Lucky 7 – Life after a thyroid cancer diagnosis

Is 7 really a lucky number? For me it is. Or at least I think it is.  You see, I realized this week that the number seven has resonated with me throughout my thyroid cancer journey. Yet, only recently did I connect the dots as to why it is indeed “lucky” or at least significant.

7a.m – The time I arrived to the surgical unit for my operation.

Seven hours. The number of hours Dr. Ralph Tufano, (my hero) performed surgery on me at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

Seven days.  That was the length of time the post-operative drains remained in my neck. (Seven minutes was all had on the “patience meter” for living with said drains.)

Seven weeks.  That was the time it took for me to get my voice sounding more like me and less like a prank phone caller.

Seven months.  That was about the amount of time I needed to brave going out without a scarf around my neck to shield people from seeing my scar. (July is one hot month and the seventh one!)

Seven years have passed since January 5, 2011 when I had my surgery and my life was forever changed.  You may think this was a tantamount day filled with dread, but in reality many amazing things have happened from that day forward.

Related articles: If you are interested in the “whole saga” here is a link.

And, per usual I will use this forum to share some life lessons. (Forever an educator) Although this year the theme may be a bit “lighter” than in the past. (Side note: read to the very end, please.)

The seven lessons I want to share in my annual “post cancer blog” are … 

  1. 7 is the number of continents in the world. Go explore them while you can.
  2. 7 good friends is better than a lot of people pretending to be your friend.
  3. 7 pairs of shoes may be an Ok amount, but in reality I own three times that number.
  4. Social media forums cite 7pm as a popular time to be online engaging with others and reading articles.
  5. 7 is considered one of the luckiest numbers, according to Quora, because there are  Seven Seas, Seven Heavens, Seven Continents, Seven Colors in a Rainbow, Seven Notes on a musical scale, Seven Days in a week, Seven Wonders of the World and so on. Seven is considered to represent the “extraordinary”.
  6. 7 is the number of chakras the body possesses.
  7. Seven minutes can be all it takes to check your neck with an ultra-sound to see if you have a healthy or unhealthy thyroid. Seven minutes- worth every one of them.
The seven chakras.


 Now for the serious “stuff”…

First, be your own health advocate. If you feel that something isn’t right with your health – go see a doctor or two if you are not satisfied with the first opinion.

Next, CHECK YOUR NECK.  At least once a year – have your doctor check your neck for irregularities.  Are you gaining weight suddenly or losing it without dieting? Do you have a chronic sore throat or persistent cough.  These are all red flags that something could be amiss and a due to a thyroid issue!

It wouldn’t be my annual “cancer” blog without a nod towards helping others via #socialgood

Each year, since my cancer journey began, I  spotlight ways to help people who are  diagnosed and living with cancer.  This year I am asking that readers of my blog consider supporting the  CYCLE FOR SURVIVAL campaign.  My daughter, Natasha, is participating with the Cycle for Survival fundraiser and any support would be greatly appreciated.  Here is the link.  EVERY DOLLAR RAISED goes towards funding  research for rare cancers via the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.


About Cycle for Survival

Join the Battle


  • *An estimated 1,688,780 new cancer cases will be diagnosed in 2017.
  • Approximately 50% of people with cancer are battling a rare cancer.
  • Rare cancers include brain, pancreatic, ovarian, thyroid, and stomach cancers; leukemia and lymphoma; all pediatric cancers; and many others.
  • Each year MSK treats more than 400 subtypes of cancer.


As always, thank you for reading and remember… CHECK YOUR NECK!!  Lastly, If you do donate to Cycle for Survival, please let me know and I’ll be sure to thank you personally on Twitter via my account (@LouiseASL).  You can leave me a message here or connect via any of my social platforms. Thank you!




Six Years Later

I am a lucky person. Very.  Rarely a week goes by that you don’t hear about someone being diagnosed with cancer and about others’ who don’t survive. But, I was. And, I did. That makes me a very lucky person and I don’t take being a survivor for granted. Ever.

Now I know I had the “good cancer” – thyroid.  But, let me tell you there is no good cancer.  No sentence that has cancer as one of the words will ever be “good”.  (Correction: The only acceptation would be if the sentence read: Scientists have a 100% cure for ALL cancers.)

As many of you know, I am a consummate educator. That means I like to share life lessons.  Let me tell you what I have learned six years and seven months after my 7-plus hour surgery for papillary thyroid cancer.

