My first thought when I found out about my third recurrence was, “not this again”. Another nightmare. Days after I found out I had my third recurrence, I kept waking up in sweat. Just when I started moving slowly with my life, this happens. I had to put a lot of things on hold, yet again. A lot of shock and fears were running through my head. I kept telling myself this isn’t really happening. This time, I thought I was going to die.
I had to go through more testing and biopsies. I tried my best to avoid surgery but there were no other options for me. I did whatever I had to do to to get through pre op. I powered through with all the strength I had left in me. It was an emotional roller coaster. I was able to get through my third recurrence thanks to my boyfriend Nick and my family and friends. I honestly would not have been able to get through this without them.
My last surgery which was a right Neck dissection took place in February 2018. I can’t live my life dwelling on a recurrence. Yes, it’s always in the back of my head, but I learned to accept it. I have to live my life. I have been through so much the past 7 years. I knew I could get through this yet again.
One thing I wish I knew beforehand was how to manage my drain better. The drain kept clogging up giving me a lot of anxiety. Instead of the cancer center giving me a piece of paper I wish someone taught my family and I how to properly care for it and sleep with it. I didn’t get much sleep for four weeks straight.
In 2012, after being misdiagnosed by a Chief Endocrinologist, I learned to be my own best advocate. Being an advocate for yourself is important. You have to learn to fight for yourself. Don’t get me wrong, it took me quite sometime to get this down pat. I had no choice. No one is going to do it for you. You have to have the courage and knowledge to speak up for yourself. At the end of the day, your doctors don’t suffer, you do. Advocating for myself was the greatest things I have ever done. Getting a second opinion is important. I knew something was seriously wrong with my body since day one. If a doctor can’t acknowledge that you're sick and brushes you off, you get a second opinion.
Keys to remaining positive and reminders for those going through a recurrence:
Do not loose hope, even when you're lost and you feel like your world has been shattered. Keep going. You got this. I say this daily.
The way you cope makes a big difference. Coping during a recurrence is hard. It’s okay to be angry and scared. It’s normal and temporary. But make sure you have a great support system like I do. This makes a big difference. It is always good to talk to someone you’re close with. Seek professional help if needed. Eventually, You learn to find your new normal.
Remember you are still you. I learned that cancer doesn’t define me. If people choose not to talk to me because I’m “sick” then that’s their loss. It took me way too many years to learn this big lesson. I’m actually grateful my friends stopped talking to me because I gained so many amazing friends from the cancer community. A blessing in disguise after all.
Be well informed with your Doctors. Jot down everything. Ask questions. Most importantly, have someone go with you to appointments. Believe me, this helps.
No matter what, never give up, even when you feel on a verge of a breakdown. Take deep breaths and think happy thoughts.
What advice do you have for anyone going through a recurrence? Share in the comments below.
Danielle Nicosia is a 27-year-old Thyroid Cancer fighter. Before her diagnosis, she was a student getting her degree to become an ASL ( American Sign Language) teacher. You can connect with her on IHadCancer under the username DanielleMaria .