One Year After my Thyroid Cancer Diagnosis

It's hard to believe but it has been one year since I was diagnosed with papillary thyroid cancer. I shared in a previous post how I discovered it through our struggles with unexplained secondary infertility. And in this last year, I have learned so much about how common thyroid diseases and cancers really are even though no one really talks about it. Thyroid diseases like hypothyroidism. Many of us live with it without knowing we do, while it silently affects our daily life. Like exhaustion, how many of us equate our lack of energy with our lifestyle? I know I sure did. Fortunately, I've been given the chance to make changes in my life and not take this whole experience for granted. Besides a small scar on my neck, you really can't tell that anything is wrong with me from the outside but internally I needed a lot of damage control. So for the first time in my life I really focused on self-love and self-care. Previously I was really reluctant to do so because I felt selfish and guilty but I've learned that in order to be there for others I have to first be there for myself. 

Magnolia blossoms blooming in Paris.

Magnolia blossoms blooming in Paris.

PHOTOGRAPHING LIFESTYLE, INTERIORS AND TRAVEL

One major change I did this year that was really hard was reduce the amount of weddings I would photograph. I had a long hard struggle with this one, constantly going back and forth about my decision. I really love weddings, it encompasses so many elements that I love photographing but it was also constantly making me choose between my work and my family. K started school full time last September, meaning I wouldn't spend much time with her anymore during the day and I would be working during the evenings and weekends when she's not in school. I didn't want to feel guilty about not being there for her and my husband, I wanted to be able to spend time together as a family and so it made sense to slowly move away from weddings. Besides my lifestyle work, I've also been photographing a lot more interiors, products, and travel photography which has made shooting less weddings a little easier.     

BEING MORE ACTIVE

A couple months before my surgery, a couple of my good friends gave me a FitBit for my birthday in anticipation for my recovery from my surgery. They wanted to give me something that would motivate me daily to move and to get back to where I was pre-surgery. Little did I know this little black band would give me so much motivation. Honestly, I'm not breaking any records with my steps, I still enjoy my tv marathons a little bit too much but it does encourage me to choose stairs instead of escalators, park a little further, get up and take a break from my computer, just to add to my step count and see the little fireworks light up when I hit my daily goal. It has helped me become more active and actually makes me want to improve my physical health. I've also started working out again and joined my friend in running, it's huge because I am not a runner! And as much as I moan and groan about working out and running, I'm starting to see the benefits.

CUTTING OUT SUGAR

This is a more recent one because sugar and I go way back, wayyyyyyy back. My sweet tooth has a mind of its own and it's powerful. I struggled a lot with being tired and not having enough energy and I relied heavily on sugar to give me that extra kick whenever I felt my energy levels drop, plus I just love sweets, like put a cupcake in front of me and I can't say no. But I noticed that on days when I've had my tea with too much sugar or had too many sugary treats I would get headaches the rest of the day and then have trouble sleeping at night. The bad night of sleep would make me crave for sugar again and it becomes an endless cycle. I know cutting out sugar completely is not realistic for me so I'm taking baby steps, I stopped adding sugar to my drinks, stop drinking sugary drinks and trying to eat less sweets. I've definitely have had less headaches and my energy levels are more consistent so I'll see what other sugars I can cut out slowly too. 

HAVING QUALITY FAMILY TIME

G works a lot of long hours and during the winter it's his busy season, then spring rolls around and I start my busy season until late fall. When we had K, we thought this is perfect because there will always be someone to watch her and we continued to trade off busy seasons for years. But then we started to realize that we rarely had time together as a family. We basically had November and December together and then it would be back to the same routine. Well that changed this year, for the first time ever we took not one but TWO family trips this summer. We've been making weekend plans with friends and family and I have to say it's been really nice spending all this time together. I didn't realize how much I craved this quality time with the family and I'm now enjoying some much need slow paced living.

OUR FAMILY PLANS

You may be wondering what has been happening with our infertility struggles. We are still hoping to add to our family but have taken a break from pursuing IVF, after last year we just weren't ready to jump back into it. Thankfully a fellow photographer was kind enough to share her own struggles with TSH levels and unexplained infertility and introduced us to NaPro Technology which is a more holistic approach to fertility and infertility. They have a high success rate with diagnosing couples who are previously diagnosed with unexplained (secondary) infertility. We've started the program with FertilityCare in Toronto and hoping to get some answers in the next few months. In the meantime, I'm focused on keeping my stress levels low and improve my overall health.  

We've done a lot this summer so far, ticked off a few places that I've been meaning to visit for awhile including the Bruce Peninsula and Tobermory, Terre Bleu Lavender Farm and Prince Edward County with the stunning Sandbanks. These small trips have really been great for the soul and I'm excited to do more. Feel free to share in the comments some places you like traveling to in the summer or suggestions for Fall trips because summer is coming to an end all too quickly!!

