Living with cancer and beyond Thriving after thyroid cancer June 04 2018
Samantha Colden Samantha Colden Blogger

A personal story about Samantha’s recovery from thyroid cancer, covering how she ran to stay healthy and the life lessons she learnt.

Thyroid cancer has impacted me both physically and emotionally and I’ve learned some important life lessons along the way.

The biggest physical change was losing my thyroid. Before I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, I knew very little about the thyroid. But I soon came to learn through experience that this gland is tiny but mighty. The scar from my thyroidectomy (thyroid-removal surgery) might be small, but my thyroid had a big job to do. Without it, my body couldn’t naturally produce thyroid hormones which control everything from metabolism to energy levels.

After my thyroid cancer treatment (radioactive iodine treatment), I got started on thyroid hormone replacement medication which takes the form of a small tablet. Luckily, I adapted to the medication quickly and without side effects which is just as well, as I have to take thyroxine every day for the rest of my life. If I can’t have a thyroid, I’ll take the next best thing, and this medication is definitely the next best thing.

My emotional recovery from thyroid cancer

In many ways, my physical recovery from both surgery and treatment was quick and relatively easy but my emotional recovery was to take a lot longer. These were the scars that you couldn’t see.

This was my second cancer diagnosis in six months and it totally knocked me for six. Certainly, this second diagnosis was easier. I knew what to expect physically in terms of procedures and surgery, and I’d already established a good relationship with my specialist and his team. However, emotionally, I really wasn’t ready to go another round with cancer. Mentally, I was still recovering from my first diagnosis.

Talking about my experience

I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and my GP referred me to a psychologist. Having the opportunity to talk openly about my feelings helped me process and reframe my thoughts in a much more positive and practical way. And many of the life lessons I learned from those sessions are still valuable now.

Speaking about my experiences felt so good that I decided to write about them too. Some people choose to write in a journal or connect through a support tool like Thrivor but I decided to start a blog, which proved to be both cathartic and therapeutic. It was also a great way to share my story with friends and family in a way that I couldn’t do face to face. When I was diagnosed, I felt lonely and isolated so, most of all, I hoped my words would benefit others who faced a diagnosis of thyroid cancer.

Finding strength in exercise

When it comes to developing a love of exercise, I was definitely a late bloomer. Ironically, prior to my first cancer diagnosis (a few months shy of my 40th birthday), I was the healthiest and fittest I’d ever been. Not only did I exercise five times a week: I actually enjoyed it. It was only when I couldn’t exercise in between surgery and thyroid cancer treatment that I realised how much I thrived on it for my emotional wellbeing. As soon as I got the all clear from my medical team, I was back outside running. I wasn’t breaking any speed or distance records but I was breaking myself in gently and it felt great.
Samantha in a fun run

Running after having cancer made me feel physically and emotionally strong and it gave me a purpose when I needed it most. Eleven months after my surgery I ran my first half marathon. I still visit the gym, run regularly and exercise with a personal trainer. Since my thyroidectomy, I’ve taken part in over 30 fun runs and eight half marathons (including one at Disneyland, pictured above) and have no intention of stopping anytime soon.

Thyroid cancer taught me that I can’t control what happens to me but I can control how I deal with it. These days I don’t plan too far ahead and don’t wait to do tomorrow what I can do today. More than anything, I don’t count the days: I make the days count because I know that I’m only as good as my next set of scans or blood test results.

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Samantha Colden Samantha Colden Blogger Sam is an award-winning blogger and cancer thriver who likes to bake, eat and run (but not all at the same time). She loves dogs, cake and living life on the bright side.