My first cancer diagnosis came in June of 2007. I was 5 months pregnant, and my husband, Jake, and I were expecting twin girls. My belly button had become exposed during pregnancy and I discovered a dark mole inside of it. After a biopsy, it was determined that I had Melanoma. I had Mohs surgery on that location while I was pregnant. It was a relatively painless procedure although stressful due to the circumstances. I was cancer free and our beautiful twins were born in September of 2007.
One year after their birth, at an annual check-up of my own, I briefly expressed concern about constant exhaustion (I almost didn’t say anything because of course I was exhausted with one year old twins!). In that exam a lump was found on my thyroid and further tests ensued. In December of 2008, I was diagnosed with Papillary Thyroid Cancer. Treatment consisted of a full thyroidectomy as well as radiation.
Post-surgery, I worked closely with my doctors to determine proper levels of thyroid replacement medication. Eventually I got to a point where my thyroid hormone levels were where my doctors wanted them, but I still was not feeling well. My primary symptoms included heavy fatigue as well as memory and concentration issues. Because my blood tests were normal, I focused on nutrition. Doctors and specialists recommended removing gluten from my diet. Within two weeks of eliminating gluten, I felt significantly better. I have made a gluten free diet a permanent part of my lifestyle.
In addition to changes in my diet, the past five years have been filled with regular screenings, battles with maintaining accurate thyroid medication levels and countless doctor’s appointments, but most importantly, I have received endless encouragement by family, friends, neighbors and the LIVESTRONG Foundation. A package arrived in the mail during some of my most difficult days. Inside was a poster of the LIVESTRONG Manifesto, signed by the entire staff of the organization. Handwritten on top of my poster are the words “Sending love and support from all of us at LIVESTRONG”. I framed it immediately and still look at it every day. I utilized the counseling services over email and on the phone on days where I felt the most overwhelmed; being a survivor, mom, wife and employee would get emotionally consuming. Their staff helped walk me through steps to manage both stress as well as financial burdens cancer can have on survivors and their families.
In 2011, an amazing friend of mine and I made a decision to participate in the 2011 LIVESTRONG Challenge in Austin, Texas. In this event we ran a 5k on Saturday and rode our bikes 65 miles on Sunday. The most impactful, personal aspect of completing the Challenge was my own ability to trust my body again. Cancer brings in so many doubts about both your mental and physical strength. The Challenge literally allowed me, during every hour of training and all the way through to the finish line, to stare cancer in the face and claim that my body and mind were strong enough to overcome this.
It has been a long and challenging road. I have learned so much and think I am a better person for it. I am now five years cancer free and as of January 2014, officially consider myself a survivor!
My latest: Five years after my thyroidectomy and radiation treatments, I have become part owner of Great Frontier Brewing Company. We are excited to be opening this summer in Lakewood, Colorado. We will have a tasting room that will serve award winning gluten free beer, as well as gluten reduced and full gluten beers. In my opinion, Great Frontier has so much potential not just in selling great products but actually improving the lives of people who have likely been sick with a wide range of symptoms. We can give them something that helps them feel free and “normal” in a sense. I’m excited to improve people’s health, lives and contribute to the community.
* The LIVESTRONG Foundation helps anyone with cancer, right now. If you, or anyone you know, might have need for any of our free practical services, please visit www.livestrong.org/WeCanHelp or call us at 1-855-220-7777 – thanks!