Fight the fight: Surviving a deadly brain cancer prognosis as a mom-to-be
When I received the initial call from MD Anderson asking me if I would be interested in writing about my cancer journey, I had to laugh because my brain does not operate the way it used to.
As a former trial attorney, I could intelligently write 500 words in just a few minutes. This blog post took me more than a month to write and it has been difficult and frustrating. But in writing my story, I have found I'm happy to hold a pen in my hand again.
So, one more thank you to MD Anderson and those who have supported me along the way. Because of you, I am here to share my story.
2002 was the most amazing year of my life.
In a short sweep of time I got engaged, turned 30, graduated from The University of Texas School of Law, passed the Texas Bar, got married, spent a month in Europe on my honeymoon, started my new legal career in a boutique trial law firm and became a mom-to-be.
My life had come full circle -- everything that I had worked so hard for, dreamed of and prayed for had all finally came true.
During this time, I paid no attention to the daily headaches I was experiencing -- Tylenol had become my everyday regimen -- until Christmas Day. My husband and I were celebrating with my family in Virginia. It was a tough time because my grandmother had just passed away and the pain in my head was the worst it had ever been. It was so unbearable that after Christmas dinner I fell to the floor and could not get up. My devoted husband and my loving father took me to the local hospital, worried about me and the baby I was carrying.
Test after test at the Virginia hospital showed that everything looked normal. The doctor decided to do one final imaging test called a CT scan before sending me home. The results changed my life forever.
Putting up a fight
The scan showed a baseball-sized tumor in the lower left lobe of my brain. Immediately, the doctors diagnosed it as an advanced (grade 4) glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), one of the worst and most aggressive brain cancers. I was told that I had three months to live, and the odds of my child being born were slim to none.
Despite the doctor's grim prognosis, I remember sitting in the hospital thinking that I was not going to die and neither was my child. We found out we were having a baby boy and we named him. The mother in me knew I had to fight.
We kindly told the doctor that we would be heading back home to Houston, to the only place we wanted to go for treatment: MD Anderson Cancer Center.
My tumor was located in the area of the brain that controls one's ability to speak, read and write, as well as short-term memory. My husband spoke to Dr. Sawaya, showing him my CT scan and telling him about our visit in the Virginia hospital, including the doctor's prognosis that I had three months to live.
Dr. Sawaya said nothing.
He turned to me, put his hand on my knee, looked me straight in the eye and asked the most incredible question I have ever been asked, "Are you ready to fight the fight?" Without hesitation, I replied, "Yes! Yes! Yes!"
Finally, I was surrounded by hope and an opportunity to see my son live.
Celebrating 10 years
After years of surgery, radiation, and a trifecta of chemotherapy, I look forward to celebrate this Christmas Day watching my 9-year-old open his presents. I am one lucky lady.
My family and I did not believe that three months was acceptable, so we turned to the right place at the right time. The hope and attention I received from Dr. Sawaya and the neuro-oncology team at MD Anderson was nothing but fantastic.
Don't ever forget to fight the fight and don't look back!