Being Diagnosed With A terminal Illness
“You have cancer”
These are the words that no one ever expects to hear. You think that this could never happen to you. As humans, especially when we are young, we think we’re invincible. We convince ourselves that nothing bad will ever happen us because we’re so young and have our entire lives ahead of us. We’re naive enough to start to believe that nothing can touch us. The thing is though, we are human. Life doesn’t discriminate, and bad things do happen.
I was twenty-three years old when I was diagnosed with stage III Anaplastic Astrocytoma, or as most people know it as, Glioblastoma. I remember so vividly sitting in the doctors office, it was a Wednesday afternoon, three o'clock. It was a sunny day and I remember blowing off work for the appointment because I could no longer stand the pain.
Before that day, I was just a normal twenty four year old stressing out money, being independent and all of the many bills I had to pay, but since that day I've felt myself turn into someone completely different. I had never heard of the medical term Glioblastoma before then. I had never even remotely considered the possibility that I would be twenty three years old living with a brain tumor. I was young, I didn't want to think of the fact that I could die, I just wanted to live my life.
I remember sitting in my doctor’s office thinking that he was just going to give me a medication and send me on my way. Truthfully, I think I knew somehow that something was wrong, but I was just too prideful to admit that I might need help. I had always gotten migraines, and so when they began to get worse. I pushed them off as if they were no big deal because I wasn’t ready to face the possibility that something was seriously wrong. That was until they became unbearable. I remember a mix of emotions running though my body and not being able to speak when he’d finally confirmed what I knew deep down inside, just couldn’t bring myself to admit. I was told that it was on my left temporal lobe, and if I didn’t start treatment immediately I would probably end up dying before the year was even up.
You see, I was a girl with a plan. I was girl who had so many amazing dreams, and goals in my life, and so you can imagine that hearing the word cancer, made me take a step back and realize what was important in my life. I remember the first night after finding out that I had this tumor. I immediately went home and told my sister and grandmother. I expected them to hug me, maybe cry and tell me that everything was going to be okay. I had thought, it’s going to be okay. I wrong. Instead, the reaction I got to the fact that I had a ticking time bomb sitting in my brain was them going to back to watching T.V. as if they didn’t even hear a word that I had spoken. It was in that moment that I realized I couldn’t do this alone. Blame it on the tumor and how it affected my behavior, that’s what everyone else did, but it was in that moment when I convinced myself if my own sister and grandmother didn’t care that I had cancer, who else would? I let my pride get the best of me and let two negative people control my next step, and I think that is a regret that I will always carry with me. It was several months before I had even told anyone else about my illness, or the fact that I had refused any kind of treatment.
As I said before my tumor is on my left temporal lobe, which if you don’t know is the part of the brain that affects hearing, speech, behavior, emotions and memory. After being diagnosed, and refusing treatment, I immediately noticed so many things that had already started before, but only now started to make sense. For instance, I started having so many memory troubles, I started to feel overly emotional. I mean as a human, and a girl, I’m sensitive, but this was different. It was like the smallest thing would set me off, and I would spend hours crying about it. I became tired all the time, and I couldn’t even climb a flight of stairs without feeling exhausted. Which wasn’t like me at all.
It was in October of 2016 when I finally told people I was sick. Some people cried. Some people were disappointed in me for not telling them sooner. Some acted like it didn’t exist, which was fine with me, I mean, people cope in their own ways right? My problems didn’t come until my very own family starting doubting whether I had cancer or not, for the sole reason that I didn’t show them a piece of paper proving that I did. It wasn’t my entire family who did this. I had my older sister, a cousin and my mom who constantly tried to support me in their own ways. My sister being the biggest supporter of them all, but she’d lived in another state so she couldn’t physically be there for me when I needed her to be, but the gratitude I felt towards her was empowering. I’ll always be grateful for her, no matter what happens.
It was the week after I started telling people about my cancer that I started radiation. I did that for a few weeks until my oncologist did another CAT scan and MRI to figure out that my tumor wasn’t shrinking. It wasn’t growing, which a good sign, but it hadn’t been shrinking either. I remember the tears in my eyes at this news, just being angry. Wondering why me? Why did this happen to me? After this news, he put me on Chemo, with Glioblastoma though, it wasn’t your standard kind of chemo, it was oral. It came in the form of a pill. A pill I would take for five days every four weeks. This went on for a couple months.
I think that the biggest loss I suffered from chemo wasn’t my hair. It wasn’t the being sick all the time, or the loss of appetite. I mean, all of that sucked, but it wasn’t the worst thing for me. For me personally, it was being told that there was a chance that I might never have children in the future. I was told that chemo causes infertility, sometimes temporary, sometimes not. Now, while I have a greater chance of still being able to have my own children someday, opposed to someone who say is thirty-five, the words themselves terrified me. Even now, I still wonder if I make it through this, if I live a long healthy life, will I be able to have my own child someday, or did the cancer take that away from me as well?
Since having cancer, I have felt less and less like myself every day since. At one point I was even told that I couldn't be operated on because surgery was too invasive. I tried a high dose of radiation which worked for a while, only to have my tumor grow rapidly again. All of this led me to today. To my choice, right here, right now.
These days, things are much different. I found out I was expecting a child. The last thing in the world I could ever imagine being thrown my way but it has and it has given me a will to fight for our lives. So now, I'm getting ready for a surgery, a craniotomy and resection of my tumor. I'm still doing cannabis oil, and I've been approved to receive medical marijuana. Anything I can do to make sure both my child and I both can live a longer life, I'm going to do it.
I might not be where I thought I'd be at twenty four, and there have been so many obstacles along the way, but as of right now all I can do is fight for the life that I want my child to have.