I Survived Stage IV Cancer. Here’s What Helped Me.

On Oct 1, 2021, following acquiring what I had thought was routine thyroid surgical procedures, I was diagnosed with anaplastic thyroid cancer, a cancer so rare that none of my doctors had ever noticed it ahead of. It is so intense that it only exists as Stage IV.

The standard survival amount? 6 months or less. A single in 5 patients life 12 months.

I did a 10K race in July. At 6,000 feet. Past winter season, I was a ski instructor. I’m a rock ’n’ roll DJ at the mountain town station that I employed to stream when I lived in New York, fantasizing that I was dwelling right here. Now I am. I have the life I’d longed dreamed of.

Just about every morning, as I view the solar appear up over the mountains I never ever imagined I’d stay in all over again, I give thanks for all the things in my everyday living that brought me to this second. Primarily that prognosis. It taught me that I had no time to waste. It taught me how a lot I appreciate life — rough, bumpy and tough as it often is. It taught me how a lot far more I preferred to do. And now I’m executing it.

But on that drop working day in 2021, I was terrified. I was also furious.

I was two years out from a divorce just after an sad relationship that I had very long preferred to escape but had been worried to leave. I felt I’d expended yrs quashing my voice and my spirit to retain that marriage going. Currently being a wife experienced turn out to be my id. When the relationship tanked, I felt betrayed by the modern society that still pushed the fallacy that a female experienced to have a male to be one thing. I felt betrayed by the spouse who dumped me. Most of all, I felt I had betrayed myself by being alternatively of standing up for myself and leaving.

I was desperate to resurrect the younger girl I’d been back when I’d very first gone to New York for grad college following ski bumming in Aspen. That me experienced planned on paying out just a couple of many years in the city ahead of returning to the mountains. But you know how it goes: I satisfied a guy, fell in really like, marriage, little ones, home loans. And, hey, New York is quite damn entertaining — till it just about kills you.

The author after her second surgery, this one at MD Anderson in Houston, in October 2021.
The creator after her next surgical procedures, this a person at MD Anderson in Houston, in October 2021.

The final several years of my marriage, the divorce and its aftermath were brutal. I routinely woke at 3 a.m. staring into the darkness. My bodyweight plummeted. I landed in the ER with what I considered might be a coronary heart assault but was truly a worry attack.

I struggled to pull myself with each other. I stored on working. I became a qualified yoga sculpt teacher. I read self-assist guides. I not only talked to my therapist when a 7 days, I despatched her electronic mail immediately after e-mail filled with grief and fury.

And then I did one thing I under no circumstances assumed I would do: I started out singing rock ’n’ roll. Onstage! Me! Who had all but died when faced with piano recitals at St. Patrick’s School. In high faculty performs, I stayed at the rear of the scenes and did makeup and worked on costumes. I was solidly in the viewers.

But now I was operating from the firestorm of my old lifetime. I arrived to a cliff, closed my eyes and jumped. I was desperation personified when I took that leap. I was shaky as hell, but singing in the highlight gave me a sound piece of ground in a environment that experienced turned into quicksand.

The phase was a location the place I could escape my agony for a couple of several hours. But it was however there. The wounds wrought by my earlier have been even now uncooked inside of me, haunting my goals and shadowing my times.

COVID hit. Phases just about everywhere, together with mine, went darkish. I shed my refuge.
I continue to planned to depart New York and return to the mountains, but I was waiting around for my youngest youngster to graduate from high school.

She went off to school. I stayed in New York. COVID nonetheless raged. I rationalized it was a undesirable time to shift to a city exactly where I realized no 1. And I assumed my young children must even now have their mama’s area to come house to in New York, even even though my new condominium was a portion of the size of the one they’d developed up in.

The author power-walking with her IV pole, nicknamed Slim, during her MD Anderson treatment.
The author ability-walking with her IV pole, nicknamed Trim, through her MD Anderson therapy.

What it all boiled down to, while, is that I was concerned to leave. But yet again.

So the universe kicked me in the butt. Difficult.

As I lay in my mattress on that Oct evening in 2021 after being told I had just months to reside, I railed from my destiny. What provides, universe? I thought we had been in sync! C’mon!

I knew 1 thing: I was obtaining the hell out of New York. But I wasn’t heading to the mountains. I was likely to Houston, 1 of the flattest sites in the United States. It’s also residence to the MD Anderson Cancer Heart, which my cousin discovered has a exclusive clinic — named Quick — that specializes in my kind of cancer.

I packed up what I thought I would need to have in Houston. I ran about New York collecting my clinical data. I went out to supper and drank margaritas with buddies.

And then I bought anything several individuals going through most cancers like mine would by no means consider to get: a T-Card, a discount ski pass for Telluride Ski Resort, near wherever just one of my brothers life in Colorado.

I bought it for the reason that of one line in the anaplastic thyroid cancer printout I’d gotten the day of my diagnosis. After discovering I possibly experienced just 6 months to reside, I go through this sentence: “Despite these discouraging figures…” (Discouraging? I experienced imagined as I go through it. What comic wrote this?) “…there are some prolonged-expression survivors.”

