I started my journey with cancer 18 years ago. I was undergoing a different procedure when the doctors first noticed a mass on my tongue. They had trouble intubating me because it was in the way. They referred me to oncology, where I met my doctor, and he made the cancer diagnosis.
Initially, I was scared, angry and afraid of the unknown. But I discovered I’m an optimistic person. We all deal with unpleasant events in our lives, but I believe the path is paved, and that helps me. I believe things work out the way they’re supposed to. The doctor successfully removed the mass, and luckily, I did not need chemotherapy or radiation. I thought my cancer journey was over.
I planned to follow up with my doctor on regular visits. But his office was in New York, and because I lived outside the city, it got harder to visit. For a few years, I wasn’t able to see him. Ten years after the tongue mass, another lump formed, this time on the left side of my neck.
When I received my second diagnosis, I was upset. I was scared to tell my kids. My daughter was young the first time, but now she was about to start high school. I didn’t want my children to be afraid if they ever got a diagnosis, and I didn’t want them to be afraid for me. The ride back to my house from the doctor’s office was my little pity party. Then I got up and moved forward. When I arrived home, I told them the news, and I said, “Everything’s going to be fine.” Again, my doctor removed the mass. Unfortunately, I had to follow up with radiation treatment, but I got through it. I survived cancer not once, but twice.
Another eight years later, last year, I noticed a lump on the right side of my neck. It started bothering me, but my appointments were pushed back and delayed because of the pandemic. My doctor and I did a virtual visit, and it turned out to be cancer again.
The third time, I wasn’t scared of the cancer. I was more anxious to get it resolved, and of course, we’re living in a scary time. Thankfully, the doctor resolved it quickly. I had the surgery Thursday morning, came home Friday afternoon, and was back at work on Monday. I didn’t have to follow up with anything. I survived cancer not once, not twice, but three times.
Throughout my experience, I learned to appreciate things more and have more patience. I appreciate my family, friends and faith and never take anything for granted. Kindness means more to the people around us, as everyone has a story they are working through.
For someone receiving a new diagnosis, remember it’s not a death sentence or the end of your ability. It’s just the beginning—another stepping stone in your life. Science has come so far. If you have a doctor you trust, it can alleviate a lot of the fear. I had faith in my doctor, and I’m proud of my warrior scars. I always believe God gives us what we can handle.
Day to day, I don’t dwell on the experience. Instead, I do my best to take care of myself. My path takes me wherever it takes me, and I don’t let cancer hold me back.