By Nikki Ross Inda
In 2005, 25-year-old Selina Rice noticed a lump on her shoulder. Friends encouraged her to see a doctor, but like many young adults, she put it off. Two months later when her arm went completely numb, Rice finally sought medical help.
The then mother of two was referred to Moffitt Cancer Center where doctors diagnosed her with a rare form of sarcoma. Rice describes that moment as an “out of body” experience. She immediately thought about her children, Andrea and Mike, who were toddlers. Mike is deaf with special needs and requires extensive medical assistance.
Rice was faced with two options: amputate her arm or replace her scapula. Losing an arm would make it difficult to communicate with her son using sign language. She was determined to save her arm.
Rice underwent surgery to replace the bone in her back. The procedure involved removing all the nerves around her shoulder. She was on bed rest for two months and was instructed to keep her shoulder still to allow it to heal properly. Despite the uphill battle, she remained positive. “I never experienced a woe-is-me moment,” Rice explained.
Her road to recovery did not end there. Rice went on to undergo a year of chemotherapy. Though it’s been more than a decade, she continues to experience memory loss as a side effect of her treatments. “Chemo brain is real,” says Rice.
Doctors also told the young mother that she would never be able to have more children. But just 10 months after finishing chemo, Rice gave birth to a handsome baby boy, Elijah.
“There is life after cancer. You can create your destiny. Never give up on your dreams,” she said. “I had too much to live for.”
On July 20, Rice participated in a VIP experience at Tropicana Field when the Tampa Bay Rays honored her through the Salute to Survivors program. The opportunity was particularly special because she was able to share it with her three children.
Rice is being monitored at Moffitt for two cysts on her thyroid, but she isn’t letting that stop her. Rice hopes get involved with Speak Out for Moffitt, and she urges everyone to be proactive about their health. “If you feel something is not right, go to the doctor and get it checked out.”