Why this thyroid cancer survivor is spreading awareness to help others on their journey
Before her wedding in September 2018, Tracey had a persistent cough that she attributed to her busy lifestyle and the stress of planning a wedding. When she returned from her honeymoon, she booked an appointment to see her family doctor who found a small lump in her neck. Two months later, Tracey was referred to a specialist who diagnosed her with stage 1 papillary thyroid carcinoma, a type of thyroid cancer.
Tracey was shocked – she was only 33 years old, worked out regularly and didn’t drink or smoke. Her grandfather had been diagnosed with the same type of cancer at age 70. As a young woman, she never thought she would hear the words, “you have cancer”.
“My mom was with me in the clinic and we both completely broke down crying,” shares Tracey. “I felt completely helpless.”
Discovering a new normal @(Model.HeadingTag)>
Three months after her diagnosis, Tracey had surgery to remove the tumour along with the left side of her thyroid. Afterwards, Tracey was eager for her life to return to normal as quickly as possible. She went back to work a month later, but even though she had physically healed, she had trouble sleeping and felt that she had less control over her emotions.
In time, Tracey realized she was still experiencing the stress and anxiety of cancer treatment and hadn’t given herself enough time to recover psychologically and emotionally. For many people like Tracey, cancer doesn’t end when treatment is over. This period is often a time of transition, and it is normal to experience many emotions, such a sadness, anger or grief. We understand that many people want to “get back to normal,” but we know for most people, this transition period is about finding out what’s normal for you now – and “normal” can mean different things for different areas of your life.
“Looking back, I think my body was in shock. I didn't know how to process everything,” says Tracey. “I thought I could reset and go back to my old life – but that was definitely not the case.”
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Now, Tracey is cancer-free but still faces the challenges of managing the effects of her treatment. She continues to have to monitor her thyroid hormone levels and have regular appointments with her health care team.
“People say cancer is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s so accurate because I never thought I’d be on medication for the rest of my life after my surgery,” shares Tracey. “There are things I have to continue to manage. I’ve found that using yoga and meditation to manage my emotions and having a strong support system have really helped me through this part of my journey.”
While Tracey’s cancer journey has been emotional and challenging, it has also given her a new appreciation for life, and she tries to live every day to the fullest.
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We understand that navigating a cancer journey can be challenging at any stage of life. We're here to help. We fund groundbreaking cancer research, provide a support system for all those affected by cancer and shape health policies to prevent cancer and support those living with the disease.
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