On Thanksgiving Day 2001, cancer picked a fight with me.
And I?ve been fighting back ever since.
I?ll never forget the day I awoke from surgery: my parents were weeping by my bedside. What was supposed to be routine surgery to remove fibroid tumors turned into a six hour surgery to remove ovarian cancer and included a hysterectomy.
I was only 30. Along with the physical things I had lost were the hopes and dreams of a young woman: having kids someday, knowing what it?s like to bring life into the world.
To make matters worse, I couldn?t start treatment because I had no health insurance. After wasting two months navigating the social services system, I learned about indigent care, which eventually saved my life. But not before my cancer had a chance to spread to my liver and the lining of my stomach. The prognosis was grim, but I never gave up.
Thanks to God, my body went into remission and for the next five years my fiancé Robert and I immersed ourselves into cancer advocacy. We learned about the Lance Armstrong Foundation and became LIVESTRONG Leaders. We started a cancer support group that meets the second Tuesday of every month at our local American Cancer Society.
But then in 2008, I was diagnosed with a second primary cancer, this time of the thyroid. By the summer, I had my thyroid, two parathyroids and 50 lymph nodes removed. Five months later, while preparing for radioactive iodine treatment, my cancer was totally gone from my body. Another miracle! Three months later he noted I had lymph nodes in my neck that were threatening to turn into cancer once again. And that is where things stand now.
I?ve traveled all over the world for cancer conferences, summits and meetings. I?ve done speaking engagements for three people, 300 people and everything in between.
My nephew recognized both the LIVESTRONG logo and Relay For Life logo when he was a toddler and would say: ?Fight cancer!? This past weekend, he turned his words into action by hosting a lemonade stand to raise money for LIVESTRONG.
September was a wild mixture of cancer awareness activities, from my nephew?s lemonade stand fundraiser, to an Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month event and donating 8-inches of my hair for Children With Hair-loss, a Michigan-based nonprofit that provides wigs for children with cancer.
And of course, there?s LIVESTRONG Day. All month, we?ve been planning a huge event in Corpus Christi on October 2 at 6 p.m. Mayor Joe Adame, a cancer survivor, will declare LIVESTRONG Day in Corpus Christi and we?ll have a glow stick ceremony to honor those lost to the disease.
I know some people think I?m crazy. I live and breathe cancer advocacy. I hope they understand a cure is my only hope. With a second cancer diagnosis, my chance of getting a different cancer in the future increases. At only 39, this saddens me, but more than that, it ticks me off. I refuse to sit back and do nothing when lives could be saved.
Despite feeling sick all month, (I?m currently being tested for another cancer) I was able to do more in one month than most healthy people are willing to do in a lifetime. I?m not saying that boastfully. Believe me, the thought depresses me. That?s why I encourage everyone to take a stand with me in the fight against cancer. Do something to improve your part of the world. Save a life.
Unite and fight cancer.