A brain tumor didn’t end my dreams

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.

Request an appointment at MD Anderson online or by
calling 1-877-632-6789.