30 September 2010

Cancer makes you think of dying

Ever since I found out about my cancers, my thoughts keep going back to this conversation I had with a friend sometime back. She asked me if I've ever felt like I wanted to die. That there are times when things get so bad she'd want to die and that she believes all humans go through certain phases in their lives when things are just so bad they want to die.

I told her honestly that I've never in my life wanted to die. Even when life sucks BAD and I'm hurting so much I'd rather sleep on the bare floor rather than on my own bed. I love living, I love being alive, I love my life. And even when things get really really really bad, even to the extent that I think it might be better to have never been born at all, I've never wanted to die. Because of the fact that I love this life I have now and also partly because death sounds so...lonely. And also because dying is scary as shit.

There are moments when these flashes of anger come and assail me. Why? Why is it that this is happening to me - me who have always cherished and loved life and have always been grateful to be alive and have never ever wanted to die? And these people who hate life and living and long for death are cancer free? I think it's a little like this baby thing :) Some women would give anything to have babies but they can't, then some women who don't want babies get pregnant at the drop of a hat, only to abort them or give birth to perfectly beautiful babies who they'll probably ignore or give away.

But that's how life is. It's not like only people who want to die die. I know people who love life as much as I do die everyday. And I guess in the end it's sort of good that this is happening to me because I want to live and I have the will to fight this with everything I have. I won't have the will if I was so keen on dying would I?

And you know...even being a sinner has it's plus points :) It makes you meek and humble before God and you know you can't complain. I know I'm in no position to complain so I'm not and it makes taking this gracefully (if you can call it that) easier. I want to take this as graciously as I took my promotions or my free international trips. There's nothing that I don't deserve - the good, the bad, and even the ugly...cancer.

23 September 2010

Bye-bye Thyroid and other body parts

If you're reading this, consider yourself lucky, a part of one of history's defining moments (well in my history anyway :P). Why? Because this will probably be the last time (or one of the last times) I'm blogging with a thyroid. It's not everyday you get to read a blog post written by someone who's losing a thyroid after all.

It's sort of funny how when you can completely ignore your thyroid all your life, be totally oblivious to it and yet be so concerned about losing it. I mean, we don't really pay attention to our thyroids the way we do our skin, hair or even our nails do we? We use expensive creams and lotions and stuff to keep them healthy and glowing but the thyroid? A completely neglected organ, poor thing. It's only when you're losing it that you start giving it attention, and despite all those years of neglect, you know you're going to miss it. I sort of miss mine already.

And what's up with the past few weeks anyway?! It's almost been like 'give pieces of yourself away' weeks. I also bid goodbye to a mole on the back of my right leg exactly a month back. In fact, this whole trip started from that mole.

I noticed the mole growing in size and went to get it checked by a doctor. It was still really tiny so everyone thought it was totally unnecessary, Mizoram phone calls would be peppered with insightful advices like 'Just use Lelte lotion, that's what we all use to get rid of growing moles, why the expensive surgery?' But I have a great fear of moles that don't stay the same. The doctor thought it was probably nothing, I said I was scared that it could be cancerous, doc said 'I'm 99% sure it's okay but let's get it removed anyway.'

And so we did, and a biopsy was done, and guess what that itty bitty tiny little thing turned out to be? A malignant melanoma. If you Google that, you'll see that melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer. And all my life, I've always thought that only Caucasians get melanoma, not brown-skinned persons like me.

I once worked on an online ad campaign for the Australian Cancer Council. I remember sitting there, writing lines like 'There's no such thing as a healthy tan!' and thinking how lucky I was that I am this skin colour and that I don't have to sun-bath or use a tanning booth. I did not even consider myself at risk at all when I was writing those lines, warning people about the dangers of skin cancer like melanoma. And yet there I was, melanoma very much on my body.

Anyway, under pressure from family, I saw an Oncologist after the melanoma was removed. He suggested a whole body PET CT scan just to be on the safe side. I thought it was unnecessary. The doctors had removed the melanoma, and assured me that it hadn't spread anywhere. What are the chances of them finding another unrelated cancer I thought.

Wrong again. They found a nodule on my thyroid which after further testing turned out to be papillary carcinoma. That was Monday, and now you know why I will be farwelling my thyroid. The scan also detected some other nodule on my cervical lymph nodes which was also supposed to be tested but it was so small the ultrasound couldn't detect it when they tried to perform FNAC so that's been put on hold.

Well that's about the end of my cancer story for now. I am undergoing a lot of tests right now in preparation for my surgery. The surgery will be followed up by radioiodine therapy. And I will regularly stand naked in front of a friend or a family member to check for any new signs of a rouge mole henceforth. Not too bad I think.

Getting two completely unrelated cancers at this age seemed a little unfair to me at first. But when I go to the hospital and I see all these little kids with worse forms of cancer than mine, I feel ashamed to even think about unfairness.

There are a million things that go through my head, and I would love to write them all down. But maybe I'll save all of those for later when I'm in the hospital bored sick in bed itching for something to do.

Anyway, my message to you all is this - get that mole checked if you notice any irregularity. My mole was so tiny people joked that I was getting a cosmetic surgery when I went to get it removed. I have always used sunscreen lotion. Get that lump checked even if it doesn't seem to be anything serious. I am very careful about what I eat - the greens lover, the apple-a-day-eater, I work out regularly and am very physically fit. Although not perfect at all, I do try to treat my body well. During all of these, I have never felt sick or tired, did not have any pain, no complaints with my thyroid, not even a peep, never even a lump that I noticed, there was just nothing that would suggest that I was even remotely sick. I even got voted 'the most athletic' on a team outing some months back :P

Smoking is one bad habit of mine that I hate. But with thyroid cancer, what they say is that there seems to be a lower risk of thyroid cancer in smokers especially if they're still smoking. Well, I'm a smoker and I'm still smoking. Just like melanoma, sunscreen and hardly no exposure to the sun on any regular day or tanning booths didn't help, smoking which was supposed to improve my chances also clearly didn't.

I think I have cancer genes and that I am just genetically predisposed to cancer. Cancer have always been in the family and if this had happened when I'm like 50, I wouldn't even be surprised. Now just seems a tad early. But then who's to say when is early and when is not.

Please keep me and my family in your prayers. And pray for me especially so that I can learn to listen and hear what God is trying to tell me through this because I know He IS trying to tell me something.

p.s: A friend was telling me the other day that I only have one in a hundred chance of getting thyroid cancer. That, and with the doctor's 99% surety that my mole was not cancerous and yet me getting the one in those hundred chances in both cases, do you think maybe it would be a good time for me to buy a lottery ticket? I'm sure to win if chances favor me the way they've been favoring me with cancer :-)

p.p.s: I really hate it when people treat me like I'm sick or dying just because I have cancer. Living leads to death, so anyone who's alive right now has as many chances of dying as I do so we're all in the same boat. And don't send me chocolates because I don't like them. Flowers are welcome :))

p.p.p.s: And appreciate your thyroids. Every once in a while, give it a little pat or a nice rub and say thank you!