My advice to other patients: Focus on today

I am a strong, athletic, never-been-sick type of person. I am also very career-driven. So when I was diagnosed with stage IV squamous cell carcinoma of the tongue, a type of oral cancer, in 2016, I thought it’d be no problem. I’d undergo treatment and keep working while I was doing it. Boy, was I wrong. That might be true for some people, but it sure wasn’t for me. I was hospitalized for a week after my very first chemotherapy treatment. I had to be flown back to Houston from Mississippi so my care team could see me personally. I was dehydrated and a total mess. At one point, I had a complete meltdown, and one of the nurses had to sedate me to keep me from yelling. (So embarrassing!) But then, she called in an MD Anderson social work counselor, Djuana Fomby, who helped me put it all in perspective. The day I met with Fomby changed my entire outlook. My biggest challenge: relinquishing control I was really mad when I was admitted to the hospital. I thought I’d failed because I wasn’t strong enough. I’d heard all these stories about people who were still working while on chemotherapy and felt totally fine. That was not my experience. I could barely move and was really weak. I also had to get a PEG tube inserted much sooner than I expected to, because the chemotherapy was attacking the tumor in my mouth, which was affecting the way my tongue and throat functioned. Suddenly, I couldn’t swallow anything, so eating and drinking were not possible. That felt like another way...