of my life.

 

Overall, I have been extremely lucky. The cancer was the least aggressive type of thyroid cancer, they caught it early, and I had great doctors, great family support, and our health insurance covered everything except a few thousand dollars which we could afford to pay out of savings. I try to remind myself every day that I am fortunate, and to feel grateful for the good things.

 

But still....fucking cancer. It's really surreal, and I'm still getting my head around the idea of it and figuring out what it means to have this as part of my life now. And there's all this added pressure and urgency to live a healthy lifestyle and practice self care and eat well and all the other things that were already challenges for me. 

 

I've been wanting to come back on here for a while as part of moving on to the next stage of my life, but I kept putting it off because it just feels so weighty to break the news to yet another group of people and confront all my own feelings about how this ties in with health and wellness and my goals etc. Ask @fleaball (who has been supportive and understanding and easy to talk to about all this shit) how many times I've said I was going to come post a thread, and then chickened out. It was actually her idea to crash into this challenge despite it bring the middle, because if I wait for the next challenge I might just put it off again. So I'm here despite the weird timing because I had a little bit of motivation to write this all out today. 

 

The last few months have been challenging to say the least. The surgery went smoothly, but recovery took longer than I wanted it to, and my healthy routines from before surgery got all messed up. Then my surgical incision got infected and I had to go on antibiotics, which I dislike doing because I'm sure my gut flora is terrible enough. I went on a post-surgery celebratory trip to France which was wonderful but also pretty exhausting, and then as soon as I got back to Boston I got sick (because my immune system is currently a trash fire) and it developed into bronchitis which I am still trying to recover from. I feel like I'm whining, and I'm not trying to - I really do mean it when I say I think I've been lucky. I just feel so inadequate compared to all the people who bounce back so quickly.

 

Anyway...goals? I don't know what my goals are yet. There are so many things I want to and need to work on that it feels pretty daunting. Today my goal was to post a thread. I'll update later today or tomorrow as I think more about what I want to focus on for right now.

 

I'm glad to be back. I've missed you all, and this has been a really positive place for me historically and right now it's good to spend time in places that make me optimistic about better things being possible for the future.

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SEVERINE~! <3 

 

Welcome back! That's a whole lotta shit you've been dealing with while you were away and I am so so glad to hear that you're recovering well. 

 

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Okay, sitting down to try to sketch out a rough idea of goals that make sense for the rest of the challenge.

 

Part of the challenge post cancer is this sudden extreme pressure to make 100% healthy choices because now the stakes are so much higher - like, I have to compensate for a missing organ! And if the cancer comes back I want to be in the best possible health so I can survive it. And the news media is full of inspiring stories about people who survived cancer and then really embraced exercise and healthy eating and ended up in better shape than before they got sick, and like, that's great for those people but man are they making me look bad right now.

 

It may surprise no one that my response to this increased pressure is a lot of anxiety about how much work I have in front of me to fix everything, and fear that I'm going to mess up. And so the idea of this challenge is to dial back the stress and focus on getting started with what's possible and not worrying about trying to be perfect right away. Baby steps and all that.

 

FOOD

I have a giant, giant list of things I need to address with my eating and nutrition, but for the next two weeks I am going to focus on these things:

  1. Have a breakfast that includes fiber exactly one hour after taking my meds in the morning (I have to wait one hour before eating after I take them).
  2. Eat a fruit or veggie with every meal, even if it's just gratuitously adding 4 raspberries to the side of a plate with a sandwich on it.

MOTION

Since I still have bronchitis and I get wheezy from just taking the dog out, I don't want to make any serious activity goals, but I should be able to do this:

  1. Do one round of my PT exercises each day. Bonus if I do the full two rounds but one is a victory since right now I'm not doing them.

BRAIN

  1. Once per day, either do some journalling or meditate with the Headspace app.

 

That's it. Super basic shit but it's a start.

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Severine


This does explain where you have been and I am so sorry you had to go through all of that. however, I am here (well as much as I am here some days) to support you.

