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Life Redefined: Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes (Turn and face the thy-strain)

Post Published: 06 July 2010
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Category: Column, Life Redefined, Thyroid Cancer in Young Adults Column
This post currently has 13 responses. Leave a comment

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.

xoxo,

Joanna

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!!

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13 Responses to “Life Redefined: Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes (Turn and face the thy-strain)”

  1. Lolly says:

    Joanna,

    what a great column, brings it home how we sort of have to embrace change leave the past behind and reinvent ourselves I have come back not as myself someone I don’t recognise but like in some ways and hate in others.

    The only thing I haven’t lost besides the pounds is my sense of humour, without that I just wouldn’t be me.
    What did I do to reinvent myself I’m not sure I can answer that because one minute I am Jekyll the next minute Hyde I try and practise self control but sometimes that just goes out the window along with the person I am throwing.( Only kidding didn’t have the strength to lift them up let alone throw them)

    I doubt we ever get back to how we were and what is “Normal” anyway I’ve always been different a bit of a rebel that hasn’t changed, my heart is in the right place when it’s not pounding out my chest.

    I loved reading your column and felt every bit of what you were saying, how life changes and how we have to change with it. I just take one day at a time now, who knows what tomorrow will bring a new day a new Dawn, as long as that fucking bird stops keeping me awake, then maybe I would wake up refreshed.

    Lollyxoxox

  2. Nicole Wells says:

    Joanna,

    I love this! You’re such a strong positive gal – finding the good through the mountain of shit is definitely not easy. Thank you for giving me strength with your words…I wrote “grateful” on my bathroom mirror with lipstick. It helps to remind me of the change I’ve been forced to embrace, and how to move on from here…

    xoxoxo thysista!

    Heart,

    Nicole

  3. Lisa Stiers says:

    Thank you so much, it’s so hard to look at the change that happens with this illness, there are so many things I miss about me. Life throws you curve balls for sure, I guess when you start to get the understanding of what this illness does you can except those curve balls easier and learn to laugh a little more at your self. Not real easy to do somedays but with some practice and hopefully love and kindness it can be done! Redefining my life hasn’t been easy to except, but I’m trying and this community with there caring and there life stories are make a difference in me. Thank you for your heart felt words they touch me

  4. Lolly, I’m so glad you haven’t lost your sense of humor. You just wouldn’t be Lolly without it. 🙂

    I agree with you–I don’t think we ever get back to the normal we used to know. The hard thing is when we loved that normal but can’t have it anymore. It’s hard when we don’t like everything about the new person we’ve become. But we have to figure out a way to keep on living. We have to find something good to cling to.

    xoxo

  5. Nicole, I love that you wrote “grateful” on your mirror with lipstick! You’re awesome. I have to remind myself every single day that I have reason to get out of bed and actually live.

    You rock, thysista!

    xoxo

  6. Lisa, thank you so much for sharing. There are things I miss about myself,too. I try to focus on what I like about who I am now, but it’s not always easy. It’s definitely a work in progress.

    I’m so glad you’re a part of this community. With the support of each other, we can find our way.

    xoxo

  7. Lori says:

    Joanna – thanks for sharing more of you. Basketball was an important game in my family’s lives too. I’ve been going through some really tough days and you brought a smile to my face reminding me of some happy “basketball” memories. I wish I could go back to when my son first fell in love with that game (in 1st grade) and declared by 3rd grade that he would be in the NBA, and made me measure how tall he was each week. I do have many great memories!

    I was feeling grateful and sad at the same time this 4th of July. A year ago 4th of July, I couldn’t get out of bed. This year we went and enjoyed fireworks that stretched miles along the town beaches and the next day we restarted a family tradition, which we had to skip last year because of me, what we call Callahan LobsterFest Day! As great as it was to “participate in life” with my family and I was grateful beyond belief, I was reminded how much I’ve changed and wondered will it get better than this because I still feel so freaking challenged with not much stamina. After dinner I had to decline a walk on the beach with my daughter. It has to get better than this! It will get better than this!!

    When I was finally diagnosed with Hashimoto’s, two years ago June, after many years of wrong diagnoses and even believing I’d never walk again for a time, I was thrilled to get this diagnosis. It gave me so much hope that I could get back to “me” again. Now, two years later, I’ve resigned to the fact I will not get back the old “me” and now I just wonder will the “morphing” ever end? It has caused enough havoc, not just for me but over the last several months I became painfully aware of how much it has changed the whole dynamic of my family. Thankfully we are surviving it but it now appears to be attacking another family member and that for me is harder than anything I’ve been through.

    I am going to write “GRATEFUL” in lipstick on my mirror. LOVE that!

    You never cease to inspire me, Joanna! You are a strong woman and so talented♥

    Hugs,
    Lori♥

  8. Donna says:

    Hi Joanna,

    Embracing this disease is a choice and as we do so I think we can face it head on as a part of our life but not the end. We are surely different but different can be good?

    Your words are potent and real. Thanks for sharing yourself with us, as always you inspire me. You rock!

    Love,
    Donna

  9. Lori, thank you so much for your kind words. I’m glad that you were able to think fondly on some of your family’s basketball memories.

    I understand the bittersweet feeling you felt on the fourth. I think it’s okay to feel that way. Our diseases leave us with bad memories that we can’t shake out of our minds. But you’re moving forward, and I think that’s what is important. We have to go one day at a time as we figure out who we are. We’ll get there, though, if we continue moving forward.

    xoxo

  10. Donna, you are so right–embracing this disease is definitely a choice. An incredibly difficult choice, but a choice nonetheless. I think making that choice is so difficult because we know it involves so much change. Accepting that we are different as a result of disease is not easy. But I do agree with you–different can be good.

    xoxo

  11. Sarah Downing says:

    Joanna, what a great column! Thank you for writing it and sharing so much of yourself.

  12. Melissa Travis says:

    Fabulous thoughts!!

    You’ve really made me think about all the times when *I’ve* chosen to change and when I’ve had change THRUST upon me.

    I think I make change kicking and screaming UNLESS I’ve personally decided… and yet looking back – most of the changes ended up being positive…

    and yes– even the cancers and the diseases have ultimately ended up with me being a stronger more resilient more compassionate person.

    I’m thinking about how you’re talking about SLIVERS of good — and I guess that’s how it starts for me! Sometimes I think I haven’t even noticed the good in some of the changes… sometimes I think it’s been so invisible to my eyes b/c I’ve been so angry or so sad that the “good” has just fallen on the ground around me and I’ve had to wake up to it slowly.

    I love this column. Thank you for it. Thank you for reminding me even now – as I have a BIG CHANGE (unwanted and sad) that I’m about to make — a move to another state – that I’ve been pretending isn’t happening… and I have to remember that it will have slivers of good….

    much love!!!!
    xoxo
    Melissa

  13. Melissa, I don’t accept change easily, either. But cancer has certainly taught me that a bad situation does not mean there will be a complete absence of good in my life. Sometimes I just have to work hard to see the good, and sometimes I have to work so hard not because the good is buried, but because I’m blinded by the bad.

    I’m sorry you have to move to another state when you don’t want to, but I’m confident you will find those slivers of good.

    xoxo,
    Joanna

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