February 10, 2014

Theresa Yatsko | Esthesioneuroblastoma survivor

“Every day I wake up and feel blessed for being given a chance to live today, rain or shine. I choose to live and fight for tomorrow.

I was originally diagnosed with esthesioneuroblastoma, also known as olfactory neuroblastoma, on July 1, 2012. The cancer spread to my spine, hip bone and lymph nodes.

The most significant moment of my treatment was waking from my first surgery to see my face without a nose. Two more surgeries further altered my face and head, but I know my treatment at UAMS will help me be victorious in my war! I am a warrior.

Although I lost my nose and sense of smell, I can still taste food. I try to find positives more than negatives and am grateful.

My 80-year-old mother has been by my side every step of my long journey. It’s been hard, but her support and love keeps me going. The nurses and interns also gave me comfort and caring support. There are unbelievable people at UAMS and on my Texarkana care team, who worked with my UAMS team. My team at UAMS included Dr. Stack, Dr. Arnaoutakis and Dr. Pena.

People who are newly diagnosed should gather their support team and their notebook and prepare for their journey. Find strength from others. Do not be afraid to need and ask for help. You are not alone – ever! UAMS and your family are always there in your corner.

It’s not an easy road, not a short road — but it’s my road, my journey. The people I have met and who became part of my journey are so important to me and my success in the fight to survive. They are part of my cancer war family. I learned to lean on them and they encouraged me every step of the way.

The team at UAMS has always been ready and willing to help me with any problems or questions. From the time you walk through the door for the first time — scared and worried — you are met by people who care about you. They will do things you don’t even know you need.

I have survived these past 19 months because of the full-scope team at the Cancer Institute. They believe in me. I trust them to care for me, treat my cancer and help me win this war.

Today was my final chemo treatment. I have been looking forward to this Seed of Hope ceremony for about a month!

I still look forward to hearing the words “no evidence of cancer” for the first time. Then I can start regaining my life and be a part of society again. I will be able to reopen my volunteer nonprofit, which provides free tax preparation for people who can’t afford it. It’s my life’s goal to give back what I know.”

Theresa Yatsko
Esthesioneuroblastoma survivor
Texarkana, Ark.