I was going to post something that even if you posted one or 2 things that need done every day, that would still be a great challenge and goal. But I see you have some goals up already and I think those could be a great foundation to build off of.

Here to see you become of those "inspiring cancer free people"

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I'm sorry that something major kept you away for a while and I am glad you are back.

 

Here to encourage you in every possible way. Up to and including ridiculousness. :D 

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I'm sorry to hear things have been rough, but dammit it's good to see you back. My wife had her thyroid removed because it was enlarged, but no cancer was found. Like you, however, she also has to take thyroid meds for the rest of her life and is also taking Vitamin D and Calcium supplements.

 

16 hours ago, Severine said:

(I have to wait one hour before eating after I take them)

 

We finally have a routine down pat in which I have her meds ready for her as soon as she wakes up because I'm the early bird and she sleeps in. :P

 

Do you feel tired every day? She's really wore out by late afternoon, but she's also wrestling with allergies this time of year.

 

Let me know if I can help in any way (especially if there are shenanigans; I'm all about the shenanigans).

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I do indeed predict shenanigans, @Sylvaa and @Countess D'If especially with the two of you about.

 

On 4/3/2019 at 1:06 PM, WolfDreamer said:

I'm sorry to hear things have been rough, but dammit it's good to see you back. My wife had her thyroid removed because it was enlarged, but no cancer was found. Like you, however, she also has to take thyroid meds for the rest of her life and is also taking Vitamin D and Calcium supplements.

 

We finally have a routine down pat in which I have her meds ready for her as soon as she wakes up because I'm the early bird and she sleeps in. :P

 

Yeah I keep the meds right by my bed so that when the alarm goes off at 7am I just roll over and take the pill and then by the time I'm up and ready it's not too much longer to wait for breakfast. Overall I think it'll be okay but it makes me a bit anxious about things like trade wars....let's not piss off the countries who make my meds, okay? And in a case of a zombie apocalypse, I guess I'm raiding local pharmacies on Day 1.

 

Quote

Do you feel tired every day? She's really wore out by late afternoon, but she's also wrestling with allergies this time of year.

 

I've been totally exhausted but it's impossible to say whether that has anything to do with the thyroid or just the fact that I had to recover from the surgery, and then was tired from travel, and now am tired from being sick.

 

Anyway, GOOD NEWS TODAY! The blood work they did last week to check my post-surgery level of thyroglobulin (a protein produced by thyroid tissue) came back and the levels are nice and low, almost undetectable, which is where I want them. Endocrinologist said it's very reassuring. It means there aren't leftover bits of thyroid they missed that are causing trouble. Now we monitor those levels every year, and do an annual ultrasound, to be on the lookout for any cancer return. Fingers crossed the levels stay down where they are now because I am not in a hurry to get my throat cut open again.

 

Re: challenge things - yesterday was a win except I fell asleep on the couch in the evening before getting around to my PT exercises, but I needed the sleep so it's okay. Today I missed a freggie with lunch because I got takeout, but otherwise things are good. I just got back from seeing my family doc for bronchitis followup and she said things have improved and I just need to keep resting and drinking fluids and taking the steroids she gave me for another week or so and hopefully then I'll be back to normal. 

 

Sadly, the steroids do not seem to be getting me ripped with powerful muscles. 

 

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Also, ugh: I stopped at the grocery store on the way home from the doctor to pick up a couple small things, and it's kind of warm here today so I wasn't wearing the scarf I've been wearing to hide the scar on my neck, and the cashier kind of stared at it and made a face like she was grossed out, and at the time I just ignored it, but now I keep thinking about it and feeling shitty and I just went to the bathroom and almost cried when I looked in the mirror and UGH FEELINGS WHY.

 

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That’s fucking stupid. I saw you over a month ago and it wasn’t even bad then. Go back and punch that girl in the face. 

 

Idk where you are in the healing process and if you can do this yet, but I’ve heard vitamin e cream can help minimize scars. I don’t think you need to hide it but obviously if you’d feel better doing it then go for it. 

