When you have chronic illness, you learn to overcome stress for many different reasons. In the last three years, I have had to
I have researched the heart, the lungs, cancer, gallbladder and so much more in order to understand what is happing to me. The most important thing I have done is made the decision to change habits. Eating habits. Exercise habits. Theatre Director habits. Teaching habits. Mothering habits….and so much more. I have taken stress management classes, too. And I’m able now to step back and say…”Whoa! Slow down. Back up. It doesn’t matter.” Or “It’s not that important.”
These are some of the things I’ve learned to cope with health stresses.
1. “ Asking for help does not mean that we are weak or incompetent. It usually indicates an advanced level of honesty and intelligence.”– Anne Wilson Schaef
The most important thing I’ve learned is to recognize when I need help and to ask for help. I used to think it made me weak to seek help, but I see now that it is essential. It shows that I’m not so full of myself that I think I can do it all on my own. Involving others (my husband, children, co-workers) in my life and letting them know when I need help gives my body and brain a respite. The respite in turn allows me to reduce stress levels.
2. “In times of stress, the best thing we can do for each other is to listen with our ears and our hearts and to be assured that our questions are just as important as our answers.”– Fred Rogers
I’ve learned to talk to others. Vocalizing my fears, concerns, and needs is a way to put my stress in perspective. Having a friend, family member, therapist, or clergy listen is like cutting the stress in half.
3. “One of the symptoms of an approaching nervous breakdown is the belief that one’s work is terribly important.” – Bertrand Russell
Laughing helps tremendously. I used to take myself too seriously, and now I realize, uh…I’m not all that. If I can learn to laugh at myself, I won’t allow stress to take over my life.
4. "Give yourself a gift of five minutes of contemplation in awe of everything you see around you. Go outside and turn your attention to the many miracles around you. This five-minute-a-day regimen of appreciation and gratitude will help you to focus your life in awe.” - Wayne Dyer
Sometimes just sitting in a quiet room with my thoughts and prayers quiets my spirit. Connecting to Spirit is vitally important to coping with stress. Our bodies were not created to be stressed. We were created to love, to serve, and to connect with others. Meditation & prayer helps us focus our attention away from the stress.
5. “Rule number one is, don’t sweat the small stuff. Rule number two is, it’s all small stuff.” – Robert Eliot
Letting go of small stuff by learning to say “no” has helped me, too. I never realized how important this word is. It’s okay if I’m not homeroom mother a member of the Campus Advisory Council. It’s okay if I don’t stay late to grade papers or dust my living room regularly. Saying “no” gives me freedom for all of the other things I need to do to manage/cope with stress.
On Tuesday, October 4, I arrived at the hospital to have my thyroid removed in order to get rid of the papillary cancerT. The surgeon said that the surgery went well and that everything looked good with regard to removing the thyroid cancer. He removed two lymph nodes in addition to the thyroid. When thyroid cancer metastasizes, lymph nodes in the neck may be affected, but these lymph-node tumors can be tiny and may not be detected by ultrasounds done before surgery to remove the diseased thyroid — or even during the procedure itself. There's a 50% chance of reoccurrence in the lymph nodes. I see my surgeon in one week to get the results and see if I need the radioactive iodine. I will also see an endocrinologist next week to get thyroid meds.
Once again, I have appreciated the prayers and encouragement from my friends, family, and even strangers.
On October 10, I return to my classroom and by the end of the day, I was totally exhausted, dizzy, dehydrated, and set home. I did see the endocrinologist. She told me that I was at the end of my tank and needed to get started on my Synthroid medication.
Then on October 12, during the follow up appointment, my surgeon told me that the lymph nodes did not have cancer. This means that the cancer was isolated to my thyroid. My endocrinologist told me that after removing the thyroid, microscopic pieces of the thyroid could be left I side my body. The Synthetoid medicine gives my body the hormone that I need and it suppresses the growth/regeneration of thyroid cells. So, in six weeks, I will have blood work to determine if the med is 1. Giving me enough hormone and 2. Suppressing the growth of thyroid cells so the cancer
won't spread. If both are good, I will be cancer free. If not, I will need to take radioactive iodine to kill those cells. Either way, I feel good. Five days in isolation might be very relaxing.
Some days I wonder why I have had to endure such health issues. However, lately, I've had this passion rising up inside me. I think the next step is to share my experiences with others, focusing on Mind, Body, & Spirit. This is where I’m being led. How exciting to look ahead now, knowing there is a plan and purpose!
Last weekend, I did accomplished a year-long goal. Some of my friends joined me, and we completed the Heart Walk, raising $519 for the American Heart Association. Team Dragoo!
My Journey from death's door to the miracle of life.
Annie Dragoo is a wife, mother, actor, singer, dancer, educator, and holistic health practitioner who lives in Austin, Texas.