Denise Organ (Updated)

Denise Organ  - profileSee Denise’s Update: November 20, 2009

Age at Diagnosis: 38

Current Age (at time of profile): 38

Hometown

Bridgewater, NS

How did you find out you were sick? What events led to the diagnosis?

I have an identical twin that was diagnosed a year ago and her oncologist (when asked) suggested I get an ultrasound on my thyroid as a precaution.  They found several lumps on both sides but did not want me to do anything.  I fought to have half removed to be tested and it came back cancer (after I waited 8 months to get the surgery). I am now demanding the other half be taken (it too has 3 lumps) but I am still fighting and waiting for the actual surgery.

What year was it? What was your age at the time?

August 2008 and I was/am 38 years old.

At what level of education were you at diagnosis?

College graduate.

Do you work?

Yes, Administrator.

What was your diagnosis?

Thyroid cancer.

What are your career goals?

Would love to develop more building experience.

What were your first thoughts when diagnosed?

Well, there goes the life I used to know as normal and here comes the unknown.

How did your family react?

My husband went into shock and my children cried….twin sister felt guilty as she had it first (not that I think that way), and some others just don’t talk about it hoping it will go away!  I can only imagine how my parents feel; especially since my identical twin has the same cancer.  I worry about my mom as she tries to be so strong and up beat but she must worry.

How did your friends react?

Some friends treat me differently as they don’t know what to say, some others I have deleted out of my life as they were negative and not supportive and I don’t want to be surrounded by that now!

I find that a lot of people I would have only considered acquaintances before, now I get a lot of comfort from them.  I find that they don’t have any prior expectations from me.  They don’t know how I was before cancer entered my life.  I have anonymity to feel and be just what I am that day.  There is certain camaraderie with other cancer survivors and I get an enormous comfort from them as well. Seek and ye shall find!!!

What did your treatment consist of?

Medical Side: I have had one surgery and it was difficult to say the least and now I am facing the other half to be removed and then I wait to see if the intend to do the radiation or not as my original cancer lump was small.

In which hospital were you treated?

I was operated in the Halifax VG.

What is your current medical status?

Waiting is my medical condition.  Wait and see!

How is life different for you now post diagnosis (physically, emotionally, socially, spiritually)?

I have learned to ask for what I need, not to wait for it; I learned who I can count on and who I can’t; I am extremely moody and I can’t seem to take on any stress at all.  I even mind the children’s constant talking as I spend a lot of time in my head thinking and soul searching.

What is the toughest part of your challenge?

Trying to keep things as normal as possible for the children but often crying; but I tell them I am only having a bad day. I don’t lie to them and they know what I have and what I am going through. They need to trust me and know that I am still there as much as I can be.

I am an Administrator for a modular homes company and I find going to work everyday and listening to people complain about “little things” and the whole time I am thinking “trade ya.”  It is hard to do the everyday things now and really find the energy to deal with all the tiny stuff when I am facing such a large ghost every day.

What is the best part of your challenge?

The best thing so far has been seeing those around me for what they are, positive and negative.

Also finding out just how strong willed I am; and just how much I can take.  And to be honest cancer is also a gift as it puts the important things in my life up front and the smaller things are just that now….small!

What really motivated you to keep going while you were sick?

My children!!!!

What lessons or messages have you taken away from your experience?

I have learned that people only know what you tell them. Don’t expect them to read your mind through all this…and I have no control in this, but yet I have it all.  I can’t control the medical system but I can stand up for myself; I can’t control how sick I feel today but I can’t control how I act when I am.  I can’t control my body some days but I can control my mouth and I should leave a smile on the heart of all I come in contact with!

What are your thoughts and feelings about your illness now?  How have they changed since before your diagnosis?

Too early to say yet!

What are some (if there are any you know of) preventative measures that people can take to lower their risk of having an experience like yours?

I don’t think there are any preventative measures as the only known cause is high exposure to radiation (and we know of none).

Did you attend any support groups during your challenge?

Only the local cancer advocate!

She is amazing!  Yes she helped me…

How are you connected with Young Adult Cancer?

I was recommended to it by a friend who had a friend with breast cancer who was connected to them.

So far I am impressed and I think it is a great concept!!

Update

Hometown: Dayspring

How long has it been since your last treatment? 7 months

How are you today?  How have you changed since your last update?

Since my last update on here I have had my second surgery. I had the second half of my thyroid removed and it too had cancer in it.  Small nodules on both halves so the diagnosis was changed to multiple follicle papillary carcinomas.  Several months after the surgery I went to hospital for radiation treatment.  I stayed in hospital so I did not expose my children to radiation.  I did fairly well on the treatment and took a week off of work and then I came right back to it.  Six months after treatment I returned to the hospital for the, now infamous, body scan.  I was told that it showed nothing.  Cancer free and the blood work came back perfect.  I don’t have to return for any more testing for another full year.  What a blessing that was to hear.

– physically (any short or long – term affects of your diagnosis/treatment) my thyroid meds are now in the “normal” range but we have to get it lower yet but I am finally feeling more like normal again.  Long term from the radiation was a bit rough with really dry mouth for several months.  That has since started to settle down.

– emotionally/socially (how are your relationships, friends, family, etc… how do you feel, fears, excitement, etc) I am finally in a place to show my appreciation for all the support during my cancer. I am feeling like a human now and I can feel joy again.  Now that I am this far out I am still trying to figure out what to do with all the time I used to put to thinking about cancer.  But I am enjoying the extra time!!

– spiritually (is this a part of your life, has it changed, if so how so?) I am not a really religious person and I don’t go to church often but I do know for sure that I was given this test for a reason.  I am still searching for all the lessons I was to learn but I have learned to take my time in life…not to always be in such a hurry.  Slow down and smell the roses.

– professionally (school, work, how is that going?) Work is going well and finally my mind doesn’t seem so foggy since the meds are under control now.  My counts are normal and I feel like I am engaged in life again.

What are you doing today? (school, work, recovery, etc)

I am still working in the same job I was when I got diagnosed.  They have been quite supportive through my cancer.

What are you goals for the future? I would love to travel more and maybe more training.  I am just loving life right now!

When you see yourself 10 years down the road, how does the picture look?  What’s in it, what do you like, what do you not like?

I see myself happy and healthy in 10 years.  The other stuff doesn’t matter to me now or in 10 years.  Loving life and those around me!!!  What I like is the lessons taught to me with my diagnosis I can take with me for the rest of my life.  I think I have gotten the whole picture now.

Do you have any advice for other survivors who may be where you once were?

My advice is to talk to those you love and let them know what you need from them.  Ask for help when you need it and surround yourself with the people that can take the bad with the good.  Let go of those people in your life that are not good for you.  Make sure you talk, if you are feeling alone you need to reach out.  There are a lot of people who are in the same boat you just have to reach out to them.  I have been going through this for two years now and I am surprised how fast it all went since I am on the other side of it.  Hang in there as it does get better.  Even on the darkest, lowest days there is a light.  Look at the faces of those who love you and gain strength from them.  And it is OK to have bad days and just moan and groan about how miserable you feel but make sure you don’t let them come too often.  Laugh, spend time with friends and family, have fun when you are up to it and make no apologies for the times you are not.