Today I’m (finally) sharing my thyroid cancer story and how, with the help of Palmer’s® Cocoa Butter Formula® Skin Therapy Oil, I’m wearing and healing my scar like a badge of honor since my surgeries.
If you’ve been a long-time reader of my blog, you may know that a few years back, just after our honeymoon, I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. Admittedly, it’s not something I talk about much here on the blog, and honestly, I’m not sure why. Honestly, I think I was being fiercely protective of something I wasn’t sure how to talk about. I guess I’ve always been that way. I keep my emotions close to the chest. Despite running a business on a very public platform, I’m actually pretty shy. It’s hard to get to know me. I keep things to myself. Even my own parents laugh that I’m the hardest of the four kids to get through. And here I sit, with an unbelievably visible physical symbol of something huge in my life.
Thankfully, years later, I am cancer free and, but for a few scans every now and then to ensure that I’m remaining cancer-free, it’s been a long time since I’ve really focused on that pretty scary year of my life. Unfortunately, one of the things I have held onto is the deep physical scar across my neck that the multiple surgeries left behind.
I feel so lucky to have teamed up with Palmer’s to share my thyroid cancer story today.
I’ve used Palmer’s for years. I used and loved their stretch mark cream through both of my pregnancies, and they now have me completely hooked on Palmer’s Cocoa Butter Formula Skin Therapy Oil. Palmer’s Cocoa Butter Formula Skin Therapy Oil helps repair scars, stretch marks, dry/damaged skin, uneven skin tone, and aging skin. The formula is non-greasy, absorbs into skin quickly, and leaves skin soft and smooth. It’s made with Pure Cocoa Butter, Sesame Oil, Argan Oil and Rosehip Oil, and smells amazing. Plus, it’s hypoallergenic and non-comedogenic so it won’t clog pores.
Palmer’s Skin Therapy Oil also helped me to wear and heal the scar across my neck like a badge of honor and for that, I am grateful. Every night I rub a little of Palmer’s Skin Therapy Oil across my scar, and I’ve noticed a visible improvement. My skin along my neck feels healthier, softer, and over time, the scar is fading.
My Thyroid Cancer Story
The irony of my hang-up doesn’t go unnoticed. Two operations later, the thing that scarred me, sometimes in a more present way than the fear, sadly, was the actual scar. I know that may sound silly or trivial, but hear me out.
I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in my twenties. It all started with a pretty scary email from my endocrinologist that I read ON MY HONEYMOON. My results from the many repeated biopsies we had been doing for the months leading up to our wedding (talk about a stressful time) finally came back questionable. We spent the rest of our honeymoon talking about the possibilities, but I remained steadfast that we would do whatever needed to be done and move on. That’s just me though. I have tunnel vision when I have a big task at hand. The way I deal with big things in my life is to tackle them head on. I make decisions and get on with it.
We came home from our European vacation, only to dive into bloodwork, doctors visits, and surgery prep. After the first surgery, I went into the surgeon’s office, expecting to hear that everything went well, that the questionable tissue would be a blip, and I’d move on with my life. Instead, I sat alone in a cold hospital room, only to hear the surgeon say, “Lexi, we found cancer.” It felt like a punch in the gut. We had the news we had been hoping to avoid. They had found cancer, and I would need a second surgery to remove the rest of my thyroid and anything else that looked problematic. Even after a second surgery, and a pretty angry red slice across my neck, I plowed through the doctors’ appointments and tests, focused on getting better.
Of course, on the day I found out, I called my husband and my parents.
My husband took me home immediately, and we all cried. But after that, I never really freaked out. I put on a brave face for a long time. Honestly, so few people in my life even knew what was going on behind the scenes. When it became obvious that I was having surgeries, I told everyone it was minor, that I was going to be just fine. I laughed about it; “cancer schmancer” I proudly announced, mostly to make everyone around me feel less guilty and helpless. Friends and family told me I was brave but truth was, I felt unbelievably helpless.
And here’s the thing, I never felt like I battled anything. Sure, I wanted to slay the cancer dragon but I was never given much choice. It was surgery, surgery, treatment, blood work. So much blood work. That was how to get better. There were no other options. And it sucked. Every scan and blood work and check-up to date terrifies me a little, all these years later. Even these past few months, I’ve had to get more frequent scans because my doctor here in North Carolina thought he may have seen some change in what’s left at the mostly hollowed out base of my throat. Thankfully, each scan remained the same and I’m mostly back to a normal annual scan routine. And I am okay. (I promise!)
Still, I worry and I carry the weight of “what if’s.”
But the scar reminds me of all of it. And in a weird way, I came to resent it.
It’s funny how a scar can define you and your life in such an impactful way. Without realizing it, I’ve hid my scar over the years. Despite telling myself that the scar didn’t bother me, that I felt lucky to be alive (and goodness, do I ever!), that it served as a battle wound and a courageous badge of honor, I still hid that physical detail as best I could. And I didn’t really feel like a warrior.
It wasn’t until recently that it actually occurred to me that, in the years since my cancer diagnosis and treatment, I had actually changed the way I smiled, the way I posed for photos; my ducking photos, avoiding being in them, and even the way I carried myself, all as a result of this scar. The changes seemed subtle at the time, but it’s shaped my own self-confidence in this indelible way.
It was my girls who made me realize the change and the need to fix it.
They regularly hang on my neck, prod sticky toddler fingers across my scar’s uneven surface, and wonder about its origin. Our oldest daughter, who is four years old, recently asked me, yet again, where the scar came from and if it hurt.
In the best way that I knew how, I tried to delicately explain that Mommy had been sick but that doctors did a surgery to make Mommy better. She wanted to know why I was sick, what the doctors did surgery for, what they took out of my neck. And then she asked the question I feared was coming because she had been preoccupied with the perplexing notion of late:
“Mommy, will you die from your sickness?”
Hy heart lurched in my chest. I swallowed back the fear and the pain and felt sad that she ever had to have such a huge thought at such a young age. I’m her rock. I don’t ever want her to doubt that.
“No, baby, this scar healed Mommy.”
And there it was.
The scar I hid, the scar that, whether consciously or subconsciously preoccupied my thoughts, had given me my life back.
My oldest daughter held her hands around my neck and said, bold as ever, “Mommy, your line is beautiful. It’s pink and I loooooove the color pink.”
I could feel the stinging in my eyes as I swallowed back the tears. I kissed her sweet face about a hundred times and vowed then to be better. To do better and embrace better.
Wearing and Healing Scars Like a Badge of Honor
I should be in those photos right alongside my girls. I should be in more photos in general. It’s those photos that THEY will cherish years later, just as I cherish the photos of my mom and dad and those where we’re all together. I don’t see the weight they might have gained or the dark circles under their eyes. Also, I don’t see scars or imperfections. I see my mom and dad; two people I love more than anything, and I know that they’re glad they were in the pictures.
I won’t let a scar, even one tied to sometimes painful memories, get in the way of my life, of my courage, and of my strength.
So I’m choosing to wear and heal my scar like a badge of honor.
And I hope you will too.
Have you tried Palmer’s Cocoa Butter Formula Skin Therapy Oil? I love everything about it and now keep it beside my bed so that I can lather up my hands and neck at night.
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Photos and Video by Annie Timmons Photography for Glitter, Inc.