Cancer Candy

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Cancer Candy

You know how when it rains, it pours?

My twins graduated and moved to two universities in the United States of America.

My husband remained in Djibouti to run our start-up, the International School of Djibouti.

My singleton, the youngest, returned to Kenya for school.

I stayed in MN to be close by while the older two transition to this country and new phase of life.

We recently made some organizational readjustments that were positive and complicated and also, to be honest, difficult, as most changes are.

Parenting adult kids is really hard, harder than I thought.

I turned in my book manuscript this week.

I told you recently that I started seeing a counselor for “stuff.”

And then, I recently bought this:

Why is a pile of sugary goodness on this list of challenges and changes?

Because I labeled it:


Because I bought it a few hours after being diagnosed with thyroid cancer.


Me, for whom health is a high value. Who takes doctor appointments and nutrition seriously, who loves to run because it makes me feel strong. Who was strict about natural family planning as birth control because I didn’t want to take hormones or pills. That person has cancer and will go on hormone therapy for the rest of her life.

I talked to my mother-in-law a few hours after the doctor’s phone call. She and my father-in-law are nurses, he was a cancer nurse. I asked what I needed to think about. She said,

“Today, you need to think: Shit. I have cancer. Tomorrow, you can ask questions.”


I took her advice literally and headed straight out to the grocery store for candy and ice cream.

What’s next?

A second biopsy on a suspicious lymph node. (*biopsy came back clean)

Then, surgery, removal of my whole thyroid and the monstrously large lump attached to it. We are trying to come up with a nickname for the beast but I’m revolted by all the family’s suggestions so far.


I don’t know yet.

I’ll try to keep writing. I’ll try not to write all the time about cancer, Lord knows there’s enough of that out there for you to read elsewhere. But I might because, Lord knows that’s what’s on my mind (and in my neck) these days.

I plan on being just fine.

But, my hope is not in odds or doctors or my own body.

I don’t rely on human plans, not even my own.

This is what some people call a “good” cancer, which means it is fairly treatable. I gotta say, I’m not ready to claim that yet. While I am thankful for many things (that there is treatment, that I’m here in the US for this time period, that I don’t feel sick at this point), it is still cancer. And cancer sucks. Cancer combined with an international life super sucks. The treatment will be hard, the disruption to our life will be hard, the future slightly foggy.

May I suggest a more appropriate response, if someone (like me) tells you they have thyroid cancer? Don’t say, “Well, lucky you, you got the good one!” Just say, “Shit. You have cancer. I’m so sorry.” Feel free to modify to “shoot” or “gosh darn” or whatever floats your boat.

I’ll let you know how all this pans out in the coming months.

By |October 18th, 2018|Categories: Expat Thoughts, Faith|Tags: , , |16 Comments


  1. Wendy October 18, 2018 at 2:50 pm - Reply

    Yuck! So sorry Rachel. I had my thyroid out and can commiserate. When you need to vent or yell or complain, sign me up.

  2. Marcy October 18, 2018 at 3:08 pm - Reply

    Oh Rachel, I am so sorry. *hugs* It sucks. It’s not fair. And I’m sorry. *more hugs*

    You know… I’m practically screaming-distance from your parents if you ever feel like coming over and raging about unfairness… I don’t have cancer, but BOY do I understand about unfair health issues! The kids & all I have one of the only “didn’t get it because of my diet/lifestyle” heart issues!

  3. Holly Newman October 18, 2018 at 3:11 pm - Reply

    Wow, so sorry my friend. (And I feel like you’re a friend though we’ve never met) That totally stinks. Are there things to be thankful for? Of course, but they do not wipe out the bad news and the reality of our human frailty. You are getting wise advice to grieve, sometimes that’s hard for us strong folks. (I’ve been seeing a counselor too, for stuff) Praying for you.

  4. Deb Smith October 18, 2018 at 3:16 pm - Reply

    Shit. You have cancer. I’m so sorry.

  5. Ruth October 18, 2018 at 3:29 pm - Reply

    I’ve been picking up on some clues about sickness in your writing, and wondering what that was about. I’m so sorry!

  6. Jennifer Lytle October 18, 2018 at 3:43 pm - Reply

    I’m so sorry friend! We’ve never met but my high school dorm roommate is from Djibouti, which is how I found you.
    Hugs! Great choice on cancer candy!
    Today..chocolate! Tomorrow? Who cares! Chocolate is calling.

  7. Karen October 18, 2018 at 3:52 pm - Reply

    I’m so sorry, Rachel! Praying for you and your family. That is so hard.

  8. Lorinda October 18, 2018 at 4:05 pm - Reply

    I’m so sorry. (((Hugs)))

  9. Jo October 18, 2018 at 4:06 pm - Reply

    Shit. You have cancer. I’m so sorry. (Hugs)

  10. Gwen Dvorsak October 18, 2018 at 4:40 pm - Reply

    Shit ….this sucks. You have great support…..I always thought Meg has great responses to everything!! Healing thoughts your way!

  11. Denise Runge October 18, 2018 at 5:24 pm - Reply

    Cancer really sucks and it sucks that you have cancer. Praying for wisdom and strength in the coming days. As I told a new missionary on the field yesterday, it’s okay to be a wimp and it’s okay to say I just can’t do that. So it’s okay for you to say I just can’t handle this right now and enjoy your ice cream and Reese’s Pieces. Praying for you!

  12. Peggy Epp October 18, 2018 at 9:09 pm - Reply

    I’m SO sorry! No it’s NOT nice. My husband got leukemia while we were in Egypt. It turned our lives upside down. So I understand a bit about the turmoil & uncertainty you are facing. Eat your candy and enjoy! Buy more and keep eating! All good! May you find something to be thankful for every day! May you find blessings in this “valley of the shadow of death”!

  13. Saada October 18, 2018 at 10:22 pm - Reply

    Will pray pray pray my lovely Rachel

  14. Rudri October 18, 2018 at 11:41 pm - Reply

    Shit. You have cancer. I’m so sorry. Sending love, hugs, and light. xo

  15. Simone October 19, 2018 at 10:48 am - Reply

    Shit! I am so sorry! Cannot believe what I‘m reading. Thoughts are with you.

  16. Britney October 21, 2018 at 9:55 pm - Reply

    Ugh. I’m so sorry.

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