I am a cancer survivor. It is difficult to understand this idea unless you have been through it. To fully understand the significance of this label, you must know the journey.
Eleven years ago, while I was in my second year of law school, I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. My cancer was accidentally diagnosed in 2008. When I say accidentally, I mean that literally. I was told, “It’s probably nothing, but…” I was being referred to my primary doctor. I was instructed to go immediately.
The same day, my primary doctor once again told me, “It’s probably nothing, but…” I was being referred to an Endocrinologist. The Endocrinologist, after my first visit and his review of my records, told me the now very familiar phrase, “It’s probably nothing, but…” He scheduled a needle biopsy. He wanted to confirm that the mass they were seeing on the images were not what they thought they were. They needed to make sure that it was not cancer. The day came for the biopsy and I was scared to death. If you have never been through a needle biopsy, there is no way to adequately describe having a six-inch long needle being stuck in your neck repeatedly. That is where they had to take the samples from for me. Somehow, I got through it. Then came the wait. They told me that it could be as long as ten long days before I would receive the results of the test. After three days, I got the call. I needed to come into the office. My biopsy results were in. It was cancer. I needed to find a surgeon. I was in a sheer panic. This changed everything.
I was wonder woman at this point in my life. I was working full time, going to school at night and volunteering for veterans’ causes when I wasn’t studying. I thought I had it all under control. I didn’t. The cancer diagnosis threw a wrench into my carefully planned out life. I leaned a big lesson that year. I wasn’t in control of my life any more than anyone else was. I felt like I was living a disaster. I had to rely on my faith more than I ever had before. I started praying.
In November 2008, the doctors decided that the best course of action would be to remove the other side of my thyroid to make sure that there was no cancer present. So, in the spring of 2009, I underwent a second surgery to remove what was left of my thyroid. I kept praying. At this point, I had stopped volunteering and was missing a huge amount of law school. My second year was a bust. I was going to have to start my second year all over. It was at this point that I decided that I was done playing a cancer victim and I started living like a cancer survivor. I was determined that I would not allow myself to wallow in the diagnosis.
Since my diagnosis, I started to organize. I wanted to make sure that if there was one person I could save from this horrible disease; I would do it. I started walking. I walked with a team for the annual Relay for Life event and I have started working more closely with local cancer organizations. Currently, I organize and plan an annual cancer fundraiser that supports the Marshall Medical Foundation and their free mammogram program. I and my group of dedicated volunteers work tirelessly to ensure that early detection of breast cancer is possible for all women. I have raised almost $5000 to aid local organizations that support cancer screening, and support services for cancer patients, survivors, and caregivers. Cancer programs are not my only passion, but these programs are a big part of my purpose. I have made contacts for free rides to treatments, doctor appointments, wigs for chemotherapy patients, prayer shawls and other programs that can make a difference in a cancer patient’s life.
I still have scares when the doctors tell me that they found something suspicious in one scan or another. It always comes back fine. I have kept praying through it all. I know that God has a purpose for my life. I live it every day. Each time I tell my story, I am reassured that there is someone who needs to hear it.
I know that I will never be wonder woman again. Looking back, I don’t think I ever was. I was running myself ragged. Those days are in the past. Now, there is one thing I can be, one title that I can claim, that no one can ever take from me. This is my journey, and no one has one like it.
I am a survivor.