For months now, Channel 4 viewers have been missing and asking about one of our longtime colleagues, reporter Cynthia Williams.
We like to call Cynthia the specialist at the TV station when it comes to getting even the most timid people to open up and tell their stories. So you can only imagine how it felt when she lost her voice completely.
Cynthia has been dealing with a health challenge, and not only is she back and feeling fine but she's also determined to share what's been learned from the ordeal.
It was coming up on Christmas 2011 when Cynthia went to the doctor for her normal, yearly well-woman exam.
That day, Dec. 14, would soon become more than just a day on her busy calendar. Chatting like she always does, the doctor checked Cynthia's neck.
"He says, 'be quiet, Cynthia.' He checks again. He says, 'hmm, I feel a nodule,'" Cynthia said. "He says, 'don't worry - 95 percent of the time it's nothing. Women have nodules on their thyroids.' But immediately, I started to worry."
Then, during the week of Christmas doctors performed an ultrasound.
"I'm in there with the technician, and jab jab jab," Cynthia said. "Then she got quiet."
Soon after, came a needle biopsy.
"She said, 'to me, I'm amazed Dr. Gurley even felt a nodule.' She says, 'I have yet to feel a nodule on your thyroid, so it's good he checks. He has amazing hands,'" Cynthia said.
That little reassurance would be quickly forgotten, and there was no real preparation for what came next.
"Friday, I was sitting in that chair in my house, and the phone rang and it was Dr. Kathleen Cruise Williams. And she says, 'Cynthia, it's cancer.' I sat there in that chair and I wept. She said, 'Cynthia, don't cry. It's cancer. You and I need to meet and talk.' I wept, and I wept and I wept. I said, 'ok, and I'll call your office later,' and I hung up. I sat right there in that chair and I cried myself to sleep," Cynthia said.
Her diagnosis was thyroid cancer, which is the fastest-increasing cancer in both men and women.
It's also one of the few forms of cancer that has spiked in recent years. More than 56,000 people, just like Cynthia, will get it this year - from kids all the way up to seniors.
The good news is much of it is treatable and curable, but the most aggressive forms can and do kill.
Cynthia's type was the kind that can turn ugly. And it had spread to her lymph nodes.
"It was a tall cell variant, which can be aggressive and also can move from the thyroid to whatever else it wants to do," Cynthia said. "She told me, 'Cynthia, it will be two weeks before you can talk.'"
Two quiet weeks turned into two silent months. Her voice wasn't coming back.
The next step in treatment was a radiation pill that meant staying at home away from people and even pets. Cynthia was alone by design and without a voice.
"I had a little board, and I would write on it. I would put a little scarf around my neck, because the incision was pretty obvious at that point," Cynthia said. "I went to the doctor, and she was so calm and said, 'Cynthia, you're gonna have to be patient.' I'd say to her, 'I want it now - you said two weeks.'"
"I called Demetria, or she called me, and I wasn't supposed to be talking but I just had to. I'm a reporter you know," Cynthia said. "I'd be talking, and she'd say, 'ok, I can't understand you.' She'd get quiet, and when she'd get quiet I'd cry. I'd think it's even worse than I thought."
But eventually her voice did come back, appropriately Cynthia said, on a Sunday morning about three months after the surgery and after so many silent nights.
"All this happened around Christmas, and I put up my decorations. I have this little (Christmas) tree here. I'll take it down, but when I'm ready," Cynthia said.
"A scripture in 3rd John 1 and 2 says, 'Beloved I pray that you will prosper in all things and be in good health just as your soul prospers,'" Cynthia said. "I'd heard that scripture before, but for some reason it stuck with me for weeks and weeks and weeks. At first I thought, 'why me?' Then I thought, 'why now me?'"
"The lesson for me has been, for some reason I had cancer - for some reason my rehabilitation was longer for my voice to come back - for some reason that God only knows, it took a long time. But I believe I got victory of this, and I'm going to come back stronger and ready for the next fight. Because there's always another fight," Cynthia said.
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