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2 minutes ago, fleaball said:

That’s fucking stupid. I saw you over a month ago and it wasn’t even bad then. Go back and punch that girl in the face. 

 

Honestly I think that's why it's getting to me? Like, I didn't think it looked that gross or anything and I was starting to feel more okay about the idea of not covering it and this just felt like a gut punch. Also, like...sometimes people glance at it and that's totally fine because it's natural but people are mostly polite and don't stare, and this woman just didn't even make an effort to hide her reaction. So yes she was being kind of a jerk about it.

 

2 minutes ago, fleaball said:

Idk where you are in the healing process and if you can do this yet, but I’ve heard vitamin e cream can help minimize scars. I don’t think you need to hide it but obviously if you’d feel better doing it then go for it. 

 

Yeah the surgeon said I have to hold off a few more weeks before putting anything on it but then she gave me the name of a scar cream she recommends so I am going to try that once it's allowed. I don't care about scars in general but it's in such a visible place that's hard to hide, and I don't mind people knowing I had surgery but I hate being looked at like a freak.

 

I don't have a picture of my own scar I feel like posting at the moment but for people who are curious it looks quite similar to this woman's in size and redness at the moment. I'm putting it under a spoiler cut so people don't have to look at it unless they want to: 

 

Spoiler

threeweeks.jpg

 

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15 hours ago, Severine said:

So yes she was being kind of a jerk about it.

 

FTFY. A healing scar is no reason to be staring at someone like that. Good lord, do you realize how many people have scars? (probably not because you are not a jerk and do not stare at people).

 

Adding a spoiler because I don't know how people feel about stuff like this:

Spoiler

Maybe her reaction would have been acceptable if it was like oozing infection and she was concerned that you were Patient Zero for the zombie apocalypse or something. 

 

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Welcome back.

I am really sorry you had to go through that.
I'm glad you are better :)
(And I don't think this scar looks bad at all. )
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Also, as someone who worked at a grocery store for more than 5 years, I can assure you that the people they employ are not the sharpest crayons in the box nor are they the most tactful. 

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Welcome back! <3 Fuck cancer indeed. And the chick at the grocery store. But yay for feeling better!

 

I like your basics challenge, once the basics are in place everything else becomes so much easier.

 

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Oh, hey there. I've been gone quite a while, not only because of cancer but also definitely because of cancer.

 

I’m really sorry to hear this.  Truly. 

 

The last few months have been challenging to say the least. The surgery went smoothly, but recovery took longer than I wanted it to, and my healthy routines from before surgery got all messed up. Then my surgical incision got infected and I had to go on antibiotics, which I dislike doing because I'm sure my gut flora is terrible enough. I went on a post-surgery celebratory trip to France which was wonderful but also pretty exhausting, and then as soon as I got back to Boston I got sick (because my immune system is currently a trash fire) and it developed into bronchitis which I am still trying to recover from. I feel like I'm whining, and I'm not trying to - I really do mean it when I say I think I've been lucky. I just feel so inadequate compared to all the people who bounce back so quickly.

 

You’re not whining, you’re just admitting what life is really like when something like this happens.  Yes, there are people who seem to bounce back, but in my experience they’ve usually had a lot to deal with too, it’s just that most of us don’t see the times when they were sick, or in pain, or distressed. Those bits get glossed over because we don’t really want to know about that.  

 

The reality is that when you have something really wrong with you people might ask you how you are or how you’re doing, but they don’t really want to know the truth because they/we can’t really handle the grim reality of illness.  We want the image of the plucky, brave cancer patient who jokes about losing their hair, always has a smile, and stands up to illness with courage and defiance.  Because that’s easier for us to cope with than actually thinking about the fear, pain and distress that they are actually going through, it lets us go about our daily lives without having to give them much more thought than “aren’t they brave”.  

