My name is Tracy Thompson, and I am a survivor. I have survived cancer, and recovered from the treatment of cancer. While I know that it may come back or that something else will eventually take me, I will always be a survivor! Surviving is a state of mind. It is not just about living through the cancer, it is about maintaining your sense of self and what is important to you. It is about enduring the illness and the treatment and doing it with dignity, when you may be put into situations that seem undignified just to survive.
In August of 2008 I was diagnosed with Nasopharyngeal Carcinoma, stage 3b. The period between my initial diagnosis, and my first meeting with the oncologist was devastating, the statistics I found on the internet showed a survival rate of 5%. My oncologist later informed me that statistic was outdated and my chances were at a much more optimistic 65%.
While I respect my doctors and trust them to do what is best for me, within the bounds of their training and resources, I look back at my treatment and realize that I could have been more involved with the decision making and treatment process. As it was, my doctor outlined the plan, and I showed up for treatment.
In reading the story about James Rhio, I realized that I have a voice. I have a choice as to what type of treatment I receive. There is a chance that my cancer will return. If this happens, I will approach things very differently. I will do more research on treatment vs. quality of life. I will work with my doctors and listen to their input, but when it comes to my life and what is best for me, I will make the decisions.
When I was diagnosed, I started a blog (tracersday.blogspot.com) to let family and friends know how I was progressing. Writing was also a way to help me deal with what I was going through in a healthy way. It was a way to release the feelings and the fears associated with a diagnosis without unloading too much on any one person. People were free to read as much or as little as they could handle. I wrote details about treatment and honestly about the side effects. My hope was that somewhere down the road, someone else going through cancer treatment would stumble across my blog and find honesty and strength and be better able to handle what lies in store for them.
I received chemo and radiation over a nine month period. The chemo left me confused and unable to think as clearly. I wasn’t prepared for the effects of chemo on my brain and my memory. The radiation burned my throat inside and out, left scar tissue, and damaged my salivary glands. It also saved my life. I lost 60 pounds during treatment and was left in a weakened state, both physically and emotionally, but I am a survivor! I am doing everything I can to improve the quality of my life. I am going to school and will get my Bachelors degree, a lifelong dream of mine. I will live my life to its fullest and I will make every moment count. I will take the lessons I learned from being diagnosed with a serious illness, and I will use them to help others and to continue to strengthen myself. I truly believe that the best way to get full function of my brain back is to use it and to continue to learn and to think and grow intellectually.