Fighting a Cancer That Rarely Targets Black Women Made Me Courageous

as said Nicole Audrey Spector

It’s probably a sinus infection.

That’s what my doctor thought when I came in a year ago with earache, swollen lymph nodes, difficulty swallowing, and congestion. I was examined and sent home with antibiotics.

The swelling of my lymph nodes has decreased but all my other symptoms have gotten worse. It soon became difficult to swallow food. I relied on smoothies for a living and went from 160 pounds to 120 pounds in just six weeks with no weight loss intentions.

When my doctor saw my hard fall, he placed an order. CT scan said my head and neck and something didn’t seem right. He noticed a lump in the upper part of my throat and scheduled a biopsy.

Just a few nights after seeing the doctor, I woke up out of breath, called 911 and was taken to the hospital by ambulance. I had an urgent business tracheostomy so I could breathe through a tube in my throat and gastrostomy tube It was placed in my stomach so that I could get food.

After various tests, it was determined that I had. squamous cell carcinoma of the hypopharynx, a type of throat cancer. I found out about my diagnosis in the worst possible way – through a hospital text alert on my phone linking to a report that didn’t make much sense to me. “I don’t think I have cancer?” I forwarded it to my primary care doctor.

But I did, he confirmed. And it was aggressive.

I was in complete disbelief. I was just completely stunned—as my doctors explained to me that I was not an unlikely candidate for this type of cancer. I am a black woman, only 40 years old at the time of diagnosis, and have no history of non-smoker or alcohol use. human papillomavirus (HPV).

With this people head and neck cancer type mostly male and over 55 years old. tobacco users and binge drinking are also at greater risk.

The diagnosis was devastating, but in the end there was only the tiniest sliver of relief to know what was going on. My symptoms had already destroyed my life and had stopped my quest to get my teaching certificate. This meant losing my teaching job (a job I loved) and being disabled. My once independent and prosperous life was put in jeopardy. I risked losing my house and my car.

Lauren Sneed2022 (Photo/Ian Giles Photography)

Fortunately, my friends, family, fraternity sisters, and church community stepped in to cover all my expenses. This was very helpful and I burst into tears just thinking about it. Without them, I don’t know where I would be. Their support made it possible for me to get through this tough time without worrying about money.

When I found out I had cancer, my doctors laid out my options for me. I might try chemoradiation therapy or laryngectomy – an operation to remove my throat.

I did not hesitate to choose chemoradiotherapy, which I started immediately. It was an extremely painful process. I still have burns on my neck from radiation.

There were times when I got depressed during treatment. I remember watching a crowd of kids running around one morning as the school was evacuating. I was very angry. “I want my life back!” I thought, curling up like a ball of tears.

Then I realized I had a choice: I could either claim my disease and fight it tooth and nail with dignity and grace, or I could surrender to self-pity and resentment.

The second way would be easy. I chose the former.

But it wasn’t as simple as snapping my fingers and being brave. I needed to deepen my relationship with God to strengthen my spirit.

As I like to think, I began to spend time with God. I do this every morning by keeping a journal, meditating, and praying. It’s an intense practice that I participate in every day – usually up to two hours. During these sessions, my soul is open and completely free to receive positivity and power.

In addition to deepening my relationship with God, I began to pay more attention to my body’s needs. I was getting very little nutrition from my feeding tube but not beyond that. I started making my own juices using all kinds of vegetables, fruits and spices. I feel so much more alive and capable since I integrated homemade juice into my regimen.

Unfortunately, chemoradiation therapy did not get rid of the cancer and my only viable options were immunotherapy or laryngectomy. I chose immunotherapy because I believe that surgery should always be a last resort. But it didn’t fit my body well. And here I am, looking for a last resort: surgery.

I’m going to have a laryngectomy very soon. It’s a big operation and you have to relearn how to swallow afterwards. You no longer have a voice box, so you must learn to speak through a voice box. voice prosthesis. I will breathe through my neck and I cannot smell.

I will have to learn to live in a new body. But I can’t wait for the surgery because I know I can eat and taste it again afterwards. Can you imagine this? Biting a slice of pineapple? Do you feel the sweetness dripping from your chin?

Most importantly, I will be cancer free – and there can be no greater gift than that.

Yet I am not completely fearless. After all, I step into the unknown, confident that I will resurface a different version of myself. I know I’m going to miss smelling, so I stock up on scented candles and aromatherapy so I can savor this sense one last time.

I know I’m going to miss my voice, so I started recording myself reading letters out loud to loved ones—even people I’ve never met, like my future husband.

I want them all to know that my voice is still strong and resounding: It sounds different than when I was born. I want them and everyone else to know that cancer has no color. It can happen to anyone. No problem. Faith and science provide us with this.

I was filled with peace knowing that I would wake up in a very different body while I was getting ready for the surgery sleep. There is nothing to afraid of.

This resource has been created with support from Merck.

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