  1. Don’t get lax with taking care of yourself.  Go to your regular scheduled medical tests. Listen to your body and seek help when you feel that “something isn’t quite right”.
  2. Delete the toxic things in your life.  That may mean bags of chips, soda or some people. All can make your life challenging and your health compromised.
  3. Keep a journal or a blog.  The big “C” is too hard to keep to yourself.  You can’t do this journey alone. So, don’t.  Moreover, you shouldn’t  rely solely on friends and families. Some of the heavy lifting with improving your health has to come from within yourself. It is amazing how strong one becomes when it comes to doing this kind of “lifting”.
  4. A sense of humor is as important as anything else that keeps you going. Laughter may be your second weapon in your arsenal of getting healthy.  Or at least a key “player”.
  5. Pay it forward.  Your path with cancer will never be the same as another person’s. However, your experiences may be helpful with the education of another. So, share what you have learned and be willing to sometimes switch roles and be a student.  I for one freely share that Johns Hopkins Hospital and Drs. Ralph Tufano and David Cooper were KEY to my diagnosis, survival and continued health.  I will be forever grateful the them and their respective teams at JHH.
  6. Reward yourself.  Each year when I leave JHH after my annual tests I stop at the hospital gift shop. If my tests are negative (good news) then I get to buy myself a gift.  After six years of prodding from tests and lots of “negative”, I have amassed a number of JHH t-shirts, hoodies, bags and this year a birthstone ring.  (One can only have so many shirts and hoodies!)
  7. Celebrate. In the last six years I have learned to celebrate the small and large milestones of life.  Every completion of a treatment, an anniversary, birthday, family event, milestone – they all get celebrated!


Thanks for reading and feel free to comment below!

My annual reminder that I survived cancer

Every year I go on my annual trek to Johns Hopkins Hospital (JHH) to undergo a few assorted tests and visit with one of my Top Docs.  As you may know, JHH is known for Top Docs across many specialities, mine happen to focus on “matters of the neck and thyroid”.   This annual “date” with Top Doc is important, albeit nerve -wracking. I tend to use this time to reflect, write and educate – about Thyroid cancer and navigating the world as a cancer patient.

Read about my initial diagnosis with Thyroid cancer here

What I have learned to get me through the annual ritual “recheck” process?  Well, for starters it is good to have a support team who will cheerlead you in to the appointments and then help (hopefully) celebrate afterwards (or pick you up if the news is not so good.).  Pick your cheerleaders carefully.  You don’t want those that are “armchair quarterbacks” or wanna be docs. You just want people who will bring you coffee and candy upon request.

What I also learned through this ridiculous process is to surround yourself with only positive people. There is no room for negativity when you are dealing with matters of importance – such as kicking cancer’s ass out the door.  I prefer to do most of my appointments alone and then pace the corridors of JHH until given the “all clear” to go home.  But, others may wish to have their “team” present and waiting. Just make sure they are all helpful vs. hinderers to your wellness.

And, when the Top Doc says you continue to be LWD – living with disease – albeit microscopically – you just shake your head and thank the good Lord that the news isn’t worse. In my case, LWD just means that you get to live a long life with some cancer varmints hanging out somewhere, but not being more than a microscopic pest.  Kinda like knowing there is one bug in your house that  survived a fumigation, but you just can’t seem to locate it.

Most importantly, when all the tests are done go and conduct retail therapy.  In my case, I always purchase something totally weird from the hospital gift shop. This year a very odd looking sweatshirt with Johns Hopkins Hospital emblazoned on the front.  I wore it proudly on the plane ride home.

To summarize my recommendations for post-cancer check-ups:

*Go where there is the best of the best. Your health deserves it.

*Bring positive friends and family (if you wish), celebrate good news, and surround yourself with those who will be helpful if the news isn’t so great.

*Eat chocolate and drink … whatever!

*Conduct retail therapy.  Remember that tie-dye is never out of style if it makes you happy.

Wishing you all the very best of health,



Here are more articles about my experience. Hope it may help someone who reads this blog.



Dear New Thyroid Cancer Patient,


I am writing this letter nearly three years to the date of my thyroidectomy for thyroid cancer.  I was so lucky to be surrounded by great docs at  Johns Hopkins Hospital  and many others.

I know it  seems like the trips to doctors offices, tests and treatments will never end. Your scared, frustrated and perhaps feeling a sense of doom.  Welcome to cancer- land. Sorry it isn’t fun – just beastly.

