Cancer Survivor Stories

Dylan’s Fight Against Brain Cancer

“My son was a freshman in college in April 2016 and had just been home for spring break three weeks prior to the diagnosis. He seemed perfectly fine with no symptoms. Two weeks later, he sent me a text saying “I’m having trouble sleeping.” He said that whenever he laid on his left side, he became extremely dizzy and would have to sit up. I asked if he had any other symptoms and he said no. He had a cold/cough the week before, so I said it must be an ear infection. Easy, right? I told him to go to the campus doctor to get checked and get antibiotics for his obvious ear infection. He said he didn’t have time. A couple days later I checked back in on him and he said he was still experiencing this but it “wasn’t so bad and that he would go to the doctor if it got worse.” A week after the initial text, he told me he woke up vomiting. That’s when I urged him to go to the doctor. The campus doctor said he appeared fine physically and sent him home with an anti-nausea medication and told him to come back in the morning to let her know if it helped or not. She said if it didn’t, she would like to order a CT scan. I went with him the next day for the CT scan as he was nervous. We waited two hours for the results. I can vividly remember the doctor coming in the room, eyes wide open, ears red, and voice shaking. “There is a mass on your brain.” I sobbed. Being told your child has cancer is an indescribable pain. Our lives were forever changed in that moment. Two days later, at the hospital to meet with a brain surgeon and get an MRI, my son became violently ill. The surgeon feared the tumor was growing rapidly and placed him in the ICU and was able to get his vomiting to stop. He had emergency surgery the next morning and they successfully removed 98-99% of the tumor. It was confirmed cancerous, Medulloblastoma.”

” His treatment plan consisted of six weeks of radiation along with Vincristine, then nine rounds over the course of a year of inpatient chemotherapy where he received Vincristine, Cisplatin, Lumostine, and Cyclophosphamide. What helped him physically during chemo was staying on top of his anti-nausea medications. Around the clock, he was given multiple different medications: benadryl, atavin, kytril, a patch behind his ear (scopolamine patch), steroids, emend, etc. It was a full time job for me to keep on top of this in order to keep him from vomiting. However, mentally he was struggling. He was an active nineteen year old with his whole life just beginning and suddenly, this. He was stuck at home or in the hospital while all of his peers were living life. He was extremely scared and anxious on how his body would handle the chemo and fearful of the tumor returning. We were able to address this with a psychiatrist trained on treating young adults going thru cancer and placed him on a medication (Remeron) that helped him tremendously during treatment.”

“What helped me as a parent was, I joined a Facebook page called “Parents of kids with Medulloblastoma” and immediately began looking for the survivor stories. The success stories. I needed to feel hope and be encouraged. I started talking to other cancer moms. We all have the same fears. We just want our kids to survive, to be happy, and to live life. We joined a local group called “A Special Wish” Not only do they grant kids a “big wish” but they also give “sparkles of joy” throughout your journey. They sent us out to dinner, basketball games, football games, special events, anything to provide some joy during the most difficult time of your life. We celebrated everything, big or small. I made sure that the weekend before an inpatient stay, we would do something fun. Either a nice dinner or an outing. Because we never knew what the next round would do to him and we knew his counts would crash and he wouldn’t be allowed in public for a while.”

“My advice for other parents is to do your research, become an expert on your child’s cancer. Take notes, keep a journal. I had a list of questions for the oncologist almost every visit. Become an advocate for your child. I relied heavily on a pocket calendar to keep track of all the appointments, as there will be many. Take whatever help you can get in the beginning as far as meals, errands, babysitting your other kids, etc. You will be completely overwhelmed and so focused on your cancer child and any help is greatly appreciated. Keep a bag packed for those unexpected hospital admissions. We also started bringing our own pillows/blankets for admissions to feel some comfort from home. Reach out to other parents going thru the same. Nobody else will understand you like they will. Take lots and lots of pictures to look back at once treatment is over so you can remind yourself how far you’ve all come. I now volunteer for “A Special Wish”, as it was important for me to give back, and especially to help other parents in the trenches of cancer.”

Stacy Slovett, Dylan’s mother.

Instagram: @slovett04

Cancer Survivor Stories

Surviving Through Cancer

The night our son was diagnosed with cancer, was the first of many nights that I did not sleep. I stayed up that night fervently searching the internet for childhood cancer survivor stories of other children with my son’s same brain tumor. Thankfully I came across other families who had shared their children’s cancer journey online.I even reached out to two other mothers that night to help shine some light on what our journey might entail. Even though I am a registered nurse and spent a year working on an adult oncology unit, any possibly information you may already know goes out the window the moment you hear “your child has cancer.” Both of those mothers replied to me within hours of me sending them a message and I cannot express enough how thankful I am for their words of encouragement, being so open about sharing their own personal journey and being that light of hope that I needed when all else was darkness.

While we were still inpatient with our son, his dad and I found a Facebook support group page called “Parents of kids with Medulloblastoma.” This is a private group of parents all around the world with children who have been diagnosed with this type of brain tumor. This page has served as a platform for parents to share their experiences, fears, valuable information they have obtained,their victories and ask questions. It has been an outlet for so many to be able to connect with other parents in the same situation, because who else truly understands what you are going through than them. Regardless of what type of cancer you or your child may have, I assure you there is some type of support group out there for you to connect with. It does not necessarily have to be online, some you may find within the hospital or out in the community. I highly encourage you seek this type of support, it truly helps to connect with others who are currently dealing with the same diagnosis or have already been through this journey. Although loved ones are always great support and much needed, these individuals will connect with you in a way no one else will be able to. They share your exact fears, questions, doubts, anxiety and so many other emotions.

In the days that followed after our son was discharged home, his dad and I also decided that I would create an Instagram page to document our son’s journey. We decided it would be the best way to be able to keep our family and friends up to date instead of trying to answer hundreds of text messages or phone calls on a daily basis. As much as we wanted to personally thank everyone for all their thoughts and prayers, it was truly overwhelming for us as we were inundated with messages. For me,creating the Instagram page also meant that I would be able to carry a timeline of Anthony’s journey and have it serve as a fragment of my memoir during this time of our lives. Early on we did not realize what an impact our son’s Instagram account would have on others, to the point of reaching thousands of people worldwide who have following his story along with us.

These social media platforms have truly made way for us to connect with other families dealing with childhood cancer. It is honestly one of the things that have helped me cope and hold on to hope and my faith during times fear has tried to settle in. These individuals know exactly what you are going through and will be one of your most important pillars of hope, knowledge and strength throughout this journey. We have even been blessed to meet some of these families and their cancer warriors in person which have become like family.

Once you walk the path of cancer, the journey is truly never over. Now that our son has completed his treatment and is in remission, I feel that it is our turn to pay it forward and be an inspiration of hope to others who perhaps have just been diagnosed, are in treatment,in remission or even relapsed. In addition to that, the next following pages are cancer survivor stories of other warriors. Everyone you meet along the way will leave an imprint on your soul and we all have something that we can take away from others. Sometimes we simply need a reminder that everything will be okay and someone out there has been in your exact shoes. I hope this space serves to give you that extra bit of hope you made need and make this journey an easier one to walk. After all, no one fights alone!

*If you have a cancer survivor story you would like me to share, please send it to me here.