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When I was 24, I’d had a lump on my neck for a couple of years.

I’d seen several doctors about it, but it was always dismissed as a benign cyst. It began to grow larger over time, and I felt increasingly weak and sick over the course of a year.

I ran into a doctor in an elevator. He noticed the lump and asked if I’d had it looked at because it could be cancerous. He encouraged me to go to a doctor he knew. During this appointment I was told it was possibly cancer, and that it would need to be removed as soon as possible to be tested. I was also told I was pregnant, and that I couldn’t have surgery while pregnant.

I told my husband about the pregnancy, and what I’d learned about my neck. Despite the uncertainty around my deteriorating health, we started planning and picking out baby names. The next morning he rushed out, told me goodbye, and that he’d see me that night. He never came home. I waited days to find out he’d not been in an accident, but that he’d left me.

Between my ongoing illness, needing surgery, and the sudden reality of becoming a single parent, I had to make a difficult but ultimately necessary decision. I had an abortion, and the neck surgery was immediately scheduled. I was diagnosed with medullary thyroid cancer that had already spread to surrounding lymph nodes. I had more surgery and radioactive iodine treatments that year until there was finally no trace of the disease.

Without the choice to have an abortion, I may not have survived. Treatments and surgeries would have been postponed for the better part of a year. It was an incredibly hard decision, but one I have not regretted a day in my life.

Everyone should be able to decide if, when, how, and with whom they start or grow a family.

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