30 Stories in 30 Days
April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month. For the next 4 weeks, we will post stories written by oral cancer survivors, caregivers and friends for our 30 Stories in 30 Days campaign. We hope their perspectives and insight will help others along their journey.
It’s been some time since I underwent a last resort surgery to stop my cancer from coming back. This surgery required the removal of my entire larynx. Prior to this surgery, I could not fathom how all of this happened. At 47 years old, I was at the prime of my life and career. It was difficult to conceive that my life as I knew it would change dramatically. My doctor informed me that I would have to breathe through an opening in my neck, and I would require the assistance of a voice prosthesis to speak. My attitude towards everyone was not good. I was mad at the world. People would tell me that everything is going to be alright and I would yell at them, telling them “it wasn’t going to be alright, I will have a hole in my neck for the rest of my life”. One day I said to myself, I have to stop thinking about how I got cancer, I got it and that’s that. I have to deal with it now and move on with my life because I can’t change it. That’s when I changed my attitude.
After surgery, I felt remarkably better, and I was determined that I would live life to the fullest and pursue what I love—not letting any barriers set me back. I signed up for a 5K that the THANC Foundation had organized to raise awareness of head and neck cancers. I resolved to walk 2 miles a day, and then 4 miles a day and, despite the concern of my doctors, only six weeks after surgery I ran in this event. My friends and family supported me and helped me raise over $10,000 towards head and neck cancer research.
My immediate support system—my wife, my kids and my mom—got me through the darkest of times. Because of them, I was never left alone to let defeating thoughts engulf my mind. I get emotional when I reflect on those dark days, but I don’t dwell on the difficulties I went through. I am entirely convinced that my life changed for the better after surgery.
One of the ways that I changed is I no longer worry about the little things. it’s hard to explain but prior to my surgery and my journey battling cancer, I would be worried over little things and I would let these thoughts take up my mind space. Nowadays, I pick and choose my battles, I realize that life is much easier when you are not consumed with worry. What I would tell people going through a similar journey is something I live by, “you may think your life is bad, but there is always someone out there that’s worse off than you are.” I encourage people to seek support and not to refuse when someone offers to help you.
I also encourage people to still pursue what they are passionate about. I love traveling and since surgery I have been on four cruises, visited the Tennessee Smoky Mountains, Florida, Maryland, North Carolina, Baltimore, and my favorite vacation spot—Aruba. I am excited for my next adventure!