The one thing I did not anticipate when I started my blog almost three years ago this month was the amazing community that I was about to join. While I enjoy creating content, connecting with other like-minded women—many who have inspired me with the multiple hats they wear—has probably been the most rewarding part of the whole experience for me as a blogger.
When I began my blog in February of 2014, I was a 26 year-old thyroid cancer survivor who was looking for a creative outlet. I wanted to share my experience with others and to educate young women on the importance of taking care of themselves and seeing their doctor for a yearly physical. It was during a routine exam that my thyroid nodule was discovered. Needless to say, I am grateful for early detection and the thoroughness of my doctor who did a neck check as part of his rundown.
In those early days as a survivor, I felt like I was stranded on an island. Friends my age were at various stages of their lives—whether it was climbing the corporate ladder, getting married, or starting a family. By contrast, I was fending for myself and figuring out what my next steps would be after surgery as a young cancer survivor.
Fortunately, those next steps led me to blogging. They also allowed me to cross paths with the exact group of people that I was seeking—a group that spoke the language I had spent the last six months learning. The survivor group is one that no one would pledge to join, but offers a lifetime membership.
As a member in the “cancer survivor group,” I do my best to promote awareness, not just of thyroid cancer, but other cancers, too (my grandmother is a 2x breast cancer survivor, and had her second mastectomy at the age of 86—talk about #bosslady!). So, of course, when a fellow cancer survivor reaches out to me, I am always touched and more than willing to help.
Here’s Heather’s story:
When I got Heather’s email a couple of weeks ago, I was sitting at my desk at work. It didn’t take me long before I closed the email and went to her website to read her story. After a few emails back-and-forth, I knew I wanted to share Heather’s story and be a part of her Lung Leavin’ Day celebration. I was moved by her grace, strength, and optimism throughout her journey.
Heather was 36 years-old when she discovered she had malignant pleural mesothelioma, a diagnosis that came just three months after giving birth to her daughter. Although she had been feeling off during her pregnancy, Heather and her husband Cameron thought it was something minor that could be easily treated. They never imagined that the diagnosis would be one in which the prognosis could be a mere 15 months to live.
Heather and her husband hurried to find a specialist who would offer Heather the best chance of survival. Their search led them to a renowned surgeon based in Boston who removed Heather’s left lung.
Now, eleven years later, Heather is a wife, mother, mesothelioma survivor, cancer research advocate, and a blogger for the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance. She shares her story to promote awareness, offer other survivors hope, and serve as a resource for newly diagnosed mesothelioma patients.
I wanted to share Heather’s story today to help raise awareness; it also offered me hope in my own journey. In November, my antithyroglobulin levels (which can be an indicator of a possible thyroid cancer recurrence) started rising. They were significantly elevated when I was first diagnosed with thyroid cancer, but they began dropping as soon as my thyroid was removed. During my thyroidectomy, my surgeon removed six lymph nodes from my neck—all tested negative for cancer—except one. I took the “watch and wait” option and did not have radioactive iodine after my surgery. For the last three years, the antithyroglobulin numbers had been steadily declining—so much so that I rarely thought of them when I would get my routine blood work back. But that day in November, I opened my results and was shocked to see the number well outside of the normal range. I called my surgeon the next day and arranged for follow-up testing. I had a neck ultrasound done in November, which came back clean, and my surgeon recommended that we wait three months and retest.
Well—here we are—three months later. As I read Heather’s story, I was reminded of my own battle. I remembered all of the fears that came along with my diagnosis and the new ones that flooded my mind about a recurrence. Seeing those numbers spike was like ripping a bandage off a wound that lacked time to heal.
So as I await my fate in the next coming days and hopefully get some answers, Heather is celebrating what she has dubbed Lung Leavin’ Day on February 4th (her 11th cancerversary is February 2nd, so please keep her in your prayers). To help Heather celebrate, click here to write your biggest fear on a plate and see it smash (virtually) right before your eyes. I can’t think of a better way to offer hope then that. I wrote my fear on a plate the other night—that I will never be healthy—and felt this cathartic rush come over me when I saw the plate break into pieces. It was probably the first time that I verbalized my big fear in life. Seeing those pieces break reminded me that I needed to shatter my mindset and remember to be positive and optimistic. I hope you will join us in this celebration!