Wife and Instructional Designer at Johns Hopkins Health System,
Survivor of Throat Cancer;
In the fall of 2019, Cristiana’s voice started to get hoarse. It seemed to be better some days than others, but it progressively worsened over a few months. She went to see her primary care provider and was given a referral to an ENT.
At the time Cristiana thought it was an overreaction for a hoarse voice. Her voice, however, continued to weaken and became difficult for others to hear her and understand what she was saying.
She went to the ENT and he could see swelling in my throat. After some tests and a biopsy, it was identified as throat cancer. She was then referred to a surgeon specializing in Head and Neck Surgery. Her treatment plan included both radiation and chemotherapy.
Cristiana underwent radiation every weekday, Monday through Friday and chemotherapy once a week, for six weeks.
“I had to have a hearing test because the chemotherapy I was receiving could cause tinnitus and hearing loss. I also had blood tests every week,” explained Cristiana. “Because I have claustrophobia, I took anti-anxiety medication. Radiation and chemotherapy can cause fatigue, and combined with the side effects of the anti-anxiety medication, I would sleep almost 15 to 20 hours a day after a few weeks of treatment.”
Cristiana found it helpful to connect with a friend of a friend, who survived breast cancer. Even though their treatments were different, they shared some similar experiences.
Her wonderful husband, Chris, was an excellent caregiver. The COVID-19 quarantine started around the same time as her treatments, and Chris’s business closed temporarily. He was able to take Cristiana to all her treatments and appointments.
Cristiana’s mother also moved in with them during this time as well. “I was lucky to have her to help us and also felt lucky that she wasn’t alone during quarantine. We also share our house with a delightful lab named Rufus,” she explained.
Cristiana is back to work, creating online training classes at Johns Hopkins Healthcare.
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