Living With "The Good Cancer"
Thyroid Cancer fighters are used to hearing that they are lucky they have "the good cancer." But is there really such a thing as a "good" cancer? Read on to learn more about Elyse's journey and how she dealt with the stereotypes.
I don't know when this all began.
I can't pinpoint the moment when my cells stopped dividing the way they were supposed to. I'll never know what caused it, why it happened, or why it happened to ME. All I know is that, countless cell divisions later, I had a lump in my throat (literally and figuratively). It "definitely wasn't cancer", and then it was. Whatever happened after that is a blur of needles, surgeries, and hormone replacements. Doctors, family, and friends told me it was going to be "okay"; after all, thyroid cancer WAS "the good cancer".
Quite suddenly, I was a realist living in a world of optimistic expectations.
I had all these people pushing me to be positive; pushing me into a place where I didn't choose to be. To my fellow controlling realists, you understand what a predicament this is. I am the sort of person that needs to hear all the facts and understand what is going to happen even if it isn't all pain-free and happy. After all, my mantra has always been, "being positive doesn't mean ignoring the negative. Being positive means overcoming the negative". Many people (including my doctors) ignored the negative. They pumped me full of happy thoughts, like being healthy in a few months and never losing my hair. They misled me into thinking that this was going to be easy. Then, when it wasn't easy and happy and painless, I felt even worse.
Thyroid cancer patients get used to hearing the words "good cancer" quite often.
We wince and let people say it, but we know that no cancer is good. The treatment for papillary thyroid cancer (the kind I have) is the same whether you are stage I or stage IV; surgery and radioactive iodine therapy. Yes, my cancer is different from many cancers because it does not require chemo. However, that doesn't make it any less "cancer" than any other cancer. For me, treatment was grueling. My doctors had to alter my hormone levels to very dangerous levels for an extensive period of time, which took a toll on me physically and mentally.
Thankfully, I had some wonderful people in my life that helped me take cancer head-on.
My greatest friends from this time helped me overcome the negatives instead of trying to push them aside. They listened to me; they were selfless and raw. For these people, I am eternally grateful. I am grateful because if they hadn't stepped up to the plate, I would have been alone. I am grateful because I know that people my age shouldn't have to be mature enough to deal with cancer. How did we deal? Laughter. We would laugh and we would cry. Sometimes we did both at the same time (which is strangely cathartic, I might add). I told them my realistic expectations about how things would go, and that was okay to them. None of them pushed me to be happy about my situation or to look on the bright side. I have always been the kind of person that needs to find the silver lining for myself.
You're probably wondering what my silver lining is.
To tell you the truth, I haven't found it yet, but I know it's there. I've had lots of realizations, but none as profound as the silver lining that I'm looking for. One of my little silver linings was when I got back to my normal walking speed. Another one was when I could finally eat cheese again after my treatment. So, as I search for my silver lining, there is something you should know. For me, living with cancer means overcoming the negatives even when they're being thrown at me left and right. Living with cancer is a process that takes time, and (for me) requires laughter.
Living with cancer can be beautiful. Living with cancer is NOT dying of cancer.