How I managed my emotions during thyroid cancer treatment

As I learned when I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer earlier this year, there’s a lot of scary and unfamiliar territory to deal with when you find out you have cancer. You don’t know what will happen or whether you’re making the right choices or whether anyone else knows what it’s like to deal with the new bodily changes you’re facing. All of that uncertainty can easily consume you if you let it.

As someone who’s struggled with anxiety for many years, I sometimes struggled to keep my emotions in check when I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. Here are some things I did that helped me keep my emotions in check.

Laugh at the pain

I’ve always believed that when you laugh at something that scares you, you take away some of its power over you.

About a week before my thyroid cancer surgery, I was feeling nervous and anxious. My husband and I were watching reruns of “The Office.” The main character Michael Scott, hates his human resources rep, Toby Flenderson, and believes Toby is always trying to sabotage him. The narrative was so befitting of my situation that I named my tumor “Toby the Terrible Thyroid.”

Giving a name to my cancer made it easier to navigate the fear, sadness and the anger I felt, and it provided much needed laughter. How could I possibly be scared of something named Toby the Terrible Thyroid? As a former crime scene investigator who now teaches that subject, I joke that my surgery scar is actually Toby’s crime scene.

This running joke also helped my family and friends. Having cancer in your 30s isn’t normal, and many people my age don’t know how to react. But “Toby the Terrible Thyroid” cuts through all of that nervousness and allows me to relate to others in a way I never would have expected.

Find support online

Before my surgery, I decided to detail my treatment on social media with a narrative about Toby the Terrible Thyroid. I wanted to connect with others facing a similar diagnosis. I’m glad I did because they became important parts of my recovery and support.

Through social media, I found many other survivors — even young moms, like me — with similar experiences. When I felt particularly down, I could read their posts or share my own, which helped me remember that I would get through this. If I have questions about treatments, medicines or side effects, I always receive great advice from people who’ve already walked that path. I’ve gained strength by connecting to other survivors who are thriving despite, or even because of, cancer.

Focus on the positives

You will experience sadness, anger and/or grief because you are human. Force yourself to focus on the positives. I have written so many thank you notes because God has placed so many wonderful people in my life. I also participate in random acts of kindness. Nothing makes your day like making someone else’s.

You are a survivor no matter what, so use your new perspective to change your life — and the lives of others — for the better.

Be generous with love

I wasn’t the only one who got cancer. My entire family walked this journey with me. They were stronger than I could’ve ever imagined, but it was still hard on them. Caregivers are some of the strongest and most selfless human beings. They deserve our care.

So share your joys and your pain, and love on those around you, especially your caregivers.

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