Cancer has positively affected my life by giving me and my family true perspective. It enables you to become laser focused on what truly matters and prioritize those things daily.
In September 2018 we were blessed with our third child. At the end of my pregnancy I first noticed it was harder than normal to swallow and chalked it up to pregnancy related swelling issues. The second week of October I noticed it was still difficult to swallow and discovered a sizable lump outlined in my neck. I got into the doctor who ordered an ultrasound, followed by CT scan, and then referred on emergency orders to see a local ENT. Our ENT was rated 5 stars online by several hundred people, and all around seemed very confident in what he told us after viewing my scans. He assured my husband and I, “I see cancer every day, this isn’t cancer, but it is a giant tumor and it’s pushing into your esophagus, so we are going to schedule surgery to remove it right away and will biopsy to confirm during surgery.” We celebrated the news.
While we truly believe our surgeon was well meaning, he couldn’t have been more wrong. October 23rd I went into surgery to remove a 4 cm (golf ball sized) tumor in my thyroid. After waking up the surgeon told me and my family he was very sorry, it looked completely different when he opened me up and that it was in fact cancer.
I still remember being in recovery with family with me and all of us in shock. Soon after, I told a recovery nurse I felt like I couldn’t breath. It very quickly went from me saying this to quite literally fighting for air. My husband told me it looked like my neck filled up with a softball-sized balloon which ended up being two blood vessels in my neck that had broken loose and I was having a suffocating from a massive hematoma. The surgeon rushed back and I was prepped for a second emergency surgery. Thankfully they were able to secure the two blood vessels that had broken loose during my recovery.
I was then advised to start radiation immediately, especially due to the fact that I had this trauma after my procedure. I’m thankful we had the wisdom in this moment to stop and reassess. We made an appointment to seek a second opinion at MD Anderson in Houston.
My new team at MD Anderson advised our family if I had started radiation immediately as I was originally told, it would have significantly increased my breast cancer risk down the road due to inflammation in the breast tissue from just having a child and breast feeding.
We waited until I stopped breastfeeding, did a test dose of radiation to be sure my breast tissue didn’t light up, and then moved forward with radiation in January 2019. I reached NED after radiation and we all celebrated.
On October 12, 2021 we got news the cancer was back (or never left and just wasn’t visible on scans, we aren’t really sure on the exact details) in the lymph nodes in the right of my neck. We continue to have scans to monitor and the tumors have remained stable since October 2021.
One thing our team at MD Anderson did share with our family: your first attempt at removal of cancer is big! We were told had our surgeon used different techniques and removed more of the lymph chains as they would have, there would have been a great chance it would have been gone for good. I use this as an example to others the importance of getting second opinions and the right team behind you, even if you find a doctor with high ratings online, get the second opinion.
I’m thankful to have MD Anderson on our side and that my prognosis is manageable and still looks bright long term.
Cancer didn’t bring me to my knees, it brought me to my feet. I am kinder, friendlier, more patient & understanding. I appreciate everything in life: people, family, friends, art, music & poetry. I mentor other cancer patients.
I chose to deliberately and consciously dedicate my life - in and outside of my employment - to educate, advocate, and learn how best to represent the collective cancer community. Through my own experience surviving cancer and working in the medical space, I want to bridge the gap between the healthcare system and the communities that it serves.