Medulloblastoma survivor: Why I continue to share my brain cancer story

I’m only 22, but I’ve already lived in so many places. Originally, I’m from El Paso, but I go to school now in College Station, which is about 13 hours away from there. I also spent a lot of time in Houston in 2013 and 2014, while I was being treated at MD Anderson for medulloblastoma, a type of brain cancer.

It may sound kind of cheesy, but I actually feel the most alive when I’m in the Texas Medical Center. As soon as I see the MD Anderson buildings, I take a deep breath and relax. I know they saved my life once, and they could do it again if they had to. They’ve already given me a second chance at life that I couldn’t get anywhere else.

My brain cancer diagnosis

I was not quite 16 in August 2013, when I was diagnosed with medulloblastoma. And when you hear the words “brain cancer,” your mind immediately jumps to the worst-case scenario. I know that’s what mine did. Especially because my prognosis was considered so iffy by my local hospital.

Luckily, my family took me to MD Anderson for treatment. I had surgery to remove the tumor, followed by a year of chemotherapy and 30 days of proton therapy. And aside from a staph infection I caught in 2016 (from dyeing my hair red — whoops!), my recovery has been pretty unremarkable.

The scariest thing about having cancer was actually going back home between treatments. Because at MD Anderson, everybody is OK with people being bald. It’s nothing remarkable or even that unusual. But in El Paso, it seems like I was the only bald person in the entire city. And it was really hard to have little kids staring at me, asking why I didn’t have hair.

My hope for the future

I’ve been cancer-free now for six years. Today, I’m a senior at Texas A&M University, studying to be a pediatric occupational therapist. A lot of kids need occupational therapy after cancer treatment to relearn basic functions and rebuild their strength. And I want to be one of the people who helps them get back to 100%, so that they too can have better childhoods — and adult lives — after cancer.

That’s also why I keep telling my story. I want to help MD Anderson raise money to end cancer. Because I want everyone to survive. I want my friends and family members to survive cancer, if they ever get diagnosed. And I want to survive it, too, if it ever comes back.

As long as I’m helping, and other people and corporations are donating, I feel like we’ll get there. And one day, cancer will be a thing of the past.

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