CARMEL — Julia Porter was drawn to her career as a speech language pathologist because of the ability to interact with patients and follow them over time.
Through her work at IU Health North and the IU Health Joe & Shelly Schwarz Cancer Center, Porter helps others relearn how to swallow after getting treatment for head or neck cancer.
In 2017, Porter found herself on the other side after she was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer that developed in the salivary glands and other areas of the neck and head.
"Looking back [at] that moment, life is pretty much divided into the before cancer and after cancer time period," Porter said.
She endured three surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation. She's now cancer free and doing well.
"It's just a lot of trying to figure out how to live my normal life, which wasn't normal anymore and still doesn't feel normal to some degree," Porter said.
She shares her journey with her patients and will counsel them on what they could expect.
"I do also say we're all a little different and we're all going to experience this differently, but we did all hear those words of you have cancer," Porter said. "Sometimes it is hard to separate yourself from the person in front of you, especially now with more head and neck cancer patients being diagnosed younger and younger ... generally I feel like it's helpful for me and the patient to be quite honest to be able to feel like there was a reason I went through all this and to kind of give that back."
IU Health is offering free head and neck cancer screenings on Friday:
In Carmel, screenings are happening from 1-4 p.m. at the IU Health Joe & Shelly Schwarz Cancer Center - 11645 N. Illinois St., Carmel, IN 46032. Appointments are not required, but space is limited. Call 317.962.3659 with questions.
In Indianapolis, screenings are also happening from 1-4 p.m. at the Melvin & Bren Simon Cancer Center 550 University, Suite AOC 3170, Indianapolis, IN 46202 (parking vouchers for University Garage will be provided). Appointments are not required, but all participants will be screened at the door and masks will be worn.
Due to space, no additional guests, including children, will be accommodated. Call 317.962.3659 with questions.