Nanaimo, British Columbia
How did you find out you were sick? What events led to the diagnosis?
I started to become very sensitive to the sun. The slightest exposure would give me a headache. Little did I know, this was the beginning of one hell of an adventure. As summer became fall, the headaches started, and became progressively worse. My doctor sent me for an EEG which of course showed nothing because I was not having seizures. All the doctor could tell was “it might be this it might be that”. It was very frustrating. My symptoms were getting worse. Double vision became my next challenge. Trying to feed an 8 month old with two mouths was interesting for both of us . I went to my doctor. He could not figure me out. I was in bed in a dark room and that would not help much. The doctor would come to the house and give me shots but they did not help. Time went on and my symptoms just got worse and still no answers. With the double vision and headaches came a little facial numbness, well a lot. Still no answers, I even joked about having a brain tumor, little did I know how close to the truth I was. The right side of my face, including my eye, went completely numb to the point that when the ophthalmologist poked it, I did not feel a thing.
What year was it? What was your age at the time?
It was 1998. I was 29 years old.
Do you work? Stay at home Mom
What was your diagnosis?
Malignant Primary Astrosytom Grade 3
What were your first thoughts when diagnosed?
I remember my doctor telling me that I had a brain tumor and if I had any questions. “Am I going to die?” was my first. He explained that the tumor was golf ball size in the right frontal lobe and that I needed to see the surgeon in Kelowna.
How did your family react?
My brother and his friend traveled from Nanaimo to OK Falls to come to Kelowna with myself and Kevin. Also, my parents lived in a suite below us, so my mom became my savior. She would watch the boys while my husband was at work and my 7 year old daughter was at school. Thank God for my family.
How did your friends react?
My radiation was scheduled to begin on March 19 if I am remembering correctly. Three of my very good teenage hood friends came to see me before I left for my radiation. (I later found out that they thought it might be the last time they saw me). They arrived Wednesday; Friday was my first radiation treatment in Kelowna. The girls took me to Kelowna on Thursday and absolutely spoiled me. My 30th birthday was days away so they took me for dinner bought me things. After my treatment Friday we traveled back to O.K Falls.
What did your treatment consist of?
Medical Side: I started chemotherapy within a week of being home. I was making everyone nuts with my paranoid behavior. I felt that if some treatment wasn’t started right away, that the tumor would start to grow back. I tolerated the chemo well; I think it may have had something to do with the amount of dexamethasone I was on. I always felt good, like nothing was wrong with me. I tolerated the radiation very well; I thank the dex for this too.
What is your current medical status?
I had a MRI last March, and it was clear, yup that’s right, nothin in my noggin!! I love that saying.
How is life different for you now post diagnosis (physically, emotionally, socially, spiritually)?
I went to Church with my Mom in Penticton the Sunday before my surgery which was booked for January 28. The Deacons laid hands on me and prayed to God for my health and my family. I definitely felt the power of God in my body. The surgery was successful!!!! My surgeon achieved a total resection, and I discovered that I have a tight brain and a thick skull. I guess this is a good thing. The day of my release from hospital (really hate being in hospitals now), my dear surgeon gave me a 65% chance of survival over the next 5 years. That was one phrase that I chose not to listen to. My husband, the kids and I moved to Nanaimo in September of 2000. The kids that were in school started and we began our new life. My parents soon followed. I had put up with a lot from my husband for the whole time we were together; I started to realize that if I was strong enough to beat cancer I was strong enough to make it on my own. I told my husband I wanted him to move out and that I wanted a divorce. He wasn’t too happy, but it was time for me to start living. I had the kids to think about and Kevin was not the best example. Two weeks later, I started feeling sick, needless to say I was worried. So off to the doctor I went. To my relief, it was not cancer. To my surprise, I was PREGNANT! Who’d have thought? Because of my meds for seizures, I had to follow the pregnancy closely and take a high dose of folic acid. The day before I was to be induced to have my fourth and final child, I went and got my drivers licence renewed, and went back to my maiden name. And thus began this chapter of my life. I gave birth to a healthy 9 pound baby girl. Having a girl surprised me because I had had the two boys. Kevin has another son from his first relationship, and he himself is one of four boys. I named my new little girl Journee because life had been such a journey up to that point. She is my little miracle. I feel blessed that I am here to send my kids off to school.
What is/was the toughest part of your challenge?
Thinking I might die (the beginning).
What is/was the best part of your challenge?
Deciding I wouldn’t. Treatment over!!
What lessons or messages have you taken away from your experience?
I hope my story will encourage someone and give hope to those who may have little. Every day that you survive and make it through is another day closer to a cure. Keep your chin up and your hope alive. LOVE, LAUGH, LIVE
Did you attend any support groups during your challenge?
I did attend a support group during treatment, and still do today. A very important part of my life.
How are you connected with Young Adult Cancer?
I found RTC on the web and am glad I did.