Pacifican Soraya Shushtar has found renewal in her fight against cancer.
When asked whether she would change anything about her battle with thyroid cancer, she said, “Everything happens for a reason. Yesterday, I heard a quote that said, ‘Things need to fall apart so they fall together.’”
Shushtar’s fight with thyroid cancer began on January 6. Three weeks after diagnosis, she underwent surgery to remove her thyroid, a three-centimeter tumor and nine lymph nodes. Then, in early March, she underwent radiation therapy.
Her treatment was for papillary thyroid carcinoma, one of four types of thyroid cancer, more likely than others to occur in people between the ages of 20 and 55.
For her, learning about and fighting thyroid cancer was a terrifying experience. But it gave her a renewed appreciation for those things she already held dear in life.
“I like to relax with my fiancé on the weekends, go out to eat, spend time with friends, take day trips, and take the dogs for a walk,” she said.
All things she never took for granted during the four months she spent channeling her energy towards treatment and recovery, which have tried her emotional wellness.
“It’s always been important to have family around but now I know how much I need them,” she said. “I couldn’t imagine going through an experience like this without their support.”
Shortly after the radiation therapy, she didn’t want to leave her apartment.
“I would force myself to go out to see friends,” she said. “I didn’t go out very much and just wanted to be home on the couch with my fiancé and my mom coming over here,” Shustar said.
But as time passed and she grew less tired from the medicine, she starting getting out more. She said she feels as if she and life are getting back to normal.
In fact, she and her fiancé, Rick, recently took a day trip to Carmel last month.
From city girl to Coastsider
Born and raised in San Francisco, Shushtar did not immediately make her way to the Coastside. She lived in Dallas, TX, with her aunt for six years and earned a degree in Criminal Justice.
She moved back to California in 2007 and, despite originally planning on living in San Francisco, found herself in Pacifica.
“A view is important to me and to Rick,” she said. “When I moved back, I was looking for apartments and the prices were really high in San Francisco. My co-worker lived in Pacifica and suggested I try looking here. I found this place, which was perfect because there was a great view and it was close to my parents and work.”
Shushtar used to think Pacifica was very far from the city, but “it’s literally only 15 minutes away and my parents are a quick drive away” and, she adds, “From Pedro Point, I can see where my parents’ house is.”
A Reaffirmation life
While the worst of her cancer battle is over, Shushtar said she still has to follow up with her next ultrasound in September. Depending on the results, it could be another six months wait for an additional ultrasound scan. The reminders are less frequent but still there.
But, she said, the fight has reaffirmed her approach to life, which hasn’t always been conventional.
“I was a Girl Scout until I was a senior in high school,” she said. “I stayed until I couldn’t anymore.” Members can only remain as Girl Scouts until they graduate from high school.
“I was selling girl scout cookies, hall of fame every year, when I was a senior in high school,” she said. “My mom still has my uniforms.”
According to Shushtar, there is a stigma attached to cancer that will frighten even the bravest of souls.
Some forms of cancer don’t require the intense chemotherapy that results in hair loss and equally unpleasant side effects, however, and she is thankful that her experience was not as intense, prolonged or as irrevocable as it could have been.
As her life begins to return to normal, she has to remind herself to take things slow, she said.
“I was getting worried that I needed to rush into all the things that I want,” she said. “As I started feeling better after my blood test, I want to stick to the plan I have for myself. Now, I just concentrate on goals like paying off debts, saving for a house and finding some sort of career.”
Along with that gradualism has come a decision to put down some roots here in Pacifica.
“My boyfriend and I were talking about moving to the East Coast but now I don’t want to be away from my friends and family,” she said. “I want to be here. I’ve already lived outside of California. I know I don’t want to leave anymore.”
Pacifica, her heaven on earth, is where she wants to be.