My first thought after being diagnosed with a brain tumor at age 26 was fear. Would I die? Would the things I worked for no longer be possible? How was I going to handle brain tumor surgery and cancer treatment when I can’t even handle flu shots? Even what I was going to look like with no hair scared me.
I was diagnosed with adult medulloblastoma one month before my graduation from law school. Medulloblastoma is a type of brain tumor that’s common in children, but rare in adults. I wasn’t used to not knowing what was going to happen next. My life had always been a steady progression: college, then law school – and it was supposed to continue to landing my first job and starting a family. I was grieving for a life I felt I was losing.
Many of us who have been diagnosed with cancer understand that it feels like losing a loved one. You go through the five stages of grief. I had to let myself grieve and let others support me in my anger and sadness. That’s the only way to get through it.
Support during brain cancer treatment
After surgery to remove the brain tumor, I went through radiation and chemotherapy. Treatment was rough. It made me very sick and nauseous. As independent as I claim to be, I had to lean on my family and friends.
Their love and support were the only things that got me into the car and to the hospital or radiation center when staying home seemed preferable. Only with their encouragement was I able to finish my law school exams, graduate as a lawyer and pass the bar exam while going through radiation and chemotherapy. They gave me the support I needed to become the assistant district attorney I am today.
From visiting me at the ER while I studied for the bar exam, to making food that I would actually eat when chemotherapy made everything taste disgusting, all of the loving gestures from my friends and family made a huge difference.
You’d be surprised at how much people (even people you never expected!) are willing to help when you ask. The human spirit is remarkable – we can do what we never thought we could with a little resilience and some help.
Being a young adult with brain cancer
Being diagnosed with cancer at any age is terrible. When you’re a young adult starting a career or starting a family, cancer can seem like an obstacle you’ll never overcome. It felt like my life was over.
Thankfully, I found some wonderful resources and learned I didn’t have to go through this journey alone. I joined Cancer180, a group at MD Anderson that connects young adult cancer patients in their 20s and 30s. I found that talking with people who understood what I was going through really helped the healing process.
Today, I am following my dreams and remain cancer-free under the continued care of Marta Penas-Prado, M.D., at the MD Anderson Brain and Spine Center.
As I tell other young adults with a cancer diagnosis, live day-to-day, and keep striving to achieve your dreams. You don’t know what you can do until you try. You’ll surprise yourself with how strong you can be.
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