5 Ways to Cope with Infertility

First off I want to say thank you to everyone who has sent me messages, texts, emails, phone calls and real life hugs after reading my post last week. I didn't know what to expect but all of your kindness and empathy was truly touching. There was definitely tears but happy tears. Especially for those who shared with me their own struggles with fertility, I know it's not easy and feeling comfortable enough to share those personal stories means so so much. 

It took me a long time to get to where I am, a place of acceptance. I'm a strong believer of everything happens for a reason, even when we don't know why at the time or don't agree with it, eventually it will reveal itself. Actually writing that post last week really helped with my state of acceptance. For the longest time, I kept wanting to only share my journey once I had good news like so many other stories I have read or witnessed. However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that there are just as many of us (if not more) still toughing out this journey and we are the ones that need to speak up and support one another. The most common element I have gotten from everyone so far is how lonely this journey of infertility is even though we are not alone at all. I can't tell you how many times I have cried to myself, feeling so alone in this struggle, just trying to get off this emotional rollercoaster ride. And it was not like I could put my life on hold until I figured everything out, I mean I have a child who depends on me to stay alive so I had to implement some strategies to cope. I tried a lot but these were the ones I found the most helpful.

1. SPEAKING WITH SOMEONE

I used to think only celebrities or people who needed couple therapy went to see counsellors and therapists (thank you Hollywood) but talking to some trusted friends who were big advocates for counsellors I decided to book an appointment with one that my fertility doctor recommended. My counsellor specialized in fertility and that really helped to talk to someone who understood my struggles but who was also a non-biased 3rd person. She really helped me gain new perspectives and gave me strategies to cope with not just my fertility issues but with anxiety, depression and pressure. I have to say she has been invaluable to my mental health! And although her services isn't covered by OHIP, some counsellors are so if you do need to talk to someone and don't have insurance, there are still options.

2. FIND A HOBBY YOU ENJOY

This was a tough one for me because I work in such a creative field and I often find excuses to do things that relate back to my work. However, to avoid dwelling on the issue at hand, I needed to find something I enjoyed doing that was solely for myself. So often I hear people say don't stress about it and it will happen but dealing with stress is not an easy thing. Plus we can always find excuses to get out of it like "I don't have time" or "It's too expensive" or "I'm not good at it", we can always talk ourselves out of it. This time I wasn't going to talk myself out of it, though I was a little indecisive so I signed myself up for different classes so I could try new things and figure out what I really do enjoy doing for fun. I picked up hot yoga again, a good clean sweat really helps clears the mind and release some serious toxins, flexed my floral arranging muscles at some classes with some of the top floral designers in the city and I took a floral watercolour class that was really relaxing and therapeutic for me. It's so important that this is time for yourself and not anyone else. I'm learning that it's ok to be selfish sometimes.

3. (BINGE) WATCH COMEDY

Ok, I'm the first one to put my hand up and say I'm guilty with watching dramas and crying my eyes out (Grey's Anatomy has ruined me forever). And although a good cry sometimes can feel really good, my counsellor warned me that we as humans can absorb other people's dramas and negative feelings quite easily, even if they are fictional. Therefore, all we're doing is replacing our own negative feelings with someone else's and the emotional drowning continues. We want to avoid that so switch to comedy. Watching comedy will release endorphins, our happy hormones and also keep us from absorbing all those negative feels. So on those days when you feel extra blue, binge watch your favourite funny comedy and watch how your mood changes and how much lighter you feel after. Modern Family is one of my go-to's for some good laughs. 

4. ESSENTIAL OILS

Without getting into too much of the science behind essential oils, I want to share how much I love them as mood enhancers and natural remedies. I initially started using essential oils for stress relief and to help me sleep better at night (I'm a super light sleeper who takes forever to fall asleep, a really bad combo). I loved that they are all natural and with a small child at home this is extra important. I quickly found that they do so much and are so effective! Even G my husband uses them whenever he has headaches instead of taking medication and when K my daughter has a tummy ache, will she ask for a drop rubbed on her belly to make her feel better. I used them for all kinds of things but my favourite is having them in a diffuser, especially on days when I feel stressed or blue. I put in a few of my favourite drops and it makes such a big difference!

5. TRAVEL

Obviously travel isn't always feasible but for me this is one of my favourite coping mechanisms. There's just something about removing yourself from your every day. Being in a new environment can really clear the head and put a pause on all the stresses that are constantly surrounding you. No one to keep asking you when you're going to have another baby. Last year when G, K and I went on a 2 week trip to the Canadian West Coast it was exactly what we needed to get our minds off of everything going on back home. During the trip I was still waiting for the results from my biopsy but we honestly barely though about it. It was one of the best trips we've been on so far. We need to figure out where we're going this year, still trying to find some beach places to go to where we don't have to worry about the Zika virus. I really miss the beach! 

These 5 coping strategies: speaking with someone, finding a hobby, watching comedy, essential oils and travel is what helped me the most. If you have other strategies that you wouldn't mind sharing, I would love to hear them!