I was immediately rushed to the hospital. On Sunday, May 21st, 2004 I had a successful 7 ½ hour brain surgery removing the entire tumor. I was in the Intensive Care Unit for 2 weeks following surgery. Doctors told me there was a less than 5% chance the tumor was cancerous. A week and a half later I was given the devastating news. I had cancer!
Because the type of cancer I had, Medulloblastoma, is most commonly found in children I was referred to a doctor at Children’s Hospital in Washington, D.C. There, I was treated by the guru of Medulloblastoma’s and a wonderful team of Pediatric Oncologists. Along with my neurosurgeon, they are the reason I am alive and doing so well today. I was given a plan of action and began cranial/spinal radiation shortly there after. Radiation is the most important key in fighting this type of cancer in adults, but it took a huge toll on my body. I was nauseous and tired all of the time. I lost all of my hair. I stayed with my parents during treatment and visited my husband of 1 ½ years on the weekends. We had just moved into our new house a week prior to my surgery and I was always happy to go home!
Radiation therapy does not take long (about a minute). For me, that minute was pure hell and seemed like forever. I would lie on my stomach with my head clamped into a device that should only be used on criminals as a form of torture. Three weeks into radiation I developed appendicitis and had surgery to remove my appendix. As a result, this delayed radiation a week and sent my doctor’s into a tailspin. Radiation is never supposed to be interrupted…especially for an entire week. Chemotherapy was an option, but, to me, the risks outweighed the benefits. I declined chemo treatment.
The vast amount of radiation I received has caused problems that I still battle to this day. About three years after treatment was completed I developed cataracts in both eyes. They grew very quickly, so I had surgery to remove them. The spinal radiation caused my stomach to become paralyzed, so this makes it very hard for me to digest food. I take medicine that helps, but I have to be very careful with what I eat. To me, these are just minor problems that are under control and I’m thankful to live a relatively “normal” life.
I will be five years cancer free this May! I was told after my treatment that I would never have children. My son turns 2 in June. I’ve learned that doctors are great in many ways, but they do not know everything. Having an unwavering faith, supportive husband and family is the reason I am as strong as I am today. I am truly lucky to be alive and I am thankful that I’m able to be a part of an organization as wonderful as the Ulman Cancer Fund. I felt very isolated going through cancer at 22 years old. As a result, my goal is to work with the Ulman Cancer Fund to be a friend and advocate for as many young adult cancer patients and survivors as I can.
Young Adult Cancer Survivor