Opinion | A brain tumor picked my major

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The following is an opinion piece and does not necessarily reflect the views of The Clarion, its staff or the institution. If you would like to submit a response or an opinion piece of your own, please contact clarion@bethel.edu.

Looking back after being diagnosed with a brain tumor at the age of 8,  I would choose to go through it all again.

By Claire Stephens

“We found what we think is a brain tumor,” the doctor told my mom over the phone on a late Wednesday afternoon.

“You need to bring her to Children’s Hospital this evening so we can plan our next steps.” The panic in my mom’s voice as she called my father over the phone to tell him the news radiated throughout the whole house, but as an 8-year-old I was completely oblivious to the seriousness of the situation. I was unaware of what journey I was about to embark on and of how lasting of an impact it would make on the person I am today.

In the spring of 2004 I was in second grade when I started having debilitating headaches. They were sporadic and throbbing headaches that would cause me so much pain that I would continuously cry until I wore myself down and I would pass out. I would come home from school every day extremely hungry and ask my mom for food. She would make me something to eat, I would take one bite and no longer be hungry. Then I would fall asleep on the couch and sleep through the entire evening into the next morning.

My parents started taking me to various doctors to try to figure out what was wrong. Each doctor gave me a different explanation for what was causing these issues but none of their treatments or remedies helped the situation. Finally, one doctor ordered an imaging test of my head to see if it could provide any answers.

The results showed that I had a brain tumor resting near the back of my brain that was putting pressure on my brain and was the root of the problems I was experiencing.

Surgery was scheduled for April of that year. While my doctor and my parents tried to explain to me what I would go through, I really had no way of fully comprehending what the surgery would be like until I went through it. The morning of the surgery, I was calm. My parents must have been terrified, but they managed to keep their cool in front of me. I laid on the table in the operating room as the anesthesia made my eyes feel heavy. Soon the world was non-existent.

After the surgery, the road to recovery was a long and difficult one. I don’t remember much of the specifics of this time other than it was filled with a few weeks in the hospital, many doctors’ visits and a lot of time off from school. My recovery took longer than expected. I was having complications with spinal fluid building up in the back of my head because it wasn’t able to properly drain. This meant more time with doctors, more worry from my parents and more of me being unsure of what was happening but letting the doctors do what they wanted because I was told they knew what was best and could help me.

Throughout this time, there were a few people who stuck out the most, those who made the biggest difference in the situation. Those people were nurses. I know it’s common for people to hear stories about nurses and their praises being sung for the work they do, but it truly is incredible what nurses can do. It takes a special person to have the knowledge base needed and heart big enough to be a nurse and to do the job well. The nurses I encountered in my time in the hospital loved me and cared for me as best as they could and that, in turn, had the biggest impact on me and my life story. They inspired me to have the desire to help those in situations similar to mine, and that is why I’m currently a nursing student at Bethel with plans to continue on into the medical field. It’s incredible the way our actions towards others can have an effect on them that can last a lifetime.

Eventually I completely recovered from my surgery and went on to live a normal childhood. I don’t have any complications from the surgery other than the fact that I have double vision, which is kind of cool but also kind of annoying at times. If I had the chance to go back in time and choose whether or not to have this experience, I would go through it all again. I don’t think I would be the person I am today without it.

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