Nurses are notoriously known for taking care of others while neglecting their own health. So when we face illness, it can come as a shock. It’s not until forced to pause and reflect that many of us realize that illness has been lurking in the shadows yet we’ve ignored the smoke signals. 
I’ve also fallen victim to ignorance.

Four years ago I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. When my physician first felt the “lump” and voiced concern, I thought she was being uber conservative. After all, I was the healthiest person I knew. I ate well, exercised almost daily, and avoided all things bad (cigarettes, heavy alcohol, drugs, etc). I did have a lot of stress in my life at the time, but heck – who doesn’t. So I did what most nurses did when leaving with a battery of ordered tests. I blew it off. I had too much to do and thought it was a waste of my time. When I finally scheduled the tests, I learned that I had thyroid cancer

Typically, this type of cancer sits quietly within the thyroid capsule like a good child. However, I had a mutation. Mine burst through the capsule, ate the muscle in front of my trachea and spread through all of my lymph nodes like an obnoxious teenager. Ugh. The good news is that it’s still “easy” to treat. Cut it out and hit it with lots of radioactive iodine. The bad news is that it’s likely to reoccur.
January is thyroid awareness month. And although I usually don’t talk about my personal health on social media, I felt compelled to use this opportunity to inspire other nurses to start taking care of themselves and paying attention to their bodies. Nurses are in the health business yet we ignore our own health even when our bodies are trying to warn us.
Please let 2013 be the year you start taking care of yourself.
1.   Pay attention to the smoke signals your body may be sending you, warning of impeding disease (I had symptoms but ignored mine).
2.   Take off the nursing cap and be a layperson – go to the doctor, get it checked out. Don’t be stubborn and think you would know if something was really wrong – I didn’t.
3.   Commit to the obvious – eat healthy foods, exercise daily (running around at work like a chicken with its head cut off doesn’t count), and engage in activities that reduce stress (laughter, meditation, exercise, etc), and avoid things we KNOW cause disease (too much alcohol, cigarettes, drugs).
Simple, yet powerful and potentially life saving. Oh, and get your thyroid checked by your physician. Thyroid cancer is on the rise!
How am I now? I get tested every year with great results. This year, however, it appears the sucker may be starting to grow back. But I’m “on it” and now preparing my body for the attack by eating a littler healthier, making sure I exercise (been slacking off), and reducing my stress by trying not to sweat the small stuff.
My two best friends and me!

I wish you all a happy and healthy 2013!
Take care and stay connected
Renee
For more great tips, make sure you “like” me on Facebook,”follow” me on Twitter and YouTube and subscribe to my blog. Also, check out my new book on nurse-to-nurse bullying!