Brain Cancer Diagnosis
Hi! I am Molly Marco, a cancer warrior diagnosed with Anaplastic Astrocytoma, a rare type of malignant Brain Tumor. Having survived through the Chemotherapy sessions and seizures, I have come to believe that however interactive and informative your medical team is, nothing matches the experience of hearing what to expect in the Brain Cancer treatment journey from someone who has been through all that. So, here I am, sharing the story of my war against Brain Cancer and my life after becoming stable. I hope that it would show other cancer patients that there is light at the end of the tunnel, and however rare your illness is, you are never alone. So without further ado, let's get into my survival story.
I am the youngest in my family and somehow did not know that we had a long line of patients with brain tumors. My grandmother had a brain tumor, and so did her sister, and we weren't sure how far back this line stretched. But, since we didn't talk about it, I was in the dark. I believed that eating healthy and maintaining healthy habits kept cancer at bay. But life had other plans.
One fine day in July 2016, I was sitting at a cafe during a work break, and all of a sudden, I started feeling nauseous. I rested my head on the table, and the next thing I knew, I had fallen off the barstool, and there was medical staff around me, asking me questions. I thought I had over-caffeinated myself and tried to shrug it off. But the medical staff insisted on going to the hospital, and there they found a tumor in my left temporal. The doctor told me, though I didn't need Surgery then and there, I needed one nonetheless.
I did a boatload of tests (I ended up loving a few of them) because I was left-handed, and the tumor happened to be sitting deep inside my left temporal. So, I was a bit anxious. After doing a lot of tests, I had my craniotomy in October that year. I had a great surgeon, and though the tumor could not be removed entirely, close to 90% made its way out of my skull. Two weeks after my surgery, my neuro-oncologist called and told me I had grade 3 Anaplastic Astrocytoma. I was devastated.
I was a hypochondriac all my life. I took pills and syrups even though there was nothing wrong with me. When I saw a cousin die of brain cancer, I thought this was the worst of all diseases. And here I was, a few years down the line, suffering from it myself.
The difficult phase
My doctors decided to treat my disease aggressively in the hope of nipping it in the bud. They put me on maximum radiation, and I had five chemo sessions a month scheduled for a year. Little did I know, the chemo and Radiotherapy sessions were not the only challenges life had in store for me.
My mother had been my support system throughout my life. She was the person I was closest to and the solution to all my problems. Yet, during the time I needed her the most, life turned the tables on me. She was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and we were receiving treatment in the same hospital. Just seeing the Pain that she was going through broke my heart. I had to put up a brave front for her sake. During this phase, I decided that I would look at everything from a positive point of view. So, even though I was not too fond of the chemo sessions, I tried to take out its positives. I was even practicing for a half marathon during my chemo.
Three or four months into the chemo, it was found out that I was allergic to it. There were brief periods of excruciating Pain and fever. When my medical team detected the allergic reaction, they changed my protocol of taking Chemotherapy. I used to visit the hospital as any regular patient receiving chemotherapy, but instead of taking a couple of pills, I gradually increased the dose in the liquid form, starting from one drop to one tablespoon. It went on for a year.
In the meantime, I lost my mother to Pancreatic Cancer. My aunt also succumbed to cancer. This phase was perhaps the most challenging and difficult phase of my life.
At the other end of the tunnel
After completing my Chemotherapy and radiotherapy, I was informed that I was stable, but cancer chances were recurring. I lived with the nagging fear of the disease's recurrence for a few months, but its intensity has gradually faded away. There are no recurrence symptoms yet, and the gaps between my medical checkups have grown from three months to four. I am leading a healthy life, going on long walks, working out, and the world seems to be a beautiful place.
When I look back at my life and ask, 'Did this happen all of a sudden?', I get a resounding 'no' as an answer. The symptoms had been there since my early twenties. They were not recurring with great frequency, but indeed they were there. I had been fainting quite often since 2006 and also had double vision sometimes. My ophthalmologist warned me long back that there might be a tumor in my brain, and I only managed to laugh him off. That makes me wonder if things would have changed if cancer would have been detected early.
The silver lining
Trust me when I say that everything has a silver lining, even Brain Cancer. Before I was diagnosed, I worked in my family business, not something I loved doing. Sometimes I felt lost because of that. But after recovering from cancer, things have changed dramatically.
Now, I have got a purpose in my life. I have been a part of numerous renowned organizations and clubs that aim to make the world a better place for Brain Cancer patients. I have even been the brand ambassador for one of them. I have the opportunity to interact with new people from various backgrounds, and most importantly, I got a chance to contribute to helping people who have Brain Cancer.
Though I am not a very religious person, I have also learned to be thankful for everything that God has given me, and that has injected a feeling of satisfaction within me.
My tips to those who have been diagnosed with brain cancer
After having walked the bumpy road of Brain Cancer treatment, I learned a few things, and I would like to share it with all those diagnosed with the disease.
Firstly, enjoy your life even when things are not going according to plan. That helps in coping with the situation.
Secondly, learn to adapt to changes. Life might not be the same even after you 'recover' from Brain Cancer. But don't let that come in the way of your satisfaction. Feel thankful for everything that life has in store for you.
Finally, to wrap up, always remember that you are not alone. There are thousands of others fighting the same enemy in Brain Cancer as you are. Also, there are people who can help you cope by answering your queries and clearing your doubts. Try to find these people. Use social media or various organizations as a searching tool. Interact one-on-one with these people. From personal experience, I can guarantee that doing so helps big time.
So, that was my story. I hope it gives you strength and hope and helps you fight bravely against this notorious disease.