What I learned from my thyroid cancer

I have always tried to take good care of myself by eating healthy and exercising. So it was truly shocking when I found out I had thyroid cancer over four years ago. How I discovered the cancer together with the traumatic experience with the treatment was a huge wake-up call for me. Neither my doctors nor I had any idea the nodules in my neck were cancerous. The plan going into surgery was simply to remove the swollen nodules in my thyroid that had become increasingly uncomfortable. But during surgery they discovered problematic thyroid tissue that indicated that I had an 80% probability of having cancer. The surgeon decided on the spot to perform a complete thyroidectomy, which significantly increased the complexity of the surgery. During the procedure I somehow suffered bilateral vocal cord paralysis, an extremely rare occurrence. To ensure I could continue to breath, the surgeon performed a tracheotomy procedure. I woke up from the procedure with shocking news waiting for me: the cancer and complications my family and I had not even contemplated. My planned routine one-night-stay at the hospital turned into a nightmarish week. I couldn’t eat or speak, let alone care for my family especially my two-year-old son. The situation caused what seemed at the time unbearable physical and emotional pain. I was told that it might be months before I was able to begin speaking again. Many times that week laying in the hospital bed I had serious concerns as to whether I could cope with it all. Morphine helped with the physical pain. The true miracle out of all of this was that one of my vocal cords began functioning only several days after the surgery. This allowed the doctor to remove the tube from my neck so I could breathe again on my own.

After being released from the hospital, it took another two months for the wound to heal and my voice to return. Throughout it all, I was upset, angry and so confused. I kept asking why this happened to me. What did I do wrong? Was I being punished by God? For a while there just weren’t any answers and I thought it must have just been freaky bad luck. But as more time has passed, I came to figure some things out. I still don’t have clear answers, but thankfully I’ve learned some very valuable lessons.

I had a pretty miserable five-year marriage when I was younger. My ex-husband was (still is) the most difficult person I have ever dealt with. We had a wonderful son together, which meant I had no option but to work with my ex to raise our child. To go into the details would require writing a book. I realized five miserable years in the marriage plus seven more years of extremely frustrating situation of sharing custody took a huge emotional toll on me. I now appreciate that I never learned – and was not even focused on – trying to manage my stress and anger.

I had allowed intense NEGATIVE energy to be trapped inside me for too long and never became conscious that it wasn't healthy for every part and every level of me. I now know that negative energy undoubtedly causes damage to our body and gets manifested somewhere and somehow. I think it led to my cancer. I had ignored the small signals along the way until it hit me so strongly and suddenly. This time I got truly awakened.

This experience taught me a few very important lessons. Life can be fragile. It sounds cliché but is real when people say life is short, so to me it is not a question that we need to work really hard at living it to the highest quality possible. To live a healthy life is not just about eating well and doing plenty of cardio. More importantly, we have to focus on our emotional and spiritual health, as they all play a huge role in our overall well-being. I needed the tools to help myself on this journey and the most helpful one I learned was from Eckhart Tolle’s teaching and his book “A New Earth”. Tolle’s lessons are truly life-changing. His framework is so real and convincing and powerful, especially how he explains that our ego is often the source of unhealthy emotions. The key is not to be trapped in the past or worry about the future but be fully mindful in the present moment. I am now so much more conscious of the flows of my thoughts and emotions. I have been practicing different techniques to help with balancing my thoughts and emotions. My focus is to not to play the character but be the observer of my thoughts and emotions. My goal and practice is to live my life with love but without ego, attachment, and expectations.

No experiences are wasted. They are here to teach us something. We seem to learn more especially in difficult circumstances and that is how we evolve. The scar on my neck now no longer represents the painful past memories but the strength I gained and a constant reminder for how I want to live the rest of my life.