We Are At The Beginning Of Change…
Saturday February 23rd 2019


Life Redefined: Check Yes for Cancer

Post Published: 03 August 2010
Category: Column, Life Redefined, Thyroid Cancer in Young Adults Column
This post currently has 19 responses. Leave a comment

Do you remember how easy it used to be to fill out a medical form? You know, prior to the onslaught of health issues. I could fill out a form in a couple minutes. Current medication? Nada. Medical history? Healthy. I could seriously blow through the medical history questions in no time because I just had to check “no” for everything.

I remember the first time I had to fill out a medical form after being diagnosed with cancer. I was sitting in the waiting room of my surgeon’s office filling out the forms held in the clipboard I precariously balanced on my lap. I was filling out the forms as I normally would, and then I got to the question. THE question. “Do you currently have or have you ever had any form of cancer?” I just sat there and stared at the paper while cancer stared back at me. It took me a minute, which felt like an hour, to stop the room from spinning enough for me to be able to lift the pen and check yes.

That one little checkmark freaked me out. I think it was maybe the first moment that I really knew I had cancer. And now I’ve realized the checkmarks don’t stop with cancer. Thyroid disease? Yes. Fatigue? Yes. See previous. Insomnia? Yes, which does nothing for the fatigue. And the list goes on and on…

Not too long ago I was at my primary care physician’s office and the nurse was updating my medical information. She asked for a list of all medications and supplements I take and the dosage of each. Um, you want me to list all my medications AND the dosage? Maybe you should add thymentia to my medical history because I CAN’T REMEMBER IT ALL. I almost laughed at the nurse because I knew that by the time I could actually remember all my medicines and then list them off to her, it could quite possibly be a thirty minute ordeal. But while I’m sitting there trying to remember what all the pills I tote around in my pill organizer actually are, all I can think is, “Two years ago I wouldn’t have had this problem.”

Is checking “yes” instead of “no” really that big of a deal? Yes. It’s a HUGE deal because every time I check yes for cancer and all the side effects it has caused, I have to face cancer. I have to look at it. I have to remind myself that it is real, and that’s hard. I wish I could pretend I don’t have cancer. I wish I could tuck it away in the back of my mind and never think about it. But I can’t. I haven’t figured out how to do that yet. It’s always there, even when I’m filling out a form at the doctor’s office or refilling a prescription that I only need because of this wretched disease. So here’s what I’ve learned to do: I check “yes” with a steady hand. I force away the anxiety and face the cancer. Until I can put cancer out of mind, and I do hope that one day in the future I am able to do so, I accept that what used to be normal is no longer normal. I’ve learned that if I don’t face the changes that cancer has brought into my life, both the small changes and the big, then I am letting cancer win. If I don’t accept who I am, who I’ve become, then cancer is stealing bits and pieces of my life. I will not allow it.

I have cancer. Cancer does NOT have me.



Do you have thyroid disease or does thyroid disease have you? What seemingly small changes make you face thyroid disease? How do you deal with those changes?

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19 Responses to “Life Redefined: Check Yes for Cancer

  1. landsman2010 says:


    Oh wow, this definitely bothers me too. Reminding myself of the disease is like opening up a healed wound, and when it’s open it leaves me vulnerable and smacks me with instant sadness. In any given medical/dental/professional setting I have to fill a form out and am then asked to talk prior history about my cancer. More often than not, I end up bawling.
    I told Katie this story a while back, but, while I was in the dentist office waiting to get pictures of my wisdom teeth my hygenist was searching for a thyroid wrap (per my request) and couldn’t find one–and I obviously didn’t want to go ahead till they located one. Another hygenist comes in and says: “Oh, well, she had cancer? I guess that extra radiation would be a good thing!” She then proceeded to laugh incessantly. Ok, first of all, shut the **** up. Second, do you know what it’s like to have cancer? Hence, the bawling commenced. She couldn’t understand why, but I made sure to speak to the manager and am never going back there. So, even in the dental setting I have to remember I had cancer. Taking extra precautions are imperative for us, and ya, it blows I have to check it too, but it’s a necessary evil.
    Regardless, it’s still a slap in the face every time you have to check that box. While cancer does not define us, we still have to work with it in all areas of our lives.


    • Alexa, I hate that you had to endure that in a medical office. Medical professionals should be sensitive to such situations. I HATE that they’re not. I was at the eye doctor not long ago for a routine checkup and the tech WOULD NOT STOP talking to me about thyroid cancer. I just wanted new contacts, you know?!

      OH, and I also did not know about the thyroid wraps! Next time I’m at the dentist I’m asking about it!

      Thanks for commenting!


  2. Melissa Travis says:

    This really hits home today… Somedays I don’t even bother with the forms – did you know that? Somedays I just say- WE NEED TO TALK… b/c I FORMS are NEVER going to give you the WHOLE STORY… the background… and what if I just need you to look at my shoulder or something? I mean REALLY.

    And YES – YES A THOUSAND TIMES to it HITTING HOME when I check things… and sometimes a nurse will say, “sweetie – don’t you have that problem?” Or, “Aren’t you on that drug?” And I”ll say, “sighhhhhhhhhh” Check it check check check…

    But yes– this hit home. It just does. Today and every day. No matter HOW LONG you live with it THE BIG C — the big ANY DISEASE — checking those FORMS will always make you stop in your tracks and wonder, “when did I BECOME my illness????”

    hugs to you — Your CANCER DOES NOT HAVE YOU. IT DOESN’T.”
    love you like whipped cream loves my face!

