The Little Things

by Connor MorganPatient, Brain CancerMarch 22, 2022View more posts from Connor Morgan

The ultimate gift is time, but in an instant, it can feel as though time stops. The moment you’re told that you have cancer, your life changes, your perceptions of life change, and time stands still, as you know your life will be changed forever for better or worse. 

While going through all of this, you can only think about tomorrow and not into the future. At times when going through treatment, there’s pain and discomfort beyond explanation, and there will be memories that you’ll want to forget but won’t be able to. It’ll break you mentally, physically, and emotionally, but when going through all of this there is no breaking point, and when it does break, you just have to get back up and keep moving forward. 

I often question: why me? Why did I have to go through this at the young age of 14? I missed out on what most teenagers were doing. Cancer took away all that time from me, and it takes a long time to recover, even though you may never recover fully. Going through all of this makes you wish there was a way to buy back lost time due to incidents that are out of your control. You may live with regrets of what you should’ve done (and maybe could’ve done), but all you can do is try to the best of your ability to move forward. Hopefully from just moving forward, you may find more friends (or just people that you know) that are there for you to help you find your life’s purpose and encourage you to become the best that you can be. Sometimes in life there are people that show up and become part of your life to help you navigate the rough water of life (and vice versa).

I was diagnosed with a brain tumor at 14, and they needed to perform surgery. On January 16th, 2016, I had a craniotomy and debulking of a tumor on the brain stem, but sadly the tumor couldn’t be removed. When the pathology report came back a couple of weeks later, they found it was cancerous, so then I had to get a port placed in the right side of my chest for chemo. 

Recovering from the surgery was difficult, and my balance was off for a while. My coordination and strength were also off. I had to go from being right-handed to left-handed because my right side was weaker. Then, a few weeks later, I was told that I would need to get chemotherapy (carboplatin and vincristine) weekly for 15 months. The side effects from chemo were brutal; they were brutal to the point of not being able to put them into words.

Once the word cancer is said to you, you already know it’s a long and difficult road ahead, even after treatment. After about eight months of chemo, my mom found a different oncologist who would only use the carboplatin. He was also more open-minded, so my mom kept pushing the doctor to try to put chemo on hold, and he agreed. He said to get MRIs every three months (unless there were more symptoms or severity of the current symptoms) to monitor the tumor. 

At this point, I still had damage from the chemo that I was suffering from, such as peripheral neuropathy, “chemo brain”, some ringing in the ears and vision issues, stomach/digestive issues, fatigue, weakness, a right-hand tremor, and loss of about 20 pounds, which at that point I weighed only 123 pounds at my lowest. In the midst of chemo, my mom did research on how to decrease inflammation, so I began a diet that cut out dairy, gluten, pork, and avoided red meat. I also started taking about 45 vitamins and juicing vegetables.

Today the tumor is still there but has been stable for a bit over five years since the chemo was put on hold. Although I still have some of the side effects, they have gotten better; I have gained most of my strength and muscle tone and I have gotten my weight up to 160 pounds. After going through all of this, I’ve learned and realized to live and celebrate the little things, rather than the big events. The people who are meant to be in your life will show it and not just say it, and those are the people who will stay in your life.

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