December 24, 2020

33 Sessions

I went through 33 sessions of radiation, each one lasting about 7-10 minutes. I couldn’t walk around; I couldn’t talk; I couldn’t move. I had 33 sessions to sit as still as possible, pray, and decide on the direction I wanted my life to go.

I was born on Christmas Eve. I am the youngest of 4 and the only girl, a daddy’s girl at heart. In Venezuela, we lived in a humble home with great values and so much love. We loved God and we loved our family. I was taught to appreciate what we had, and I was happy; we all were.

I went to college in Venezuela where I decided that I wanted to be an engineer. I was always a dreamer and knew I wanted to do something big with my life.

Isn’t it funny though? We have these plans and then suddenly, things and people just pop into your life and everything just… changes.

Well, Mark happened in my life. I met Mark through a friend in 2008. I spoke no English and he, no Spanish. We communicated through our pocket dictionaries, falling in love with each passing day. He flew back and forth from the states eight times just to visit and we knew this was more than we ever could have anticipated. He was there for me through the good and bad. The bad however, was watching my dad pass away. This was a life altering moment for me and Mark was there to help pick me up. Looking back at this moment, I knew that he would always pick up the pieces. He was the love of my life, my protector, and my caregiver when I would need him most.

A year later, we got married and we moved to Florida. We lived in a little trailer out by the fairgrounds. It wasn’t paradise, but it was ours. It was where we began our lives together and dreamed of our futures.

Then, life started to look a little different.

This is when I started getting dizzy. The headaches were unbearable, and the ibuprofen wasn’t quite working the way I needed it to. One night, I couldn’t do it anymore. I woke up with a migraine that I knew was more than just a bad headache. I told Mark that it was time to go to the ER.

He rushed me to the hospital where the tests began. X-rays, MRI’s, blood work… you name it, I got it. All to find out there was a tumor the size of a golf ball, pushing on my skull.

A Tumor.

A Brain Tumor.

All I remember in the moment was the nurses putting on a morphine drip. I remember my husband laying near me, holding me tight, just sobbing.

What now?

In that moment, I realized that God had been preparing my heart for this for a while. I had been exponentially grateful for life and everything in mine that in that moment, I knew I would be taken care of.

So, I had two choices.

Anger was the first choice. I could blame the world, everyone in it and plea with God to change reality. Or I could be thankful for what I had and what I believed would come to pass. I was blessed with the most amazing family. My mother dropped everything to come take care of us. Mark’s family was there every step of the way as well.

Soon after, it was surgery time. I chose not to jump on Google or Web MD to get a visual of the inevitable; But just to trust the process. The surgery went well overall, but the recovery was so much harder than any of us had anticipated. Full nights of sleep were far and few in between and the mixture of medications was wearing on my body.

It’s okay to cry. It’s okay to feel bad. It’s not okay to stay that way.

I got that mindset from my incredible mother. After my father passed, I remember hearing her cry and grieve but she never stayed down. She kept going. I chose to do the same.

3 months after my surgery I went back for an MRI. I was hopeful. I had confidence that I had beat it. But the MRI showed otherwise. It was growing again. Although they thought it was scar tissue, we later found out that it was indeed, the tumor.

The next step was for me to try a holistic approach. I traveled to Utah and met with doctors who worked with me for months to try and naturally shrink this tumor. After a few months I went back, again hopeful. Only this time the tumor had doubled in size.

What a journey. What a moment of realization that there was so much more to come. Still, we prayed. We stayed grounded. We believed for the best. We cancelled out our fear and apprehensions of a negative path that this could take.

What now?

The next surgery was scheduled. I went in with a heart full of prayers and I silenced the fear in my head. I came out of surgery and noticed that I had double vision. I couldn’t see anything and had to wear an eye patch. They told me I would need surgery to repair my eye. Doctors had moments of confusion as they explained the rarity of this condition. I was literally seeing diagonally. Life looked different in every way possible now, both figuratively and literally.

During this time, we tried to just keep doing life. I was running my business and Mark’s business was starting to pick up as well. Even in the midst of total devastation, we were still blessed, and life was still moving forward.

By the grace of God, I woke up 2 months later, walked to my bathroom and only saw one of me. I saw my face. I saw my eyes. I saw my smile emerge as I realized my eyes were healed, and it was one less obstacle in my way.

Then it was time. Session 1 of 33. I walked in, not knowing exactly what the day looked like. But soon realized it meant sitting still, burn marks, losing my hair and fighting as hard as I could to get through it.

I thought about my family. I thought about all the exciting things we wanted to do when this was all over. The children we would have and the house we would build. I dreamed about being able to see my brothers back in Venezuela and how happy we will be to see each other again.

So, I kept going. Through 33 sessions, I learned that prayer and a positive outlook can get you further than you think. I watched as doctors were puzzled by all of my hair growing back from dead follicles. I watched the tumor continue to shrink! I watched as my dreams started to become my reality.

A year later, there I was. Tumor free. The scans were coming back clear, and I was able to live my life again.

What now?

I began thinking, how can I help? How can I encourage people who are being told this devastating news? How can I share this story to show that there is hope in everything? How can I explain that with prayer, with family and loved ones, and with belief, that the fight is worth it.

My sister-in-law was competing in a major pageant and a friend of mine told me about some local competitions being held. I wasn’t intrigued by the gowns or the beauty concept, but the idea of having a stage of influence. The opportunity to help people and share my story is something I wanted to take hold of! I want to inspire others and help them realize that if they are battling with physical issues, it is not over. If they have a brain tumor… it isn’t over! That is where my heart is. I knew that there was much more for my life and I am just grateful for the opportunity to keep going!

This past October, I received the honor of becoming Mrs. Southwest Florida and plan to compete for Mrs. Florida this spring! I am so grateful and excited for this opportunity and the chance to give back and help others. I want people to know that this hasn’t broken me. It has become my testimony. And if you are in the middle of a battle, just have faith and keep fighting!

 

 

 

I had 33 sessions of moments where God gave me an opportunity to make a difference. And now, I plan to do just that.

comments +

  1. Bunny Oldham says:

    My daughter also had the 33. Diagnosed with Stage 3 anaplastic Ependymoma at the age of 18 on the day she should have been moving into her dream school of UNCG for Musical Theater. She has always been a singer but cancer gave her a voice…there are so many amazing warrior stories of Brain Cancer Survivors that can share their stories like this. We need to amplify their voices so there is a cure. For now, when there is no cure, they can find a platform to raise funds for those going through the battle to give just a little bit of Hope. Fantastic photos and story. You make it look easy when we know if the hardest thing you have ever done!

  2. Beth Layne says:

    I knew the minute we met in that parking lot over in Clermont that not only were you beautiful but your smile and kindness showed through. I knew you had been through a battle but this is bigger than I had imagined. Bless you. You are my Ms Florida!
    Thank you for sharing your story. I had a similar experience with my loving husband so I have an idea of what you both have been through. All the best to come! Love,

  3. Ed Heim says:

    What an amazing story of faith. I will pray for your Mrs Florida pageant success. I retired from 31 years of commercial flying at age 60 only to learn a year later that I had stage 4 Lymphoma. As it was concidered slow growing, I waited five years for better treatment discoveries. After four months of weekly treatments, I have been in remission for 20 years. There is love from the Lord and hope in the Lord.

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