My Journey: Life After Thyroid Cancer

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HOT OFF THE PRESS FROM MY PERSONAL DIARY

I cried a few tears to myself this morning as my Facebook news feed revealed my memory from exactly one year ago today. I was in the hospital, recovering from a total thyroidectomy.  I was about to receive the bad news, that unfortunately, the cancer had spread to my lymph nodes and I would have to undergo radiation in the months following my operation.

I have not really talked much about this or written any updates since before my radiation almost a year ago. I thought I’d write this as a one year post-op update, and shed some light on the fact that there can be a happy ending to it all.  You might be thinking,”this has nothing to do with adventure travel, why is she writing about this on her blog?” Well, it actually has a lot to do with my thoughts and beliefs around being adventurous and experiencing new things. I’ll get to that later.

As much as I try to stay away from negativity, it hasn’t been all lollipops and rainbows, so I’m going to be completely honest about my experience. I am not writing this to complain or gain sympathy, I just want to be open about my experience and not sugar coat anything. Luckily, thyroid cancer has a 95% success rate, but that doesn’t mean it is an easy thing to deal with. The past year has been full of ups and downs. I am going to start with the negative, so please bear with some of the not-so-lovely things I have to say, and don’t worry, there is what I perceive to be a good ending to all of this.

First of all, my life has been forever changed. That nasty cancer thing came in and took an otherwise healthy, perfectly functioning organ out of my body. The ugly scar it left across my neck is the least of my concerns. For the rest of my life, every morning, an hour before I can eat anything, I have to take a thyroid hormone pill, to try and regulate my body. Unfortunately, no man-made pill will ever function the same way that an organ in my body naturally functioned. Over the past year my dosage has been adjusted many times. For about 8 months it was too low. I was in a state of hypothyroid. This led to weight gain (15-20 pounds), mood swings, exhaustion, and a bunch of other unfavorable symptoms. Now my dosage is too high, known as hyperthyroidism, and I have hot flashes all of the time, can’t sleep at night, and am putting my body at risk for heart problems. My doctor says it’s good to keep my dosage a bit higher than it should be, because this is supposed to suppress the thyroid cancer and keep it from coming back. One minor perk to this is that it speeds up my metabolism and will hopefully result in weight loss.

Every six to eight weeks I have to have my blood taken to check my thyroid hormone levels and my thyroid cancer marker, which thankfully right now is completely undetectable (happy tears). Throughout my life, I will continue to have scans and ultrasounds to make sure this thing doesn’t creep back in without me knowing about it. Additionally, the radiation, which I swallowed in a pill form of radioactive iodine, has burnt away parts of my salivary glands and I often have a dry mouth with a weird metallic taste. Not fun. Maybe the most annoying part of it all, is the acid reflux I’ve been experiencing since the radiation. It may be totally unrelated, but most days I walk around feeling like there is a large rock in my throat and it burns. Goodbye hot sauce, our affair was long and good but I must put my body first!

Okay, so that’s the worst of it. Not too bad considering I got to keep my hair… and my life! I also know that what I experienced is nothing compared to having to go through chemotherapy, so I thank God every day for that. Things could have been a lot worse and I try to remember this when I get frustrated with the new changes in my life.

Have I been totally inconvenienced by this whole thing? Yes. Do I consider this experience to have had a negative impact on my life? Absolutely not. I am 100% in charge of how I let things affect me and I see so many new and wonderful things that have been a result of all this. For starters, I appreciate the health of myself and loved ones far more than ever before. I do not take the luxury of good health  for granted by thinking that we will always be alive and well. I have learned that anything can happen at any time, so I live my life in the NOW and try to not put things off for another time. I say YES to stepping outside of my comfort zone and trying new things – YES to new adventures, cultures, and friends!

I used to have so much anxiety that I had anxiety about getting anxiety! Now I welcome fear into my life so that I can conquer it.  I do not want to hold on to negativity or bad feelings. After all, stress has been linked to cancer and many other health issues.

Perhaps the biggest and best change is this: when I first got my diagnosis, there was a brief period when I thought I might be on my way to exiting this world. There were so many things going through my mind, and think what you will, but all of the thoughts I was having said the same thing:

“I wish I had loved more”

and I felt that in so many different ways, because love comes in so many different forms. I wish I had given more to charity, spent more time with certain loved ones, gotten to know my amazing in-laws better,  forgiven my father for more things than I can count. Then I really got to thinking and discovered something I’d never thought about before: I wish I had loved myself more. I was constantly carrying around so much anxiety and self hate. How can I love others properly if I do not first fully love myself? I wish I had loved my body enough to appreciate it in its natural, healthy state. I wish I had loved myself enough to be comfortable in my skin. I wish I had loved myself enough to stop blaming myself and face things from the past that I had no control over; to stop shoving them under the rug hoping they would go away. Enough to stop worrying and be more confident with my endeavors. Negativity and anxiety do not make for a better outcome, so why did I let it consume me? Through this journey, I realized that there was so much holding me back. My inner critic had been keeping me in a state of constant turmoil.

My cancer served as a wake up call and an invitation for a second chance, which I plan to show up for! I’ve traveled far and wide – to all corners of the earth – but my biggest journey in life will be this journey of self love, and then all other forms of love. Here’s to a cancer-free life, going to destinations (within myself) that aren’t reachable by airplane.

