At 21 years old, I was enjoying the new sense of independence that college brought. But this newfound freedom and self-sufficiency began to crumble not long after my biphasic synovial sarcoma diagnosis.
The unsung hero of my sarcoma treatment
My sarcoma treatment required surgery at a local hospital in Missouri, 25 rounds of radiation at MD Anderson and a second surgery at MD Anderson. This surgery lasted more than 6 hours. The tumor bed was removed, along with some lymph nodes, some muscle from my leg and a large area around the initial location of the tumor. Fatty tissue from my stomach was removed and placed near my right hip to fill in the hole. In addition, some muscle was removed from my stomach and used to replace that which was removed from my leg.
After my surgery, I was unable to clean myself after using the restroom, change my clothes or bathe on my own. I was extremely limited in what I could do. Growing more independent at college had been a great feeling. However, being in the hospital and not even being able to clean up after using the restroom was degrading, to say the least.
But one nurse helped me with this. I met Cheryl Manatring shortly after my surgery. We connected right away.
Cheryl's attitude quickly dissolved any embarrassment I felt. It didn't matter that I couldn't do things that most people do. She was there to help. She never acted like cleaning me, helping me and taking care of me was a chore. Instead, she saw it as a way of helping me finish my fight against cancer -- and keep my dignity in the process.
Finding courage after sarcoma treatment
Cheryl really encouraged me to keep going and not give up. So, taking her advice, I decided it was time to reach for my dreams after I recovered from my cancer.
I applied to Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and got accepted. Never had I thought I could go to a university, and now I have completed one year there! Cheryl helped me to realize that it's okay to need others' help and that it's okay to be dependent on those around to help in my cancer battle.
Without Cheryl, I would not have had the courage to keep going. For that, and all the help she gave me, I'll always be grateful.