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Terrilyn Renella (Parotid Gland Tumour)

Terrilyn Renella (Parotid Gland Tumour)

About me

I am Terrilyn Renella, a three-time cancer fighter and also a transformational coach. In 2013, I developed a rare type of cancer that came back three times and almost took my life. I have been cancer-free for five years. I am also a motivational speaker and a connector. 

Early signs and diagnosis

I had parotid gland cancer which is squamous cell carcinoma. I was misdiagnosed at the beginning. They didn't give it a stage nor told me how aggressive it was and I had a needle biopsy. I did not read the biopsy and my doctor said that I was fine. Later, when the cancer returned a second time, I found out the biopsy said it was squamous carcinoma.

The tumor on the side of my parotid gland grew a lot after the biopsy. I got a call two days after surgery informing me of cancer. I was shocked because I had lost my brother to cancer three years ago and it brought up all kinds of fear.

My first reaction after the diagnosis

Emotionally, I immediately went into fear. My mother survived breast cancer with just a radical mastectomy back in 1961. She changed her diet and did exercise. My brother passed away from cancer and so when they told me, you have cancer, I immediately thought that I was going to die.

Treatments underwent and side effects

I had an extremely rare and aggressive type of cancer. I have seen over 15 oncologists across the country. And everyone said to me that they didn't know how I kept my cancer localized, since it should have gone into the limbs, into the lungs. I had to see a radiation oncologist, but he didn't tell me how aggressive it was. He said it'll take a couple of months to heal well.

In the beginning, it was surgery. When the tumors came back for the second time, I had surgery again for eight hours. Then, I underwent radiation when it came back the third time with a very specialized oncologist. I did about 45 different radiation treatments all to the side of the face.

When it came back the third time, the tumors were on the outside. Tumours bled so I ended up in the emergency room under a surgical oncologist from Sloan Kettering. Not being able to stop the tumors from bleeding, she wrapped me very tightly and took me to another hospital to perform surgery. I was in the ICU and almost died. 

Alternative treatments

So when tumors came back for the third time, I started questioning Western medicine. I started doing a lot of alternative treatments to keep the cancer localized. I chose energy healing, ie, Reiki. I also opted for acupuncture and even tried essential oils and things like that. 

To relieve my stress, I went for oxygen therapy and ozone therapy. I switched to a keto diet. I also practiced meditation for mindfulness and mental well-being.

My support system

I isolated myself because I had huge tumors on the side of my face which were ugly. They were the size of a grapefruit and a tangerine. But my biggest support system was my family. I had four kids and five grandchildren. The surgical oncologist wanted to take out my cheekbone and jawbone. I probably would be on a feeding tube for the rest of my life. Then, my children didn't agree to this and asked me to find alternatives. My clients, those who knew about my cancer journey, we're also huge supporters.

Experience with medical staff

My medical team consisted of three oncologists, two radiation oncologists, and an adjournal oncologist. They were unbelievable and never put fear into me. They even believed in all my alternatives and were extremely supportive and performed the heat therapy. A lot of people didn't do that. The oncologists and the nurses were the most beautiful people who saved my life.

Finding joy

I believe in finding joy. I get up in the morning no matter what time. I am in a meditation practice that fills me with love and makes me happy. What makes me the happiest are my children and my grandbabies. My youngest grandchild is almost two, and he's a delight for me. I discovered from having cancer how to live in the moment. And children are loving. They love themselves and teach you about joy and love. So I would say, what makes me the happiest, is my kids and my grandbabies. I also find happiness in helping others. It brings me a lot of joy because of what they say to me. They say that I give them hope and inspiration to beat cancer.

Lifestyle changes

I stopped traveling like before and didn't go back to my old profession. I dedicated myself to daily meditation to start my day and calm myself. I started practicing yoga regularly. I started eating better. The main change was to get stress out of my life. So those are all the big changes I had.

Life lessons

My biggest life lesson is not letting fear dictate your life or your decisions. So I choose love over fear. I lead my life with love. I stopped being judgmental and not taking life so seriously either. I added humor to my life. I've also been working for cancer patients for five years. And I have a group now of people from all over the world who have cancer. And we're supporting each other.

Message to the survivors and caregivers

My message to the survivors and caregivers is don't let fear ruin your life. Your health is your wealth. If you don't have your health, you have nothing. You can't help your family. You can't love your family. You can't enjoy your work. How can you enjoy any of it if you don't have your health? So put your health as a priority. But also put the love within you and learn to love yourself. Try to be in the moment. And of course, enjoy your life.

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