Mother, CEO/Founder of Parents Against Bullying VA, and Throat Cancer Survivor; Hampton, VA
One day while in her car, Shant’a kept clearing her throat and thought to herself that something was wrong. Using the car’s rearview mirror, she opened her mouth and looked inside. She noticed one of her tonsils looked enlarged. She immediately made a U-turn into the urgent care facility nearby.
After tests and negative results, she was referred to her family doctor, who after three weeks, referred her to an ear, nose and throat specialist. As time progressed, her tonsils continued to grow larger. While she had no pain at this point, her sleep pattern changed. Either she would wake up coughing or choking or awaken because of it. “I was scared, and I knew my body and it was telling me this is not normal,” explained Shant’a.
During meetings and speaking engagements, Shant’a had a hard time breathing but she pressed forward. Then came more doctors’ visits and many more medical tests. This went on for over eight weeks, with Shant’a visiting the Emergency Room on several occasions because it was hard for her to breathe.
“I could barely eat, I was tired because I couldn’t sleep, and my work was suffering as well. Something had to be done,” added Shant’a.
On one particular doctor’s visit, she begged him to remove her tonsils. She was warned that removing them at her age could be rough. She insisted, as there was an enlarged ball in her throat that she knew wasn’t supposed to be there. The medical staff seemed concerned while examining her throat. At that point, she persisted with the surgery and wouldn’t take no for an answer.
Shant’a went to the store the day before her surgery and bought all kinds of popsicles, applesauce, apple juice, pudding, grits and oatmeal. All of the things they advise to eat after a tonsillectomy.
The surgery went well. They biopsied the tissue as a typical procedure, and she was released to go home. However, on the second day home, she woke up to the most excruciating pain.
“I felt like I had swallowed a box of razors and each time I tried to swallow I was being cut on the inside. My throat was on fire. I was coughing up blood and the bleeding wouldn’t stop. I was home alone; the girls were away at school and my fiancé was at work. I didn’t know what to do so I called my mom. With a throat full of blood, my voice couldn’t go louder than a whisper. Mom rushed right over, called the doctor, and took me in immediately.”
Shant’a was admitted back to surgery where the incision was cauterized. The bleeding stopped, and she was released to go back home.
At the follow-up appointment, she learned the biopsy revealed throat cancer. “I felt like the air was let out of me. All I could think about were my kids. As soon as I heard the word ’cancer,’ I thought of dying. The doctor kept talking but I couldn’t hear him. Although I knew the road ahead would be challenging, I was so grateful that I listened to my body and forced the doctor to have the tonsillectomy. My second surgery was scheduled for the following month.”
While there was full transparency from her medical team, her home life was the opposite. Shant’a hid her diagnosis from her twin daughters. “Their high school graduation was coming up and I wanted them to graduate with happy hearts and to be excited about their next steps. College awaited them. I wanted to have everything perfect so no one would be worried about me, so I kept postponing and pushing the surgery date further and further away,” explained Shant’a. “It was like I was stuck and couldn’t move forward, petrified of what could happen. I didn’t tell anyone that I was diagnosed with head and neck cancer. I did not stop my work with PABVA, even though I was suffering physically. So, I kept pushing and praying, which I’ve learned to go hand in hand most of the time. I put off my surgery so many times that I had to sign a medical release form. They did not want to be responsible if something bad happened to me – and I understood their position. I was just trying to keep my life as normal as possible for as long as I could.”
Shant’a finally scheduled her surgery. After the seven-hour procedure, she woke up in the ICU, very groggy, with a feeding tube, and two tubes running out of her neck, an incision from behind her ear to the middle of her throat, and two incisions on the top of her shoulder blade. During all this time, Shant’a’s fiancé never left her side.
Three days later, while still in the ICU, her doctor walked in and gave the greatest news ever… “I was cancer-free. No radiation needed. No chemo needed.”
Every day when she looks in the mirror and touches her scars, she sees them and they give her hope. “Look at God! My scars aren’t ugly – they are truly my testimony.”
Shant’a feels stronger today than yesterday. Her goals and agenda have not changed. In fact, she feels more rejuvenated than ever as she has been blessed with more time.
She is reminded that she pushed through too much. To push means to move forward using force to get past something or someone. And as CEO for P.U.S.H. Professional Consulting, LLC, her motto—and what Shant’a continues to live by—is P.U.S.H. (P=Patience, U=Understanding, S=Stabliity to H=Handle your Business).
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