I wanted to share part of my journey with you to help you to understand the struggles families face with a childhood cancer diagnosis. We, as a family, are so fortunate for the assistance, both emotionally and financially, we have received from Childcan. We would have never survived without them.
On December 20, 2011, it had been over a week of nausea and vomiting. My mom and dad had enough of watching the weight melt off of me and Christmas was just around the corner. It was time to head to London to get some answers. After 24 days in hospital over Christmas 2011 and New Year’s 2012 being tested for everything from AIDS to Tuberculosis, on January 8, 2012 an MRI accidently found three tumours within my spinal cord. The last words my mom heard as she hit the floor were “your daughter has three tumours, one cervical, one thoracic and one lumbar”. On January 13, 2012, I was able to go home for a few weeks while we worked on the plan to combat my diagnosis.
On February 8, 2012, I had spinal cord surgery to get a piece of the tumour to see what we were dealing with and how they could treat it. I went into that surgery with a 50/50 chance I would never walk again; however, the alternative was much less positive. This surgery has left me with no feeling in my right leg – I am so lucky – I could have been paralyzed.
On February 13th 2012, I was officially diagnosed with Pylocytic Astrocytoma. No child should even have to say those words, let alone know how to spell it. We met that day with our Pediatric Oncologist to plan the plan and my journey began; however, I did get to go home again to recover from my surgery.
On February 29th 2012, I started my journey of 70 weeks of chemotherapy. Yes, I said 70 – one year and 4.5 months. It seems like a lifetime, doesn’t it? I had a portacath placed to make these treatments more tolerable.
I met so many awesome families, children and friends during my journey. I also lost too many of my fellow fighters during my journey.
The cost of a diagnosis of childhood cancer is unfathomable. My mom lost her job because the tolerance for a sick child is so low, let alone a sick child with cancer. The gas, the meals, the parking and the emotional and mental costs on a family is unmeasurable. A diagnosis like this changes everything, emotionally, mentally, financially; it truly changes you as a person.
I have been off treatment since July 10, 2013. I still go to hospital every three months for MRIs and check-ups and this will continue forever. My recent MRIs show that the cervical and thoracic tumours are stable and the lumbar tumour is gone.
I am a full-time, grade 11 honour student. I work part-time at a local grocery store. And I am a SURVIVOR. I am so fortunate.