19 July 2008

July 19, 2005

Three years ago today I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer during surgery to remove some nodules, thus changing the surgery to a total thyroidectomy and radioactive iodine treatment that was delayed until December of that year. I felt in my heart going in that they were going to find cancer but the surgeon said he was 99.9% sure I didn't have it. When I awoke from surgery in my room, I looked at my husband and said, "I have cancer." He nodded with tears in his eyes.

Five hours later they rushed me back to surgery when I started hemorrhaging at my incision site.

Was the confirmation of cancer the scariest part of that day?


It was the two OR techs who stood in the hallway next to my gurney in the OR suite waiting for them to get an OR ready for me that asked me, "Uh, were you intubated during the earlier surgery this morning? Cause it doesn't look like they could get an airway in you and I don't know if we can get you intubated." My husband and daughter were standing there hearing this conversation, having come down the elevator with me and during the rush to OR had not been noticed coming into the OR suite and witnessed what had to be the most horrific site of their wife/mother sitting up on the gurney crying, "Am I going to die? What do you mean they can't get an airway in me?" It seemed like 10 minutes before they got me into the OR and put me under. I never felt so helpless in my life.

To this day, I have nightmares about that second surgery. I wake up in a cold sweat hearing those two OR techs' conversation over and over and feeling the panic come over me. When we told the surgeon about what happened, he basically blew it off.

I wanted their heads on platters or at least their jobs because no patient should EVER have to go through that. It was so professionally and ethically wrong. And if they were not called on it, how would they learn from their mistake?

I had a bracelet made after I got out of the hospital with Swarovski crystals in the thryoid cancer colors of pink, teal and purple with a sterling silver bead inscribed with the word Journey on it. I even had earrings made out of the same crystals.

The bracelet reminds me that I'm on a journey and to appreciate

I also started collecting quotes after that. Below are the ones that have meant the most to me since I started this journey.

Hopeful Quotes

"Cancer changes your life, often for the better. You learn what's important, you learn to prioritize, and you learn not to waste your time. You tell people you love them. My friend Gilda Radner (who died of ovarian cancer in 1989 at age 42) used to say, 'If it wasn't for the downside, having cancer would be the best thing and everyone would want it.' That's true. If it wasn't for the downside."-Excerpted from PEOPLE Weekly's August 6, 2001 issue. - Joel Siegel, Good Morning America movie critic
"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."- Mark Twain, American writer
"Many of life's failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up."- Thomas Edison, inventor
"The best and safest thing is to keep a balance in your life, acknowledge the great powers around us and in us. If you can do that, and live that way, you are really a wise man." - Euripides
"Just as your car runs more smoothly and requires less energy to go faster and farther when the wheels are in perfect alignment, you perform better when your thoughts, feelings, emotions, goals, and values are in balance." - Brian Tracy
"Be aware of wonder. Live a balanced life - learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some."- Robert Fulghum, "All I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten"
"Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance and order and rhythm and harmony." - Thomas Merton, French monk, poet
"I always try to balance the light with the heavy - a few tears of human spirit in with the sequins and the fringes."- Bette Midler, American singer, actress
"Man always travels along precipices. His truest obligation is to keep his balance." - Pope John Paul II
"My private measure of success is daily. If this were to be the last day of my life would I be content with it? To live in a harmonious balance of commitments and pleasures is what I strive for." - Jane Rule, American novelist, critic
"Unfortunately, the balance of nature decrees that a super-abundance of dreams is paid for by a growing potential for nightmares." - Peter Ustinov, English actor, author, producer, director
"Being on the tightrope is living; everything else is waiting." - Karl Wallenda, world famous tightrope walker
"You can't smooth out the surf, but you can learn to ride the waves."- Author unknown
"Whether you think you can or you can't, you're probably right"- Henry Ford
"A journey of a thousand miles begins with but a single step."- Chinese proverb
"Life is not a matter of holding good cards, but of playing a poor hand well."- Robert Louis Stevenson
"I am not afraid of storms for I am learning how to sail my ship."- Louisa May Alcott
"Hope is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense regardless of how it turns out."- Barbara Johnson
"None of us can be free of conflict and woe. Even the greatest men have had to accept disappointments as their daily bread - the art of living lies less in eliminating our troubles than in growing with them."- Bernard M. Baruch
"Always do what you are afraid to do."- Ralph Waldo Emerson
"Never, never, never give up"- Winston Churchill
"Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all."- Dale Carnegie
"Things turn out best for people who make the best of the way things turn out."- John Wooden
"At the timberline where the storms strike with the most fury, the sturdiest trees are found."- Anonymous
"And in the end it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years."- Abraham Lincoln
"The best and most beautiful things in this world cannot be seen or even heard, but must be felt with the heart."- Helen Keller
"Wherever there is a human being, there is an opportunity for kindness."- Seneca
"The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, worry about the future, or anticipate troubles, but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly."- Buddha
"Better to light one small candle than to curse the darkness."- Chinese Proverb
"You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the things you think you cannot do."- Eleanor Roosevelt
"Ultimately we know deeply that the other side of every fear is a freedom."- Marilyn Ferguson
"Dealing with it is the operative word.I found myself at seven years not battling it.Not struggling with it.Not suffering from it.Not breaking under the burden of it, but dealing with it."- Michael J. Fox referring to his Parkinson's DiseaseBarbara Walters interview, 20/20 December 4, 1998
"Courage is being scared to death and saddling up anyway."- John Wayne