For some of you this will be a short “lump” in the road (thanks to Margaret McSweeney who coined that phrase during her own bout with cancer). For others, the road will be long and bumpy.  Here is perhaps a few little suggestions to help you endure whatever path you now have found yourself taking –

1. Surround yourself with those who truly care about you and don’t shut out anyone who genuinely wants to help you because you are too “embarrassed”.   NOW  is a time to accept anyone with good karma to help you out.  (If they have a drivers license and can do errands for you post-surgery – even better!)

2. Delete from social media,  your contact list and your life anyone who brings negative energy to you and yours.   You don’t need them right now.  Maybe never.  Also, expect that some people will believe cancer is contagious and will dump your friendship like a hot potato.  So be it.  Remember stay positive, rid yourself of negative. There are a lot of great people in this world. Those who tossed you aside are not them.

3. Your body will betray you.  The surgery will be only the beginning of the changes to happen to your body.  Expect a shift in how you look.  A few more pounds. A few less pounds. I haven’t met anyone who had thyroid surgery who weighed the same before and after.  Your hair will get all funky for a bit. Your voice may change and you will find other oddities that are either annoying or a bit humorous. Just go with it!

4. Ladies – retail therapy for new scarves is a must!   Indulge and don’t go too cheap – you want the kind that look fashionable but don’t scratch or make you sweat.

5. Men- scarves can help you out too. So can turtleneck sweaters, etc.

6. Or… wear that scar proudly!!

7. If you have a voice problem – go ask your doctor for recommendations to speech therapist who work with voice disorders.  You may need help with your vocal quality (I sounded like James Earl Jones for about two months, frankly!). Also, don’t be shy and discuss with your physician any of your concerns. You paid him/her big bucks to get the cancer out- and you want your monies worth!

8. Accept that you will have a whole host of emotions, from sad to laughing for no reason.  Let’s face it – cancer is absurd!

9. Take a break. Even if it is to have a mini vacation at the local Holiday Inn Express for one night.  Bring chocolate for medicinal reasons.

10. Celebrate your NEW life.  It is not all bad. You have learned some valuable lessons and will learn many,  many more. Most of all – every day is IMPORTANT and there is no room for EXCUSES.  Now is the time to re-evaluate what  you want to keep, change and add to your life.

11. Here is a link to many more of  my cancer related posts)

 LASTLY… Know that I and many more thyroid cancer survivors are in your corner.  Good luck and have a great life!



Helping Kids with Cancer- PENN STATE’S THON 2013!

Screen shot 2013-02-15 at 7.26.01 PM

Penn State is hosting their annual campaign, known as THON,  to help children with cancer!  So, I am dedicating my blog this week to my my alma mater  ( Class of ’84).    So, please feel free to learn more about #THON and why thousands of students take to the dance floor to help thousands of children who are seriously ill.

Watch the student’s dance the night away here:

If you are so inclined, show your support by donating here: THON 

Thank you and good luck to my nephew, Benjamin and all the PSU students as they dance the weekend away.  Hope you have comfy shoes on!!

PSU is tweeting during the weekend as  #THON2013


REMISSION – To  a cancer patient this is a word that makes your heart sing and your feet want to dance.  Almost two years ago to the day of my writing this blog I had the news that no one likes to get.. “Your test results show that you have cancer.”  If you read this blog on a regular basis you may recall that I was diagnosed with Thyroid Cancer in 2010 and underwent invasive surgery January 2011.  My story is chronicled in the articles you will find listed below (among others) on this blog.

Two years later and countless more encounters with doctors, patients new to the world of cancer and media folks this is what I have learned…

  • REMISSION is a beautiful world.
  • The longest wait is the one from the moment you take your “tests” until you get your results. It could be a few minutes, days or even weeks. But, if you are like me it is hell whatever the time period.
  • Your story is your own.  Others may have similar circumstances or “know someone” who had cancer “just like you”, but the reality is that everyone has a unique story and that is because the devil- cancer- likes to change its’ course from person to person.
  • Never give up hope and faith.  For some, this is all they have during their battle.
  • Share and educate.  I learned so much from others that was helpful (like lemon drops to soothe the effects of radioactive iodine treatment).

Feel free to comment below so that others can have hope, faith and be educated. THANKS!

~Louise aka “woman in remission”

Previous Blogs of my Cancer Journey:

HELLO, now go AWAY

My Year of Learning to Kick Cancer Out the Door

I am the face of Thyroid Disease- PSA in sign language

My Year of Learning How to Kick Cancer to the Door

It has been a year since I heard the words that no one wants to have burned in to their brain- Sorry, but you have metastatic cancer.  Yep, that was me.  A little more than a year ago.  It was a sunny day. I was going for what was suppose to be a “no brainer” ultrasound of a few “probably nothing” nodes in my neck. I walked in an optomist thinking of nothing more than how I would spend the rest of the day after the procedure shopping.   I walked out of Johns Hopkins outpatient center a statistic – someone with cancer. WOW! In fact, according to some recent stats, I was one of 357,000 women living with Thyroid cancer. Oh Goody!

