-Overcoming Thyroid Cancer and Living the Real Life

By Young Ae Kim School Nurse

I wish there was an eraser that could erase the mind. I want to erase the present, the past, and all the people I know. Why did this happen to me? Was I too conceited? I told myself over and over “It’s okay. It’s going to get better.” But then sorrow and anger would flood over me and make me miserable. It’s my mind, but why can’t I control it? People weren’t born to live like this, isn’t there a way to escape from these bonds?

This is an excerpt from my diary in the beginning of 2005. At the time I had been diagnosed with thyroid cancer and had been through surgery to remove my vocal cords. I was depressed everyday and wanted to bury myself deep in the ground.

The people who cared and worried about me seemed fake. My pride stopped me from admitting what a hard time I was having.  So I forced a cheerful façade in front of people. “It’s not a big deal, there are more serious illnesses.  I’m okay, I’m fine…” But as I continued to deceive myself, my mind grew darker.

After surgery I continued working and taking chemotherapy, but eventually I had to take a sick leave.  I didn’t have a single peaceful day. Life felt like hell, and I realized my mind was creating this hell. Then one day my sister said to me, “You can empty your mind” and told me about Maum Meditation. “I can empty my mind?  If I go there, everything will be resolved.”  I started meditating immediately.


I had lived an ordinary life with my older sister, younger brother and my parents, who ran a farm. In 1998 when the IMF financial crisis hit and everyone was struggling to find work, I was lucky enough to get a job immediately after graduation as a school nurse. Everything seemed to go my way and I held myself in high regard. Then, as I turned thirty, I started to feel tired and my neck swelled up. Out of nowhere I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. The doctor reassured me my voice would return after surgery and I would recover, but things didn’t look good. My voice was low and husky. Because of my low thyroid function I was always tired and swollen, and I gained a lot of weight. I was anxious about whether or not my voice would return and that I would continue to gain weight. I was resentful and angry. It felt like my happiness was stolen out from under me.

As I meditated, I was able to honestly face myself for the first time. I realized that my sense of inferiority was like an iceberg, hidden under the surface. In order to not expose that inferiority, I pretended to be happy, to have a bright personality. I wanted people to envy me.

I recalled the pictures that were the source of my inferiority. The first thing that triggered my inferiority was my sister. My sister was smart, the first born and she received a lot of love. My parents wanted their second child to be a son, but I was born instead. I recalled a memory from first grade: I was sitting at my desk resolving to study hard; that way I would receive love from my parents and recognition from the people around me. Every moment was spent working hard to disguise my inferiority. I was constantly stressed and anxious, always focused on myself, my parents, and my level of education.

I was a chameleon, pretending not to be jealous, pretending to be positive. I wore a mask to hide my sense of inferiority and to be recognized by the people around me. Never once was I honest with myself and I lived always trying to show off and be the best. Reflecting on how much greed and attachment I had, it’s no wonder I became ill.

I wept.  I was wrong to my body, wrong to my family, I felt ashamed and sorry to all the people around me. Inferiority, pride, conceit, saving face, fear… I couldn’t help but throw away these minds when I imagined all that built up filth concealed in every one of my cells. These minds were an invisible hell, and I knew if I didn’t throw them away I would forever be a slave to them.

So I threw and threw away until one day, suddenly, I felt something clear out from inside my neck. The boulder-like burden that weighed down my heart broke away and I could feel the blocked energy start to flow through my body. Later my voice, which had been trapped in the low pitch range, returned to its original tone. It was a miracle! Finally!  I had my voice back.

Slowly I lost weight and my body recovered. When I began to think of my body as a product that naturally wears down with use, I was able to let go of a lot of attachment to my body. I could see illness was a natural occurrence.  If it breaks, it can be fixed. My doctor had said singing would be hard but I’m now singing in a choir. My strength and stamina has significantly improved. Before, I couldn’t stay up past ten; these days I can go to bed at one or two and wake up early the next morning feeling refreshed.

In 2006 I returned to work. I saw there were a lot of people around me with thyroid disease. Stress is the main cause of thyroid disease. Even if the diseased parts are removed with surgery, the lingering thought that the illness is still there blocks recovery. When I tell people they need to throw away that thought to be truly free from the disease, they heartily agree.

Although I recovered my health through Maum Meditation, what I am truly thankful for is the discovery of my true self. When times were hard, I resented life and wondered why people were born to live with such painful burdens. But I realized that I created those burdens through my self-centered mind. If I can throw that mind away, throw myself away, the eternal, living, real existence is revealed and I can live happily as that existence.

When I was young, people asked me, “What’s your dream?” I always answered, “To live well.” When they asked how, I remember answering, “Happily!”  Now I’ve realized that dream through Maum Meditation. If I think about it, thyroid cancer guided me to the real life.