Michelle U.

“On March 16th, 2022, I had been cancer free for 4,446 days. My high school sweetheart and I were entering our second year of marriage, and I can honestly say we were happy. My husband was concluding his fifth year as an electrical apprentice, and I was working part-time as an after-school educator. On the surface, at least, everything was going perfectly. Except for my chest pain…

Starting in March of 2021, alarming symptoms overtook my body. My body’s unwillingness to swallow solids and liquids caused intense chest pain, and my condition was automatically and erroneously identified by healthcare workers as acid reflux. However, when I dramatically lost fifty pounds in three months, I finally had the attention of my hematology team…

The CT scan they performed resembled the night sky on the 4th of July. The first firework was located in my thyroid gland, and a thyroid biopsy confirmed, on March 17th, 2022, Stage 3 thyroid carcinoma. As if that wasn’t enough, my employer relieved me of my duties, just as I learned that the second firework was the diagnosis of Stage 4 squamous cell esophageal carcinoma. The final firework came in the form of Stage 4 squamous cell tongue carcinoma.

It was at this time that Bikira Radcliffe, from United Colors of Cancer, reached out to me. I had launched a GoFundMe campaign so I could cross off an item on my bucket list, which was visiting the gorgeous state of Colorado. Bikira took notice of my fundraiser and was one of the people who really helped make that wonderful, colorful trip to Colorado happen. While I was in the Rockies, I even wrote a poem illustrating how contributors like United Colors of Cancer helped me have an amazing, “quality of life” experience in Denver. After everything this terminal cancer patient had gone through, the clouds momentarily cleared, a beacon of light appeared, and United Colors of Cancer emerged in the form of a rainbow. 

Ever since I was ten, I’ve accepted that cancer would be a part of my life, but I vowed that cancer would never become me. As a Native Hawaiian, cancer has attempted to steal my identity multiple times, and shown me that it can hide and hibernate like deadly earthquakes, thunderstorms, and tornadoes. Right now, I am learning how to live simultaneously with three terminal cancers, and UCC is reminding me, even as I undergo chemotherapy to prolong my life, that I need to live my life. Traveling by myself has always been a joy and respite for me, and UCC is helping me to be able to take small trips to better my quality of life.

Cancer does not discriminate, and UCC has helped me remember that cancer feeds on people of all colors, ages, creeds, and lifestyles. Thanks to UCC, and their support, my self-esteem is really strong. I am 4’10”, 85 pounds, 33 years-old, and even though I’m g-tube, medi-port, and walker assisted, I do not wear wigs, baggy clothes, or hats to conceal my identity. I proudly showcase my body, my beautiful body, so that outsiders are able to see me, and be reminded that cancer has no boundaries.”