Racing despite adenoid cystic carcinoma metastasis

In the last five years, I’ve competed in 10 professional outrigger canoeing competitions across North and South America. I’ve also had stereotactic radiation therapy and cryoablation, and taken immunotherapy and targeted therapy drugs to treat my metastatic adenoid cystic carcinoma, a rare type of head and neck cancer. To say I’m blessed to be able to maintain my professional canoeing career while undergoing cancer treatment at MD Anderson is an understatement. An unexpected adenoid cystic carcinoma diagnosis My cancer journey began in 2007, when I discovered a tiny bump behind my left ear. Being only 28 at the time, I didn’t think much of it. But when I started feeling pain around the bump six months later, I went to a head and neck specialist in my native country of Peru. The doctor said I likely had a benign tumor that needed to be removed. Unfortunately, after my surgery, pathology results showed my tumor was actually adenoid cystic carcinoma. I completed 30 rounds of radiation therapy and went into remission. My adenoid cystic carcinoma recurrence I continued to show no evidence of disease until 2013. During a follow-up appointment, a PET scan showed suspicious activity in the L3 vertebra of my spine. By then, I’d already been competing professionally with Peru’s national women’s outrigger team for a year, and I worried that this new cancer diagnosis would end my career. My father urged me to seek a second opinion at MD Anderson, so with the help of MD Anderson’s International Center, we scheduled my first appointment with Dr. Ehab Hanna. When I met with Dr. Hanna the first time,...