Your Story Matters
Aniko Peterson - CEO of pH Balance Skincare
When I was 26 years old, I noticed a lump near my breast. I had already lost my grandmother, a survivor of internment in a Soviet work camp during World War II, someone I thought was invincible, to Breast Cancer. I immediately went to the doctor. Fortunately, the lump was a benign cyst. A few weeks later I began experiencing excruciating pain in my abdomen. Again, I went to the doctors. They removed my appendix, only to discover a week later that it was not the cause of my pain. The doctors finally discovered that I had Stage III Cervical Cancer. I needed to be operated on immediately. I was a single mother, struggling to support my son and I, slowly losing hope. But my grandmother taught me that despite how hard life is, as long as you believe in what can be, you can survive. After a hysterectomy and additional treatment, I beat cancer. I beat cancer for my son, for my grandmother, and for me. I now dedicate my life to helping others beat the awful disease.
Four years ago, my entire world changed…
I made my way to Miami for a second opinion on a leg injury from my car accident 5 months prior. I was unable to walk but FULLY expected my diagnosis to be a torn meniscus and a Baker’s cyst. I told myself “all I need is surgery and then this will be behind me”.
I will never forget the shock and emotion I felt on 11/11/15. My MRI scan showed something very wrong. That big white blob? Active Aggressive Fibromatosis of the left popliteal fossa. Complete with strangled artery, that if not treated NOW, could end in amputation.
Cancer was the LAST possibility in my mind. “I need a biopsy, why?”, “I’m sorry, I have what?”, “What does aggressive mean?”, “I need 24 weekly rounds of CHEMOTHERAPY?” — I’m sorry, I think you have the wrong person, car accidents don’t cause cancer!
After two rounds of chemotherapy and relearning to walk through physical therapy, I walked into my orthopedic surgeon’s office in December 2018 for a determination on whether or not I would continue with chemo, or be done for now. All I heard was “decreased vascularity”, “increased collagen”, “the tumor is so dense it’s absorbing all the waves”. These comments were soon followed by cheers and thumbs-up from all 8 doctors and nurses. My tumor responded well to the treatment, and it was his recommendation to stop chemo.
While I’m thankful to be done with chemo, its effects still linger. One of the main effects? My skin is WRECKED. Dark spots, dryness, and irritation. Accompanied by chronic fatigue, newly curly hair, and overcoming emotional and physical trauma.
Cancer doesn’t take a break. It’s been on my mind every day for four years. It’s an everyday choice to fight. I’ve tried my best to not let cancer define me, but instead motivate me to live a full and loving life, since I now understand I only get one.
Thanks for reading!