Because people sometimes read what I write or ask me to speak in media, I get to talk about my Life with Cancer – a lot. As an educator, I don’t mind. It gives me an opportunity to set the record straight and educate others about being proactive with personal health issues. I learned from the best on how to be an example of someone who lives with cancer BUT is not defined by cancer, from my friend and colleague, Maimah Karmo.   I learned to blog about my  pre-op, post-op and treatment phases. I helped others learn too by talking to groups, being interviewed and blogging for others on websites such as, DEAR THYROID.    I even filmed a PSA for

I learned that you can’t be a member of this “club” alone. That people will come and rally around you. Friends and family will support you in ways that are just too numerous to count. I was really lucky to have a bunch of Cancer Warriors join my team. They all should know who they are and consider this a group hug and THANK YOU!   And, a huge thanks to  all the Top Docs at Johns Hopkins Hospital.  Overall, I was damn lucky this year to have so many in my corner.


I realized pretty quickly that if I had to go through this crap that I should do it with grace, humor and a purpose. So, I decided to run a TWITTER SCARF campaign. I stole the idea from my friend, Shara Lawrence-Weiss.  (Pictured wearing her TWITTER avatar hat.Read the TWITTER story here). In essence, I changed my TWITTER avatar to be a free advertisement for a company or foundation. I simply would wear a different scarf and photo shop their logo.  The company would then in turn donate monies to the charity of their choice. I had a lot of response and together we all donate almost a thousand dollars. Purpose.. yep- cancer can give you purpose when you are not caught up in the anger.

Now it was not all fun and games. Cancer never is. The treatment for thyroid cancer is not as bad as other cancers. I didn’t have to have chemotherapy, but I did need to have Radioactive Iodine treatments – which are no joy.  The worst part of the process, however is the waiting. Did the treatment work? Do I need another? Is anything else growing and if so, where?

I also learned some really important life lessons. Cancer is expensive and insurance companies can’t make those co-pays magically disappear.   I learned that not all people want to stick by you and remain friends because cancer may be “contagious”.  Real friends stick around and those who are just in it for only the “good” but not the “bad or the ugly” will run for the hills.  I heard from others who also are in the cancer world that it is not uncommon for  relationships to unravel. That is a shame, but a reality. As I mentioned, I’m grateful for those who stuck around (including my amazing hubby) and deleted the rest. Cancer can be an emotional brain sucker.  No need to spend any synapses worrying about those who were afraid that they may “catch’ the BIG C.

I will no doubt have more journey in the coming years. Cancer doesn’t like to just go away easily. There is always follow-up scans, blood work and more. Even if you are in remission you still have “more to do”.  But, I intend to kick cancer to the door in 2012. Not the front door, but the back door. Cancer doesn’t have the right to go out nicely.

Lastly, Happy Holidays and please feel free to share your pearls of wisdom if you too have been on a cancer journey this year or in the past. Let’s all learn from each other.


I have been the victim of identity theft.  Not the kind that steals your bank account numbers or my pay pal account, but that which has taken me.. the person.  You see Mr. #$%! Cancer  decided to steal my identity about the same time that I had to divulge having Mr. #$%! Cancer, at all.  From that moment on my identity was not mine, but his.  Now I am the wife/mother/sister/daughter/friend/co-worker/ etc. with cancer. DAMN!

So, I am going to do something about it.  I have decided to now declare that I am DONE being a cancer patient. It is gone.  The beast has been zapped out of me with high doses of radioactive iodine.  Only remnants of this nightmare is an impressive case of laryngitis and a scar.  Oh well… they are my war wounds.  Now please.. permit me to have my identity back and stop staring at my neck.  I really want to revert back to the “old me”.  The one where I get to tell bawdy jokes, shop til I drop, eat lots of chocolate and watch more movies in a weekend than most critics with my family.  I want to walk freely without my scarf and not have to explain each time I pick up the phone who I am and why I sound so “sultry”. And most of all I don’t want to breathe another word about Mr. #$%! Cancer to anyone who doesn’t get paid to hear my woes.. so that means only Top Doc and I will be discussing the identity stealer and everyone else can stop.

