The thing that won’t go away

This is my third article about thyroid cancer I was diagnosed with. The first two are here and here.

Yesterday I got another ultrasound of my neck. Today I got a call from my doctor that the lymph node that the various doctors have been tracking for nearly two years now continues to be a concern. There’s going to be more blood work, more appointments, more blah.

I’m grateful for modern medicine but at the same time I wish it would all go away. This isn’t an app or a loud TV show that I can just turn off. It’s real life and every few months I have to think about it again and deal with it.

Now is one of those times, and I’m frustrated about it.

I think if I were twice as old as I am right now, I wouldn’t care as much. Biopsies and doctors appointments are for old people, not for me. I’m 36, which I thought was “old” 20 years ago, but now I realize is still quite young. I’m healthy. I exercise multiple times a week and I eat tons of salads. I don’t drink excessively. I’m not stressed.

Why do I have to deal with this cancer stuff?

Yes, the “woe is me” refrain in my head during these moments is, put simply, “it’s not fair.”

I know how it sounds and I don’t like it. But if I’m honest with myself, that’s how it feels. I can’t deny my self-pity sometimes, and I indulge in it like a chocolate sundae. I know it’s no good for me but it’s a temporary reprieve from the reality that cancer doesn’t care. There is no rhyme or reason or sense of fairness.

Why me? Why not me? I don’t know. Nobody does.

I was saddened to read about the Top Chef winner Fatima Ali’s death on January 25, 2019, from Ewing’s sarcoma, a bone and soft tissue cancer. She was 29 years old and achieved incredible success in an extremely difficult field. Being a chef is crazy hard work, and breaking through before the age of 30 is basically impossible. She did it, and then she died.

Now that’s not fair. My condition is nowhere near as serious. People don’t usually die from papillary thyroid cancer, so I have the data in my favor.

I don’t know what it feels like to have a serious, terminal cancer. I can relate only slightly, because each time I get an email or a phone call from my doctor after one of my tests, I get a flash of anxiety that I’m going to be told that my cancer is really serious. A pit forms in my stomach and I tune in really close to any changes in tone or fluctuation on the other end of the phone. I keep preparing to hear the worst but it hasn’t happened. It probably won’t, but I can’t help the reaction. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to receiving my test results.

The best thing I can do is what I imagine Fatima would tell somebody in my position. Enjoy the life and days I have. Anything could end it; don’t take these healthy, happy days for granted. Don’t spend time doing things I don’t like to do. Invest in my health and the health of people around me.

And yes, feeling sorry for myself with this mild cancer condition is a waste of time. Right now I actually have nothing to worry about. So I should stop worrying.

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