It has been a long time since I have written. Which, thankfully, means there hasn’t been much news. Life has been whirling away blissfully normal.
Normal. It’s a word that I have thought a lot about today. We had my regular six month check-up at UNMC with my endocrinologist. And it was a normal appointment with normal results. At least, it was normal for me.
When I was first diagnosed with thyroid cancer and going through surgery after surgery and treatment, I longed for my life to get back to normal. Other cancer patients I have talked to express something very similar – longing for the day when cancer is behind them and life can go on as usual.
As the years kept going by and we found that my cancer wasn’t going away, without really realizing it, cancer had become our normal. It is our normal now to plan our trip to Omaha every six months to do scans, bloodwork and doctor’s appointments at the Med Center. It has become our normal to every couple months get my thyroid levels checked because inevitably the dose is not right. It has become our normal to deal with bouts of anxiety, heart palpitations, and sleeplessness because of my medication. It has become our normal to talk about my cancer like you talk about your high blood pressure.
Cancer has become the normal. As crazy as that sounds, we have come to grips with it and I suppose used to it that it’s just a part of our life. And to be fair, cancer has truly been a back-burner issue these past couple years, something I am well aware is a blessing. We have been able to welcome two beautiful daughters in this time. Cancer, although it gives us our fair share of crosses each day to bear, has also allowed us to go on in a somewhat “normal” fashion through life.
So today at the appointment, which I said was normal for me, we find again that my two tumors are stable. No change in a couple years now – which is awesome news. But because the tumors have been stable for so long now, my doctor again brings up that it might be time for surgery to remove them.
I suppose the decision to do surgery would sound like a no-brainer to most people. But my gut reaction is to avoid it – this would disrupt our normal. But then I think, what we are living really isn’t normal.
Surgery may mean I can be cancer-free. It was this thought that brought me to tears at the appointment today. I haven’t let myself consider being cancer-free for a long time. It was this very emotional reaction that makes me think this “normal” we have been living the past few years has been weighing on me more than I care to admit.
But surgery is scary, and risky, and cannot guarantee that it will cure me. I have been through three surgeries, each one being told that it should be the last one I would need and that all the cancer was gone. And each time it came back (actually to be fair, my cancer really never “came back”, it was most likely microscopic disease that couldn’t be seen during my surgeries, but then grew over time to be detected).
So I am leary of disrupting the normalcy we have found now to do a surgery. Surgery would mean adding even more anxiety to our lives preparing for the procedure, the pain and soarness of recovering from surgery (not to mention possible damage to my vocal chords), healing a scar that will now be four times opened, and then the waiting to see if the surgery did indeed “get it all” and waiting the months to see if any cancer grows again.
And then ultimately, I am most afraid of the disappointment of going through all that, only to be told that the cancer is still there.
The journey I have been on since I was first was told about cancer has taught me many things – but above all I know God is trying to show me that I need to trust Him. That is hard. To truly trust God is difficult. Which I don’t know why, because God always wants what is ultimately good for us.
So now we begin discernment about what our next step should be…with trusting God at the center.
Do I trust God working through my brilliant doctors and go through the surgery to be free from thyroid cancer? Or is trusting God to give me the grace and strength I need to continue living with my disease where He’s leading us?
Luckily, we have time on our side. The bittersweetness of thyroid cancer is that it is slow-growing and we can take our time in our decision. This at times is also a difficult aspect as it feels like time drags on forever in between appointments and my mind loves to be overcome with worry and angst, but ultimately I am thankful we can prayerfully consider what we should do and rely on our brilliant doctors (yes, I know I’ve said they’re brilliant already, but it’s worth repeating) to guide us to the best decision.
Please keep us in your prayers as we weigh these decisions over the next couple months. I will keep this blog updated as we learn more and figure our next steps out. The prayers and support of our friends and family through all of this continues to amaze us – thank you will never be enough.
God bless you!