Editors note: This is a first of our monthly “Positively Jessica” series featuring Jessica Meyer, an enthusiastic and inspiring young cancer survivor near and dear to Women Survivors Alliance.
Diagnosed with pediatric brain cancer, Jessica is surviving, thriving, and inspiring!
Did you know that cancer is the leading cause of death of children who die from disease in our country? The American Childhood Cancer Organization says that 15,000 children in the United States from birth to the age of 19 will be diagnosed with cancer each year. I was one of them.
I am 14 years old. A little more than three years ago my life was drastically changed. I began a battle with brain cancer. I was diagnosed with a type of brain cancer called germinoma. It was located in the supra cellular region of my brain. The cancer spread and it was on my pituitary, hypothalamus, and optic nerves. The brain cancer messed up other things in my body like hormones, adrenal insufficiency, diabetes insipidus, and it significantly impacted the vision of my right eye. I know what you are probably thinking, that this is a lot of information and most of these words are not in my vocabulary. That was me when I was 11 years old and the doctors were giving me an information overload.
This all happened about a month after I started 5th grade. Finding out that I had cancer happened so fast. Here is the exact play by play. On Sunday I noticed a vision problem with my right eye. On Monday I was at my eye doctor. On Tuesday I was at the pediatric ophthalmologist. On Wednesday I had an MRI. On Thursday I was admitted to the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt. In these five days my life changed instantly. My battle with cancer began.
Because of my cancer, I have had a brain surgery to biopsy my tumor and a surgery to install a port catheter and a gastronomy tube. I have had not 1, not 2, but 3 spinal taps and oodles of blood transfusions. I had many months of chemotherapy of two different chemo drugs. For all of you familiar with chemotherapy drugs, mine were carboplatin and etoposide. Then I had 24 rounds of radiation. Of course I have done so many MRI’s that I lost count, tons of medications, and to top it all off, needles, needles, and more needles. I definitely without a doubt was not a stranger to needles. Maintaining my weight had proven to be difficult. I dropped down to an alarming weight of 46 pounds as an 11-year-old.
I have advice for everyone. It is very important to stay positive during any battle. To stay positive, I concentrated on my faith. Another importing thing when you battle cancer is to keep your sense of humor and stay true to your inner kid. Battling cancer has made these strengths even stronger. And this is what I mean…
Why just walk down the 6th floor of the hospital for chemotherapy? I choose to go bowling down the hospital hallway with a toy bowling ball and bowling pins and roll a strike. OK, it was really a spare. Why stagger down the oncology floor when there is a tricycle? Well, let’s just say there is a special way to ride a tricycle with your IV pole following behind you. Why just stroll down the hallways to your radiation room? I choose to dance to the tune of “Eye of the Tiger” and “Roar” in full prize fighter boxing outfit on my way to my last radiation treatment in front of all of the doctors, nurses, and fellow patients. See that is the way you have fun! To show you, I would love for you to watch my video of me doing all of these things during my cancer battle. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6vABHxx4Efg I think this is such a better way to handle our battles in life. No matter what, I had to go do my chemotherapy and my radiation. So do I walk with my head down or do I dance joyfully and choose to fight my way? I would rather ooze with childish behaviors and live in my moment. I say, that no matter what situation you are in you ALWAYS have to stay true to your inner kid.
There are many children like me fighting cancer. The good news is many more are surviving cancer than ever before. In fact, according to the America Childhood Cancer Organization, there at 15,780 children diagnosed with cancer in the United States and approximately 75% will survive and 25% will not. That is too many kids dying each year. This means approximately 4,000 children will lose their battle with cancer and their families facing a life without them. I know kids on both sides of these statistics. So I am hoping that I can educate and inspire others about pediatric cancer research. I am honored to be writing for NOU Magazine. My hope is that many more will hear this message.
Remember, choose to be positive, choose to have faith, choose to have fun, and choose to fight!