WHEW.. that felt good.. Now know that I thank each and everyone of you for letting me rant this week.  And if you ever wonder how you can help others who are fighting the beast here are few tips that I have generated and I also have had received from others who had their identities stolen, too…

1- Help the person who has had their identity stolen by offering services.  Flowers are nice and welcome but also consider giving of your time such as driving the kids home from after school events, grocery shopping or picking up prescriptions.

2. Don’t talk about the person with Mr. #$%! Cancer in front of them as if they aren’t there. And, please don’t talk about all the people you know who have had to deal with Mr. #$%! Cancer or who have died.  Seriously.. everyone I have connected with who has been fighting the beast has said that they are not helped by hearing other war stories.  Especially when the outcomes were not good.

3. Don’t do nothing.  I have been really  lucky that so many people reached out to me and helped me through my process.  Other people, however, tell me of their experiences which are far less “blessed”.  I have heard stories of friends who stop calling because Mr. #$%! Cancer was just too sad for them to deal with and calling  to offer help was too hard. (Well isn’t being a  true friend about taking the good, bad and the ugly?) I advised these people to press the “Delete” button with these so called “friends”.  And that means to delete them on Facebook, too.  Friends who don’t come to help you during troubled times don’t deserve to be privy to your life .. at all.. just saying.

4. Get help.  You can’t do it alone, so reach out to those who can help you and share similar experieces.  I was lucky to have connected with a super organization called Dear Thyroid. They helped me in a way no one else could.  I am indebted to them. Each person with their own situation should reach out.  Your family and friends can only do so much.

5. Lastly, laugh, learn and leave the anger behind.  Keep your eye on the end of the tunnel and don’t get stuck mid-way.  It is sooo easy to get stuck because of feeling the perpetual feeling as if you have been robbed. You can only be a victim if you allow others to treat you as a victim.  I refuse.

Thanks for reading and helping me to get my identity back.  Now go have a groovy week….


Newsworthy: Thank you all for voting for me on StartUpNation as a 2011 Women Owned Business to Watch!

SIGNING FAMILIES has been “on fire” now! But, we need to continue to ask for votes as we are still trying to gain as much attention as possible in order to help families and children who use ASL to communicate.  To vote, simply press on the ICON below. THANK YOU!!


Well, it has been almost exactly three months since my neck was cut open by Top Doc to get rid of thyroid cancer (THYCA).  Since, that time I have managed to keep myself busy by tweeting like a “mad woman” about my Twitter Charity Scarf Campaign, filming PSAs, speaking at MacWorld, filming the Chronicles of EMS, baking loads of cookies for college kids, and much more…..  Alas… it is the time for what I hope is one of the final steps in ridding for “GOOD” this THYCA…the radioactive iodine treatment (RAI).

Now for those of you who don’t speak THYCA– this is a treatment that begins with a funky low-idoine diet and ends with you drinking some radioactive goop which is suppose to kill off any microscopic cancer cells in  my  body that Top Doc might have not seen during surgery.  All in all, it is suppose to be a much easier treatment then enduring chemo, which is not the plan for this type of cancer. (And my heart goes out to those who are undergoing chemo.)

So, I am nearly in week two of the RAI diet.  Which means if it is in a bag, can or restaurant I probably cannot eat it.  I can eat all the fruits and veggies I want.  Black coffee, no problem.  But….nothing chocolate! And.. No  dairy or breads-except for Matzo. And note the irony has not escaped me that this diet will end about the same time frame as Passover begins. This year I bought unsalted matzo- by the six-pack! OY VEY!!  I will say that I discovered some yummy fruit and nut bars by Laramar that are all organic with no other “stuff” –  They tasted so good I called the company twice to make sure I wasn’t cheating on the RAI diet..

After I get my RAI treatment I will be glowing… and in solitary confinement.  Don’t feel sorry for me. I have outfitted my “suite” with tons of kids toys like JENGA, PICK UP STICKS, jigsaw puzzles and added in to the room some fun trashy novels.  I also have every DVD and VHS in the house that was an award winner or has a brat packer in it!  Plus, twenty episodes of NCIS await me on the DVR.

But, here is the one draw back… I may not get to use my laptop or iphone….. If that happens know that I will have groovy hubby checking my “social media stuff” and passing me notes through the door…

Oh well… at least when I get to go back “online” I will be able to order chocolate and ice cream and a pizza and ……….

I conclude with a HUGE thanks to those of you who have been voting for SIGNING FAMILIES on the competition.  According to the “meter” we are almost HOT!!  Please continue to vote so we can help people to learn ASL and continue to build communication bridges one SIGN at a time!

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