Life Redefined: Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes (Turn and face the thy-strain)
Not too long ago I was feeling nostalgic and decided to leaf through my old high school yearbooks. Equally as amusing as the pictures (my awkward phase lasted an embarrassing number of years) are the comments people wrote on the pages designated just for those heartfelt messages that need to be shared before summer break. You know, really deep and meaningful stuff like, “Your sweet,” which, although grammatically incorrect, somehow conveyed that completing another year of school was equivalent to conquering Mt. Everest. Another goody is “HAGS,” because it’s just too much work to write out “have a great summer.” My favorite, though, is “Never change. Stay just like you are.” I am sure I’m guilty of sharing that same sentiment with my fellow classmates, but now I find it to be a bit unrealistic to tell someone to never change, because really we change all the time. It’s unavoidable, and although hard to deal with, oftentimes it’s good.
I’m grateful I am not the same person today as I was in high school. Everybody is probably grateful I’m not the same person I was in high school. I think there is some unwritten law that every high school girl must engage in gossip whenever possible. I no longer buy into to that rule. Change is good.
When I was in high school, I never flossed. (Yes, I’m talking about dental hygiene. Bear with me.) I was too lazy. After a few trips to the dentist that left my gums spurting blood like Old Faithful gushes water, I decided I needed to change. It was a hard habit to break, but now I floss regularly and going to the dentist is not so traumatic. Change is good.
In high school, I was timid and incredibly shy. I used to play rec league basketball, which I absolutely LOVED. Being over six feet tall (I was fed Miracle Gro as a child), I played center. If you’re not a basketball person, the center is the player who, get this, defends in the center of the lane and is generally the tallest player. The center protects the area directly around the basket and must be aggressive about keeping the other team from entering the lane and getting a shot off. Being a timid person, I wasn’t nearly as effective as I should have been at defending my team’s basket. When I went off to college I changed. I quickly learned that I could not survive with such a timid personality. While at college, I played intramural basketball and learned to be much more aggressive. In fact, I can remember at least one occasion where I fouled out of the game. Being more aggressive made the game much more fun because I was more involved in the action. And being more aggressive with life in general opened up doors that would’ve remained closed had I stayed the timid person I was as a teenager. Although it was hard to force myself to be more outgoing, I’m glad I made that change. Change is good.
When I was in high school, and even during my undergraduate years of college, cancer was not part of my life. Almost two years ago, that changed. This time, though, I did not choose to change. Cancer forced change upon me. It was 100% uninvited and I did not find it to be good.
Change can be hard to accept when we actually choose to make the change. When we don’t choose it, it can be nearly impossible to accept. And this whole cancer thing brought big change in every way imaginable. It changed everything all at once. It changed what I’m passionate about, it changed my circle of friends, it changed how I view everyday life, it changed what I eat, and it changed nearly everything about my body. It even changed what I wear—crew neck shirts tend to choke me now. How was I supposed to even begin to deal with all this? Sure, the clothing thing was easy—buy more v-neck shirts. But what about all the other stuff? Accepting the new person I have become post-diagnosis is difficult when I can still fondly remember the old person.
There was a point post-diagnosis, post-surgery, post-RAI where I realized I could either fall apart or embrace the change. Those were my only two options. With help, I chose the latter. I had to go through a learning process. I had to learn to love the new me. I had to find something good in the midst of turmoil. I had to figure out how to unearth a slice of beauty from underneath the mountain of ugliness that is cancer. It didn’t happen overnight; it was a long process, a process that’s not yet complete. But attempting to find that beauty was a choice I made so I could actually have a chance at living my life again.
Is it possible to find something good in the midst of something so bad? Personally, I think so. We just have to search for it. In my experience, it starts off with slivers of good. We have to cling to those slivers until we eventually have chunks. And then we cling to the chunks of good until we have whole portions of good. And eventually, with lots of time and help and hope, we can get to a point where we can begin to live with the bad because all those pockets of good add up to make life worth living. Does that mean we don’t miss the person we used to be? Absolutely not. Does that mean we love the disease? That’s a resounding NO. It just means that we learn to love and live with who we are now.
I don’t have a solution that makes change something that’s easily acceptable for everyone. I don’t know what the right answer is for each of you, but I think we should talk about it. How have you changed since thyroid disease/cancer came into the picture? Have you been able to accept that change? If so, how did you come to accept it? If not, what’s holding you back? Spill your thylicious guts.
THANK YOU to everyone who has sent a card to “B.” Your selflessness is so beautiful and my words cannot fully express my gratitude. If you haven’t done so already, go check out this post to find out why we’re asking for your support and to get details on where to send a card. Get ‘em mailed by July 31st!!
Tags: ch-ch-ch-changes, Dear Thyroid, Life Redefined, thyroid cancer column, thyroid cancer community, thyroid cancer support, thyroid cancer's impact on young adults, Turn and Face the thy-strain, Written by Joanna Isbill, yroid cancer in young adults