Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Five Years...

Five years ago today I was diagnosed with cancer. 'Five Years' is supposed to be some sort of milestone. It is one of the first questions my social worker asked me during the home study process," Do you have five years?" Well yes, thank you, today I do.

I am reprinting my post from last year. I am doing this for two reasons. First, I desperately want to feel the way I felt when I wrote this. I was hyper-aware of the sweetness of life. I was bubbling with gratitude for even the smallest things. Today, I don't feel like that. I feel hopeless.

The second reason is, I'd like you to do me a favor. I wouldn't ask unless I thought it was extremely important. Please read the last paragraph that is starred. Thank you.

Four years ago today, I received a phone call that shook me to my core. It went something like this...


"Well, I have to say that most of these reports come back and they are ambiguous. There is nothing ambiguous about your report Julie, you have cancer."

How do I describe what I was feeling at that point? It is difficult. Unless you have heard these words said to you, it is almost impossible to know what it feels like. I guess it felt like a rug was pulled out from under me, and I was falling face first into a cement floor. I immediately called Steven and asked him to come home.

It is scary. It was the scariest thing I have ever gone through. Just writing this has made me start to shake and sweat and cry a little bit. I am lucky. I am so very lucky. I had an easy cancer, thyroid cancer. They basically take out your thyroid, nuke you with some radioactive iodine and send you on your way. It most cases it does not return. You have to have follow up scans and tests, and you are on thyroid replacement medication for the rest of your life, but comparatively, still easy.

Everyone says that when you have cancer you inevitably start appreciating life more. (Once you get through it). It is definitely a cliche, but it is also true. You become very grateful, very quickly for all of the things you have in your life.

You think about the people you love, and how happy you are to know them. You notice the sun. You notice the moon. You look closely to see how big and brown and beautiful your husband's eyes are.

You touch your dog's back and think that you have never in your life touched something so soft. You thank God that you live in America. You thank God that you have health insurance. You feel the love and anxieties of all of your friends, and all of your family members. It makes you very mindful. It stops you in your tracks. It weeds out the fodder. It brings you some clarity.

People may say the wrong things when they find out about your cancer. Like, "No wonder you couldn't stay pregnant," or " That explains why you are so sickly looking," or "What will Steven do without you?" In retrospect, you just have to laugh. People get scared too. People don't really know what to say. It shakes them up too. It makes everyone think about their own mortality.

I am so very lucky. I cannot imagine having to go through that alone. There was a woman who was rolled into the nuclear medicine room I was in. I was waiting for a scan. She too, was waiting for some sort of scan. She was in bad shape. I do not think her cancer was thyroid cancer. I do not think she was about to receive any good news. She couldn't talk, she mumbled a bit. All of the sudden a bad odor took over the room. This woman had soiled herself. A nurse, (one who had obviously been absent on the bedside manner day of nursing school), started berating this woman. "I told you to tell me if you needed to have a bowel movement. You don't even have a diaper on , What are you doing!!??" She continued to yell at her. I said, "Please, please, leave her alone." The nurse rolled this woman out, probably to yell at her in a more private setting. This woman was so helpless, and so sick, and the only one around her was treating her like shit. Truthfully, if the nurse had been more attentive to her, she probably wouldn't have had an accident. Anyway, the point, what was my point? Yes, the point is, I am grateful. I am grateful that I have someone, many someones to help me through the challenges of life.

This is Boyd:

Steven made Boyd the healthy thyroid for me while he was waiting for me to come out of surgery. He thought I might be sad without a thyroid, so he sewed me a new one. Levity, very important when facing cancer. Steven never left my side. Not for one minute.

Have you ever been in the hospital ? Have you ever had surgery? When you finally came home, what was the first thing you wanted to do? I had been very ill from the morphine. I had retched and retched. My hair was matted with blood and sweat and who knows what else. I wanted a shower. Well, since my neck was all bandaged up with gauze and tape, I was told I could take a shallow bath, but no shower.

Steven washed my hair for me.

I will never, ever forget this moment, as long as I live. He gently tilted my head back and washed my dirty hair. I could feel all of his tenderness at that point. I could feel his strength, his love, his fear, his warmth, I could feel everything. It was one of the most intimate moments of our whole relationship. I had never felt anything more comforting. It was so good to be clean. It was so good to be loved. It was so good not to be alone. It was so good to be home.
I am so grateful.

What does this have to do with my Ethiopian adoption? What doesn't it have to do with it. Everything that has happened in our lives has led us to this point. With baited breath we wait for the day when we learn who our children will be. Our experiences, our sickness our health, have brought us to this point. We wait. We reflect. We gather strength for what lies ahead. We take a breath, and are mindful of all that we have, and all that we have lost. We stand tall and embrace a new day. We take joy in a spring breeze. We smile as our pup rolls around on a cool patch of grass. We gaze at each other and are present. We stop and smell the lilies.We are full of emotion and anticipation. We are alive.

I am grateful.

