The Grief of Surviving
Surviving something traumatic is often times viewed as a noble and heroic act. Something that comes with its congratulatory rights and glory filled praises because one simply "made it through." While the story of a survivor can bring much encouragement and even deliverance to those who hear it, after all we overcome by the blood of the lamb and by the word of our testimonies (Revelation 12:11), there is a portion of life that the survivor faces that may not be seen by on-lookers.
Today I was having a rough time, and had been for a few weeks now, regarding how I felt concerning ME! The way I looked clothed and unclothed, how I sounded....my HAIR! Oh God....my hair! ( I will be posting about this in days to come so stay tuned.)
Here's the back story:
In 2015 I was diagnosed with papillary carcinoma aka "Thyroid Cancer." While the news of having cancer was devastating, the effects of the actually sickness were much worse. There were a few key things that led up to the diagnosis that still are very relevant to this day....almost 6 years later.
1. The mass, or tumor, that they found was directly connected to the 2 nerves that control the tone and the pitch of my voice. As a singer, who was actively doing my best to pursue a career as a music artist, this was gut punching!!! I remember trying to record my first album and I could NOT make it through 1 song without losing my voice. I had no idea what was actually going on, but I was being severely affected outwardly by what was occurring internally.
2. I had just had my son the November prior, and had grown this thick beautiful hair! I absolutely loved it! That happiness was short lived because out of nowhere, my hair began to fall out! I assumed that it was postpartum hair shedding, but had no idea something more serious was brewing. So much of my hair came out that I eventually had to cut my hair short.
3. I had absolutely NO ENERGY!! I could literally sleep for 18 hours and still be exhausted! The lack of energy was accompanied by extreme forgetfulness, and brain fog. I know what I wanted to say most times, but I just couldn't connect it in my head. It was embarrassing.
While these things lead up to the diagnosis, I assumed that these issues would be remedied after surgery was complete and the cancer was officially gone. That was not the case. I assumed that after my healing time had passed, I would be as good as new and that was not the case. As a matter of fact, it seemed as if things got worse. First and foremost, let me say that I am glad that cancer did not claim my life!!!!! There are many, who have experienced cancer of all types and stages, and didn't make it, but I am still here today to write all about my experiences. However there is a sense of grief that creeps in every now and again because life is much different than what I presumed it to be. While I am singing again, my voice is not the same. I'm not sure if it will ever be. I believe that I have made my peace with that, but man was it a HARD adjustment! Once a 1st soprano, now an alto, and most times tenor. My voice had lost its power and longevity, and things that I once could do vocally, I just simply couldn't do them anymore. I actually stopped singing for 2 years because I lost all confidence in that area. When I stopped singing, something deeper began to manifest. I no longer knew who I was! My whole entire life, I was known as the little person with the BIG voice! Singing was everything......it was what I found my self worth in. I didn't have a bangin' body like the girls in the music videos of the 90's and 2000's. At the time, I didn't have long hair. I didn't see myself as drop dead gorgeous. I had my voice. When my voice was challenged, it sent me into a whirlwind of emotions because the very thing that I had based my confidence in was now gone!
I remember being told in a follow-up dr's appointment, that after they removed the thyroid, and calibrated my meds (which I take every.....single....day......) that my energy levels would increase and I would feel fine. Today, I still deal with extreme fatigue, but the Lord graces me, especially on days where there is much to do! Thank ya Lord! On the days where I'm the most tired, I have to be mindful of my thoughts. It's very easy on those days to become angry with God because I still don't understand why the initial sickness happened in the first place, or I don't understand why after 6 years am I still dealing with the residue of this whole ordeal. When these moments come, I pray and do my very best, with the Lord's help, to change my thinking to something more positive and productive. I also talk with my support system to get back on track. They allow me the space to vent, but they always bring me back to a positive space!
One thing that was odd to me was my hair! While most people lose their hair due to cancer treatments, I lost my hair before I was even diagnosed, and was able to grow it back while on the road to healing! You couldn't tell me nothing!! Okaaaay!!! Lol!! My hair eventually became my brand, but things are changing! Stay tuned to part 2 to follow this next journey!
This is just a portion of my daily journey and I hope and pray that it spreads a little light into the life of a survivor. Even though I still experience these things, they have not stopped me from discovering how to live life in different ways. I am singing again, but my focus has shifted from being an artist, to training people to be better at their craft. While I may not be able to do certain things any more, someone else can, and it's a pleasure to help along the way! I am learning how to listen to my body when I need to rest, and I try my best to not feel bad for needing to do so. (Mind you I said try my best, I still have some work to do in this area.) Most of all, I do my best to not feel guilty or angry about overcoming sickness! It is a privilege and an honor to still be able to be with my family and friends, and I know that I have soooooo much more to do before I leave this earth. Everyday may not be perfect, and I still may get a little emotional from time to time, but that sickness served a purpose, whether it was for me or someone else.