“I’m going to be one of them,” I had promised my daughters. We had been all crying. “I really don’t know how, but I will.”

And that was why I designed the choice to get that ski move. I was likely to do a lot more than live — I was heading to be robust and healthy more than enough to ski. And this purchase was likely to be the thing that kept me fighting no matter what arrived my way.

See that, universe? I imagined as I clicked the “buy now” icon.

The author at the mic at KPCW radio.
The creator at the mic at KPCW radio.

Five days following my diagnosis, I walked in the doorways of MD Anderson.

The Rapidly clinic was aptly named. MD Anderson held me on the run. I liked that. I had CT scans, PET scans, mind scans, MRIs, blood assessments. I even obtained to glimpse at my vocal cords during a laryngoscopy.

“The odds aren’t very good,” the surgeon explained to me. And then he added, “But we do treatment some people today with this most cancers.”

I experienced 5 weeks of radiation and chemo. I stayed with my cousin in Houston. She has a major residence, a more substantial heart and a prolonged-struggling spouse. Both of my daughters, one particular accompanied by her boyfriend, arrived to cheer me on. Every of my a few brothers (a person with his almost home-educated new pet), my sister and 3 of my besties from New York arrived, a single following an additional. We talked. We ability-walked. We partied. I had Zoom phone calls with pals and relatives. I couldn’t consume alcohol, but I questioned absolutely everyone I understood to drink for me. And they did.

I completed my cure. I rang the proverbial bells, 1 for my final chemo treatment and 1 for my last rad heal, as I experienced started out calling radiation. But I wasn’t finished with MD Anderson. I had to come back again each two months to get scanned. Anaplastic thyroid cancer is like Rasputin — it arrives roaring back again 80% of the time.

At a person place, I noticed a little expansion on my face. “It seems great to me,” claimed my radiation physician. “But you in no way can inform with this most cancers. I’m sending you to dermatology.”

The expansion was benign and the dermatologist just froze it off, but I remembered the doctor’s respect for this cancer and the need to have for constant surveillance.

I headed to the mountains of Colorado to be near my Telluride brother. I rented an Airbnb in close proximity to his family’s household in case my radiation aspect results bought undesirable. I hired a relocating enterprise to vacant my apartment back again in New York and put my belongings in storage in Hoboken.

I was worried. I could come to feel unfamiliar prickling sensations in my neck. Was it just following outcomes of radiation? Or was it anything terrible?

The author running a 10K in Park City, Utah, in July 2023.
The creator operating a 10K in Park Town, Utah, in July 2023.

Two times prior to Xmas, I got a simply call from Houston.

“We feel you’re a good applicant for immunotherapy,” the nurse instructed me. “Can you occur back to Houston future 7 days?”

I flew back to Houston. CT and PET scans showed I was however ailment-no cost. I was the great candidate for immunotherapy.

“Basically,” my endocrinologist told me, “it opens your immune system’s eyes to most cancers.”

It will help my overall body preserve me nutritious and sickness-no cost.

“Go back again to Colorado and ski,” my endocrinologist advised me. “Just never break any bones.”

As I walked out of MD Anderson after listening to the superior information, I wept tears of pleasure and gratitude. The lethal cancer I’d been diagnosed with experienced just grow to be a condition that is continual but manageable.

On a chilly but very clear blue-hen-sky January day in 2022, I stepped into my skis and glided around to Carry 7 at Telluride. The liftie scanned my T-Move and up I went.

On that very first operate down the hill, I reveled in the instant. The sparkling snow. The crisp air. The sky previously mentioned me. Skis, mountain, snow, gravity and me, all performing jointly. I was alive!

I preferred to do that to start with operate on my very own, but then I caught up with my brother. He and I and 1 of his ski buddies rode up the Prospect Specific elevate together.

“What provides you here?” the close friend requested me.

I took a deep breath and exhaled.

The author's first time back in her skis and using her T-Pass at Telluride after she finished her cancer treatment (January 2022).
The author’s very first time back in her skis and utilizing her T-Move at Telluride immediately after she concluded her most cancers procedure (January 2022).

“Well,” I stated. And I explained to my story — Aspen, New York, like, relationship, divorce. And most cancers.

“I constantly prepared on returning,” I explained to him. “And now, at last, I have.”

The buddy was silent for a moment and then he looked at me.

“Welcome back again,” he claimed.

Kate Rice is a runner, rock ’n roll singer and stand-up comedian who performs mostly in the shower but sometimes on phase. She’s an creator and previous reporter. She life in Park Metropolis, Utah, the place she is a ski teacher and rock ’n roll radio DJ. Her new memoir, “Cured: A Tale of Badassery,” will be produced on November 15, 2023.

Do you have a compelling private story you’d like to see posted on HuffPost? Find out what we’re searching for here and deliver us a pitch.