 

I’ve experienced this first hand.  People rallied round me when I was the brave one fighting to recover from a tragic accident, but when my health took a turn for the worse and I was really sick and needed support, people stopped calling because it’s horrible seeing someone so ill and in such pain.  I’m not blaming them, it’s human nature. I’m just saying that you shouldn’t compare your “reality” with someone else’s “Instagram”  

 

Part of the challenge post cancer is this sudden extreme pressure to make 100% healthy choices because now the stakes are so much higher - like, I have to compensate for a missing organ! And if the cancer comes back I want to be in the best possible health so I can survive it.

 

Even with successful surgery this is still life changing and you need to give yourself permission to not be able to deal with everything all at once, or feel bad about it. You’re only human and you have just been through a HUGE ordeal, you need time to adjust to all of that.  Making lifestyle changes is hard at the best of times, if it wasn’t then we’d all be eating super healthily and working out 3 times a week already, but we’re not, because it’s hard to actually achieve.  You’ve got to be kind to yourself and know that it won’t change anything if it takes you an extra 6 months to get to where you want to be.  You will still get there but the road might be more.... interesting, than you thought it would be. 

 

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And the news media is full of inspiring stories about people who survived cancer and then really embraced exercise and healthy eating and ended up in better shape than before they got sick, and like, that's great for those people but man are they making me look bad right now.

 

Please remember that these people didn’t achieve those things within the first 6 months of having a cancer op.  Yes they’ve achieved great things, but so will you.  It just takes time.  We see all these stories in the media and it can give us very unrealistic expectations.  It’s easy to forget that those stories have had all the bumps in the road edited out of them to make them more appealing. 

 

Sorry if if any of that comes across as “preachy,” because it’s not meant to be that at all.  Personally I think that you’re already doing a LOT by coming back on the forum and setting yourself goals.  You’ve been through a massive trauma and sometimes that can make it very difficult to acknowledge what we are/aren’t capable of, just remember not to use all your spoons up in one go.

 

Don’t ever feel like you can’t come here and say “today has been shit” or have a moan about it because you have every right to feel like that, it is shit at times and if you need to vent about it then we are all here to listen and support you.  No judgement, ok? 

 

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On 4/8/2019 at 4:03 PM, Guzzi said:

 

Don’t ever feel like you can’t come here and say “today has been shit” or have a moan about it because you have every right to feel like that, it is shit at times and if you need to vent about it then we are all here to listen and support you.  No judgement, ok? 

 

This... all of this.  I can't say it any better.

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@Guzzi that was an epicly fantastic response and I am so grateful to you for taking the time to write it. Thank you - I really need to hear that. I think one of the hard things about going through something rough is that is makes it really easy to get caught up in the moment, in what's wrong today, and it makes you feel like you have to do everything now and fix it all immediately, but what you really need is a long term plan. It's good for me to remember that on the days when I feel like everything is bad and because it's bad today that's how it'll always be.

 

I've had a really busy week, hence being scarce on here. I am taking two accounting classes at the moment from the local university and this week's workload was a little insane - each class had a quiz AND an exam in the last week, plus homework. I'm doing really well in the classes but bloody hell what a timesink. I have a tiny bit of breathing space today, but not much as there's a research project due Wed. My final exams for this semester end May 9 and I am really looking forward to a couple weeks off.

 

As for goals - food has been going well. I had to go on another course of antibiotics (a z-pack) for my respiratory issues, which required some coordination with mealtimes, but it wasn't too bad. L has been cooking a lot of great homemade stuff with veggies which has helped a lot.

 

I've done my PT stuff and even had my final meeting with the PT person (she is amazing, if anyone in Boston ever wants a recommendation, hit me up) and she measured my neck mobility and all that stuff and I was improved on every rating. Most importantly, I don't have the stupid arm numbness/tingling anymore. And I have the traction device to use at home and it really seems to help. So yay! I know how to manage the pinched nerve from now on.

 

The other really good news is while my bronchitis is not gone it is definitely better. I'm still coughing up gross phlegm but I have less of a rattle in my chest and all the head congestion is gone. Just need to work it out of my system at this point, so YAY! I want to get back to evening walks in the neighbourhood ASAP.

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That is great that the bronchitis is much better, and hopefully soon to be gone. Sounds like you have been really busy, and still been making it work. Well done!

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