Six days before moving to my dream school, the University of North Carolina Greensboro to be a Musical Theater Major, I had a horrible migraine and was laying in the Emergency Room. I had been ill for months, but it was attributed to me overexerting myself, being too overcommitted, trying to “lose weight to get a beach bod”, being nervous about school, having “just a migraine” and my favorite, “you’re just dehydrated”. I remember being happy to go to the hospital to get Prescription Strength meds in order to be headache free in college. Within 5 minutes of my scan, a doctor told my mom “Your daughter has a Brain Tumor.” We didn’t leave the hospital as they prepped me for emergency surgery where they removed a tennis ball sized tumor from my brain.
On the day I should have moved to college, I was diagnosed with stage 3 Anaplastic Ependymoma, a rare cancer which is diagnosed in 300 people a year and has a 30 percent chance of reoccurrence even with 7 weeks of Proton Therapy where I was bolted to a table so they could beam radiation into my head.
Even through the worst of times, my mom said we will focus on the good, and focus on giving me purpose, which will help in my recovery. I woke up singing and I recovered with months of intense physical therapy of dancing and singing.
I was able to go to school for the second semester but 7 weeks later Covid happened and we were sent home. Something else happened too, I started having debilitating seizures.
Luckily for me, I have music in my life. I have a rule for myself that if I’m having a bad day, I allow myself to listen to 2 songs to cry it out. I have to get up and dance a happy dance after that. Music is something that has helped me through the worst of times.
I have been so lucky to meet people who understand my passion. I have had the pleasure of singing the National Anthem at local events, and also NHL Hockey Fights Cancer Night for the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Florida Panthers. I have sung with Broadway stars and I have sung with other cancer patients. Music saved my life.
In January of 2021, they found 2 new small blueberry/pea-sized tumors. In 18 days the tumors grew to the size of 2 large grapes. It was like starting over again. I was devastated but also determined. I was told there were no post-op treatments at the hospitals near home so my mom and I moved back to Duke for four months so I could have surgery, radiation, and chemo. My sisters and I were in 3 different states, apart from each other and it was not easy. So far, my scans have not shown new tumors and I’m waiting for scans that show “no signs of disease”. Right now I am battling seizures and tremors but I think I’m winning the big fight.
I have been passionate about using my voice to entertain for a really long time. Now I use my voice to spread awareness. I want to be transparent and show people what having cancer really looks like. We matter. Kids matter. We should have gentler treatments, more options, less harsh medicine regimens. We need more funding, more awareness, and more support.
We all are only human but little humans that have to deal with cancer shouldn’t be treated in the same way with the same meds as bigger humans. Pediatric Cancer is represented by a Gold Ribbon. Would you GO GOLD with me to support Pediatric Cancer Warriors?