"There is no medicine like hope, no incentive so great, and no tonic so powerful as expectation of something tomorrow."- Orison Swett Marden

"Hope sees the invisible, feels the intangible and achieves the impossible."- Anonymous

"The important thing is not that we can live on hope alone, but that life is not worth living without it."- Harvey Milk
"Look to this day, for it is life. For yesterday is already a dream and tomorrow is only a vision. But today well lived makes every yesterday a dream of happiness, and every tomorrow a vision of hope."- Sanskrit Proverb
"Oh, my friend, it's not what they take away from you that counts - it's what you do with what you have left."- Hubert Humphrey, after cancer surgery in 1978

"The worst thing in you life may contain the seeds of the best."- Joe Kogel, 21-year melanoma survivor, writer and actor

"When it is dark enough, you can see the stars..."- Charles A. Beard

"Cancer is a journey, but you walk the road alone. There are many places to stop along the way and get nourishment - you just have to be willing to take it."- Emily Hollenberg, cancer survivor


jojo said...

wow...I knew about your thyroid surgery but not the rest. Thank God you are here and it all went as well as it could have considering. I have come across some techs like that when I had a heart attack. It's devastating to hear those things when you are at the most frightened and vulnerable time of your life. It was and still is very, very, traumatic for me to think about. Sorry Ness. So glad you are here and YOU ARE a survivor.

kim-d said...

Everytime I hear a story like that, I am more and more horrified; this is a big part of why I want to do something in the medical field. There just are not words to describe the way one feels when stuff like that comes at you from the medical professionals who hold your life in their hands. And when you said the surgeon blew it off, I wasn't surprised; they cover each other's backs. They have to; lawsuits, ya know. It took from December 7, 1999 to July 8, 2000 to get Bill's diagnosis. If we would have spent any time whatsoever wondering if the metastisis from kidney to lymph nodes happened in that time, we would have gone nuts. We were blown off so many times by so many doctors, treated like s**t by so many snot-nosed young medical office receptionists, and met with indifference by so many others, that it is no wonder I avoid going to the doctor at all costs. And the reason I tell you this is to let you know that I do completely understand the way your family felt right then; I do understand it. I can't say I know how YOU felt, but I bet Bill would. I have bracelets, I have awareness ribbons all over the place, and I am the proud owner of a beautiful sterling silver James Avery awareness ribbon necklace. And I collect quotes, too. And try with everything I've got to make the most of life and to be thankful and happy not only for what I've got, but also for what I had. But, man, Ness. Sometimes it hard. I don't have to tell you that; you know first hand. All we can do is keep on keepin' on, huh?

I am just so glad you're here, and that I know you.