Young Adults Speak Out: Ruthie
September is worldwide Thyroid Cancer Awareness Month. I recently read that around 48 thousand people will be diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 2011. It is still surreal to me that I am one of those people. I am a statistic. It is hard for me to believe that just last September, one year ago, I didn’t even know that it was Thyroid Cancer Awareness Month. Just three years ago I didn’t know just how much havoc my thyroid was causing my body. After I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer back in February of this year, I decided I had a decision to make. I could either a. hide my diagnosis and avoid questions about my scar or b. speak up about thyroid cancer. I’m not going to lie, the thought of hiding my diagnosis was tempting; but then I thought about all the other people out there suffering in silence, afraid to bring up the fact that they have a thyroid problem due to fears of people thinking they were “lazy” or using it as an excuse to be overweight. I won’t lie; all those thoughts came to my mind. But those same thoughts were also what made me decide to speak out. Everyone deserves to know the truth about what those of us with thyroid cancer deal with. Everyone deserves the right to be educated on the misconception of “the good cancer.”
Since having my total thyroidectomy, I have really struggled on whether or not I should answer the question “how are you feeling?” honestly. People don’t realize it when they ask but it really is such a loaded question and my answer has some serious consequences for future thyca patients. If I say “I’m doing fine” then I am causing everyone else that is diagnosed with thyroid cancer to experience confusion when someone tells them “Oh my friend’s cousin’s mother had thyroid cancer and she is doing just fine. You will be fine just like her.” I don’t know about you guys, but I heard that a lot. I know that it came from a good place from the person that said it, but it really invalidated what I was going through. I don’t want the person that asks me how I’m feeling to one day invalidate another thyroid cancer patient. What we are going through is real and it changes us forever. That doesn’t have to be a bad thing though; I mean, I know I’ve grown a lot since my journey began, but nonetheless it is tough, and every single thyroid patient should feel validated. Just because someone can’t see our struggles does not mean that we are fine.
The other way I could deal with being asked “how are you feeling?” is by stating the truth. “You know some days are better than others. I have my struggles but I am coping” (or use whatever response that correlates with how you are feeling that day). I think that is a pretty safe answer. It doesn’t really open myself up too much to feeling vulnerable. However, it lets the other person realize that us thyroid patients do have our own struggles. Perhaps later down the line when someone tells them “I was just diagnosed with thyroid cancer” maybe they will have a response that shows more understanding. That’s what we want right? I mean I completely believe that the people that say things that upset me don’t mean harm. They really just don’t understand thyroid cancer (or any other thyroid condition).
Thyroid cancer has changed my life. It has turned me into an open book. I have had some amazing people open up to me and make me feel safe talking about my struggles. I struggle on a daily basis, to remember what I have to do that day and then to somehow get enough energy to do it. I hope everyone reading this never feels ashamed of their diagnosis. Never feel alone because there is ALWAYS someone out there to talk to who understands what you are going through. I am lucky enough to also have a best friend that has no idea what any of this is like but she believes every word I say and helps me through my low moments. I would say even with thyroid cancer, I am very blessed and very lucky.
Peace and love,