Life Redefined: Transitioning
When I was first diagnosed with thyroid cancer, I was hyper-focused on the coming weeks and months that would be filled with treatment. I had surgery, then the low-iodine diet, and then radioactive iodine. And then, my doctor said we had to let the radiation do its work. Although I was still frequenting the doctor for blood work and for adjustments to my thyroid meds, I didn’t have major milestones to focus on and I felt like I was caught in limbo.
Many cancer survivors identify this period as the “let-down” period. No, I wasn’t disappointed that I wasn’t spending my days in the nuclear medicine department of my hospital. I wasn’t sad that my thyroidectomy was behind me. What I did feel, however, was confusion. Who was I?
This transitioning phase is HARD. The previous months were filled with treatments and concrete goals. Now, my doctor was telling me that our main goal was to wait nine months until I had my next scan. Really? Wait?!
I had to go from treatment, treatment, treatment back to engaging in a normal, daily routine. And I really struggled with that part of this whole life process because I couldn’t just snap back to my old self. I was very aware of the fact that I was a different person and I didn’t know how to deal with that. However, with a LOT of help I began to figure it out. I began talking to other survivors. I started talking about my experience and I started writing about what I was feeling and going through. This was all very therapeutic for me and was instrumental in allowing me to really learn how to live again.
I didn’t get through this phase overnight. Actually, I still deal with it. Eventually, though, I came to really understand who I was, who I am—a survivor. In my opinion, I became a survivor the day I was diagnosed with cancer. I’m not yet cancer-free, but I still consider myself a survivor because I am surviving cancer.
Survivorship means embracing who I am now as a cancer survivor. It means accepting that cancer is part of my life and it means LIVING with cancer as part of my life. Now I talk about survivorship a lot, but that’s because I think about it a lot. I’m always seeking out news ways to live a fuller life as a cancer survivor. Not every survivor will approach survivorship in the same way, but I think it’s important to know that it’s possible to live with cancer. It’s possible to have cancer AND have a life.
How did you get through this transition phase of your cancer journey? What has been therapeutic for you? What do you do to seek real life? I want to hear from you!