Life, Running

10 Years Cancer Free & 5 Years Running

Hi Friends:)

This summer is already looking to be jam-packed, and school isn’t even out yet! Just this week I’ve been running around like crazy, trying to make time for errands and family and work and workouts. Just today I had to head to my local hospital for an MRI on the tibial stress reaction (yup, it’s official).

Like all medical appointments, today’s visit started with a series of questions.

“Pacemaker?”

“No”

“Embedded insulin pump?”

“No”

I’d answered “no” to at least 25 questions when I surprised my nurse with a different answer.

“Any history of cancer?”

“Yes,” I told her. Then I took a deep breath, and hit her with the spiel (every cancer kid’s got one) “I was diagnosed and treated for Thyroid Cancer- follicular and papillary carcinoma- in 2007.  I had a total thyroidectomy on July 20th, 2007, and a Radioactive Iodine Treatment on August 10, 2007. I had clear full body scans in December 2007, 2008, and 2009.”

Boom.

“You’re coming up on your 10 year, then! BIG PARTY! ” My nurse said, holding up her hand for a high-5.

Cute little 18 year old me; I was fake smiling because I’d been diagnosed just days beforehand, and really didn’t feel like going to my graduation ceremony.

I’m not big on celebrating my birthday, but I do internally celebrate my cancer-free milestone each year. That said, being declared “cancer-free” was only half the battle for me. See, you kind of need your thyroid. It’s an essential part of the endocrine system, and has a hand in your metabolic, cognitive, and emotional functioning. So when it gets removed from your body, you need to find the right balance of medication+lifestyle choices to make your body the best it can be.

After my surgery, at age 18, I was prescribed levothyroxine, the chosen medication for thyroid hormone replacement therapy. I thought I’d pop a pill every morning and be done with it.

It’s not that simple.

It took me over a year to find a dosage that worked for me, and even then it had to be adjusted every 18 months or so. I spent my college years in a haze of constant, nagging fatigue. I was sick more than anyone else I knew, and I doubted whether I’d ever feel truly good again.

College Kerri, complete with thyroidectomy scar and chronic fatigue.

A full five years after my diagnosis and surgery, I asked my doctor in New York that very question. I was 24 at the time, and still having a rough time hormonally. And for the first time, a medical professional got real with me. “The reality is, you might never feel 100%. But you can still do a lot.”

Boom #2, doctor style.

See, until then I’d coped out of so many things because of my health. I’d skipped workouts when I was a college athlete. I’d avoided late night activities, and told myself I was too fragile to push any harder.

I’d watched Paula Radcliffe set the world record at the London Marathon and Deena Kaster win Bronze in the Olympic Marathon when I was a teenager, and I’d told myself from then on that someday I’d be a strong lady who’d run 26.2. But I’d almost written off my dream of running a marathon after my diagnosis and ongoing struggle with hypothyroidism.

It turned out I’d been right all along: I don’t feel as “good” as other people my age a lot of the time. I am a little more tired, and a little more susceptible to catching the latest cold of bug. I do need to be more mindful of my health and wellness than most 20-somethings. That was- and is- my reality. And there’s noting I can do about it. 

Except make sure it never, ever holds me back. 

Post college Kerri, hiking (not running, admittedly) the famous Dipsea Trail!

Five years ago, not long after the doctor “boom,” I laced up my sneakers and hit the streets of Brooklyn for the first time.  I hadn’t run over a mile since high school, so for the first few weeks I just ran until my feet made me stop, then I’d walk home and do it again the next day. Every run went a little further, and every day I felt a little more energetic.

Cardio is a magical thing. I can’t tell you how many times I start a workout feeling totally lethargic, and finish it feeling ready to take on the world. That plus the pride that comes along with just pushing your limits and moving forward, towards your goals… nothing feels better.

My running story and my health history are interconnected, see. Sometimes I wonder if I ever would have found the motivation to achieve what I have with running without the internal dare that I wouldn’t be able to. I’ll never be the fastest runner out there, or the most graceful. But never again will I think that the body I’ve got isn’t good enough.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading a little more about me.

If you have any questions about thyroid disorders or thyroid cancer, feed free to reach out. I am no doctor, but I can tell you about my personal experiences. (yes, I did set off door alarms after I took radioactive iodine)

 

Now let me know in the comments…

  • Have any of you had to push through health challenges in pursuit of a goal?
  • What helped you push past those obstacles?