Young and Fighting
My name is Riane. Spelled special but pronounced just like Ryan. I am twenty-three years old. And I have brain cancer. It’s a lot harder and easier at the same time than people think. Some days are easier, while some are harder to get up and out of bed. I have a grade 3-oligoastrocytoma tumor in the right frontal lobe of my brain.
In the fall and winter of 2013 I wasn’t feeling the greatest. I had suffered from severe migraines since I was about eighteen, my freshman year of college. I had gone to the doctor, thinking they were just stress and prescribed a preventative medicine that I didn’t take like I was supposed to, and used an over the counter migraine medicine for the pain when I did get them. But something wasn’t right. My pain wasn’t going away, I couldn’t eat or sleep, my eyesight was blurry and my equilibrium was off. It wasn’t until one night when I couldn’t finish my shift at work as a bartender that I decided to go to the doctor for another checkup.
Being the smart and cautious man he is, I was sent for my first MRI. Which is a lot of fun when you’re slightly claustrophobic and have never had one before. It went fine even though I could see through the mirror over my head the nurses making calls while looking at the screens in front of them. Not a fun sight but I didn’t think anything of it. I left that day and went on with my life. I got a call later in the afternoon my doctor needed to see me right away to talk about the scans, which I was sort of expecting.
My doctor told me I had a growth in my brain, that his nurse had set me an appointment for Monday morning with a neurosurgeon so he could discuss it more with me. To say the least I was a little in shock. Okay, a lot in shock. Somehow I managed to drive home and tell my parents about it without crashing my car at the time. To say the least they were a little scared and turned right around to call my doctor.
We went to the appointment Monday, fully thinking that it was just something minor and they would probably wait and see what happened. I was told I had a tumor, the size of a golf ball. Sitting in my right frontal lobe. That I needed to have surgery right away to make sure it didn’t cause any further harm to my brain and body. This was January 6, 2014. My first right frontal lobe craniotomy was January 15, 2014. That was a week and a half after I first found out the news.
Surgery went well, and I came out with flying colors. I was released from the hospital after three days and allowed to recover at home. It was a month long process with little baby steps leading up to the point where I was finally cleared to get on with my life. I thought I had beaten the hardest thing I was ever going to have to go through. To face your own mortality so young, to have to stop my college classes and working for a few months was like torture but I got through it. Finally I was able to go back to work, then school. I went on with my life, but all the while remembering what I had already done.
Let’s fast forward to September 2014. I was due for a checkup MRI. Standard for anyone who has had surgery and/or a tumor. Once again I sat in my neurosurgeons office, being told the tumor had grown back into the open cavity and farther into my healthy brain. I would need surgery again soon, if not in the next few months then maybe in the next year or so. He took my information to my city’s Tumor Board for a second opinion since I was out of his expertise. Less than a week later I had my answer.
I was going BACK into surgery as soon as I could. The way my tumor was growing rapidly into the healthier and more vital parts of my brain, it needed to come out as much as possible to prevent permanent damage to me and prolong my life. I was so young, and would have two life saving surgeries in less than a year apart.
I had time to think about things. I went to Duke Medical for a second opinion. They wanted to use a different approach, one that would make me wait even longer for a surgery. While they were great doctors and smart people, it wasn’t my cup of tea. I met with more doctors and specialist in my city that were on my tumor board and were able to explain in full detail the life cycle of my tumor. They explained what I needed to do to survive healthily and happily. I was only twenty-three. I had so much to live for.
I went into my second craniotomy December 18, 2014. And once again, came out with flying colors. I was only in the hospital two and a half days before being released for home. This recovery has been a little harder. I had more trouble with the pain medicine and gaining my strength back. But I have hung in there. Part of the tumor was left in my brain because of the level it was, and to prevent permanent disability. I start radiation treatments this week that will last six weeks in length. I also start my chemotherapy pills for a year to help kill the cancer cells.
I am only a kid. I can’t currently work, nor go to school. My only job right now is staying alive and being happy. I think I do a pretty good job at it most days. I keep my self busy and stay positive throughout the days. I eat a special diet and exercise as much as I can. I know I can beat this. And out of all my loved ones and people I know, I’m still glad, after a year of fighting and knowing I have many more years to come, that I was the one that got the news. I am strong and a fighter, and nothing can keep this girl down for long.