    • Melissa, you’re so right. Forms are only the tip of the iceberg. If the nurse or doctor or whoever I’m talking to REALLY wants to know my medical history, they’ve gotta throw the form to the side and talk to me, because that’s the only way to get the whole story.

      Here’s what I hate about the forms, though–checking yes for cancer is becoming normal. It’s not supposed to be that way, is it?!

      Love you like peanut butter loves chocolate!

  3. Brooke says:

    Another A+ column. Very thought-provoking.
    Cancer is such an ugly word, isn’t it? The word just makes everything worse. Anytime we don’t have to face it, it is easier.

    • Thanks so much for the show of support, Brooke!! Cancer is a HORRIBLE word because of the weight that it carries. I wish we didn’t have to face it. But we do. And so we have to learn to bear that weight and say that word. Not an easy thing to do, though.

      You rock!


  4. Michelene says:

    Thank you for this column. It hit home for me as well. It is very easy to “fall” into the cancer trap. I have also began to realize that cancer, even that big word, is not bigger than me. It’s like thinking, “I’m the giant stepping all over you, cancer, and you are being stomped away each time I think of you as you slowly, in MY WAY disintegrate.” I was a nervous wreck for my ultrasound on Monday, and I kept looking at the monitor. Worried. I came home and needed to relax and actually think. Not in fear, but knowing I am doing and acting natural. I just decided I will say, ok I’m nervous and I’m worried. I’m allowed that. It is my way of letting it go. <3

    • Michelene, thank you so much for chiming in with your beautiful perspective. I love the way you are owning your disease instead of letting it own you. We can’t ignore the feelings we have; to let them fester inside of us instead of actually feeling them would be allowing cancer to take hold.

      How did your ultrasound go? Did you get the results back yet?


  5. Monica says:


    Geez, no wonder I feel freakish whenever I have to fill out forms nowadays. My hands are trembling as I am typing right now because of seeing the word CANCER in black and white and having to admit that (gulp) yes, um-hum, me, too. 🙁

    I had no idea we can request a thyroid wrap at the dentist’s office. I’ve been to the dentist twice since the surgery and although they think it is time for me to have x-rays, they have been thoughtful and considerate about not having them done until I say so. Thanks for the heads up about the thyroid wrap, but I don’t understand why don’t they just automatically use them if they have them?

    ☮ ♥

    • You know what, Monica? I’m proud of you for admitting it–for saying, “I HAVE CANCER.” I’m a firm believer that learning to say cancer must take place before we can learn to fight cancer.

      Thanks for commenting!


  6. landsman2010 says:


    Yep, just ask for one next time when you go. I would tell this to anyone, cancer or not. Apparently the radiation used for x-rays nowadays is very minimal, but I wouldn’t take my chances. I pulled a random article off google explaining a study where there has been shown to be a great risk for cancer involving x-rays: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/191025.php

    As for why they don’t automatically give them, I think they’re in the wrong. Very strange, right?


    • Monica says:

      Thanks, Alexa, for the link. Just read it – yikes!!

      My husband is going to the dentist this afternoon (what great timing) and he won’t be getting x-rays unless they have a thyroid wrap for him to use.

      Mucho gracias 🙂

  7. landsman2010 says:

    Happy I could help, Monica : )

    Good health to you and yours

  8. Donna says:

    Hi Joanna,

    Thanks for another brilliant column.

    I have filled out a few medical questionaires in the last few months during my pursuit of a new doctor and it was the first time since diagnosis that I had to check yes for cancer, the first time I put maybe where there was not a box for that by other illnesses, and the first time that I did not try to paint a pretty picture. I found it was empowering to me, I wanted someone to be willing to deal with the maybe girl and felt it necessary to let them know that I needed someone willing to do the work with me. The first doctor failed the test, the second did not. She spend 45 minutes talking to me with clothes on, she then spent another 45 minutes examining me. She rocked my world and gave me hope. She is an internist but she validated everything I thought was going on relating to my thyroid disease.

    For years I did not really bring up my cancer to people. I did not want it to define me. Those days are over. Today, I wear my cancer and my thyroid disease on my sleeve. I want to raise awareness and educate others. It has been such a release for me, it has allowed me to remember who I was and the passion I had for helping others. I’m proud to have survived this ordeal.

    Note it is MY cancer and MY thyroid disease. I face them and I own them. I may not control this 100% but I am empowered and I am responsible for getting the care and treatment that I deserve. It’s better than just sitting here like a lump on a log, lol!

    Thanks again. You always give me food for thought and I appreciate you.


    • Donna, your outlook and attitude are so inspiring. I hope you know that. I LOVE that you don’t try to paint a pretty picture on your health forms. I LOVE that you face reality head-on. I LOVE that you are empowered by accepting the realities of your disease. You’re so awesome. Thank you for always sharing your perspective with us.


  9. Nicole Wells says:

    Dear Joanna,

    F cancer. F it in the face! Also, F those doctors forms that no one really takes the time to look at, even though you spend at least 30 minutes filling them out.

    Go on with your brave, steady hand checking that dreaded YES box. Cancer has helped your female balls o’ steel drop, and I love that about you. I love that about all of us! After all these diseases, cancer, bullshit – we really don’t need to fear ANYTHING anymore.

    That’s my rallying cry of the day.



  10. Tanya says:


    Great article, as always! The first time I had to check that dreaded box was the day after I was diagnosed with thyca. I had cried all night until I had a sore throat (which was so sore, I thought I had strep), so I had gone to my internist to make sure I didn’t need some antibiotics. That was an earth-shaking box to have to check.

    You’re absolutely right, though… cancer does NOT have you! Keep on fighting the good fight! 🙂

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