May 22, 2024
Survivor Voices

Survivor Voices: Francesca, a thyroid cancer survivor

Today, we’re honored to share Francesca Olguin’s story.

As a proud Latina woman, Francesca is very vocal about her experiences with healthcare inequities and how her experience as a cancer patient impacted her survivorship, and career path, over a decade later. We are very grateful to have had the opportunity to hear a little bit of her story. 

“The first person to notice something was wrong with me was a gas station attendant when I was 12. They asked me why there was a big lump on the side of my neck, which my family and I had not noticed. We saw eight physicians over the next three years, including an oncologist, trying to understand what it was and why more were popping up, and were assured repeatedly that it was not cancer. We could not get a biopsy approved by our insurance, so my parents took out a loan to pay for one out-of-pocket and my allergist called in a favor to an ENT to get an elective biopsy. Unfortunately, it was thyroid cancer and during those years it had spread significantly through my neck and lungs. I was 15 when I was finally diagnosed and underwent treatment."

“There are several resources I wish I had throughout treatment and survivorship. I have been looking for good support groups for years, and only recently found a few resources that I have been enjoying going to. One is a support group for Latina women in Spanish and one is a hiking support group for young cancer survivors. While these groups are excellent resources, I wish I had a bigger network to find young thyroid cancer survivors I could connect with. For me, being a cancer survivor represents an opportunity to give back and help others through their journey. I come from a low-income background and my story exemplifies how minority patients get diagnosed at later stages of disease, struggle to pay for their treatments, and how these can lead to worse outcomes. In the future, my goal is to become an Oncologist and I hope my personal experiences will make me a better physician and allow me to have an impact on reducing health inequities.” 

“Survivorship is such a complicated beast. I realized after celebrating my birthday this year that I have spent almost half of my life with cancer. Now 12 years after my diagnosis, I am starting to see some of the long-term side effects of radiation and feel a near-constant worry about secondary cancers. These caused me an enormous amount of distress for several years, but my family and support system have been helping me focus on solution-oriented ways to handle these emotions and setbacks. For me, one of the hardest parts about survivorship for me is how to live with uncertainty; how to plan for the future, near and far, but always know in the back of your mind that anything can happen."

"While each year brings new health challenges, I feel like I am much more emotionally equipped to handle them. I have finally settled down into my medication routine, medical school, exercise, and I am always trying to remind myself to take time for things that bring me happiness. My focus from now on is wellness, joy, and living the life I deserve!”

Thank you, Francesca, for sharing your story with the OncoveryCare community and for sharing openly about your experiences with healthcare. 

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