* Please check your neck. Take your hand and put it around your throat. Feel for lumps. The only reason my cancer was found early, was because I had a superstar doctor. At the time, all my thyroid tests (blood work) were completely normal. You can go to a doctor, and have your thyroid tested and still have cancer. I was very lucky. Some people are not. Some people lose their ability to speak, along with a chunk of their face. I am not trying to scare you, just make you aware. If you do feel a nodule, don't panic. As my doctor told me, 98% of the time it is nothing. It is most likley a lymph node that you are feeling anyway. Make sure during physicals that your doctor feels your neck and throat. Okay, that's it. No more public service announcement.

More links about Thyroid Cancer , HERE.


  1. Julie,

    I remember reading this post last year, I didn't realize I had been reading you for so long. I cried last year when I read about Steven washing your hair and I cried again today. I'm so glad he was there with you.


  2. Oh Julie. Oh pup in the cool patch of grass. Oh Dr. A. Oh Steven. Oh Julie's good and kind family.

    I think Boyd will one day soon fit very nicely under one of your children's little arms.

  3. You have me crying, too. Marveling at how beautiful, fragile and amazing life is - you are. Also marveling at your strength, Julie. This present time of depression (justified!) is very momentary. We will yet marvel at our kids running in the grass...

  4. I'm glad you've hit five years and to know you've got those beautiful souls around you.


  5. I don't think I've ever seen anything so beautiful in my life as that thyroid. Now that, THAT is a thoughtful man.

    (ps: checked my neck. All fine. Thank you for PSA).

  6. Celebrate today! Even if you don't feel like it. Five years!!!!!! It's big big big!

    I am so happy that I know you.

    And through you Steven who is a man that can make a healthy thyroid with a smile.

    Wow. Life is wonderful. And funny. And depressing. And...Messy.

    Congratulations on the big 5!

  7. I promise I will have my doc check my neck - I go in for a checkup in a few weeks.

    I am tremendously grateful for this day of 5 years for my own very selfish reasons. Personally, I need for you to be around. I can only imagine how those you actually know feel. We are all so fortunate.

    I think we need to pool some money and get you on a flight back here to sunny beautiful Wisconsin.

  8. The first time I read this post it made me cry - and now the second time I read it makes me cry again.

    5 years is amazing! Now on to 10 years and some wee ones to help you celebrate it!

  9. Please don't feel hopeless anymore. 5 years is just the first of wonderful milestones you have to come - imagine the many beautiful ones you will have with your kids.

    p.s. Thank you - I checked my neck. I am adding it to my monthly boob check.

  10. This made me cry. Your husband is so sweet Julie. I don't think I knew you had cancer. I'm so sorry you had to go through that and am celebrating with you the five healthy years you've had since!

  11. Five years is magnificent Julie!! You are magnificent!!

  12. Wow. I got all goosebumpy and teary from reading this and am just so happy all over for five years and that I've found you.

  13. Thank you for sharing this..... SOON you will be watching your pups and 2 kids rolling in the grass and you will feel these same thankful feelings.

  14. What a beautiful post Julie. I didn't know of your blog a year ago and I'm grateful you posted it again. This post isn't just about thyroid cancer with a PSA attached to the end. It's a lovely testament to you and your relationship with your partner. Thank you for sharing.


  15. OH. YOu made me cry. and check my neck. So glad for you and this blog and your eyes to see and help us make sure ours are opened too. Thank you. Happy five years! Love m

  16. Julie,
    Gosh darn it. I hate it when I read your posts and am so moved by your words, your thoughts, you...and then I come to leave a comment and I feel like nothing I could say could be adequate in showing how you moved me...and certainly not adding anything to the poetry that you write and share. So I will say (inadequately) "you moved me".

    I celebrate you. I celebrate Steven. I celebrate your five year milestone.

  17. Hi Julie- I am so touched by your post. Today has been a tough day and you reminded me that it is so important to just appreciate being here. I had a cancer scare, but never heard the words, "you have cancer." Just my scare was the hardest few weeks of my life and I too let all the B.S. go in those few weeks...how quickly we forget that feeling. Today I am going to let the B.S. go and get back to what's important! ...and check my neck :) Harmony

  18. Oh Julie. Dear, sweet, gentle Julie. You are beautiful, you are amazing, you are loved.

  19. Julie, you are a star - a bright shining gifted star.

    ...I checked my neck thank you.

  20. I needed to read this today! I really needed to read this. I have been feeling sorry for myself, mad at my husband, etc. etc. You just opened my eyes and reminded me what is important. I am very lucky. Thank you for reminding me of that and of what is important life. I'm sorry you said you were feeling blue- you seem pretty amazing to me. 5 years is big! I hope you read something today that inspires you the way you just inspired me. Thank you.

  21. Thank you Julie. For sharing your story. For sharing your journey. And for reminding me why I really don't mind waiting. Because at the end of the day, I want someone who will wash my hair too.

    Here's to a C word milestone. May the next C word in your life bring you great joy. Your grass is ready. You are ready. It is time.

