Monday, January 9, 2012

A Dose of Perspective


Some of you may not know that I began writing "Down the Wrabbit Hole" after being diagnosed with thyroid cancer. November 2009 was a bit of a shocking month for me - my husband and I had decided to start a family, and I went into the doctor's office for an annual physical. While checking my lymph nodes, the doctor noted that I had an "abnormally large thyroid".

This abnormality turned out to be three 1.2 - 1.8 c.m. cancerous lumps wrapped around my thyroid. Within six months my entire thyroid was removed, I was put on a daily thyrogen hormone treatment, and had to undergo radioactive iodine treatment to blast away the last of my thyroid cells. So far things are going great, and I'm hopeful for an all-clear diagnosis at the end of this month.

The after-effects of my thyroid cancer surgery.

The most crushing blow for me was not the diagnosis itself, or the surgery, or the radiation, but the fact that my husband and I would have to put off having kids for at least a year or two (we're going on two and a half years now of waiting for the doctors to give us a procreational go-ahead). While I didn't have any Hollywood movie, life-changing revelations during the course of my treatment, I did realize that life is short, and to make the best of it. So instead of beginning a family and settling into a routine of driving to soccer practices and music lessons, I began to focus on one of my other big goals in life: to see the world. I typed up my ages-old travel bucket list into a blog, and thus, "Down the Wrabbit Hole" was born.

Having this list has been somewhat inspirational and consoling to me. While my friends gush about the ups and downs of their family lives and the antics of their quirky kids, instead of being jealous and self-pitying, I can sincerely be happy for them. I know my time will come. Until then, I have the amazing ability to go online, buy a ticket, pack up, and go - go anywhere. In a way, my cancer has opened doors to the world for me that might not have been there before.

A reader of my blog, fellow blogger Milady, specializes in writing about healthy living, in particular living with Mesothelioma Cancer. She writes for the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance blog, and asked to do a guest post about my journey, goal-setting, and the power of positive, forward thinking: enjoy!

Goal Setting and Reclaiming Life
by Milady (http://miladyknows.blogspot.com/)

The simplest form of therapy can be had with writing. Keeping a journal of your daily thoughts or reflections on past events is a cathartic way to work through issues that may be present in your life. At the very least, the logging of memories as a way to preserve moments in time helps us to relive the past as it once was. Where a photograph captures our physical presence, words written on a page reveal our emotional and mental state of mind and serve as inspiration from where you’ve been and where you plan to go.

But writing serves as more than just a therapeutic release of one’s troubles. Putting ideas to paper renders them tangible concepts that can be referred back to in the future. So instead of merely using writing as a way to preserve one’s past and make sense of the present, writing can and should be used to create our future.

There are many moments in life when circumstances leave us isolated and full of despair. One of those times is when we're beset by a sudden illness. You're never made to feel more vulnerable to the whims of life than with the prognosis of a disease--from rare cancers like mesothelioma to even more common severe illnesses like breast cancer or autoimmune disorders. In fact, the treatment of many illnesses in itself leaves patients with symptoms of fatigue, both emotional and physical.

The idea of being powerless in the presence of illness is one that can be overcome with writing. Beyond the already mentioned therapeutic benefits, tracking your present and plotting your future by writing down goals is a way to reclaim control of your life. And reviewing those goals as you work to achieve them is a great source of motivation.

Nowhere is it written that by virtue of being a patient one is rendered helpless. Instead, it’s important to never lose sight of the plans you had before you fell ill and the ways you intended on achieving them for we all have life goals.

Two studies, one by Professor Dave Kohl of Virginia Tech, and the other by Dr. Gail Matthews of the Dominican University of California have shown that those who write goals down and revisit them often are the ones who achieve the greatest level of success.

According to Professor Kohl, less than 1% of Americans both write their goals down and review them regularly, but that 1% makes in their lifetime nine times more than those who didn't.

What can be taken from these studies is the fact that we all have in our hands the power to direct our own future. The setbacks of an illness can be overcome with determination, positive thoughts and proactive steps.

With a new year comes a new opportunity to track and achieve one's dreams.

For more about Mesothelioma Cancer, please visit the MCA blog.

2 comments:

  1. Yes, I do believe goal setting is important and helpful in moving forward and overcoming obstacles, in whatever form they may present themselves.And yes, using writing as a way to overcome your obstacles and move to where you want to go is cathartic!If along the way you can educate some people, that's just an added bonus! Nice blog post!Here's a link to my blog, started it because I had set myself a goal too! http://jaourfamilyaffair.blogspot.com/

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  2. Putting thoughts into words often inspires them to action!

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