Survivor Spotlight: Talia

11 years ago, I had an abnormal ultrasound and had my neck biopsied. It was inconclusive and a wait and watch approach was taken. My understanding was it was nothing, but it sat in the back of my mind. 2 years ago, I felt a new lump in my neck and I asked to have it checked.

I waited for 3 months for the ultrasound and was told it was nothing again and that we would keep waiting and watching. But in those 3 months I’d also begun having episodes. My heart would start beating up to 150 bpm in such random circumstances. A yoga class, making breakfast, checking Facebook. Just after the ultrasound one of these episodes scared me enough, I went to the ER. Weirdly my throat also hurt from the ultrasound. In the ER the doc reviewed my results and wanted to run my scans by the Radiologist. I believe they saved my life. She organized an emergency biopsy and was prepared to admit me if they wouldn’t get me in the next morning. She gave me her direct line and made sure my doctor referred me to a surgeon even though they disagreed, and my biopsy was inconclusive.

She prepared me for a cancer diagnosis.

I was then referred to an ENT who also was certain it was cancer. My biopsies continued to be inconclusive, so an exploratory surgery was planned. Half my thyroid was removed along with 6 lymph from different levels in my neck. All were positive for cancer, with the largest lymph node being 2.4cm. Unfortunately, in those 11 years the cancer had grown more than anticipated. My next surgery was planned. It was such a challenging time. Healing from surgery, parenting, working and trying to wrap my head around what was next.

My second surgery was another 3 hours. A total of 78 lymph nodes were removed (35 positive), muscle and nerves were stripped and cleaned or removed. All the soft tissue surrounding these nodes was taken out and a portion of my thymus. Recovery has been hard. I am now disabled but able to function with regular acupuncture treatments.

What I want you to know though is this… At some point I realized I had a choice; become vulnerable and admit how scared I was, how sad, how angry or build walls and hide it all. My choice to break down and focus on being present in every moment and feeling, allowed me to emerge stronger. I had never known or accepted how deeply my husband loved me until I told him how afraid I was. How much my friends loved me until I asked to borrow their strength. Or acknowledged the pain when those I needed couldn’t be there how I needed.

Now I am in therapy. Dealing with the trauma and embracing this new version of me. I am learning what I can do with my body. I am sturdier in my relationships and clearer on who I am. I have a new understanding of strong.

Cancer was not a gift, but change happens in all moments, and I embraced the opportunity to look at my world and live with a clarity I did not have before. ​

Thank you Talia for sharing your journey with us! Most importantly for reminding us that change happens and to take the opportunity to embrace it! You can follow Talia on Instagram @the_mariners_wife_

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