Editor's Note: This is the first entry submitted in our Scholarship Contest for Patients and Caregivers to attend the Mayo Clinic Social Media Summit Oct. 17-21 in Rochester, Minn. See this post
or more details on the contest, and please cast your votes by liking or commenting on the candidates you think would be best.
Here is Jennifer Barber's Essay:
After 15 years in broadcast news, I had it all. Living in my dream town. Working my dream job. And pursuing the life I envisioned.
Then it all came crashing down.
Just after 9/11, I started reporting on-air at the ABC affiliate in Denver. But getting the words out of my mouth became increasingly difficult.
I thought I had a bad case of laryngitis. Concerned, my father urged me to see a doctor. Half way through a round of antibiotics, and not regaining voice quality, I asked the physician assistant I saw to give me a referral to an E.N.T. She refused and told me to stick out the antibiotics. The next day, I demanded the referral.
Instinct served me well. My surgeon removed - as he put it - “a growth the size of a Jimmy Dean sausage,” from my right vocal cord. He told me it was the largest polyp he’d seen in 30 years. That “polyp” was squamous cell carcinoma.
During 2002, I’d ride a roller coaster like no other. Two surgeons. Three surgeries. My case before the “tumor board.” I’d meet the most amazing man. And I’d get engaged.
At 30-years-old, I was facing life-changing events faster than I could comprehend.
Surgery number three left me speechless, quite literally. The prescription? Speech therapy. My doctor’s goal was to get me back on-air. In 2003, I was able to put two words together in a sentence. I said, “I do,” to my best friend, Jim. His support never wavered through my ups and downs. Later that year, our little Emma came into our lives.
On Emma’s 1st birthday, I was in the O.R. having surgery number four. When the news came back that this was again cancerous, I broke down in sobs. How could this be? How could I stop it?
Jim had heard great things about Mayo Clinic from co-workers and his company. I retired from television news and in 2005, we sold our home in Colorado and moved to Arizona.
Dr. Michael Hinni agreed to take my case.
I’ll never forget my first appointment. Dr. Hinni’s goal wasn’t to save my voice – as I’d been trying to do. The goal became to keep me alive for another 60 years.
In the first two weeks of living in Arizona, I saw several specialists, underwent various tests, and started a new plan to lessen my recurrences.
Dr. Hinni performed surgeries five and six. After the sixth surgery, though, I began to think that I should back away from ambitious goals.
You see, in 2008, I had just helped Goodyear, Arizona win the All-America City award by leading the city’s application and presentation process. The unique competition motivated me to co-found a health and wellness non profit.
When I told Dr. Hinni about my concerns over committing to new work, he told me that I should never let my throat setbacks get in the way of my dreams. It turned out to be the best advice I’d ever receive.
Arizona In ACTION, the non profit I helped co-found, just expanded into a state-wide organization. Winning the scholarship for the Mayo Clinic Social Media Summit would help our outreach efforts greatly.
Please visit ArizonaInACTION.org. We use Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube. (The broadcasting skills came in handy when I edited our video!)
If selected, I could share my limited - but positive - experience with social media. This spring, I used Facebook creatively to get donations of tennis shoes for underprivileged children. I use LinkedIn to promote the organizations that support our non profit as a benefit of their membership.
And Twitter? Well, this is where I could use a little help.
With the new skills I learn at the summit, I’d be able to share our message of ‘promoting, educating, and motivating people to live healthier lifestyles’ more effectively.
Because of the great care I’ve received at Mayo Clinic, I’m enjoying a loving marriage, hugs and kisses from Emma, and a voice that is clear to understand.
A voice… that is THREE YEARS CANCER FREE!