Episode 7 of the Intersection of Cancer and Life features one of my wonderful college friends, Annelise Cohon. Anna is an education specialist and innovative leader, with more than eight years of professional experience in advancing quality education for all children. She is passionate about the intersection of education and health. She is driven to ensure that all students have the social and emotional supports needed to be successful.
Shortly after my own cancer diagnosis, Anna reached out to me and shared her own cancer story. Hearing her experience gave me the first beginnings of community in the world of cancer, and she and I have been able to reconnect over our shared health challenges. In this episode, Anna talks publicly for one of the first times about her thyroid cancer diagnosis at age 30, subsequent recurrence the following year, as well as how it has both challenged her and given her the opportunity to find new focus on helping kids who have been impacted by trauma and shareher love of yoga and mindfulness with others.
In 2015, Anna experienced a panic attack, and at that time, doctor found a few nodules in her thyroid. After multiple ultrasounds and needle biopsies she underwent a total thyroidectomy. In April 2016, while Anna and her husband were planning to travel the world for a year, an ultrasound revealed that her thyroid cancer had returned. She underwent another surgery and radioactive iodine treatment, and her trip was cancelled. Her recurrence showed her that she was not getting the support that she needed, and she sought out a more specialized, experienced team, teaching her how to be a better advocate for her health.
Having her thyroid removed changed a lot of things in Anna’s life and forced her to focus on her health and herself. While the experience was incredibly hard, scary and humbling and she will be on medication for the rest of her life, this experience has pushed her to focus on the things and people that matter most to her.
Anna and I had the opportunity to discuss the importance of finding our own voices as both women and patients in order to advocate for our own health needs. We talked about so many of the unexpected turns that life has taken us, and how she has found so much space for herself as a children’s yoga teacher.