When I was diagnosed with Thyroid Cancer, I felt like my world was tumbling in. I had had a lot of sickness in my life, years of Hypothyroidism and Hashimotos, a life time of Crohns disease and other peripheral ailments. But when I had Cancer, things changed. This was something I had to deal with immediately and drastically.
They had to remove my thyroid to make sure it was all gone, and it left a short, but obvious, scar across my neck. It looked like I had been in a pretty severe bar fight. Before I had the surgery I was sure I was going to want to hide the scar under flowy scarves, turtlenecks, well-placed necklaces, but what I found is that as soon as it healed, I loved my scar. People would stare at it: it is in a particularly conspicuous location, and I would catch people looking down, puzzled, before coming back to meet my eye. I would touch it, happy to have a physical reminder of the experience I had just overcome. It has been 4 years that I have been cancer free, and during that time, the scar has faded. It’s still there, and obvious, but as the months go by it gets lighter, the skin taking back the pigment, smoothing over the jagged edges. As it faded, I started to miss it.
I don’t want to forget. Both because I live with the very real possibility that Cancer is not a once in my lifetime possibility, and because I am proud of myself for living, and surviving with strength and dignity. I wear my scar to keep it real, to make sure people see it, and ask me about, so I can tell my story.
I keep a binder full of my medical history with me at all times; I bring it to all my appointments. Usually, it sits on my desk in case I have to reference it. It is thick but the truth is it is incomplete. It is only one side of the story. It tells me what happened to me, when and how. But it doesn’t tell me how it relates to the problem, more broadly. I need to know about that. If I could be connected to the research on thyroid cancer, or on Crohns in a real and immediate way, I’d be able to have a better understanding of how I fit into this bigger picture and how I can contribute to making stories like mine into far and distant memories.