Showing 19 comments
  • Ariela

    Misha, this is such a beautiful and inspirational, and very real post. Thank you for opening up about your experience and what it taught you and opened your mind up to. We all struggle with the same self criticism and it’s so true that we can’t truly love others if we don’t first love and cherish ourselves. What you wrote above was very touching and spoke to me and inspired me today to live in the now and to let go of unserving anxieties or self doubt. Sometimes I see you from afar and think of all the amazing experiences you have with all the travel you do, but when you said above that the biggest journey of your life is self love, that’s so important to hear because that’s the most worthy journey Of all and is a great reminder that the biggest adventure and most profound experience is not out in this amazing world but in ourselves. You are so special snd beautiful inside and out. I’m so grateful to know you and to call you my friend. Miss you. Love you. Thank you for sharing yourself.

    • Misha

      Thank you for reading my post and taking the time to leave this comment, Ariela. It means a lot to me. Miss you and hope you are loving your new home and ranch lifestyle!

  • Lakshmi

    Beautiful and inspiring! May many readers reap the benefit from reading this without having to go through cancer. Thank you for this very moving heart-sharing.

    • Misha

      Thank you for reading and taking the time to leave such a sweet comment.

  • Marta

    Thank you for sharing. It is important for us readers to know what made you who you are ….
    Stay strong and keep thinking of the positives.
    Marta

    • Misha

      Thank you Marta!

  • Krishnapriya

    Balaramisha, in your writing I am finally seeing your true and wise self, your radiant beauty that shines brighter because of its depth. Over the years at the ashram I didn’t get to really know you, but I see you now and your’ve arrived at the most important step-real love that starts with Self, your true Self,connected to All. Blessings. Aum Shanti!

    • Misha

      Thank you, Krishnapriya!

  • Eric Myers

    Beautifully put, Misha, and it gives the rest of us so much to think about as we walk around in our supposedly healthy bodies – bodies which may betray us at any given moment, so unexpectedly.

    Much love,
    Uncle Eric

    • Misha

      Thanks for reading, Uncle Eric!

  • Vanessa Rivers

    Misha this is one of the most beautifully written posts I have read – ever – by anyone. You are such an inspiration. We all need to be less critical of ourselves and more accepting. I struggle with this too, all the time, having come from a famous family full of people who are so accomplished and being married to a man who is so incredibly smart. I never felt like I would be able to live up to their amazing accomplishments. I never felt pretty enough, smart enough or good enough. But slowly, over the years, due to having friends like you, who love me unconditionally and constantly show me anything is possible, I have grown to realize I am amazing just because I am me and because I have to ability to “love bigger than the sky,” as my mom use to say. Misha you are one of those people in this world who loves magnificently. You have changed so many people’s lives with your kindness and love and I know you will continue to do so. I’m so sorry for what you have gone through and continue to go through and I’m here for you always. Thank you for sharing your struggles and inspiration. I love you!! XO

    • Misha

      Vanessa, wow, thank you for reading my post and leaving such an open and real comment. Here’s to a new journey of self love and acceptance. Love you to the moon my dear friend!

  • Steve Wardrip

    You inspire all of us who are living with disease. Thank you! I subscribe to the notion, “Cancer, I love you but you’ve got to go.” I had colon cancer that spread to the liver. After one fifth of my cancerous liver was removed and now none can be found. There is a suspicion that there might be more so we are doing three more months of chemo. Here’s to a cancer-free life! Bravo!

    • Misha

      Steve, thank you for sharing your experience with us. I’m so sorry to hear of your awful struggle with cancer. Glad to hear it is now undetectable, and may your chemo, as horrible as it may be, do its job so you never have to go through this again. Stay strong! Many positive thoughts and prayers your way.

  • Vanessa Vincent

    I just read this for the first time..I was showing someone your tiger photos 🙂 and saw this link. I usually look at the site from my phone so I dont see every blog entry that pops up. I must have needed to see this today. Ive been caught up in the midst of trying to keep up..with my schedule, my friends, work, school, weddings and events, etc. I’ve found myself caught in a self shame spiral that has stopped me from fully living. This reminds me how precious and valuable every moment is.
    Your beautiful and honest post inspires me in so many ways. It brought tears to my eyes because cancer is scary, because I love everything you embody, and because I need to love myself more. You have always been strong, generous, comp0assionate, beautiful and more and I am so glad that you are seeing that and practicing self love. My constant inspiration! So thankful for you.

    • Misha

      Awe Vanessa, I am just seeing this comment. Thank you! Loving ourselves is so important and it is a constant journey! You are beautiful in every way and I do agree you should practice more self love. You are amazing!

  • Trish

    Misha this is such a heart felt, raw, touching an inspirational post. It brought tears to my eyes and have quickly become one of my all time favorite travel bloggers. I wish you a very speedy recovering & look forward to continually watching you travel the world. It is unfortunate that in this day & time cancer has become more & more common sadly it can happen to anyone at anytime. I believe it has as lot to do with our food & overuse of technology, but that is a whole separate topic. Luckily you were able to identify & deal with the issue head on. The rest is in God’s hands. I will pray that you have a speedy & quick recovery. Wishing you lot’s of love, health along with very safe and happy travels.

    XOXO Trish Plejer

    • Misha

      Thank you so much, Trish, for taking the time to write this comment.

      Cancer is a horrible thing, which keeps showing its ugly face to me (and many others) in one way or another. Unfortunately I am dealing with a different kind of cancer now (which luckily I found early). I do agree with you about the overuse of technology – that has been my personal opinion behind all of this – but I guess there is no way of knowing for sure.

      All we can do is try our best to smile and enjoy life to its fullest! One day it will be gone.

  • Tiffany Armstead

    Hi Misha! This was a beautiful post!I recently found you through the blonde abroad and have been enjoying your pictures and videos. I am a health advocate and have also worked with many cancer patients…You are so right about stress and unforgiveness! I hope that your detox and other alternative methods are helping. Cancer doesn’t have to be final.
    Sending love, light, and positive vibes to you and your family.

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