The day was Monday, June 17, 2013. I can’t say it was like any other ordinary day. I had been feeling weakness in my right arm all week-end and having trouble holding onto objects. I thought I pulled a muscle from lifting large heavy rocks in the ocean the week before. Just to be sure we went to see the doctor. After reviewing all my symptoms she thought it would be a good idea if I would go to Pittsburgh. I had leukemia when I was six so she wanted me to see my oncologist. I remember thinking that doesn’t make any sense I have been in remission for the last seven years. I have check-ups every year and I am feeling fine. We went home packed a suitcase for overnight and dropped Dino off at grandma’s house. We were off to Pittsburgh.
As we arrived at the hospital through the emergency room entrance, the first thing you see is two large aquariums filled with all kinds of colorful fish. Even though I was a little nervous I remember being calmed by the water bubbling up in the tanks. We were quickly taken back through the bright hallway to a room. After hours of questions and poking and more hours of poking and questions I was sent upstairs to get a MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging). The room was ice cold but I was in a pool of sweat when it was all said and done. It would take two long hours of lying completely still on my back listening to the loudest banging noise that I have ever heard. I was never so glad to hear the words “we’re all done”.
Eventually we returned to the tiny room and waited for another hour before the doctor returned with the results. Finally he came into the room holding an x-ray and some papers on a clipboard. He placed the x-ray on a board on the wall with a light. I could tell it was my head but beyond that I couldn’t tell anything else about the picture. He looked down at the papers and read the results of the MRI to my mom, dad and me. He said “there is a mass in your brain and you will have to have surgery.” I was never so scared by something that was read to me in my entire life.
As a result of the findings of the MRI, the next couple of days involved a lot more questions and a lot more pokes. I was sure I wasn’t going to have any blood left if they kept taking it all. The doctor said it was definitely a tumor and they would do their best to get rid of it. Everyone did their best to be upbeat and cheerful but I could tell this was not going to be an easy thing to go through.
Thursday came and I was wheeled down the long hallway to the operating room. My grandma, aunt and cousin had come from Wheeling to be with my mom and dad while I was in surgery. I hated the look on their faces. I could see how scared they all were. I was too. I don’t remember much after that until I woke up in my room and spotted my mom standing beside me holding my hand. I was going to be OK.
Given the fact that I just had brain surgery two days ago, I was surprised to hear I could go home on Saturday. I remember lying in bed thinking about the entire ordeal that I had just been through. At that point, I couldn’t do much else but rest. I pictured in my mind that I was in a boxing ring with my tumor and I was hoisting a belt over my head that read “Champion of the World!” That was the moment I came up with the idea of making a character that would represent my tumor. I could use him to take out my frustration on when I was feeling down. Then it came to me that I should do the other two types of childhood cancer. I would make them into a stress ball type toy. The kids could use them to squeeze, throw, punch or even kick if they want. I got to work making the drawings on my iPad and then moved on to making clay models of them.
Finally, they are becoming a reality for me. I hope soon that I can give them to all the kids that have received the same scary news that I heard that day in June. I know it has changed my life and things will never be the same since I received the news. My hope is that just maybe they will read my story and it will help them get through a difficult time in life.
November 16th, 2013