My sophomore year in college I ended up with mono. I lost about 30 pounds. I was losing my hair. My pediatrician had a CT scan done and they found the first tumor. We found out that it was in fact cancerous and I was sent to Moffitt.
Once I came here and they diagnosed me with stage 4 magnilant perifial nerve sheeth tumor, they gave me a 50 percent chance of survival over a five year period.
I was really caught off guard but then instantly I decided I wasn’t going to be a statistic. I was not going to go down without a fight.
There’s not a lot known about it, unfortunately. It’s a very rare form and most people don’t live long enough to be able to tell what types of treatments are working, so while that was a little discouraging, they were great. They set out a plan.
After the two most effective chemotherapies were tried the first time, when it came back a second time we tried another chemotherapy and it wasn’t working. So now going forward each time I’ve been re-diagnosed, we’ve just gone with surgery and it is considered the most sufficient way to rid the body of my type of cancer.
Dr. Gonzalez from the very beginning was awesome. For one of my surgeries, I had to have an epidural and they had already made my parents leave the pre-op waiting room and he had already scrubbed in for surgery but he knew I was really nervous about getting the epidural because I hadn’t had one and so he actually came out and sat there and held my hand and he kind of talked me through it and I had never experienced that kind of care from any of my doctors.
So after my very last chemo, I wanted to skydiving. My mom was hoping he would say no and he was like, “Send me pictures. Go do it, I want to know all about it.” When I wanted to go snowboarding, he offered to let me use his snowboard. Just everything I want to do, he encourages it and he credits how I’ve been able to cope with my diagnosis to me, continuing to live my life.
Like I said, with a 50 percent change of survival at 19, I could have just moved home and given up but I knew that’s not what I wanted to do. It was about fighting and what courage means to me is just despite what you’ve been dealt, continuing to fight and live and exist and do what’s important to you. Do what you’re passionate about and what makes you happy.