I was diagnosed with papillary thyroid carcinoma in 2008 when I was in my mid-20s. Yes, carcinoma means cancer. I had the left lobe of my thyroid removed. It was a very small tumor that was discovered during a regular check-up. I didn’t even need iodine / chemo therapy after and I got to keep my right lobe.
My body continues to function with just half of the thyroid. I have been in cancer remission for years now and don’t think I will die of thyroid cancer any time soon.
My doctor said, if one can pick a cancer to have, this would be it. Low malignant and slow-growing. Depending on source, the overall 5-year survival rate for papillary thyroid cancer is 96% or 97%, with a 10-year survival rate of 93%.(wikipedia says so.)
Simply put, my probability of dying in a car crash is probably about the same as dying of thyroid cancer.
Some people might think that this is a very personal story to share. However, I have learned so much from my cancer, and I want to share them. It has brought so much light into my life, and given me so much strength, awareness, and empathy.
And here are some things that I have learned, that are applied to many aspects of life, except for battling cancer:
You have so much to give
After my surgery, the doctors told me that I wouldn’t need iodine nor chemo therapy. That was the moment when I realized that I didn’t need to lose my long hair. Honestly, I was ready to say goodbye to my long ponytail.
I thought it was a great opportunity for me to donate my hair. I was so lucky to have my life, why not give some of it away?
I took a photo of my long locks and then had it cut off. I donated it to locks of love, a public non-profit organization that provides hairpieces to children in the United States and Canada suffering from long-term medical hair loss from any diagnosis.
Give some of that good energy of your life away. You have so much of it. Giving feels great.
The small things matter more
Cancer remission is not a nice place to be. For most people it’s a physical scare, for me, it’s more of a mental burden because of my very positivie prognosis.
I have to have yearly checkups. Series of blood tests, ultrasound, and chest x-ray. Every time I do the checkup, I go through a short phase of doubt. It feels extremely powerless to not being able to trust your own body.
It made me realize: It sucks having to live with a disease.
I have lost people to cancer before, and I have had cancer. But honestly, I think it’s probably worse to have diabetic or other hereditary life-long problem. I can’t imagine what a diabetic person has to go through on a day-to-day basis. Chronic disease is in every fabric of life, physically and emotionally.
Instead of only feeling bad for a big health problem, it’s much nicer to care about the burdens one has to carry day-to-day.
This even goes to the extend of emotional trauma or childhood nightmare. We see it in people everyday but we tend to turn a blind eye. No one needs pity, but it’s nice to show people that you acknowledge the sadness behind their eyes.
“Living in the moment” is total bullshit
We probably all have cancer. Cancer is a mutation of cells. I think that we probably all have that 1 bad cell floating around somewhere. It’s kind of silly to say “I have to live in the moment” after having cancer. Why do we need such cliché epiphany moment in our lives to achieve greatness?
I have always lived fearlessly in my adult life pre-cancer. My best takeaway from my cancer journey, is that I can now see the lightness in life.
It’s not about being a daredevil, it’s about bringing out the brightness in every moment.
I am happier. I appreciate the little things in life more. I don’t judge myself as much. It’s about walking on the bright side of the street and looking at the good side of things. It’s not about ruthless decision-making or “I have to try everything once.” It’s about being at peace with the moment you are in.
Learn to live properly. There are no “moments” to be lived. You create those damn moments with your positive emotion.
So here are what I have learned from cancer: (TLDR version)
- Get a health check. your body deserves it.
- Be nice to people. give something back to the world.
- Regardless of your diseases and problem, just freaking live.
But if I were you, I’d stop spending so much time reading on the internet and go experience the world more. :)