All fairytales have villains and mine is no exception. The big villain in my story is CANCER. I am reluctant to even mention it in this blog because I like to give cancer as little validation as I possibly can in my life. It exists. I do what I have to do to fight it but it does not get any more of my time and energy than that. I do not waste my time worrying about it and I count my blessings that I am still here in this world and that I have gotten to go to France and have this fairytale experience. In other words, I get up and get on with it!
I have mentioned my cancer in this blog because, on the off chance that someone who thinks their life has ended with their diagnosis reads this blog, perhaps it will give them the courage and the determination to go and do the things they always wanted to do. No matter what!!!! Make it happen!!!!
In February 2010, I had a neck ultrasound because I thought I noticed a lump on my neck (I had previously had a thyroidectomy in 1992 after having my second child). The ultrasound showed that there were three bigger lumps and more than a dozen smaller lumps and a lot of my thyroid had grown back. Amazing what can be growing inside your body that you don't even notice!!!
I had a thyroid completion surgery in June 2010 and was diagnosed with thyroid cancer (papillary carcinoma). When they did a body scan at that time, they found that the cancer had already spread to my bones (my left sacrum and possibly to my spine where there are undeterminable spots there). I had radioactive iodine treatment four times and they say that I have maxed out the number I can have. I had more tumors growing in my thyroid and had a neck dissection in June 2012 where 5 of the 8 lumps removed were cancerous. There are more growing again but I have had three neck surgeries already and each one is more risky with all the scar tissue and the closeness to the carotid artery, windpipe, etc.
The same year that I was diagnosed with the thyroid cancer, they found a lump in my left breast and after I had surgery to have it removed, they determined it was cancerous and I had thirty three breast radiation treatments in 2011.
I had always wanted to come to France to live and experience life here, but getting married in 1988 and raising five children took the priority for many, many years, especially as my children have a broad range in ages (25, 22, 19, 12, 8). I finally decided earlier in the year when we had a sale contract on our house in Maryland, USA, that I would just go to France like I had always dreamed of doing. The house contract fell through and I was upset at first, but then determined to find a way to make it happen ....and I did!!!!
Before leaving, I tried to get as many of my medical appointments done as possible so I would not have to worry about anything for six months. One of these appointments was a dermatologist skin check. I had starting going to a dermatologist twice a year several years ago mainly because my dad died from melanoma in his fifties. However, when I got diagnosed with thyroid cancer, I had to switch health insurances and my dermatologist didn't take the new insurance. I was busy getting my treatments, exams, tests, etc. so it ended up being four years since my last appointment (this I now know was too long!). I found new dermatologists before I left the States for France and went to see them on October 31st. They found a brown suspicious lump on my back and they removed it in the office and sent it to pathology to have it analyzed. Ten days later, I went to France and the night I arrived at my beautiful French country villa, I opened an email to find the pathology report results: "malignant melanoma".......the villain in my fairytale was here before I even got a chance to settle in. Cancer has no conscience. How dare it intrude upon my French dream, but it has.......but as a mother of five, with the two younger children, my youngest daughters, only 8 years and 12 years old, I am a warrior and I stand proud and fearless in the face of another battle!!!! (I just wish the timing wasn't quite so bad.....but I guess there isn't a good time to get cancer, is there? ....or more cancer......)
My philosophy for battling cancer (and for life in general!):
BE POSITIVE - I truly believe that keeping a positive attitude slows or stops the growth of cancer. I don't cry or wallow in self-pity. Remember no matter how bad you are, there are always people worst off. To put things in perspective with my cancer, I always am grateful that it is me and not any of my children. When I go to Johns Hopkins in Baltimore for my appointments and I see patients wheeling their little babies through all hooked up to tubes and looking very ill, it makes me very humble.
MANAGE YOUR OWN HEALTH - Do your own research, be knowledgeable about your cancer, and push your doctors for what you think you need. Fight for yourself, coz no one else will! Don't ignore checkups and tests that you know you need to have. Keep up with your medical stuff!
LET GO - There will be people in your life that won't stand by you when you are diagnosed with cancer, give them a chance to adjust but if they don't, just let them go and save yourself some heartache. You will replace them with people who are loyal and true...you need to be surrounded by positive people, not negative ones bringing you down.
Positive - in, Negative - out
LIVE YOUR LIFE - This is a hard one. Sometimes cancer makes you put your life on "pause", but you need to find a way to do the things you want to do, to go on living your life and doing things!!!!
LAUGHTER IS THE BEST MEDICINE - Don't underestimate how powerful a sense of humor is, don't forget how to laugh, it is tremendous medicine!!!!
HEALING & PRAYER - I believe religion is a personal thing and I won't elaborate on this one too much, just to say don't underestimate the power of healing and prayer. I feel that all the prayers and healing that I have received has somehow helped me to still be here........
BE KIND - It doesn't hurt too spread a little kindness in this world. Kindness seems to be losing momentum somehow. Be kind and it will make you feel good inside (and that will boost your physical wellbeing tenfold!)
SING, DANCE AND FEEL JOY - I can't sing (in the musical correctness sense of the word) but it doesn't matter to me and it doesn't stop me, I sing, I dance around the house and I feel the joie de vivre (joy of living). Do things that make you feel happy and joyous. That is what life is about!
LOVE - If you are lucky, you have a great love in your life, or have had a great love during your lifetime. To experience and to have found the love of your life is a special, wondrous thing. If love has caused you pain, let that go and just hold the love in your heart. It is powerful medicine and what life and living is all about.......
Don't think that because I am a positive person that my life has been easy.....it hasn't.....There have been a LOT of bumps along the road of life for me and it has been a hard haul but I think of life as a journey and that our trials make us stronger.....
I do believe in fairytales, in knights in shining armor, in magic......shouldn't everyone???!!!!
I definitely am living in a fairytale setting here at Domaine de Mazieras, Dordogne, France......so beautiful it doesn't seem real!!!!!!