Yasminda Chavez-Smith

It’s like making a cake. Combine your attitude, faith, doctors, friends, exercises and nutrition. When you put it all together, you can find happiness and hope.

It started with a tiny thing on my tongue. Anyone who saw it would’ve said, “That’s nothing, don’t worry about it.” It was cancer! It grew so fast. My cancer was very aggressive. When I got the diagnosis, my jaw hit the floor. I couldn’t believe it. I thought, “What do I do now?” But I have deep faith in God. And I completely trusted my doctors.

It was actually the second time I had cancer. Eight years earlier, I had breast cancer. I learned from my first experience to have faith, find the best doctors, stay positive, and surround myself with a strong support system. When I found out I had tongue cancer, I knew to get a second opinion. It’s important to find a doctor you can blindly trust, and I did. You want to know in your heart that they are your best ally. Then you know everything will be fine.

…cancer made me more realistic, more decisive and I think more human.

When I went into surgery, we thought it was going to be a simple procedure, but once they opened me up, they realized I needed a more extensive operation. It took much longer than they thought it would, and they needed a graft from my arm to reconstruct my tongue. But again, I was confident that my doctors knew everything. Everyone who took care of me showed the greatest compassion and professionalism.    

In the beginning of my cancer journey, I didn’t feel strong. Through the process, I didn’t always feel strong, and even now, I’m not totally strong. But cancer made me more realistic, more decisive, and I think more human. Cancer comes with a boat-load of emotions. It’s an unfamiliar path in a person’s life. Sometimes I wanted to hide. It’s not always easy, and when you are sick, you may not want to talk to anybody. But it helps so much to keep in touch with family and friends. Allow people to be gentle and kind to you. If you open your heart to it, you will see the kindness, and you will be fine.

In the end, remember you are in a special moment–all you have to focus on is your life!

Try not to let negative things come your way. Surround yourself with positive people and messages! From the moment I knew I had cancer, I only watched the Disney channel. I was all about positivity, prayer, and happiness. I watched cartoons because I believe laughter truly heals! I had good food and nice conversations. Whenever I went to the doctor, somebody always went with me to help take notes and remember the conversation. There was never a moment when I felt alone.    

In the end, remember you are in a special moment–all you have to focus on is your life! It’s like making a cake. Combine all the ingredients: your attitude, your faith, good doctors, friends, a support group, exercises and nutrition. When you put it all together, you can find happiness and hope.