  22. somehow i missed this post last year. we checked our necks this afternoon. thank you. i'm glad you're my internet friend.

  23. Is there any way that reminding you how COOL you are would help you feel better? Probably not, but I wanted to let you know anyway.
    Thanks for sharing your story, I always love it when I have a second to read your words.
    See u soon!

  24. I'm sorry that you are feeling hopeless. I feel like I read the 4 year post just yesterday. Time is flying by and every day that goes by without you having children is another day too many. I'm really sick of it.

    Ugly as he is, (sorry Steven) it's nice to see Boyd the glanddoll again. He is a beautiful sentiment and testament to big love.

    Congrats on the five years. Wish you felt more celebratory and had a couple (or 3 according to Stacy!) of kids to look at and feel grateful for today.

    Thanks for turning us all into neckcheckers.

  25. Thanks for reminding me to check the swan-like connection between my brain and clavicles.

    All clear--just like you!

    Congratulations chica--5 years!

  26. I read this post earlier, and just sort of sat with it all day. I just "get it" I guess, and wanted to find the right words, but I don't have them. My mom... she has been caner-free for five years also. She almost died of breast cancer and I just sit amazed every day that she is here. And my step-mother-in-law has been free of thyroid cancer for two years. She looks just like you, actually :). Survivors- lovers of life- that's what you all are.
    Blessings abound :).

  27. You are truly blessed. Five is a wonderful number! And you know, right, that we are all secretly in love with Steven....right?
    p.s. I checked my neck, and my Dr. will check my neck next visit...thank you.

  28. What an amazing story, Julie. And yes, I just now checked my neck. Thank you! Your husband is one amazing man!!!

  29. No words, really. Just thank you for your honest posting and PSAs. That we get to "share" your sorrows will make sharing your joys that much sweeter. Blessings.

  30. Five years is something to celebrate... I know the last year has sucked but you're alive, you're loved and you're about to become a mom. Wishing you peace on this last leg of the journey... waiting for a glorious new adventure to begin.

  31. All I know is that I don't know anything. Not what to say, not what not to say. You inspire me to take pause...and for that, I thank you.

    The (stuffed?!) thyroid is perhaps the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. Really. What an incredible husband.

  32. I had to do a double take on your post. I thought, FIVE years already? I remember this like it was yesterday. Many hugs, Jules. You will have that joy again....you WILL! You have every right to be feeling the way you do. But, I know in my heart that you will have better times and be back to appreciating and feeling joyous about all that you have in your life, including two amazing children.

  33. I'm crying already but now Mama Dog's comment made me cry more. Us Rooneys are so glad you are here. We love you.

  34. Look at the changes in your life in five years! And yes, I just checked my neck. Thank you for sharing your emotional journey.

  35. Beautiful post, Julie. I am so glad you've arrived at this significant milestone. You have five years! And I am so sorry you are feeling low and hopeless of late, I truly am. I have been there too. It will pass, it will pass, and there is so much good stuff yet to come.


  36. I don't want you to feel hopeless. I'm feeling the hope starting to seep in sometimes after this long, cold winter. I want you to feel it, too.

    My wish and prediction for you: More kids than you can possibly keep up with.

    That picture at the top is so funny. Cute. And I love this post, and can't believe a year has past since I read it last. Congratulations on the five, going on fifty-five.

  37. Julie, what a milestone to be cancer free for 5 years. I remember when my sister was finally deemed "cured" and it was a very emotional time. As others have said, it was a truly inspirational post about love and how we are able to come out on the other side. Thank you so much for sharing.

  38. I am crying. Tears down my face. The part about Stephen washing your hair and you feeling the tenderness of his hands. That is love to me. Him sewing you a thyroid...I mean COME ON. That is such an incredible dedication. I want so badly to be a voyeur in your journey as you recieve your children. They are already yours...just making their way to you. What amazing parents you'll both be. What a fantastic relationship! My own fiance just reached 5 years last summer from colon cancer and it was a HUGE moment. We've often talked of how we want to be if either of us is sick...we've both said we just don't want to be alone in the room, not for one second, no matter what. I am so happy you had such support. Okay, I have to go mop up my tears.

  39. i didn't blog a year ago, so thanks for posting this again. such a beautiful story of love triumphing in all things. your marriage is beautiful. i'm so glad for the little one who will join your loving family! and thanks for telling me about checking my neck...never would have thought of it otherwise.

  40. Five years! This is something to celebrate! Hope you can see that soon too. Thanks for reminding us to count our blessings! - Julie O.

  41. Girl, by the end of that post I was willing to do any friggin favor you asked of me. At any rate, no problem -- the neck is now checked.

    Not everyone who goes through what you've gone through comes to the grace and compassion of where you are. You are a very special, incredible person.

    Thank you for this post. We are all grateful for you.

  42. I went through a very similar experience it's amazing. I, too, tried to get pregnant, went through infertility treatments and then they found ovarian cancer. I now have a 12-week old daughter we adopted domestically. I have a new blog detailing my experiences and to educate women as you do. I hope you become a member!