Meryl is a head and neck cancer fighter who feels strongly about helping others and advocating for oral cancer awareness. Meryl was living her full life in Fort Lauderdale, Florida with her husband when she was diagnosed with stage IV tongue cancer at age 31. She underwent reconstructive surgery to remove 50 percent of her tongue and she endured 30 sessions of radiation treatment. Unfortunately, due to new symptoms, she underwent surgery in February 2018 where she was diagnosed with a recurrence of cancer in a difficult spot on her right neck in-between her saliva gland and jaw along with metastasis in her lungs. Meryl underwent 18 weeks of chemotherapy treatment and she is now receiving immunotherapy treatment through a clinical trial at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Florida.
Meryl has worked as a board-certified music therapist for over 10 years and she graduated with her master’s in occupational therapy in May 2018. Meryl’s dedication to helping others coupled with her scholastic efforts were recognized at the Barry University Occupational Therapy Program Anointing of Hands and Pinning Ceremony where the faculty awarded her the “Most Inspirational Student Award.” Meryl continues to work with patients and groups as she is undergoing bi-weekly immunotherapy treatment.
Meryl’s passion and patient knowledge will enable her to continue to help others who are enduring head and neck cancer. Follow Meryl’s cancer journey on her Instagram page @cancersimpact.
Cancer is typically not something to celebrate however, I am a 32-year-old social butterfly and true extrovert, so I wanted to have a party! My life in Fort Lauderdale was turned upside down when I was diagnosed with stage IV tongue cancer. I underwent a nine-hour surgery to remove 50 percent of my tongue. I endured reconstructive surgery that included a skin graft from my left thigh being placed on her forearm. My forearm skin was then used to create a flap that functions as my new tongue. After surgery, I had radiation treatment, speech, occupational and physical therapy.
My husband, parents and I were blown away by the blessings of love and support from friends and family members near and far. I knew the best way to thank others and to celebrate being complete with surgery and radiation was to have a party. Since every party has a theme, I decided my theme was a motto that kept me fighting and strong throughout treatment: "F*** cancer!"
The party’s decorations and food reinforced the theme. Red Jell-O shots were served using left over (unused) syringes from when I had an NG tube. I had a, “candy table” which included Tick-Tacks to mimic Percocet, Good and Plenty’s for vitamins, white chocolate Whoppers for Oxycodone and lollipops just because: cancer sucks!
Additionally, I used over 150 get well cards as the party’s banner and decoration. No party is complete unless there are games and of course it had to follow the theme! But first let’s get back to some important history. I underwent 30 treatments of radiation where I had to wear a radiation mask for 15 minutes every day that enabled me not to move or swallow.
My friends and I agreed that this mask looked like something out of a horror movie and it was very unattractive! When I completed treatment, I rang the victory bell and was provided with the mask as a keepsake. I hated this mask and had no use for it in my beach-themed Florida condo.
I decided the best thing to do with the mask was to make it a piñata! I put candy in the mask and hung it up during the "F*** Cancer" party. I used a golf club to hit the piñata and finally “destroy” the scary mask. Candy flung everywhere, and everyone was cheering!
Sometimes we just need to celebrate little and big events in life.
I believe that fighting cancer is a much-needed cause for a special and unique celebration.