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2020 was a year none of us will ever forget. For me, it also brought a medical diagnosis that changed my life forever.

In June of 2019, I began to have unexplained, chronic pain in my nose. My family doctor was not initially concerned, but over the following months the pain became increasingly unbearable, and I knew something was seriously wrong. It wasn’t until the following February that I received the correct diagnosis: a rare nasal cancer. As a 40-year-old female in otherwise good health, my cancer was described as a medical anomaly.

I underwent aggressive radiation treatment, but in my case, the tumour did not respond. Surgical removal of my nose was the only remaining option. In July of 2020, I underwent a full rhinectomy and partial maxillectomy.

I will be fitted for a temporary prosthetic nose once I fully heal, followed eventually by further surgery for the permanent implants.

Losing my nose has forced me to physically adapt virtually all my daily activities, such as eating, sleeping and even showering. Along with this, I am adjusting to living with a facial difference. Those born with facial differences know all too well the experiences of discomfort, stares, and whispers from others.

As a public health professional, I have always known the power of education, and now I am more determined than ever to educate people. I take every opportunity I can to make eye contact, to smile, and to tell my story.

I want people to know that to be alive is a gift, and that we are so much more than our differences.

I am determined. I am resilient. I am grateful.